The Toronto Raptors made a major trade over the offseason, shipping out franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan and bringing in Kawhi Leonard. That trade apparently didn’t sit very well with Kyle Lowry, who teamed with DeRozan the past six seasons.
According to TSN Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg, Lowry avoided the Raptors’ front office during the summer.
“Of greater concern, per league sources, Lowry had also been dodging calls and texts from team officials, including president Masai Ujiri and new head coach Nick Nurse, who Lowry said he only spoke with briefly right after Nurse was promoted in June.”
Lowry may be hurting somewhat from the loss of his close friend, but that does not mean this season won’t be a success. He has shown up for training camp and appears to be on the same page as Leonard.
The Raptors, who have been unable to get over the Cavaliers hump in the postseason despite successful regular seasons, also have something else going for them: the absence of LeBron. Without James in the East any longer, they may have their best shot at finally reaching the Finals. Of course, the Celtics may have something to say about that.
- Kyle Lowry
The Jimmy Butler trade sweepstakes have begun, and one surprise team may get involved in the action.
The Sacramento Kings have available salary cap space that they might be able to use to either facilitate a three-way trade or to try for Butler themselves, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Sacramento has the lowest payroll entering the season at around $90 million. That’s more than $10 million less than any other team. If the Timberwolves are going to trade Butler, they’d like to unload the contract of backup center Gorgui Dieng, who is owed $48 million. The Kings apparently have been aggressive in trying to be involved in the trade talks, making it known that they can absorb salary to facilitate a trade.
What’s in it for them? The Kings do not have a first-round pick in next year’s draft, which is a major loss considering they’re likely to be a lottery-type team. If they’re able to get a first-round pick in exchange for taking on salary, they will have in effect bought themselves back a pick, which could be a very good use of the money.
This will be something to watch as teams vie for Butler. We’ve heard of a few teams trying to make a move for the four-time All-Star, including an interesting Eastern Conference team.
LeBron James had a perfect answer to a question about his loyalty to his new team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
A reporter asked the four-time league MVP how he plans to earn the respect and loyalty from his new fan base. James seemed perplexed by the question, and then gave a simple answer pointing to the length of his contract: I signed a four-year deal.
Reporter: How do you expect to earn the loyalty and respect of the LA fan base?
Lakers’ LeBron James: “Me? Huh? I signed a four-year deal, what more do you want me to do?” pic.twitter.com/bQuyDNUQSZ
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 25, 2018
The whole thing was great for a number of reasons. First, LeBron being utterly stunned by the question was funny to see. Second, he was probably confused that after 13 seasons as a star in the league — playing as the best player in the league for most of it — someone is asking how he’ll earn the respect of the fans. Third, he didn’t go into any details about how hard he’ll play and blah blah blah. He simply said I signed for four years, what more do you want?
As accomplished as he is in the league, many Lakers fans — who are used to championships and established Kobe fans — are going to hold LeBron to a high standard. They won’t care what he’s done in the past; they will only care about what he does in the purple and gold. James better be ready for more questions like that, and for a fan base that expects him to win, although Kobe thinks the fans will fall in line.
- LeBron James
Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau may not be ready to accept that he is going to lose one of his best players in the near future, but it has become clear that he can either trade Jimmy Butler now or watch him walk in free agency next summer.
Butler has been staying away from the Timberwolves after he told them he wants to be traded, and Thibodeau reportedly met with the star swingman this week in an attempt to get him to change his mind. According to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, Butler left no doubt that his decision has been made — he wants out.
Krawczynski wrote on Tuesday that Butler has been adamant that there is nothing that will convince him to remain in Minnesota and that he “wants out today and will want out tomorrow and the day after that.”
In addition, Krawczynski reports that Butler’s meeting with Thibodeau made him question whether the coach and president of basketball operations is making an actual effort to find a trade partner, and Butler went to T-Wolves owner Glen Taylor for reassurance that the team is engaging in good faith discussions.
Taylor, who has signed off on deals in the past that saw franchise cornerstones Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love traded away, has made it clear that Butler is available. He is apparently convinced that Butler truly wants out and does not want to give off the impression that there is dysfunction or a divide within his organization.
Thibodeau is in a tough spot in that Butler reportedly has specific teams he wants to be traded to, which limits any leverage Minnesota might have. If Thibodeau could convince teams there’s a chance Butler might stay with the Timberwolves, facilitating a deal would be easier. As of now, Butler is not even affording him that luxury.
Tom Thibodeau is not giving up on Jimmy Butler easily.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Thibodeau met with Butler on Monday and tried to convince him to join the Minnesota Timberwolves in the preseason.
Minnesota Timberwolves President/Coach Tom Thibodeau met with All-Star forward Jimmy Butler on Monday and tried to convince him to eventually rejoin the team in the preseason, league sources tell ESPN. Butler is sitting out, awaiting the organization to honor his trade request.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 25, 2018
Butler has requested a trade from Minnesota and reportedly is threatening to play hardball in order to get his way. His demands have brought a divide within the organization into the forefront.
Thibodeau does not want to trade Butler, while team owner Glen Taylor wants to in order to avoid the appearance of a dysfunctional team. Thibodeau, the team president and head coach, gave up a lot of assets to acquire Butler and knows that the four-time All-Star is key to the team’s playoff hopes. He doesn’t want to lose him after one season, because he knows there will be heavy consequences, such as his job potentially being on the line.
On the other hand, Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns apparently did not get along, and the impending departure of Butler has resulted in Towns agreeing to a long-term extension with the team. Thibodeau may be trying to make everything work, while Taylor has made his choice. Ownership wins in these matters, and we hardly doubt Thibodeau will be able to convince anyone that Butler will have a harmonious relationship with Minnesota if he remains with the team.
The San Antonio Spurs lost another key franchise cornerstone this offseason when Manu Ginobili announced his retirement, but they are hoping the four-time NBA champion is still very much a part of the team going forward.
On Monday, Gregg Popovich revealed that Ginobili joined him and the Spurs’ other coaches on the team’s coaching retreat last week. While no official announcement has been made in regard to Ginobili joining the staff, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says Pop and the organization are “eager to accommodate him.”
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 24, 2018
After he announced his retirement over the summer, Ginobili made it clear he has no intention of severing ties with the Spurs or the San Antonio area.
“My kids have already started school, and while I’m in town, I’ll be close to the team and the franchise,” he said, via ESPN’s Michael C. Wright. “I can’t help anymore by taking a charge or with a steal, but I’ll try to contribute somehow. I appreciate all my teammates, the staff and all the people in the team. I want the best for the Spurs. If I can help, I will do it with pleasure.”
Ginobili may not be ready to commit to a full-time coaching position, but it would be a surprise if he does not help the Spurs in some capacity. Heck, one of his own sons has already given him a great reason to stay around the team, so it’s a good bet that the relationship will continue.
Kristaps Porzingis is still rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered back in February, and there has been plenty of talk about him potentially missing some or all of the 2018-2019 season. Unfortunately for New York Knicks fans, Porzingis is not ready to rule that out.
While speaking with reporters on Monday, Porzingis was asked if there is a chance he won’t play at all this upcoming season. His answer was a bit concerning.
Kristaps Porzingis asked if there's a chance he sits out the whole season recovering from his torn ACL:
"It's really hard to say. There's no timetable, as I said. I am going to be back when I'm healthy and I am medically cleared."
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) September 24, 2018
Porzingis said numerous times that there is no timetable for his return, though he is getting stronger and has resumed running. The 7-foot-3 forward also said his injury is a bit unprecedented for someone his size.
Porzingis makes a salient point about his rehab from a torn ACL: "There is no protocol for a 7-3 guy." No precedent for a guy his size recovering from that injury that. Says that's made him take things more conservatively and differently.
— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) September 24, 2018
At least one Knicks legend has already said he expects Porzingis to sit out the entire season, and the team has been noncommittal at best. With Porzingis being just 23 and potentially the future of the franchise, the Knicks are going to play it as safe as necessary.
- Kristaps Porzingis