Of Xavier Henry, Nate Robinson, rookie contracts and incentives

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henry_Stern.jpgXavier Henry and the Memphis Grizzlies remain at an impasse.

There are only two first round picks from the last draft that have not signed, and they both belong to the Memphis Grizzlies. It’s because Memphis has broken with what is seen as rookie contract tradition.

According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, rookie contracts are on a scale, in Henry’s case that first year salary is $1,683,500.

Memphis can offer from 80 to 120 percent of that scale. Teams almost always offer the 120 percent figure (the Spurs are the prominent exception). As is pointed out in a great contracts post at Sham Sports today, often incentives are used to reach that 120 percent figure (or a part of it). But those incentives often are pretty obtainable things, such as keeping up with workouts. Things that the player can control.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace doesn’t see it at way, as he told David Aldridge at NBA.com.

“There have been some teams that have tied performance bonuses to the 20 percent,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said on Sunday. “Basically, our position is that the extra 20 is a bonus. And bonus means additional performance. We feel like if a guy gets on the court and plays for us, then you’re contributing to our team in a significant way.”

Wallace is tying the bonus to the number of minutes Henry plays.

That brings us to the Nate Robinson story. Last year late in the year, Doc Rivers sat Nate Robinson for a few games. Robinson had a couple rough games before that, but that is Nate — some nights brilliant, some nights he struggles more. Sit him and you risk missing one of those nights when he wins the game for you off the bench. Rivers sat him anyway.

Then it turns out missing those games cost Robinson a contract bonus of $1 million. As Boston was paying the luxury tax, that is $2 million in savings to the franchise.

Look at that and you can see why Henry and his agent Arn Tellem balk at the idea of Henry’s bonus being in control of the team. Over the course of his rookie deal, that 20 percent could be worth $1.7 million. A lot of money to a rookie and to a small market team.

So here we stand. Memphis has picked a fight with a tiger in Tellem, and the fight drags on. To the potential detriment of the franchise and the player. Maybe it’s all just a foreshadowing of the lockout next summer.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.