NBA Rumors: Nash’s extension, Grizzlies like Thabeet and more

– Steve Nash plans to wait and see what happens to the Suns’ roster before getting serious about an extension.

– Ron Artest would like to return to Houston, but if he gets an offer he can’t refuse from someone else, he’s not going to refuse it.

– The Nets have been rumored to be shopping Yi Jianlian, but Rod Thorn doesn’t see it that way.

– Before the lottery, the Grizzlies were supposedly one of the few teams to have more interest in Hasheem Thabeet than Blake Griffin, so expect Memphis to take the UConn shotblocker with the second pick in the draft.

– ESPN Insider says that the Knicks’ interest in Stephen Curry might have more to do with LeBron’s friendship with and admiration for the young man than his being the right pick for the Knicks. So they may draft Curry to have a better shot at LeBron next summer.

– It looks like Rockets owner Leslie Alexander is willing to spend. There’s never been a better time to wrestle good players from other teams looking to cut salary. The Rockets have T-Mac’s monster contract ($22.5 million) that expires next summer, which means the Rockets may be able to pull off a deal similar to the Iverson/Billups swap that the Nuggets made last year.

– The Jazz are willing to pay luxury tax to keep Paul Millsap on the roster. This could just be a smokescreen meant to dissuade other teams from making the restricted free agent an offer, but the Jazz do seem determined to re-sign the talented forward.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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.

Does anyone really care about Stephon Marbury anymore?

The Knicks have suspended Stephon Marbury for two games for refusing to play.

In addition, the Knicks have clarified that Marbury actually will lose two games’ pay — or almost $400,000. Besides the one-game suspension without pay for refusing to play at Detroit on Wednesday night, Marbury also has been fined another game check for refusing to play last Friday at Milwaukee.

Clearly, Marbury knows his run with the Knicks is over. He broke his relative silence in an exclusive interview with a New York Post reporter whose coverage has been favorable to the Coney Island native. In an article published today, Marbury said of D’Antoni, “I wouldn’t trust him to walk my dog across the street.”

This makes me sick, but not for the reasons you might think. I’m sick because Marbury’s pay for two games is $400,000.

I don’t really care about which side treated the other with more disrespect. The Knicks say that Starbury refused to play and he says that he never said that he wouldn’t. There is a rumor that Mike D’Antoni offered the starting shooting guard slot — for the rest of the season, no less — which would obviously be a plan to showcase him before the trade deadline. But the Knicks won’t really gain anything in a trade unless they can get a draft pick or a cheap prospect. They don’t want to take on additional salary because it will jeopardize their chances to land LeBron in two years.

The two sides need to negotiate a buyout deal and end the relationship. The main hurdle there is that Marbury is acting as his own agent, so there isn’t a level-headed lawyer giving him advice. So let me step in…

The best thing for both parties is a buyout, but Marbury needs to be willing to back off his “not a penny less” demands. He’s not going to get much of a contract next summer if he doesn’t play this year, and he’s not going to play this year unless he signs with another team. He should take a buyout of $10-$12 million, and sign a one-year deal with a team that could use him. If he plays well, he’d be in a position to sign a 2-3 year deal for decent money ($4-$5 million per season?). If he stands his ground and demands the full salary, the Knicks could punish him for his unwillingness to compromise by continuing to pay him for the season, but banishing him from the team, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did with Keyshawn Johnson a few years back. If they went that route, the decision would be made and it may (I repeat, “may”) cease to be a story. (After all, this is the NY media we’re talking about.)

What a mess.

Could the Cavs trade LeBron?

Of course they could, but would they?

Henry Abbott of ESPN’s TrueHoop suggests that if LeBron’s flirtation with the Knicks continues, the Cavs may want to investigate the idea of trading LeBron instead of getting nothing for him if/when he leaves via free agency in the summer of 2010.

First, he discusses LeBron’s recent behavior over the last few months…

Even if you want to leave all your options open, all you have to say is that you love playing in Cleveland, you’re from Ohio, and you’ll worry about your next contract when this one is done.

That would be enough to get the amplifiers turned up. Teams would still clear cap space for you, just in case. But that’s not enough for LeBron James. He’s taking it to a whole different level. His amplifier goes to eleven.

The Yankees hat, the coy talk, calling New York his favorite city … I hope Cleveland pharmacies are stocked up with Maalox this Thanksgiving, because Cavalier fans are feeling the indigestion.

In PR terms, I see that quote above, and the others we have seen like it, as LeBron James slapping Danny Ferry, owner Dan Gilbert, and Cleveland fans across the face.

Then Abbott moves into trade talk…

I hear you, I hear you. YOU DON’T TRADE LEBRON JAMES. YOU JUST DON’T.

GM 101.

I know. I agree.

And I know that there are far more Dans — Ferry, Gilbert, and the like — in this world than there are LeBrons. The superstar ultimately holds the cards, and everyone else should act accordingly.

But that doesn’t mean you stand idly by as they loot the store. If at any point the Cavaliers believe LeBron James is going to leave as a free agent in 2010, it’s time to start preparing Cavalier fans for the fact that you might trade the guy.

At the very least, it might dim the lights a little on the LeBron James flirtation show.

Or it might end up being smart to actually trade him.

If he walks, top teams will have cap space in 2010, but it’s a good bet that the premium markets will be the ones to attract the blue chip talent like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In other words, Cleveland’s plan B for cap space in 2010 is probably not as sexy as New York’s. So better to trade for an asset that you can then pay more than anyone else to keep.

And let’s not pretend this free agent negotiation is really going to come down to some team executives wowing LeBron James with a nice tour of the city two summers from now. The Knicks, Nets, and Pistons have made their moves. The cards are on the table. There’s no good reason the decision makers in the LeBron James camp wouldn’t already have a good idea how they’d rank the contenders at this point. The only information to come is who is going to win the championships in 2009 and 2010, and who else might gain cap space.

So my point is, if you’re Danny Ferry, and you don’t have strong private conviction that LeBron James is harmlessly flirting, don’t you have to at least know what’s out there?

I know we have some Cavs fans that are regular readers; I wonder what they think of this kind of talk.

My first thought is that you don’t trade LeBron James. You do whatever you can to keep him, because the reward is worth the risk. Nothing you’re going to get in return is going to be worth what you lost. But if the writing is on the wall, and it becomes clear that LeBron is indeed going to leave, it might be worth thinking about. However, there’s a fine line between the realization that your superstar is truly leaving and taking action (i.e. floating the idea that he is “available”) that might shut the door on that superstar potentially re-upping with your team. You don’t want to push him out the door if you still have a 10-20% chance of re-signing him.

The other issue is the availability of potential trade partners. Like Kobe’s flirtation with the Bulls last year, it’s going to be tough for the Cavs to find a team that has enough to offer in trade while still having enough talent leftover to coax James to re-sign with the team once his contract is up. James doesn’t have a “no-trade” clause like Kobe, but the implication that he won’t re-sign would be enough to keep most teams from gutting their roster in order to get him.

One thing’s for sure – as long as LeBron keeps answering questions about his future, this story is not going away.

Has LeBron already made his mind up?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports says yes.

With James, the Cavaliers are running out of time. It’s two seasons and counting until he can become a free agent. To listen to Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert dismiss the possibility of James leaving in the summer of 2010 for a bigger market as a product of “bored sportswriters” is beyond laughable. These aren’t bored sportswriters, but a restless superstar and a stable of handlers seemingly sold on his exit.

Gilbert knows better, and so does everyone else inside and outside the Cavaliers. James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. From NBA executives, to Team USA staff and players, to sneak reps: They all believe James has one foot out of the hometown.

Privately, James’ circle had been telling people that they don’t just expect him to leave in the summer of 2010, but in the words of one James associate to a high-ranking league official: He’s gone.

This isn’t an indictment of Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry and the roster he’s constructed around his superstar. He’s done a good, creative job without chips to trade, without high draft picks. This won’t be a basketball decision as much as it will be James believing he needs the platform of a major market to transport himself into a bigger global entity.

Wojnarowski did describe a silver lining…

Here’s the good news for Cavaliers fans: Things can change in two years, and James’ preferred destination, the Nets, is a franchise falling apart. Over the summer, James publicly declared Brooklyn his favorite borough in New York, but the prospects of joining his kindred spirit, rapping mogul Jay-Z, is fading fast.

For James, two things had to happen for him to make the move to the Nets. First, they had to have a nucleus of players minimally comparable to the cast he’d be leaving in Cleveland. Between now and 2010, the Nets desperately need Yi Jianlian and Brook Lopez to develop into frontline players.

But the biggest issue is this: James is never going to play for the New Jersey Nets. Brooklyn, yes. New Jersey? He doesn’t love Jay-Z that much. James needs to be walking into the Brooklyn palace that owner Bruce Ratner has been desperately trying to get financed and constructed for the 2011-2012 season.

Yet now, the Nets are such a vulnerable franchise, the $3.5 billion Atlantic Yards arena project in such doubt, ownership groups from Russia and Dubai have expressed interest in buying out Ratner and taking over the team, Yahoo! Sports has learned. So far, he has resisted, but he’s losing an estimated $30 million a year as court cases and a decaying economy have pushed the project to the brink of collapse.

Apparently, three other teams interest LeBron: the Knicks, the Lakers and the Mavericks.

For their part, Cleveland are “working furiously” to have plenty of cap space in the summer of 2010. If LeBron’s other options aren’t looking good, and the Cavs are able to acquire a guy like Chris Bosh (that’s the rumor, anyway) to play alongside their star, then LeBron might stay. At this point, the Cavs only have three players under contract for the 2010-11 season: Mo Williams, Delonte West and Daniel Gibson. At that point, the team will also have the option to keep J.J. Hickson for three more seasons.

The bad news is that the Cavs don’t have the salary cap flexibility or the trade pieces to make big improvements to the team until then. So they have to hope that LeBron makes this crucial decision later rather than sooner.

But it sounds as if the decision has already been made. Luckily for Cavs fans, a lot can happen in two years.

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