NBA

NBA schedule announced with tweaks for new league season

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The NBA announced its full 1,230-game schedule for the upcoming season, complete with tweaks designed to reduce wear-and-tear on players through the grinding 26-week campaign.

The 2017-18 season will be the first season in NBA history in which no team plays four games in five days. The number of back-to-back games has been reduced to 14.4 per team — down from 16.3 last year.

The issue of keeping teams fresh during a regular-season lasting more than six months gained urgency as coaches opted to rest stars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry occasionally to be sure they’d be ready for deep playoff runs.

The absence of marquee players was felt not only by fans who paid for tickets but also by national broadcasters. ABC and ESPN recently paid $24 billion for the right to air some of the league’s marquee games.

To make it possible, the league shortened the pre-season, and added about a week to the regular season.

The season that tips off on October 17 with the reigning champion Golden State Warriors taking on the Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers, bested by the Warriors in last season’s finals, taking on the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The NBA had already revealed its five Christmas Day contests, which include a Warriors-Cavaliers rematch. The two teams, who have clashed in the last three championship series, will meet again on Martin Luther King Jr Day — January 15.

Three-time All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans last season, makes his first return to Sacramento in week two.

There could be fireworks on November 15, when Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers visit the Los Angeles Lakers and rookie Lonzo Ball — the second overall pick in June’s draft.

Ball’s father LaVar Ball and Embiid traded barbs on social media during the off-season.

Paul George, traded by the Indiana Pacers to Oklahoma City, returns with the Thunder and NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook to take on the Pacers on December 13.

Chris Paul will be back in Los Angeles to take on his old team the Clippers as a Houston Rocket on January 15.

Jimmy Butler, dealt by the Bulls to the Minnesota Timberwolves in June, returns to Chicago with his new team on February 9.

Gordon Hayward, who signed with the Celtics on March 28, returns to take on his old team the Utah Jazz on March 28.

In international games already announced, the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets will play in Mexico City on December 9 and the 76ers and Celtics will meet in London on January 11.​

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Derrick Rose in line to take advantage of disconnect between Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving

Jay Asser 26/07/2017
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Feeling Rosey: Derrick Rose. Picture: Getty Images.

While Derrick Rose’s decline from MVP has now seen him agree to a minimum deal, the Cleveland Cavaliers offer their most recent addition a chance at rebuilding his reputation.

The point guard is reportedly set to sign a veterans minimum salary of $2.1 million for one year during an uneasy time for Cleveland as the drama of Kyrie Irving’s recently reported trade request hangs above their heads.

Rose appears in line to potentially benefit from the disconnect, with the 28-year-old agreeing to the deal “after spending the day [with LeBron James], discussing how the team will return to the Finals without Kyrie Irving”, according to Cleveland.com, who also state that “James is eager to see [Irving] off”.

Despite Irving requesting a trade and providing the Cavaliers a list of four teams he would prefer to call his new home – San Antonio, Miami, New York and Minnesota – he’s still under contract until the summer of 2019 at the earliest, meaning Cleveland could keep him in the hopes of resolving any chemistry issues.

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However, it’s sounding more and more like the Cavaliers are seriously planning on moving Irving, with Rose seemingly sold on the idea of being an impactful playmaker alongside James.

Rose had been in communication with James throughout the process leading up to signing with Cleveland, according to ESPN, and James welcomed his new team-mate by tweeting on Monday: “Let’s Rock G!!”.

James also took to Twitter yesterday to shoot down rumours surround him and Irving, including the aforementioned claim that he’s “eager” for Cleveland to trade the All-Star point guard.

James tweeted: “#NotFacts people! Boooo!!! Get another source” while quoting two SLAM Magazine articles referencing his unhappiness with Irving.

For Rose, the $2.1m contract pales in comparison to the five-year, $150m deal he was reportedly hoping for midway through this past season, according to ESPN back in January.

Though he had his best statistical season since 2011-12 last year with the Knicks, averaging 18.0 points, 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 47.1 per cent shooting, the Cavaliers offer an opportunity to play with better talent and in more meaningful games.

Rose doesn’t solve Cleveland’s defensive issues or offer much more than Irving does on that end of the floor, but his ability to drive and finish at the rim, while also being a capable passer to open spot-up shooters, should be an asset.

An adjustment period may be necessary, but the low-cost flyer the Cavaliers are taking on Rose could end up helping both sides.

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Cleveland Cavaliers lose unlikely option of trading LeBron James as he reportedly won't waive no-trade clause

Jay Asser 24/07/2017
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Going nowhere...for now: LeBron James. Picture: Getty Images.

The speculation, as mild as it was, can now end. LeBron James won’t be traded within the next year, whether the Cleveland Cavaliers would consider it or not.

James will not waive his no-trade clause under any circumstance, regardless of how the ongoing situation with Kyrie Irving is resolved, according to ESPN.

The report states that the 32-year-old “is focused solely on competing for a championship as a member of the Cavs and will fulfil his contractual obligations, whatever unexpected circumstances may arise”.

While James has locked in with Cleveland for now, he hasn’t committed to staying beyond this coming season and could decline his player option for 2018-19 to test free agency next summer.

The idea of the Cavaliers even considering trading James seemed far-fetched, but became slightly more conceivable after ESPN’s report made Kyrie Irving’s trade request public.

Irving allegedly wants more of a starring role and no longer wants to play alongside James, whether due to a disconnect or with the foresight the four-time MVP will bolt in free agency in a year.

The trade request wasn’t made public until a couple weeks after Irving informed the Cavaliers of his desire, according to the report.

After Irving’s decision was kept in-house until recently, the point guard believes James leaked the request in an emotional response, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

While James wouldn’t stand to benefit from leaking the news, as it would damage Irving’s trade value and the Cavaliers’ leverage to make a move, it would be in-line with his passive-aggressive character, which has in the past included scathing subtweets seemingly directed at team-mates.

Irving’s request made a James trade at least worth theorising considering the long-term ramifications for the organisation.

By moving James, Cleveland would once again be able to hand the keys to Irving and restore his role as face of the franchise, perhaps changing his mind of wanting to depart.

On the other hand, by trading Irving either for a package of win-now players or future assets, the Cavaliers would potentially become either slightly worse in the short-term or signal the start of a rebuild, respectively. In either case, James would have less incentive to stick around next summer.

Hence why preemptively trading James before he can again leave the team without fetching anything in return would make some sense.

By indicating he’ll flex his no-trade clause, however, James has left Cleveland with little choice but to appease his win-now mentality and hope it’s enough to keep him.

The Cavaliers are in a state of flux and may have no right answer.

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