Winderman: Jamal Crawford. 'Melo smart to try and get their money now

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JCrawford_layup.jpgJamal Crawford is not a malcontent, just prescient.

He knows what’s coming next. Or, more to the point, he knows what is not coming next.

Even if Crawford wasn’t named winner of last season’s Sixth Man Award, a push for an extension would nonetheless make sense on many levels.

Foremost is the expiration of the current collective-bargaining agreement. Contracts such as the one Crawford holds for $10.1 million for this coming season could become practically extinct in a new CBA.

Further, a lockout could compact the 2011 offseason free-agency period. Being a free agent in a league in hurry-up mode is not the best of situations. Teams might think twice about adding outside talent should training camps be reduced to a week or two, if even that.

It is why Carmelo is doing everything he can to get his now.

In fact, any player with any type of leverage would be wise to push for an extension before season’s end, and therefore the CBA’s June 30 end.

The future is as cloudy as it ever has been in the NBA.

Heck, Caron Butler, Shane Battier, Zach Randolph, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Richardson, Tony Parker, even Andrei Kirilenko might be wise to also adopt the why-wait approach, provided their teams will have them.

The downside is signing on for an uncertain future, becoming a potential trade pawn, losing relocation rights.

The upside is being able to negotiate under a CBA that all parties involved agree is far more forgiving salary wise than what is to follow.

By contrast, it will be interesting to see how ownership approaches the situation.

By moving forward with extensions, they could better position their teams for future flexibility.

But by offering such extensions they would weaken a unified CBA bargaining position built around the stance that salaries already are too excessive.

Exhibit A is Crawford.

The Hawks already have some in ownership perplexed with the way they made Joe Johnson this offseason’s biggest financial winner (which remains a somewhat staggering reality). Do they now further pollute the salary pool, preempting the restructuring David Stern is pushing for?

If ownership truly is dug in, extensions beyond those in rookie deals could be scarce this season, should be scarce.

But when it comes to competitive advantage, owners also might find themselves able to strike highly favorable extensions, amid so much uncertainty by players of what could come next.

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

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.