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Winderman: It’s time for built-in buyouts in NBA contracts

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One of the prime sticking points in the negotiations for a new NBA collective-bargaining agreement is maximum contract length. Currently, players can be signed for up to six seasons. Management wants far shorter terms.

Based on the machinations at the buyout deadline, the players certainly are fueling management’s argument.

Even with time left on the contracts, teams have written off the likes of Mike Bibby, Troy Murphy, Corey Brewer, Jared Jeffries, Rasual Butler and several others this week, while also coming close to doing so with the likes of Jason Kapono and T.J. Ford.

All essentially outlasted the usefulness on their contracts, contracts that proved to be longer than any tangible benefit.

And yet, for players such as Bibby, Murphy, Butler and Jeffries, the newfound freedom just might allow them to extend their careers by showcasing their skills for the balance of this season with contenders.

For so many teams (and even players) empty seasons on the end of contracts have proven to be a bane. They limit maneuverability (for teams) and opportunity (for players).

While it might not be what the union wants to hear, and assuming that the union won’t relent on guaranteed contracts, there has to be some sort of built-in buyout system with all contracts, a process the doesn’t have to wait until there are only six weeks left in the regular season.

The compromise could be that the first two or three seasons of all contracts remain fully guaranteed, with preset buyout percentages for ensuing seasons. Like the current third and fourth year of the rookie scale, such decisions would have to be made a season in advance (or at some preset time in advance), for a player to know where he stands.

Beyond that, perhaps the NBA needs to move to some sort of waiver draft, like the NHL has, or something like Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 draft, where only a preset number of players can be protected on the eve of the season, a number below the roster limit.

Amid concern of an imbalance between the haves and have-nots, perhaps if teams were limited to protecting only nine or 10 players prior to the starts of seasons, then the likes of Murphy or Butler or Ford or Kapono (or even a Rip Hamilton) could have shaken free to help teams in need of such skill sets. One contender’s 10th man could be another team’s seventh man. (Salary-cap provisions could be made for such acquisitions.)

What the buyout deadline has shown is that there is a market for players who have spent the first four months lacking an opportunity.

Such less-restrictive redistribution of talent would figure to benefit both the union and the league.

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.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).