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.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.