The Lakers are projected to have about $50 million in salary-cap space this summer after shedding the contracts of Clarkson and Nance. That figure could increase to the $70 million range if the Lakers are successful in finding a trade home for Julius Randle between now and July 1 and waiving and stretching the salary of the veteran swingman Luol Deng, which would give them more than sufficient cap space to pursue both James and Paul George.
The Cavaliers, though, clearly felt as if they had no alternative but to swing multiple trades on deadline day to change the atmosphere within their locker room to try to save their current season, sending a powerful message to James in the process about their intent to persuade the Akron, Ohio, native to stay with his home-state team when he becomes a free agent July 1.
Cleveland is 7-13 since Christmas and, amid rising tensions in the locker room and season-long concerns about its defensive deficiencies, apparently felt as though it had to ship Thomas out immediately in the quest for better team chemistry.
Acquired in the August blockbuster deal that sent the All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, Thomas missed the first 36 games of the season to complete his recovery from a longstanding right hip injury. Thomas then struggled to fit in with his new team upon returning and publicly clashed this week with Coach Tyronn Lue when he said that the Cavaliers were struggling to make in-game adjustments.
“That’s not true,” Lue told reporters in Cleveland on Wednesday before the Cavaliers’ stirring 140-138 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Speaking to Cleveland.com on Thursday after news of the trade began to spread, Thomas’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, said: “He’s worked too hard to get back, and he’s a ball-dominant player. It’s LeBron’s ball, and this clearly wasn’t working.”
Referring to Altman, Goodwin added: “Koby and I have had enough conversations where it was clear, with the way the system was going, it wasn’t beneficial for either party. This is a good opportunity for Isaiah.”
The subsequent three-team trade with Utah and Sacramento not only enabled Cleveland to acquire a player it had been targeting for weeks in Hill but also add the highly coveted Hood, who will be a restricted free agent this summer and had attracted considerable trade interest this month through his scoring potential with the Jazz.
The actress Gabrielle Union confirmed her husband Wade’s looming return to Miami on Thursday afternoon, tweeting: “305 HOME!!!! Let’s goooooooo HEAT!!!! Can’t. Wait.”