Winderman: Cap holds change free agent equation

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Hold on. No, seriously, hold on.

Because all is not as it appears when it comes to the heavy hitters and free agency this summer.

With the passing of the trading deadline and now the passing of this week’s waiver deadline for postseason eligibility, we have a much better read on where teams stand entering the July 1 start of NBA free agency.

We certainly know the heavy hitters.

Based on the accounting of one team executive, factoring in salaries for 2010 first-round picks, nine teams will enter the offseason with more than $10 million in cap space: New York, at $31.65 million, New Jersey at $23.32 million, Miami at $21.35 million, Washington at $19.49 million, Chicago at $18 million, Sacramento at $16.85 million, the Clippers at $15.36 million, Minnesota at $12.46 million and Oklahoma City at $11.5 million.

Yes, you’ve seen other numbers elsewhere, because no one truly knows where the 2010-11 cap will fall or how teams view their own impending free agents, as well as players with option clauses.

But even with the aforementioned space figures, all is not always as it appears, which is where the “hold on” part enters the equation.

Ah, those pesky cap holds.

Basically, if you plan to re-sign one of your own impending free agents and retain the right to give them a typical free-agency raise, you have to deduct their “cap hold” from your impending space.

The formal definition, if you must: “Players who finished their last year of their contract and do not re-sign with another team will have a salary-cap hold for that season.

The cap holds for each player continue to count against the team’s salary cap until they are renounced. If the player is renounced, then he can only re-sign with that team for either remaining space under the cap or the minimum.”

It is why, if the Knicks follow up with their plan to sign two top-tier free agents, David Lee has to be sacrificed.

His cap hold is $10.5 million.

Of course, not all cap holds matter. Al Harrington, for example, has a $15 million cap hold, and no one is holding their breath about the Knicks carrying that on their books for a minute longer than necessary.

The point is that to get free agents you often have to sacrifice your own free agents.

To that end, from the salary book of one NBA team, we offer a look at other cap holds not currently figured into the space of the league’s 2010 heavy hitters.

Chicago: Jerome James, $9.9 million; Brad Miller, $18.4 million; Hakim Warrick, $2.8 million; Joe Alexander, $3.6 million; Flip Murray, $.24 million.

L.A. Clippers: Drew Gooden, $5.5 million; Mardy Collins, $5.6 million; Craig Smith, $4.6 million.

Miami: Quentin Richardson, $13.1 million; Jermaine O’Neal, $24.2 million; Udonis Haslem, $10.7 million; Dorell Wright, $5.8 million; Yakhouba Diawara, $1.2 million.

Minnesota: Damien Wilkins, $7.3 million; Darko Milicic, $11.3 million; Alando Tucker, $1.9 million.

New Jersey: Josh Boone, $6.2 million; Trenton Hassell, $8.7 million; Bobby Simmons $16.2 million.

New York: Chris Duhon, $7.8 million; Al Harrington, $15 million; David Lee $10.5 million; Sergio Rodriguez, $4.7 million.

Oklahoma City: Etan Thomas, $11.9 million.

Sacramento: None of note.

Washington: Javaris Crittenton, $2.3 million; Randy Foye, $10.1 million; Josh Howard, $16.2 million; Mike Miller, $14.7 million; Fabricio Oberto, $2.4 million.

Again, what matters most is that none of the aforementioned players can be retained if their team opts to maximize its cap space.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.