Storyline: LeBron James to Sixers?

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Sources have said that this is not an obligatory meeting with James’ representatives. The free agent is really interested in playing for the Sixers, according to the source. The forward would welcome playing alongside all-star center Joel Embiid and point guard Ben Simmons, the rookie of the year. He’s also impressed with coach Brett Brown and the Sixers’ state-of-the-art facility. And by coming to Philly, James believes he would have a great chance to play in his ninth consecutive NBA Finals.

On Thursday before the draft, Power Home Remodeling struck again — this time, with airplanes. Per their news release, they paid to have three planes fly over Barclays Center and along the Hudson River for four hours, stopping around 7:30 p.m. ET, with the following messages: 23/Crown image + Liberty Bell image = GOAT image, Strive for GOAT-ness and #PhillyWantsLeBron

LeBron James recruiting season is officially open, and Joel Embiid is wasting NO time in courting the King to jump to the city of brotherly love. We got Sixers superstar leaving Craig’s Friday night — a couple hours after the Cavs got swept out of the NBA Finals. — and asked him about the not-so-subtle tweet he fired off as the game was ending. Joel hinted on social media, but he was way more direct with our photog. As he walked out, we asked him to explain the “find a new slant” comment … and he said, LeBron needs to “find a new team … Sixers!”

The answer, at least the top target, is clear as day, with James expected by all to decline his player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers and enter free agency. Brown can’t admit that LeBron’s the top target, at least not by name, but he still sort of did. “I’m not here to tell names,” Brown said on the topic, before acknowledging that the answer is an easy one to arrive at. “To me, the answer becomes clear.” After a long, somewhat awkward pause before the next question, Brown continued. “It’s true though, right? I mean, like, we don’t have to turn this into calculus. It’s quite clear.”

I will continue to trumpet the belief that James would be making a huge mistake to leave the Eastern Conference that he has dominated for years by joining the Houston Rockets or Los Angeles Lakers and potentially complicating his annual path to the championship round. But the Cavaliers suddenly look so rickety again that I now fully understand why whispers about the Philadelphia 76ers and their growing behind-the-scenes confidence that they can woo LeBron to Philly this summer are getting louder.

Is there an actual chance LeBron goes to the 76ers? CJ McCollum: “He’s always (been) calculated about his decision-making process going back to his youth. Ben [Simmons] is his young guy. Ben is a member of Klutch Sports, so that also could play a factor. Philly is in the Eastern Conference. LeBron has been fond of the Eastern Conference throughout his career on what seems to be his EZ-Pass to the Finals. I think it’s a bigger possibility than people think. I’m not sure if they have the space financially for that. Obviously, they have a lot of guys on rookie deals right now. But they would need to get some more shooters in there if they do want to bring Bron in.”

Emrani says he has paid to put up four billboards around Los Angeles trying to recruit James to join the Lakers in free agency in response to previous billboards erected in Cleveland and Pennsylvania trying to convince James to join the Sixers and remain with the Cavaliers, respectively. As the Cavaliers make their only trip of the regular season to Los Angeles to face the Clippers on Friday and the Lakers on Sunday, Emrani wants James to know he’s wanted in purple and gold. The Lakers have the ability to create as much as $70 million in cap space to pursue two max free agent stars like James and Oklahoma City’s Paul George this summer.

There’s been some growing “LeBron to Philly” buzz for four reasons: the Sixers have enough cap space and trade assets to accommodate LeBron and the likes of, say, PAUL GEORGE; Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are two of the league’s best under-25 blue-chippers (young legs!); Klutch represents Simmons (hmmmmm); and NBA insiders have been gossiping about an increasingly cozy Philly–LeBron’s circle connection since November. You want a quality narrative? What about this one:

Alex: What do you think LeBron will do? If you had to make a prediction: Do you think he re-signs in Cleveland? Or does he go to Los Angeles, Houston? What do you think he does? Marc Spears: I think it depends on how he finishes. I believe the way they lost at the end last time—or perhaps he decided earlier—but it seems like both his departures came after hard season endings, although his mind may have been made up before. Like, for example, no one probably would have mentioned [Philadelphia] beforehand, but now Philly is interesting, right? People would have assumed Lakers before, but now ‘oh, no, he wouldn’t consider the Lakers.’ With him, I think it’s fluid. And I also think that if the Cavs were to get the No. 1 pick, you know, get a top top pick with that pick, that potentially he could get a young guy—like, what if he was able to get a top-three pick there? It might be more attractive to stay. With him, to be honest, I don’t know that there’s a good prediction to make because there’s too many different scenarios going on that could affect what he decides.

Let’s start with rudimentary salary cap issues. The Sixers are one of a few teams who have significant salary cap space to use in the summer of 2018. They would need to make a few moves to get close to a $34 million max salary for James in year one, but it can be done. Let’s also point out that James on media day in September said nothing has happened that has changed his stance about finishing his career with the Cavaliers. He also said, “Anytime I’m able to be a free agent or my contract is ending, I’ll approach that when the summer comes.”
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January 21, 2019 | 11:45 am EST Update
Charlotte Hornets General Manager Mitch Kupchak announced today that the team has assigned forward Dwayne Bacon and guard Devonte’ Graham to the Greensboro Swarm, the team’s NBA G League affiliate. Dwayne Bacon has appeared in 23 games averaging 4.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 10.6 minutes per game in his second season with the Charlotte Hornets. Bacon was selected 40th overall in 2017 NBA Draft by New Orleans and acquired by Charlotte, along with cash considerations, in exchange for Frank Jackson (31st overall) on draft night. The assignment to the Greensboro Swarm will mark the eighth of the 2018-19 G League season for Dwayne Bacon. He has appeared in seven games for the Swarm, averaging 20.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 33.1 minutes per game.
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According to Kanter, his absence from two games earlier this month was the result of a stomach bug, not overeating. Last week, the center posted a picture of himself getting ready to chow down on 13 burgers on his ‘cheat day.’ He missed practice the following day and then the next two games, on Jan. 11 and 13. “It was not burgers, man. Although I ate a lot of burgers that night. It was flu, it was definitely flu,” Kanter said. “Because we just came back from a long road trip and we landed 7-something AM and I only slept like one hour. And of course, it’s New York, it’s pretty cold. So I had the flu.”
Enes Kanter has spent years – and most of last week – speaking on the injustices in his home country of Turkey. On Monday, he’ll be playing on MLK Day and honoring America’s most famous civil rights leader. The meaning isn’t lost on Kanter. “Of course man, it means a lot. Everybody, whoever fights for freedom, if you’re fighting for democracy or human rights. It shows a lot,” said the NBA’s most politically-charged player. “So it will definitely be a blessing to have that day and play that day. So it will be an honor to go out there and wear this (Martin Luther King Jr.) t-shirt and play because he fought for something very important.”
January 21, 2019 | 7:12 am EST Update
Thompson stands to make $18.5 million next season. That’s a big number to take on, even if it’s only for one year, because of the 2019 free-agent sweepstakes so many teams want to have salary-cap space for. Unless Thompson puts a team over the top, then it would probably make more sense for a team to trade for him next season. The Cavs want him around to shepherd younger players through the early stages of this rebuild. They’ll probably be able to get better assets in return for him at next year’s trade deadline. There’s also a chance the Cavs want Thompson long term, and could, therefore, keep him and offer him an extension over the summer. What he thinks: “Blake Griffin got traded. At the end of the day, if the trade is right and the pieces are guys they feel can help the franchise moving forward, I’m totally understanding. It’s a business. If you don’t have a no-trade clause, anything can happen.”
Storyline: Tristan Thompson Trade?
In chasing Davis, the Lakers may need a push from his agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who also represents James. “I’d say if the [Philadelphia 76ers offer Ben] Simmons, or with the [Boston] Celtics’ package of picks and young players, the Lakers would probably be third,” the former executive said. “One would think that [Pelicans general manager] Dell [Demps] would want a deal done around the draft [with Boston’s picks].”