Trade Deadline: T-Mac deal hung up on draft picks

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Thumbnail image for NBA_mcgrady.jpgRemember just yesterday when the Tracy McGrady to the Knicks deal seemed like such a sure thing….

Welcome to the push back over the final details. Welcome to negotiations through the media. Ken Berger has the details.

The Knicks reported back to the Rockets Wednesday with parameters on the level of protection they’d require on first-round picks that would be included in the deal, and the Rockets were pushing hard for less protection, two people familiar with the talks said. Sources have indicated that once the Rockets received New York’s final determination on pick protection, they would choose between offers from the Knicks and Bulls for McGrady, whose $23 million expiring contract is one of the most coveted assets before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

The discussion remained unresolved with 24 hours to go before the deadline, with the Knicks seeking to adequately protect a 2011 first-round pick that Houston would have the option of swapping with New York and a 2012 first-round pick that could go to the Rockets based on where it falls in the draft. The situation remained fluid, with one person familiar with the negotiations saying Houston was “asking for too much,” while a second person with a stake in the talks continued to say the Rockets viewed the Knicks’ offer as the most favorable they will be able to extract for McGrady.

At this stage of the negotiations, everybody is pushing for every little bit they can get, every last scrap. Like how much protection there is on first round picks that could be swapped in a couple years. Some reports have both sides close to killing the deal.

But if the core of the deal is sound, these details are not enough to kill it. If if fails, it is the key parts that didn’t fit.

The deal, as reported, is pretty simple for the Knicks — they get McGrady and his massive expiring contracts, which comes off the books and lets them try to go after big time free agents this summer. The Rockets would get Jared Jeffries, Larry Hughes, Jordan Hill and the chance to swap future first-round picks with the Knicks. Hill is a good prospect, Jeffries a good defender who brings a lot of effort every night. For this deal to really work for the Knicks, they have to get rid of Jeffries, due almost $7 million next year, the price to get the Rockets to take on that extra salary is Hill But now at least some reports out of New York have the Knicks saying Hill and the pick may be too steep a price.

It all sounds like posturing. The Knicks need the cap space (whether or not they sign LeBron James this summer, they needed to strip it down to rebuild anyway). The Rockets get some useful players for the money they were spending on a sidelined McGrady anyway. It sounds like both sides get a win, which makes it hard to see why draft pick protections will really kill the deal.

But stranger things have happened.

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

Watch every one of Jimmy Butler’s career-high 14 assists in win over Bucks (VIDEO)

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler seems to be thriving without backcourt teammate Dwyane Wade. On Sunday in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler dished out a career-high 14 assists to go along with 20 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Butler, 27, helped Chicago to a 109-94 win over the Bucks. He looked good doing it, dropping dimes off of both the pick-and-roll and while coming off screens.

The NBA put together a handy little video to be able to check out all of Butler’s assists.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.

Russell Westbrook throws incredible halfcourt bounce pass vs. Rockets (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook had yet another triple-double on Sunday. The Oklahoma City Thunder star notched 13 assists in the loss to the Houston Rockets, 137-125, and one of them came on a nifty pass to teammate Victor Oladipo.

The play happened with the Thunder on the fastbreak early in the third quarter. Westbrook was moving from left-to-right across the middle of the floor with the ball while Oladipo streaked down the right wing.

With the Rockets defense collapsing, Westbrook reached halfcourt and fired a bounce pass that sliced through the opposition.

Oladipo finished with the clean dunk.

Still not sure it beats this one, but I think we’ll have to compare once the season comes to a close.