LeBron James Addresses Trade Rumors Following Disheartening Loss to Magic

The Cavaliers’ 2017-18 NBA season is in a tailspin. For whatever reason, Cleveland just can’t string together a series of wins and get themselves back on track right now. But have things gotten so bad that LeBron James would waive his no-trade clause and voluntarily allow the team to send him packing prior to the NBA trade deadline on Thursday?

Believe it or not, that was actually a source of speculation on Tuesday, as Yahoo! Sports reporter Shams Charania reported there were some NBA teams doing their “due diligence” and watching to see if LeBron would potentially waive the no-trade clause he has in his contract. There are more than a few teams who would obviously be willing to mortgage their franchise’s future for a chance to land LeBron in a deal. And even though Charania reported LeBron was unlikely to let the Cavaliers trade him, it didn’t stop some people from gossiping about what might happen if LeBron did away with his no-trade clause.

The gossiping got a little bit louder on Tuesday night after the Cavaliers went out and blew a 21-point lead to the Magic to lose 116-98. The Magic have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, so the loss was particularly stunning for the skidding Cavaliers. But despite his team’s struggles, LeBron faced the latest report about his no-trade clause head-on and said he is not planning on going anywhere before the trade deadline. He insisted he will remain a Cavalier for at least the remainder of this season.

“I’m here for the long haul,” LeBron said. “I’m here for this season right now, [to] try to figure out ways we can still compete. I couldn’t give up on my teammates like that. I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t do it. We put too much into the game every single day. We go out and prepare. Win, lose, or draw, at the end of the day, we’re all brothers, and we understand that. I owe it to my teammates to finish this season out no matter how it ends up. I would never waive my no-trade clause.”

LeBron was clearly trying to keep his spirits up following another tough loss, but some of his teammates were having trouble doing the same. One Cavaliers player told ESPN.com the team hit “a new low” during their game against the Magic. Isaiah Thomas, meanwhile, tried to explain the Cavaliers’ troubles by suggesting they’re not demonstrating the brotherhood LeBron talked about while speaking with reporters.

“Right now, when we hit adversity, we go our separate ways,” Thomas said. “And that’s just how I feel, and it looks like that as well. Guys start to go one-on-one on offense, and the defense is every man for himself. The first half we played good, everybody was happy. It was energized, helping each other on the defensive end. Sharing the ball. The ball was moving side to side on offense. And then we revert back to what makes us lose games.”

The somewhat amazing thing about all of this is that, despite the Cavaliers’ inability to win many ballgames at the top of 2018, Cleveland is still sitting in third in the Eastern Conference. So they’re just one hot streak away from putting themselves right back into prime position in the East. But the fact that we’ve reached the point where the idea of LeBron waiving his no-trade clause doesn’t sound that crazy should tell you everything you need to know about where the Cavaliers are at the moment. They need to figure out a way to turn things around quickly—or LeBron’s days in Cleveland could really be numbered.

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Joakim Noah May Be Traded From Knicks After Heated Exchange With Jeff Hornacek

Joakim Noah and New York Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek were involved in a “heated verbal exchange” during practice last week, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports, and the fallout now has the team actively exploring ways to move the disgruntled center.

Last Tuesday, Noah got into a shouting match with Hornacek during the fourth quarter of a game against Golden State. The following day at practice, still frustrated, the 32-year-old confronted the coach again. Though the situation stopped short of turning physical, Noah was sent home afterward on a “leave of absence.” Now, it looks like the former All-Star might've suited up for the last time in a Knicks uniform.

Noah has been reportedly upset with his role all season. He's played in only seven games, seeing less than six minutes per contest behind New York basketball luminaries like Kyle O'Quinn and Willy Hernangomez. Noah still believes he can provide legitimate minutes for somebody out there, though his time in New York hasn't offered much validation. He played in just 46 games last year before undergoing season-ending knee surgery and then received a 20-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

This season, he's seen the floor so few times that it's difficult to imagine anyone trading for him since he's owed nearly $38 million over the next two years (including a ridiculous $19.3 million in 2019-20). Charania reports that New York has yet to approach the former Defensive Player of the Year about a buyout.

New York fans don't want to hear it, but Twitter is aflame with basketball pundits everywhere saying, “I told you so.” When Noah signed a 4-year, $72 million contract with the Knicks in the 2016 offseason, it not only confirmed that Phil Jackson never should've been hired, it left the rest of the basketball world laughing. It was peak Knicks. From Jerome James to Eddy Curry, this team has a habit of overdrawing the ATM account. In an age where teams have gotten somewhat smarter (besides Michael Jordan's Hornets) about not throwing money around like Jordan Belfort, Noah's deal has been so bad that some have argued it's the team's worst ever.

The amazing part? Despite knowing this, Knicks fans were still willing to go all in. I mean, just look at some of these tweets from 2016. (Thanks to @SnottieDrippen for doing some digging.)

Ugh. At the end of the day, even the most staunch New York fans had to see this one coming. Blame the front office for offering such a stupid deal. Noah was a fading star that never should've been given that much money anyway, especially not in New York. A huge contract with a former “star” playing limited minutes on a rebuilding team, there was really only one way this was going to end.

Whether it's through trade (unlikely), through a buyout or stretch (probably the best course of action) or even just through offering unlimited sick days for the next three months, we've probably seen the last of Joakim Noah in a Knicks uniform.

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Even Cavs Players Are Doubtful They Can Win a Championship This Season

Contrary to popular opinion, LeBron James is human after all, and though his run of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals might make him seem otherworldly, it doesn't make him invincible. This season more than ever, it feels like Cleveland is surviving rather than thriving. At some point, someone in the East is going to beat them. And after Cleveland's 118-108 home loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors last night, we might've officially reached that point.

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, there is growing discontent and a strong sense of concern within the Cleveland locker room. The Cavs are 26-17 with only three wins in their last 12 games. They got blown out by a combined 62 points against Toronto and Minnesota last week. They might have the worst defense in the entire NBA, and they've slid so far that many of the team's veterans now doubt whether they can fix their problems this season.

Age. One-dimensional role players. Defensive-issues that go far beyond fundamentals. Several prominent players told ESPN, Cleveland.com, and The Athletic that the team's problems won't go away simply by getting healthy. 

This is not the first time we've heard grumblings coming out of Cleveland this season. Just last week, Yahoo! Sports reported there were complaints in the locker room about “personal agendas” getting in the way of success. Some Cavs players thought LeBron was chasing assists in an effort to win one final MVP award. Others didn't like coach Tyronn Lue's rotations. The bickering reeks of familiarity, like a family that's been living together far too long.

In past years during their inevitable regular season lapses, the team could lean on Kyrie Irving. But Irving is gone, and his replacement is a 28-year-old, 5'9″ defensive problem who may or may not ever be the same after returning from a major hip injury.

LeBron has to know all of this. He also knows Cleveland holds the rights to Brooklyn's first-round pick next summer—and that there are several names potentially available on the market. That pick and this year's trade deadline might be Cleveland's final chance to position themselves for one last run at a title. Among the NBA's contenders, they have the least to lose and the most to gain by making a deal.

No one ever expects a run to end before it does. Miami's Big Three era faded with a whimper, getting blitzed by 14 points per game against San Antonio in the 2014 Finals. Kobe's Lakers collapsed in a surprising sweep in 2011, burnt out and exhausted. Before that, it was Shaq and the Lakers getting old before our eyes and even before that, it was Houston and Hakeem Olajuwon getting run into the ground by Seattle and the Detroit Bad Boys wilting under the athleticism of Jordan's Bulls. 

Is this Cleveland's moment of reckoning? If it is, it shouldn't surprise anyone.

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Here’s the Story Behind That Floyd Mayweather Knockout Mural Conor McGregor Has in His Gym

Back in late June, about a week after his fight with Floyd Mayweather was officially announced, Conor McGregor trolled the undefeated boxer by showing off a gigantic mural that was painted on the wall in his gym in Dublin, Ireland. The mural featured McGregor punching Mayweather in the face and quickly took the internet by storm.

In the days that followed, several details about the mural came out. A Dublin-based art collective called Subset released a statement to Yahoo! Sports and revealed that they were behind the painting. They also let loose that it was McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh who asked them to put it together, and described the process in an interview with Versus.

Additionally, this video of McGregor seeing the mural for the first time surfaced. He looked blown away by the art and was clearly surprised by it when he walked into his gym.

But in an excellent new ESPN the Magazine cover story on McGregor by Wright Thompson, Kavanagh told the whole story behind the painting and revealed why he decided to have it painted on the wall at the gym when McGregor first started training for his fight with Mayweather.

According to Kavanagh, he first learned that McGregor and Mayweather were going to fight at about the same time that the rest of us did. McGregor texted him on June 14 and told him the fight was on, only a short time before he took to social media to let the rest of us in on the news.

And when he did, Kavanagh quickly realized that despite the fact that McGregor would be preparing to fight one of the best boxers of all time, he hadn’t gotten around to putting together a boxing gym where he could train yet. So Kavanagh sprung into action and created a gym in just four days.

To do it, Kavanagh called the owner of his MMA gym and asked to borrow an abandoned car dealership located nearby. Then, he cleaned it up, hung a sheet to create some separation between the dealership’s showroom and the repair bays in the back, and got the water and electricity up and running. He also had a boxing ring shipped from England to Ireland by boat. Finally, he decided that he was going to hire Subset to paint the mural of McGregor punching Mayweather to complete the space.

Thompson reports that Subset knocked it out in just one session, paint fumes be damned:

The artists laughed the first time they saw the space, wondering what Floyd's gym must look like, making jokes about Rocky training in the snow. The mural got painted freehand in one 12-hour burst, the fumes leaving the painters bent. Kavanagh wants that image to work in Conor's mind.

While speaking with ESPN the Mag, Kavanagh also talked about what happened when he showed McGregor the painting for the first time. You can see his reaction in the clip above, but Kavanagh said the big reveal didn’t go as planned at first. It seems McGregor thought the guys from Subset were in his gym to jump him when he first walked on. And one of the Subset members, who spoke with ESPN the Mag, said that that led to an awkward first encounter with McGregor. The member said he had never met anyone like McGregor before.

“I’d never been in someone’s company before who was purely male energy,” the Subset member, who was not identified by name, said. “There was no female energy. And not in a macho way. He wasn’t fronting up. He’s running off this raw, food chain, evolution, strongest-survive energy. He’s cold. That’s what he’s like. He was open, a gentleman, but he’s cold at the base of it.”

Thompson’s entire piece in ESPN the Mag provides an interesting look into how McGregor got to where he’s at today. We all know McGregor hails from Ireland and endured a lot before finally landing in the UFC. But Thompson takes a look at everything from McGregor’s past ties to local gangs in Dublin to his disdain for the upper class in Ireland to provide some context for why McGregor is the way he is now. You can check out the whole story here.

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Remember When Kevin Durant Ruined the Fourth of July?

When Kevin Durant signed a five-year, $86 million contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder on July 7, 2010, he did so without any of the pomp and circumstance that came along with the decision that LeBron James would make on The Decision just one day later. Unlike LeBron—who infamously sat down for a live TV interview with Jim Gray to discuss his decision to leave the Cavaliers in order to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat—KD didn’t make a big deal out of his announcement. He revealed that he would be staying put in OKC through at least the 2015-16 NBA season by sending out this simple, straightforward, no-frills tweet, spelling and grammatical errors and all:

And when The New York Times tracked KD down later that same day to ask him why he decided to go that route as opposed to broadcasting his decision in a more spectacular fashion, he seemed confused by the question. “What’s there to really talk about?” he said, before explaining why he was so low-key when it came time to tell the world that he was going to stay in OKC for another five years. “I just told everybody I wasn’t talking about it, really. I just kept it to myself. That’s just the type of person I am. I don’t like the attention around me.”

At the time, KD was applauded by many NBA fans and members of the media for using social media to announce his contract extension rather than dragging the process out like LeBron did. KD’s method was seen as a breath of fresh air at a time when the NBA free agency period was starting to turn into a much bigger storyline than it had been in the past, due to the sudden growth and popularity of social media. “Kevin Durant didn’t need a one-hour special on the World Wide Leader,” Darnell Mayberry, a writer for The Oklahoman, wrote at the time. “The Thunder’s star was satisfied with just 140 characters.”

But sometime between July 2010 when he signed his contract extension with the Thunder and July 2016 when he became a free agent, KD’s attitude towards free agency seemed to change. The NBA free agency period continued to become more and more of a circus every year, with NBA reporters like David Aldridge of NBA.com, Marc Stein of ESPN, and of course, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tracking the every move of NBA free agents the moment the clock struck midnight on July 1.

Players like Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, and LeBron—who became a free agent again in 2014 and announced his decision to return to the Cavaliers by penning a letter to the city of Cleveland in Sports Illustrated—took full advantage of it by meeting with as many teams as they could and hearing as many pitches from executives as possible once they became free agents. And as KD’s own free agency started to get closer and closer, he seemed to embrace the idea of going through the process just as players like Williams, Howard, and LeBron had.

By early 2016, there were reports about how KD wanted to be courted once he officially became a free agent. Much to the chagrin of all the Thunder fans out there, it didn’t sound like KD was going to announce that he was re-signing with the Thunder through another tweet. Rather, Yahoo Sports reporter Chris Mannix reported that KD was looking forward to being wined and dined by different NBA teams. Sources told Mannix KD’s free agency was going to be a much bigger production than it had been in 2010:

Durant is looking forward to being recruited, to being courted, to being treated like the biggest free-agent prize since LeBron James six years ago. The chances of Durant sending a simple tweet again announcing his return are virtually nonexistent, but the Thunder remain hopeful that his decision, regardless of how this season ends, is the same.

KD downplayed all of the various reports about him entertaining offers from other NBA teams during free agency throughout the 2015-16 NBA season. He said all the right things about the Thunder organization and his teammates, and he never really gave any indication that he was going to seriously consider leaving OKC once July 1 hit.

But by late June, it was clear that KD was going to, at the very least, listen to what other teams had to say. According to ESPN, KD’s representatives scheduled meetings with the Warriors, Spurs, Celtics, Heat, Clippers, and Thunder. Teams like the Knicks, Wizards, and Lakers reportedly tried to get time with KD, too. It seemed like it was exactly what KD was looking for, based on the earlier reports.

It was unclear how long it was going to take KD to make his final decision, though. He had so many meetings set up that it didn’t sound like he was going to get around to letting the world know where he would sign for at least a week once NBA free agency started. One Oklahoman report even suggested KD might hold off until July 9 to sign with a team, which would have meant nine days worth of speculation surrounding what he was ultimately going to do. But once free agency officially started, Wojnarowski revealed that July 4 looked like the day KD would make his announcement:

During the first few days of July, it was difficult to keep up with all of the KD news that was coming out. There were reports about how his initial meeting with the Thunder on July 1 “went well,” according to ESPN sources. But there were also reports about how a subsequent meeting with the Warriors went “very well,” which seemed to trump the earlier report about his OKC meeting:

There were other meetings with the teams listed above on July 2 and July 3, too. But after two days, it seemed like the Thunder and Warriors were leading the pack and had the best chances of signing KD to a deal. KD met with the Thunder for a second time on July 3 to conclude his scheduled free agency meetings:

And then, he stepped back from the process to weigh his options, with many reporters close to the situation—like ESPN’s Royce Young—reporting that he was close to picking either the Thunder or Warriors:

The stage was set for July 4 to be the day KD would announce his decision:

July 4 would end up being one of the most agonizing days in recent history for NBA fans, players, and reporters. When LeBron made his decision in 2010, there was a lot of hype surrounding it, but there was also a definitive day and time when everyone would be able to tune in and see which team LeBron was going to pick. The Decision would air at 9 p.m. on ESPN, and shortly thereafter, we would all know where LeBron was going to play the following season.

It wasn’t like that for KD. While most people suspected his decision was going to come down on July 4, KD himself hadn’t confirmed or denied the reports about it, and he also later admitted that when he woke up on July 4, he still hadn’t made a definitive decision as to which team he was going to sign with. So the world waited—and oddly enough, poked fun at KD’s old BlackPlanet page—while he mulled over the decision on the morning of July 4.

To KD’s credit, he didn’t keep us waiting for very long. At right around noon on July 4, KD took to Twitter for the second time in his NBA career to announce what he planned to do in free agency. But this time, it took more than 140 characters to get his message across. He tweeted out a link to a post he had written for The Players’ Tribune called “My Next Chapter”:

And in the post, KD shared some stunning news: He was leaving the Thunder to join the Warriors.

The news sent shock waves through the NBA community, and it ruined a lot of people’s Fourth of July. Thunder fans were obviously upset about the fact that KD was leaving the team, just six years after he had committed to OKC and told fans that he planned to stay there for a long, long time:

Other NBA fans were disappointed with KD’s decision as well. Many reacted to the news about KD signing with the Warriors by pointing out that there wouldn’t really even be a reason to play the 2016-17 NBA season since the result seemed like a foregone conclusion:

The words “Damn KD” started trending on Twitter:

And within just minutes of KD making his announcement, Stephen A. Smith was all over ESPN ripping him for it. He was one of many media members upset with the way KD’s free agency period ended:

NBA players also chimed in and seemed just as shocked as fans. It was surreal to see what some of them had to say:

In the end, not everyone had their days ruined. There were plenty of Warriors fans out there who were thrilled to hear about KD’s decision. Golden State was just a few weeks removed from blowing a 3-1 lead to lose to the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. So KD signing with the Warriors was exactly what they needed at the time.

But for most people outside of the Bay Area, July 4, 2016—a day that should have been all about beer, burgers, and fireworks—was anything but a celebration. It was a shocking jolt to the system that proved the NBA was about to change dramatically during the following season. It was also a disappointing end to what seemed like a fun free agency period for KD.

It was basically everything that July 7, 2010 wasn’t. Back then, KD was just looking to work out a deal with as little fanfare as possible. But by 2016, that had all changed—and there were so many people who resented and still resent KD for it. And they're not going to forget about it anytime soon.

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