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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.