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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Police have not ruled out charges for Tony Stewart after death of driver in sprint-car race 08.11.14 at 8:12 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Mets at Phillies, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Dodgers at Braves, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

AROUND THE WEB:

— Authorities in Upstate New York said they do not have enough evidence to charge NASCAR driver Tony Stewart but have not ruled out criminal charges after he hit and killed a fellow driver during a sprint-car race in Canandaigua on Saturday night.

Stewart backed out of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen one day after the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” Stewart said in a statement. “It’s a very emotional time for all involved. … My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Ward had stepped out of his car after his car was knocked into the wall by Stewart’s and attempted to confront the NASCAR veteran. Ward, wearing a black firesuit and black helmet on the dimly lit track, was hit by Stewart’s car, which was traveling an estimated 35-40 mph, and knocked backward onto the track.

MASHUP POLL: Should Tony Stewart faces charges for the death of fellow race-car driver Kevin Ward Jr.?

  • No, there is not enough evidence that he did anything wrong (64%, 217 Votes)
  • Yes, he was at the very least negligent for not slowing down and avoiding Ward (36%, 122 Votes)

Total Voters: 339

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There has been speculation that Stewart, known for his temper, was attempting to scare Ward and lost control of his car.

Tyler Graves, a sprint-car racer who was a friend of Ward’s, was watching the race from the Turn 1 grandstands.

“I know Tony could see him. I know how you can see out of these cars,” Graves told the Sporting News. “When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit the throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways. It set sideways, the right rear tire hit Kevin, Kevin was sucked underneath and was stuck under it for a second or two and then it threw him about 50 yards.”

Stewart, 43, was questioned by authorities, who described him as “visibly shaken” but cooperative. Investigators worked to reconstruct the crash and asked for spectators to turn over photos and videos of the situation.

— NBA No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins not only is OK with his pending trade from the Cavaliers to the Timberwolves, he would prefer it — at least according to his former college coach.

Kansas’ Bill Self claims Wiggins said he would be better off in a situation where he is being relied upon to lead the way, rather than playing second fiddle to the likes of LeBron James.

“When all this stuff started, I talked to Andrew and he Andrew told me, ‘I hope I get traded,’ ” Self said. “And I’m like, ‘No you don’t.’ And he said, ‘Coach, I do. It’s better for me, knowing my personality and what I need to do, to go somewhere where I’m forced to be something as opposed to going in there where they’re going to be patient with me and I’m going to be a piece.’ ”

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Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Bill Self, LeBron James, Linval Joseph
ESPN suspends Dan Le Batard for LeBron James billboard 08.08.14 at 9:42 am ET
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ESPN suspended Dan Le Batard for two days after the television and radio host paid for billboards in Akron, Ohio, that read, “You’re Welcome, LeBron. Love, Miami” and featured the two championship rings LeBron James won with the Heat.

The billboards appeared to be mocking James’ first-person essay in Sports Illustrated announcing his return to the Cavaliers. James’ letter thanked many people, but not Miami fans, which inspired a response from Le Batard.

ESPN released a statement about the suspension Thursday.

“Dan LeBatard will be off the air for two days, returning Monday,” the statement read. “His recent stunt does not reflect ESPN’€™s standards and brand. Additionally, we were not made aware of his plans in advance.”

Read More: Dan Le Batard, LeBron James,
Kevin Durant calls LeBron James’ announcement to return to Cleveland ‘classy’ 07.30.14 at 8:54 pm ET
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LeBron James was showered with praise for the way he handled his announcement in a Sports Illustrated essay that he was returning to the Cavaliers.

Now James officially has Kevin Durant‘s approval.

“I thought it was well-thought-out. It was classy. It was a great move to do it as a letter,” Durant said after a training camp session with USA Basketball on Tuesday. “That was pretty cool. It’s funny seeing guys think about more than just basketball for once. He thought about the city where he comes from, about Northeast Ohio and how he can affect so many of the kids just being there playing basketball. I love that. So many guys get criticized for making the decision that’s best for them, instead of what’s best for everybody else. He’s a guy that did that. You gotta respect that. I applauded him, I texted him and told him congratulations on the decision and told him I was happy for him. As a fan of the game, it’s going to be pretty cool to see him back in Cleveland.”

James’ homecoming inspired reporters to ask Durant if he’ll consider a similar return home — Durant is from Seat Pleasant, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. — when he hits free agency in two years.

“I’m going to do what’s best for me,” Durant said. “It’s hard to talk about that right now when I’ve got two years left in Oklahoma City. I’m just going to focus on that. I’m not going to make a decision based on what anybody else does. I grew up watching the Bullets/Wizards. I grew up taking the train to that arena, all the time, to watch Georgetown, the Bullets, the Washington Mystics. That whole city is a part of me. It’s in my blood. I love going back home, seeing my family and playing there, but I love Oklahoma City too.”

Durant is has become close friends with James over the years. The two were Olympic teammates and even trained together in Akron, Ohio, during the 2011 lockout. Durant has two years remaining on a five-year, $86 million extension he signed with the Thunder in 2010.

Read More: Kevin Durant, LeBron James,
Report: Bulls making late push for Kevin Love; Cavs set to sign Andrew Wiggins to contract 07.23.14 at 9:53 am ET
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The Bulls are back in the mix for Kevin Love.

According to ESPN.com, Chicago is making a late push to try to get into discussions with the Timberwolves for the All-Star forward. But the Cavaliers continue to remain confident in their chances to outbid any other team.

Cleveland reportedly is willing to offer No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick for Love.

The Cavaliers continued to juggle the finances Tuesday when they sent the guaranteed contract of guard Carrick Felix, a future second-round pick and cash to the Jazz for guard John Lucas III and forwards Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas. The trade gives the Cavs more flexibility and trade assets to make a future move that could be related to acquiring Love. The combined salaries of Lucas, Thomas and Murphy total more than $3 million.

A trade for Love may have to wait, however.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Wiggins will sign his rookie contract with the Cavs, preventing any potential trade involving the team’s top pick for 30 days.

Meanwhile, LeBron James had cupcakes delivered to his neighbors to apologize for the traffic jams caused by his return.

“Dear Friend,” read a card that came with the cupcakes. “We know things have been hectic in our neighborhood these past few weeks and we are sorry for the chaos. We are so thankful to live in this wonderful community and we are so blessed to have understanding neighbors like you.”

Read More: Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love, LeBron James,
Maverick Carter on LeBron James’ return to Cleveland: ‘This was a decision that LeBron made in his heart’ 07.22.14 at 10:54 am ET
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Maverick Carter, LeBron James‘ business parter, told ESPN.com’s Jason Whitlock in a podcast that neither he or anyone else in James’ inner circle told the superstar to return to the Cavaliers.

“This was a decision that LeBron made in his heart,” Carter told Whitlock. “We didn’t push him to do it. We don’t push him to do anything. If he asks our opinion or what did we think about the pros and the cons, we help him think through it. We don’t push him.”

Said Carter: “LeBron’s a 29-year-old man with lots of money, got a wife, two kids, one on the way. He makes his own decisions. He doesn’t need anyone pushing him any way, and a guy like that, you’re not going to push him either way. We’ll help him think through things and help him see through things, but he makes his own decision in his heart. Because, ultimately, he has to live with it. I’m not the one who has to show up and play games for any team.”

James announced his return to the Cavs on July 11 after four seasons with the Heat. He opted out of his contract with Miami shortly after the loss to the Spurs in the NBA Finals. Carter said he wasn’t sure if James would have returned to the Heat if they had won their third straight title.

“Logic says how could he not,” Carter said. “You’ve got to go for four. But who knows. The decision about Cleveland was bigger than basketball. It was in his heart.”

Carter said James informed Dwyane Wade of his decision before the Sports Illustrated piece was released.

Read More: LeBron James, Maverick Carter,
NBA roundup: Josh Smith trade rumors resurface; Rodney Stuckey signs with Indiana; James Jones joins LeBron James in Cleveland 07.17.14 at 10:51 am ET
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Josh Smith‘€™s tenure in the Motor City might only last one season.

The versatile forward has been at the center of recent trade talks that could ship the former Hawk to the Kings, according to ESPN.com.

Talks between both parties started last month before tailing off due to a lack of progress and the start of the league’€™s free agency window. Sacramento, which reportedly offered Jason Thompson and either Derrick Williams or Jason Terry in the original deal for Smith, reportedly is looking for a third team to complete the deal.

If the trade is completed, Smith will join an impressive Kings frontcourt that already includes DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Another potential factor in the deal could be Smith’€™s close relationship with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who has also been linked to trade rumors with the Kings.

— It didn’€™t take long for the Pacers to find a replacement for Lance Stephenson.

Just a day after Stephenson agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal with the Hornets, Indiana signed guard Rodney Stuckey to a one-year deal, according to The Associated Press.

Stuckey, who played for the Pistons for the last seven years, was made expendable after Detroit added Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin to its backcourt this offseason. Last season, Stuckey averaged 13.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

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Read More: James Jones, Josh Smith, LeBron James, Rodney Stuckey
NBA roundup: Bulls cut Carlos Boozer; Erik Spoelstra, Heat ‘don’t have any regrets’ over LeBron James’ decision 07.16.14 at 11:14 am ET
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The Bulls used the amnesty clause Tuesday to cut forward Carlos Boozer after four seasons with the team.

Chicago also waived forward Lou Amundson and guards Ronnie Brewer and Mike James as the Bulls try to clear salary-cap space for the signing of Pau Gasol and 2011 draft pick Nikola Mirotic.

Boozer went to Chicago in a sign-and-trade deal with the Jazz in July 2010. He averaged 15.5 points and nine rebounds in 280 games with the Bulls.

Boozer had one year left on a five-year deal worth around $75 million. The amnesty clause allows the Bulls to release a player during the current labor deal and have 100 percent of his salary taken off the cap. Boozer is still owed the money, however.

“Carlos epitomized professionalism in everything he did for the Bulls both on the court, and in the community, during his time here in Chicago,” general manager Gar Forman said in a release. “Over the last four seasons, Carlos’ productivity helped elevate our team to another level. I have nothing but respect for Carlos, and certainly wish him the best as he moves forward.”

— Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke Tuesday for the first time since LeBron James decided to leave Miami to rejoin the Cavaliers. Although he said he was surprised by James’ decision, Spoelstra showed no animosity toward the superstar.

“He seemed at peace with the decision,” Spoelstra told reporters after the Heat’s summer league game in Las Vegas. “We don’t have any regrets. He shouldn’t have any regrets. It was a historic four-year run.”

Spoelstra won two titles with James during a four-year run that included four-straight NBA Finals appearances.

— At least the Heat will have two-thirds of their “Big Three” back next season.

Less than a week after James’ decision and Chris Bosh returned to Miami, Dwyane Wade signed a two-year deal with the Heat on Tuesday designed to give Wade and the team some flexibility in the coming years.  Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Carlos Boozer, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James
LeBron James announces return to Cavaliers in Sports Illustrated piece 07.11.14 at 12:41 pm ET
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The wait is over.

After weeks of drama and speculation, LeBron James, arguably the biggest free agent of the millennium, penned an essay for Sports Illustrated on Friday announcing that he is returning to the Cavaliers just four years after breaking the city’s heart and bolting for Miami.

“Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’€™s where I walked. It’€™s where I ran. It’€™s where I cried. It’€™s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart,” James wrote through SI’s Lee Jenkins. “People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’€™m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’€™t realize that four years ago. I do now.”

James added: “I always believed that I’€™d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’€™t know when.”

An Akron, Ohio, native, James spent the first seven years of his career with the Cavs before leaving for the Heat in a highly scrutinized announcement on national television in 2010. James, along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, won two championships with Miami and led the Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances.

James had been labeled a villain to the Cavaliers and their fans following the ESPN event known as The Decision. Fans burned his jersey in the streets, he was booed as a visiting player in Cleveland and owner Dan Gilbert reviled James in an open letter that stayed on the team’s website for four years before being removed last week.

Now Miami understands Cleveland’s pain. Heat owner Micky Arison expressed his disappointment on Twitter shortly after the announcement.

Gilbert, on the other hand, is feeling much differently than he did four years ago.

James opted out of his contract with the Heat about two weeks after they lost to the Spurs in five games in the championship round.

What followed was a nearly three-week frenzy involving media reports and meetings between Rich Paul, James’ agent, and prospective teams.

Paul spoke to the Cavaliers, Rockets, Lakers, Mavericks and Suns. On Wednesday, James and Paul met with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas.

“I looked at other teams, but I wasn’€™t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland,” James wrote. “The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.”

The Cavs made a three-team deal involving the Nets and Celtics on Wednesday to create enough cap space to bring in James on a maximum salary contract. Now he’ll be playing alongside All-Star Kyrie Irving and the last two No. 1 overall picks — Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.

James acknowledged the ultimate goal of bringing a championship to Cleveland. Although the signing makes the Cavs an immediate favorite in the lowly Eastern Conference, James said Cleveland isn’t a championship team yet.

“We’re not ready right now,” he said. “No way.”

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Undecided LeBron James reportedly still takes issue with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s letter at 9:26 am ET
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LeBron James still is contemplating whether to return to Miami or Cleveland. And there appears to be a longstanding reason why.

According to ESPN.com, one of the biggest reasons James has taken so long to decide where he’ll play next season is the infamous letter Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote about James after he left town in 2010.

The letter, which called James a “coward” and mocked him in various ways, remained on the Cavs’ website for four years before being removed earlier this week.

“If it wasn’t for that letter, this would’ve been done a while ago,” a source told ESPN.

James flew back from Las Vegas to Miami with Dwyane Wade Thursday night. James is said to be planning to fly from Miami to Brazil for Sunday’s World Cup final. Yahoo! Sports reported that the Heat and Cavs expect his decision before he leaves the country.

The Knicks and President Phil Jackson are in a similar wait-and-see mode on Carmelo Anthony‘s decision.

“But I expected one yesterday and the day before yesterday,” Jackson told reporters at the Knicks’ summer league practice Thursday. “But no, we’re waiting.”

Jackson said he’s still hopeful the star free agent will be back next season, but hasn’t spoken to Anthony since their meeting last week.

“I felt really good about my conversation with Carmelo. We really struck a chord,” Jackson said. “The two of us, I think feel really passionately about what we’re trying to get accomplished. It’s his ability to stay, be patient, lead and watch us develop a winner.”

The Knicks offered Anthony a maximum level contract worth nearly $130 million over five years. Jackson said he has made about five contract proposals to Anthony.

Read More: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James,
Reports: Cavaliers make play for Kevin Love, Ray Allen, Mike Miller 07.09.14 at 1:09 pm ET
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The Cavaliers, who on Wednesday reportedly agreed to a three-way trade involving the Celtics and Nets that will allow them to shed almost $22 million and clear room for a max contract offer to LeBron James, are said to be interested in two of James’ close friends: Ray Allen and Mike Miller.

Allen, who is believed to be seeking a max contract of $20.7 million, played in Miami the last two years after leaving the Celtics as a free agent. He turns 39 on July 20.

Miller played alongside James in Miami for three years but was waived before last season and ended up with the Grizzlies.

There also was a report from a aports radio host in Cleveland that the Cavaliers made an offer to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love in a deal that would include No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. However, other media outlets questioned the accuracy of that report.

Read More: Kevin Love, LeBron James, Mike Miller, Ray Allen