LeBron James will not sign an extension this summer

It was kind of a pipe dream anyway, but LeBron isn’t going to sign the extension that the Cavs have offered, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“I signed a contract in 2006 with an option,” he said. “It would make no sense for me to sign that contract if I didn’t keep my options open. I’ll let you fill in the blanks.”

James is playing this one the right way. If he re-ups now, then he loses the leverage necessary to keep GM Danny Ferry’s feet to the fire in terms of bringing in some long-term help. Shaquille O’Neal is fine for a year or two, but he’s most definitely a short-term fix.

The bad news is that with the long-term commitment the team made to Anderson Varejao, the Cavs aren’t projected to have any cap space next summer if they’re lucky enough to re-sign LeBron. It looks like Ferry sees the writing on the wall — with the salary cap likely dropping to $50-$51 million next season, he wasn’t going to have enough money to sign LeBron and another superstar, so he re-signed Varejao to make this year’s Cavs team as good as possible in the hopes that a Finals appearance or a championship would be enough to keep LeBron in Cleveland.

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LeBron pledging to stay in Cleveland?

Yes, at least according to a “source” close to Trevor Ariza…

The Cleveland Cavaliers got some bad news followed by some potentially terrific news on Sunday. In a last-ditch effort to recruit Trevor Ariza away from the Houston Rockets, LeBron James told Ariza he would remain with the Cavaliers past 2010, according to a person close to Ariza.

Even that wasn’t enough to get Ariza, who verbally committed to join the Rockets last Thursday, to change his mind and go to Cleveland.

But the Cavaliers will gladly settle for the consolation prize; if indeed James’ statement to Ariza was more than an empty sales pitch.

“Trevor asked LeBron if he would be in Cleveland after next season,” the source said. “And LeBron said, ‘I’ll be there. Of course, I’ll be there.'”

When James told Ariza he’d be a Cavalier past next season, Ariza was less than convinced.

“He thought it was just a recruiting tool,” the source said. “LeBron definitely said it, but until he signs the contract it doesn’t mean much.”

If James was indeed being sincere in his intentions to re-sign with the Cavs, this is about the best news that the city of Cleveland could get on a Tuesday morning in July. Of course, a lot can happen in a year and he could just be saying this to try to convince a free agent or two to join the Cavs. There’s also the distinct possibility that this “source” is full of it.

The LeBron Watch continues…

Why didn’t the Cavs make a deal?

On last night’s TNT coverage, Charles Barkley and David Aldridge talked a little bit about Cleveland’s attempts to swing a trade. First up is Aldridge:

“(The Cavaliers) tried (to make a trade), they really did try. They were all over the place. They tried to get Antawn Jamison from Washington, they tried to get Amar’e Stoudemire, they tried to get Richard Jefferson, they tried to get Shaq. I can tell you this, they were more interested in Shaquille O’Neal than they were in Amar’e Stoudemire. That’s a fact. They wanted Shaq badly and they really tried to get him.”

Then there’s Barkley:

“The Cavaliers made a mistake (by not making a trade)…They should have said, ‘We’re going to keep LeBron (James), we’re going to keep Mo Williams, you can have anybody else we got.’ If they would have done anything to get a big body they would have been better off.”

Rookie J.J. Hickson is just 20 years-old and has shown great potential. He’s 6’9″ (which is the optimum size for a power forward), athletic and has a few polished moves down low…

Read the rest after the jump...

Dan Gilbert still has head stuck in the sand

Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert had this to say about all of the LeBron-to-the-Knicks talk in recent days.

“This is not LeBron James saying this stuff, this is just a media phenomenon here that will pass in time,” Gilbert said while appearing on “CNBC Reports.”

“We’re focused on this year and you know what, so is he, and he’s focused on this year and next year and hopefully a long career in Cleveland, Ohio. We believe that and we think we have a great situation here and we’re off to a great start.”

There’s nothing wrong with the second part, but if Gilbert doesn’t think that his star player is fueling a lot of this speculation, then he better open his eyes.

In fact, Charles Barkley thinks that LeBron is saying too much.

“If I was LeBron James, I would shut the hell up,” Barkley said in the Wednesday interview. “I’m a big LeBron fan. He’s a stud. You gotta give him his props. I’m getting so annoyed he’s talking about what he’s going to do in two years. I think it’s disrespectful to the game. I think it’s disrespectful to the Cavaliers.”

LeBron responded like any fifth-grader would…

“He’s stupid. That’s all I’ve got to say about that,” James said Friday night before the Cavaliers’ game against Golden State.

But back to Gilbert, who two months ago said that the media was to blame for the LeBron speculation, which was an insult to the city of Cleveland.

I asked this question before and I’ll ask it again…

Which is a bigger insult to Cleveland — speculating about a possible LeBron departure or pretending that it won’t happen?

If Gilbert wants this talk to go away, he needs to rein in LeBron, who has given several interviews on the topic, saying that July 1st, 2010 “is going to be a big day.” Gilbert needs to get LeBron to tell the press that he’s not going to comment on his future and that he won’t field any questions about the summer of 2010.

The so-called “bored sportswriters” are going to keep speculating, but at least LeBron won’t be adding fuel to the fire.

Knicks, Warriors agree to Crawford/Harrington trade

Al Harrington said he wanted out, and the Warriors have swung a deal to send the forward to the Knicks for Jamal Crawford.

Harrington went public with a trade demand just before the start of the season after privately urging Golden State to move him for months. New York had immediate interest, seeing the versatile and mobile Harrington as an ideal frontcourt fit in new coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system.

It will require the Knicks to part with Crawford, their leading scorer and another player they had pegged to flourish under D’Antoni. The Warriors, according to NBA front-office sources, see Crawford as a versatile guard who, although not a pure floor leader, can function well in coach Don Nelson’s system while Monta Ellis recovers from ankle surgery — and in tandem with Ellis once he returns.

Yet it’s believed that Walsh has multiple motivations for re-acquiring one of his favorites. Another sizable lure is Harrington’s contract, which pays him $9.2 million this season, $10 million next season and expires after the 2009-10 campaign. That meshes with New York’s intent to slice payroll and get as far under the salary cap as possible for the highly anticipated free-agent summer of 2010 to join the bidding for Cleveland’s LeBron James.

Crawford has a player option after this season that would extend his contract by two years and $19.4 million. He is likely to exercise that option, so the Knicks were smart to move him if the main goal is to cut salary prior to the summer of 2010, when a number of high-profile free agents may hit the market.

The combo guard is playing the best ball of his career, and at 28, he is in his prime. He should be a nice fit in Golden State with or without Monta Ellis at his side. Crawford can run the point, but his natural position is off guard. He’s a volume shooter, as he has only shot better than 42% once in his career. But when he gets hot, he’s an unstoppable scorer.

Al Harrington has seen his numbers decline over the last few seasons after falling out of favor with Don Nelson. He should be a good fit as a power forward in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo attack. He’s athletic and can hit the long ball pretty effectively. I’m not sure what this means for David Lee, who plays the same position as Harrington (albeit in a very different way). It’s possible that the Knicks will package Lee with Zach Randolph or Eddy Curry in order to sweeten the pot for potential trade partners. Getting rid of either contract would go a long way to clearing serious cap space in the near future.

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