Winderman: The mid-level exception battleground — do you want two Jason Kaponos?

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How generous of the players’ union, offering to include not one but two mid-level exceptions in their latest collective-bargaining proposal.

Chuckle first, then recognize you can never have too many Jason Kaponos.

Of all the dollars and nonsense to come out of the back and forth between the league and the union as the current CBA draws to a June 30 close, this latest twist is one that makes you scratch your head.

Yes, there still is a place for the proper mid-level contract. Just ask the Lakers and Ron Artest or the Trail Blazers and Wesley Matthews.

Such revelations, though, are the exception. The mid-level, especially at its five-year maximum, is considered among league executives to be the worst of any contract.

The owners are never going for this one. The union has to know as much.

But, for a moment, consider the possibilities, consider the Heat being able to land both a center and a point guard next summer. It is a prospect for the rest of the league as frightening as the full, five-year, $35 million mid-level package the Bucks gave Drew Gooden this past summer.

A $5.8 million contract is a dangerous thing in the NBA, even though it is calculated as the average salary.

As Bill Veeck once put it, “It isn’t really the stars that are expensive. It’s the high cost of mediocrity.”

A history lesson of the mid-level delivers stark evidence, with the Mid-Level Hall of Fame including the likes of Jerome James, Nazr Mohammed, Jared Jeffries and Michael Olowokandi.

Even those with curb appeal tended to get the deal after they had been kicked to the curb by others, such as Anthony Mason, James Posey, Brian Cardinal and Joe Smith (twice).

This is not a league about average, it is a league about highly paid stars and willing, lowly paid supporting players.

Of course, the union also has expressed a willingness to eliminate the bi-annual exception, one that currently starts at $2 million and actually has a place in the league’s personnel economy.

As for the union willing to lower the maximum term of the mid-level from five seasons to four, don’t think the Bucks will take much solace out of that even in year four of Gooden’s current deal.

The age limit might be abolished.

A hard cap may be on the way.

A lockout is a distinct possibility.

But dual mid-level exceptions? About as good a chance of happening as the Kings and Nets meeting in the NBA Finals.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.

 

 

Video of Kawhi Leonard struggling to board team plane concerning

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The San Antonio Spurs have been very tight lipped about how serious Kawhi Leonard‘s ongoing quadriceps issue is. He hasn’t played in the preseason or now the start of the regular season, with no timetable for his return. Part of that is the nature of the Spurs organization, but it leads to the feeling there is something more there.

Now surfaces this video of Leonard gingerly, slowly making his way up some stairs to the team plane, and it’s concerning.

To be fair, there is a real lack of context here, but according to the San Antonio Express-News, he had just come out of a rehab session. That means he might have been especially sore (and could have been iced up for the flight).

Still, this video makes one think it could be a while longer before we see Leonard back on the floor for San Antonio. (By the way over the past three seasons, including this one, the Spurs are 15-4 when Leonard sits. They will be fine short term.)

Nike “very concerned” after LeBron James’ jersey rips on opening night

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In the team’s first preseason game, the jersey of the Lakers’ Tyler Ennis was torn in the back with a tug from an opponent. Everyone made tearaway jersey jokes and moved on, thinking it was a one-off situation.

Then LeBron James‘ jersey ripped down the back on opening night, on national television.

Now Nike is looking into the issue, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

Nearly three days after one of its jerseys tore in the first regular-season game of its new deal with the NBA, Nike released a statement Friday expressing worry about the issue, without offering insight as to what happened or what will be done.

“The quality and performance of all our products are of utmost importance,” the company said in a statement. “We are obviously very concerned to see any game day jersey tear and are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”

This is the first year Nike has the NBA apparel contract, having just taken it over from Adidas. They made the jerseys similar to what had been done for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there were no issues, but these jerseys are lighter than the former Adidas ones. It’s unclear what, if any, changes could be coming.

Like many of the jerseys from opening night, LeBron’s ripped one is being auctioned by the NBA to raise money for hurricane relief.