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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.

Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers

at Philips Arena on April 1, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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.
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ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.

Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.

The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.

Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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 Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.

Report: Luke Walton’s Lakers contract is for 5 years, $25 million

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads the team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 112-110. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.

This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.

Luke Walton says he won’t run the triangle as Lakers coach

at American Airlines Center on December 30, 2015 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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On Friday night, the Lakers announced that they’re hiring Luke Walton as their next head coach, effective as soon as the Warriors’ playoff run is over. It’s a good hire, but it’s especially interesting given Walton’s close relationship with Phil Jackson and the rumors that never seem to go away, that Jackson might be set up to return to the Lakers to run the team alongside fiancée Jeanie Buss after next season, when he has an opt-out in his contract with the Knicks.

But that doesn’t mean Walton will be running the triangle, as he said in his first comments to reporters since the news broke.

Via the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:

Regardless of whether Jackson eventually gets back in the picture in Los Angeles, Walton has been a successful assistant in Golden State and has the right temperament to lead the Lakers into the post-Kobe era.