Winderman: How July 8, 2010, helped lead us to lockout

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We’re sure this is not the final time we’ll be going through this exercise in coming weeks, or even (hopefully not) coming months, the a-year-ago game.

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the much-hyped 2010 NBA free-agency signing period.

July 8, 2010 was, without question, a seismic moment. Amare Stoudemire signed with the Knicks. Carlos Boozer signed with the Bulls. Paul Pierce re-upped with the Celtics.

But July 8, 2010 also was, in hindsight, somewhat of a preview of why we are where we stand today, in the midst of a lockout.

It was the day the Nets signed Travis Outlaw to a five-year contract.

The day the Bucks gave five years to Drew Gooden.

When the Suns extended a four-year deal to Hakim Warrick.

It also was the day Milwaukee extended a five-year deal to John Salmons accompanied with so much regret that Salmons now can be found in Sacramento.

But more than any of such small-time foolishness was this:

July 8, 2010 was the day the Atlanta Hawks inked Joe Johnson to the largest contract of any that would be extended during the uber-hyped 2010 free-agency period.

Six years, $123 million.

$14 million more than LeBron James would agree to two days later.

$16 million more than Dwyane Wade would get to return to the Heat.

Joe Johnson.

As ownership would say amid the start to this lockout: Asked and answered.

A year later, the debate in Atlanta is the worst contract ever extended by the Hawks, a question of whether it rivals the one offered to Jon Koncak in 1989, certainly not in overall scale, but in terms of return on payout, relative to the times.

It arguably is Example A at the negotiating table of what can’t happen again, a star holding a franchise hostage because of lack of a replacement option or replacement means.

Mind you, Joe Johnson is what he is, a player talented enough to drive the Hawks into the second round of playoffs, a consistent scoring threat alongside the inconsistency that is Josh Smith.

But the problem with having a maximum salary as part of a collective-bargaining agreement is that it becomes the starting point, teams forced to negotiate down from that level. Some players, such as Stoudemire and Boozer, get it, that they simply are not in max-out stages of their careers, due to age, injury or productivity.

If the NBA does find a way out of this darkness, it needs to find a way to sort out this high end of its salary equation, before the next Joe Johnson steps up to the table.

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.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.