Tyson Chandler will return to Bobcats, the song remains the same

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There is a lot of excitement about the Bobcats in Charlotte right now — they are about to make the playoffs for the first time ever. That’s a big deal. Legitimately big milestone.

And the Queen City fans there love this roster. Which is good, because it’s basically the one they will see next year.

Last night Tyson Chandler told FanHouse he was going to pick up his $13.2 million option for next season. Smart move on his part, because while there would be interest in Chandler from other teams, he’d make maybe half that salary. If you put the money on the table in front of he man, he’d be a fool not to take it.

But that ties the team’s hands in terms of making any easy improvements for next season.

The team is now committed to $59 million in salary for 2010-11, putting them over the salary cap and unable to offer anything more than the mid-level exception next summer. Which will net them a nice, mid-level player, if they decide to use it. (Can Michael Jordan afford it? With the poor cash flow and debt he took on, we really don’t know.) They do not have a draft pick (they gave their first-rounder to Minnesota two years ago to get Alexis Ajinca, then Denver traded that pick to the Timberwolves for Ty Lawson, meaning that Denver looks like the smart one now).

If they don’t extend the qualifying offer and strike a deal with Tyrus Thomas, they could open up a couple million to spend. But the move here might be to make the one-year offer and hope that Thomas, in a contract year, finds the consistent mental motivation and focus that has been lacking so far. Yea, we know, probably not, but isn’t all that potential worth the bet?

Raymond Felton is a free agent, but he wants to return to Charlotte and as long as the price doesn’t get out of control that’s a good guy to get back. Some minor guys come off the roster like Theo Ratliff and Larry Hughes, but the core remains the same.

All that means… nothing much changes. Which isn’t bad — this is a good team, a very good defensive team, a playoff team, the best team in Bobcats history. But don’t expect a leap forward to the elite next season.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.