Shootaround (Oct. 13): Why Cavs missed out on adding Dwyane Wade
LeBron explains why Cavs didn’t add Wade | Brown feeling confident in job in Philly | McGee out to disprove his ‘Shaqtin’ past
No. 1: LeBron says Cavs wanted Wade, but ‘couldn’t afford’ him — Cleveland Cavaliers superstar and reigning Finals MVP LeBron James will always have a close bond with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his former Miami Heat co-horts. Talk of a James-Wade reunion started back in 2014 after James returned to Miami to take on the Heat as a member of the Cavs and cameras picked up supposed reunion talk between the two players. This summer, Wade was a free agent and, although he ultimately chose to sign with the Chicago Bulls, there was talk in some circles of Cleveland being on his list. Turns out the Cavs wanted to add Wade but they didn’t have the cash to get him. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin has more:
It would have been hard to imagine back when the Miami Heat were coming off consecutive championships a few seasons ago that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would both leave the franchise as free agents in short order.
Yet sure enough, James went back to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and Wade joined his hometown Chicago Bulls this summer, shifting the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.
With the Bulls and Cavaliers set to play a preseason game Friday, James confirmed that he hoped Wade would have ended up in Cleveland with him.
“We couldn’t afford him,” James said. “It’s that simple.”
Wade signed a two-year deal with Chicago in the offseason worth about $47 million. The Cavs, well above the salary cap with a star-studded core of James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love andTristan Thompson all signed to long-term deals, could have offered Wade only the taxpayer midlevel exception, worth about $3.5 million.
Cleveland ended up using the MLE to retain Richard Jefferson.
“Who wouldn’t be interested in a Hall of Famer?” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said, referring to Wade’s likely spot in the Hall. “That don’t even make sense. Yeah, we wanted him.”
While the Big Three era in Miami will be remembered for two titles, four trips to the Finals, a 27-game win streak and creating the free-agent frenzy for superstars that exists today, James said he isn’t shocked that it didn’t last longer.
“In professional sports, things can change from one year to another like that, so I’ve always had that perspective ever since I came into the NBA,” James said. “I’ve always known it’s a business and you could be with one team this year — have teammates this year, the next year you might not have them. That’s part of the business. So I’ll always have that perspective.”
No. 2: Brown confident in job security with Sixers — In his three seasons as an NBA coach, the Philadelphia 76ers’ Brett Brown has suffered through (in order) seasons of 63, 64 and 72 losses. There’s light on the horizon for the team this season as rookies Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and (once he heals up) Ben Simmons joins a talented, young cast that includes Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Gerald Henderson and others. Few are expecting a dramatic jump in the win column this season and Brown was hired by former GM Sam Hinkie, who was fired last season. Is Brown on thin ice then? NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin picked Brown’s brain on that topic and more:
As part of our 51 Questions NBA season preview series, we tackled the question “Which coach is likely the first to get fired?”
Philadelphia’s Brett Brown’s name was at the top of the list (Dan Feldman and Dan Carbaugh picked him, where I mentioned him as a likely choice). He checks key boxes for a coach on the hot seat: The team will continue to lose a lot of games this season, and the current GM didn’t hire him.
Brown, however, doesn’t feel that heat.
“All my conversations with our owners and Jerry Colangelo and Bryan Colangelo, we’re all on the same page trying to do the same thing,” Brown told NBC Sports in an interview on Wednesday. “My contract was extended last year, where I have now three years left on my contract.
“I’m proud to coach this team, and I feel very strong and confident with the relationships, and the direction that I’m being given by the people that pay me. And I feel so aligned with Jerry and Bryan and what we’re trying to achieve. There is a vision we have in place.”
Brown did get that contract extension from ownership just before the Colangelos were handed power and Sam Hinkie pushed out the door — and if ownership likes something it stays. The extension gave Brown a sense of security, and it’s one he has earned — Brown has not been perfect as coach, but with the rosters he’s been given the last three seasons no coach was going to produce wins. Talent wins out in the NBA and what talent the Sixers have has either been injured or is just raw and needs to develop. A lot.
Has the shift in power to the Colangelos changed what Brown is doing things with the team? Do the goals change?
“They really haven’t,” Brown said. “I feel the partnership I have with our owners — with David Blitzer and Josh Harris — has been very transparent and clean from day one. We’ve sat and talked a lot about the direction we want to grow our program. You know, in many ways I feel like the steward of their business, the gatekeeper of our culture, how do we see the world? What are we trying to achieve?
“I think Bryan Colangelo has come in and has been tremendously helpful to me with many different things. We spitball ideas. We talk all the time about what’s the next step. But the basic core beliefs of what we’re trying to do with the growth of the program, how we want to get things done, and how we want to grow this at a very responsible rate, and what the end game needs to be, those core values have not changed.
“It’s a challenge no doubt, and the city of Philadelphia deserves a lot of credit, they have allowed us to move at the pace we are moving, and trying to form something that can be annually successful.”
No. 3: McGee out to atone for his ‘Shaqtin’ past — When he landed in Denver as part of a three-team trade in 2012, center JaVale McGee was seen as a potential solid, young piece for the rising Nuggets. The team believed in him enough to give him a four-year, $44 million deal that summer, but McGee soon became known for his mistakes on the court and regular appearances on “Shaqtin’ A Fool” during TNT’s “Inside the NBA” than for his play in the post. McGee caught on with the Golden State Warriors in the offseason and as Anthony Slater of The Mercury News reports, is trying to shed his ‘Shaqtin’ label:
The pain started in November 2013. The three seasons prior, in Washington and then Denver, McGee’s averages hovered around 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Those were good Nuggets teams. McGee opened the 2013 season as their starting center.
But five games in, he was feeling too much pain in his left leg. An MRI revealed a stress fracture in his tibia. Rehab didn’t work. So eventually, in February 2014, he got surgery.
McGee returned the next season, but soreness persisted. His impact and opportunity shrunk. The Nuggets traded him to Philadelphia in February 2015. He appeared in six games for the Sixers, but was cut on March 1. No team reached out to him down the stretch. He admitted to fearing his career was over.
But the Mavericks took a flier on him before last season, signing McGee to a one-year minimum deal. Lingering soreness in that left tibia forced him to miss training camp and the team’s first 12 games. He returned and had moments – 10-rebound nights, 14-point games, four blocks in 19 minutes against the Pelicans – but mostly sat on the outside of the rotation.
Then July came and the phone was quiet again, even as the Timofey Mozgovs of the world racked up big deals in a market flush with money.
“It’s definitely the injury,” McGee said. “Because I haven’t done anything else in this league to not be on a team. I haven’t had any drug cases, I haven’t had any DUIs. I’m not a bad guy. You can’t go to one person in the league and they’ll say ‘JaVale is a bad guy, a bad influence.’ You know what I’m saying? I don’t go out. I don’t drink. It has to be the injury. That’s the only logical thing.”
McGee’s reputation is a bit more complicated than that. Before the 2011 season, TNT started a segment that turned into an NBA TV show called Shaqtin’ a Fool. Shaquille O’Neal hosts. They uncover bloopers from across the league and then showcase them, while Shaq dogs the victims. McGee became a regular target, even winning the show’s ‘MVP’ its first two seasons.
Shaqtin’ a Fool became popular. McGee was its unwilling star. It morphed into a label he couldn’t shake. Strangers chided him about it in public. McGee privately seethed, most upset, he said, that it was on the league’s network.
“Fans think it’s real, like that’s real life and they think I’m a dumb person,” McGee said. “It’s just really disappointing that grown men, 50, 40 year olds are having America’s funniest home videos of a player. And then making it a hashtag and really just trying to ruin someone’s career over basketball mistakes.”
McGee is quirky but intelligent, those around the Warriors say. Andre Iguodala knows him best. The two played together in Denver and Iguodala was the one who convinced the Warriors to give McGee a look.
It’s unfair to translate McGee’s bloopers to the real world. But it’s unwise to ignore them in a basketball context. They highlight a lack of focus and feel.
McGee once ran back on defense while his team still had the ball. In his third season, he finished off his only career triple-double with a dunk and then hard slap of the backboard, which earned him a technical. His team was down 18. There were 18 seconds left in the game.
Perhaps McGee’s game was best summed up back in 2010. At Team USA camp, he was wowing some of the league’s greatest players with his rare athletic feats. McGee could jump up and touch the rim with his head. But he didn’t make the cut for the team.
“This is basketball, not run and jump,” Lamar Odom told then Washington Post NBA writer Michael Lee.
But nine years into his career, the Warriors feel they can still tweak McGee’s game. Defensive guru Ron Adams has been harping on him to maintain proper position. McGee has a tendency to lay back and try to set up highlight blocks. Adams is trying to break him of this habit.
“The spontaneity of the game will dictate that,” Adams said. “You can’t script a game. So he kind of likes to do this. We’re trying to get him to be an early thinker, an early positioner, so that the jumps he has to make are much more simple and also the defensive context that we want to keep is more intact.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Retired Cleveland Cavaliers guard Mo Williams recently had surgery (and seemed to take a shot at the team, too) … Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert may be on his way to success at the free throw line … Speaking of the Jazz, good news is that Gordon Hayward won’t need surgery on his broken finger … Former Sacramento Kings GM Geoff Petrie had some words for his old boss, owner Vivek Ranadive … Houston Rockets guard Bobby Brown is sorry he wrote his name on the Great Wall of China …