Deron Williams will play in Turkey if lockout lingers

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UPDATE 10:58 AM: Maybe we were wrong. Apparently Nets star Deron Williams does plan to play in Turkey if the lockout lingers, Marc Stein of ESPN tweeteed:

Sources w/knowledge of Deron Williams’ plans confirm his intent to play for Besiktas in Turkey if lockout continues

Multiple sources now confirm the story. The key part here is “if lockout continues.” As we said in the main article, Williams is under contract to the New Jersey Nets, so the only way he could sign and play for Besiktas is if FIBA gives him a letter of clearance. FIBA has not officially said what they would do about this, hinting that if the season were lost they might grant them. But now it appears they may grant the letter if the contract has an out clause to return to the NBA once the lockout ends.

If FIBA tries to block Williams or any other player from going overseas, the NBA players union is expected to file a lawsuit to clear the way for the move. Obviously, this would be good leverage for the union in negotiations.

If Williams were injured playing in Europe, it could void his NBA deal, the team would not have to pay him. He has two years, $34 million left on his deal with the Nets (although he can opt out after next season and is expected to).

We should make it clear Beşiktaş is not one of the powerhouse, big money teams in Europe. In fact, Beşiktaş players went on strike at one point last season because players were not getting paid (except for Allen Iverson). This is not a team playing in the prestigious EuroLeague (where the best club teams from various nations face off). In fact, a top flight EuroLeague team would likely not take any player in without a full season commitment, end of the lockout or no.

But this appears to be a very real deal.

10:10 am: The latest “NBA player to Europe” report out there is one we simply do not believe. But it is out there.

A Turkish news outlet is reporting that Deron Williams is very close to an agreement to play for Beşiktaş Cola Turka — the same team that hired Allen Iverson last year. The report is he would join the club at the start of their season and will have an out clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends, according to the report (which we saw thanks to the wonderful Ball in Europe blog). The report also says Zaza Pachulia would join the team.

Another Turkish journalist has the Besiktas coach saying they have talked to Williams.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Beşiktaş made that offer. I would be shocked if Williams signed it.

There remains the pesky little problem of Williams being under contract to the New Jersey Nets. For Williams to play overseas while under contract, FIBA would need to grant him a Letter of Clearance. That body has hinted that if the entire NBA season were cancelled it might grant such a letter to players (under the theory that their contracts are not valid if they are not being paid). But the league would not cancel the season until next January at best.

Also, Williams is potentially a free agent on the cusp of his biggest payday next summer (from the Nets or another team). You think he’ll risk that playing in Europe during the lockout? He’s also rehabbing from wrist injuries that hampered him at the end of last season, again is he likely to risk re-injury to play in Istanbul?

I don’t buy it. But in the interest of news we’re passing it along.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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LaMarcus Aldridge’s 39 points lead Spurs past Wolves, 117-101

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) – LaMarcus Aldridge had 39 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a sluggish start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-101 on Saturday night.

San Antonio won its third straight to move into fifth in the Western Conference five days after dropping to 10th and out of playoff position.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped to sixth in the West.

The Spurs had lost three straight and nine of 11 but are now unbeaten halfway through a six-game homestand.

San Antonio shot 84 percent in the second quarter, their best shooting quarter since 2010.

Two nights after battling New Orleans’ Anthony Davis on both ends, Aldridge had to take on another All-Star in Towns. Aldridge responded by leading the Spurs in scoring for the 49th time this season while helping keep Towns in check.

Aldridge scored 18 of 21 points during a five-minute stretch in the second quarter, including 12 straight. He capped the run by coming from the weak side to swat Towns’ floater deep into the seats.

Minnesota started quickly, shooting 78 percent from the floor in the first 5 1/2 minutes while San Antonio floundered at 17 percent. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called timeout, only to watch the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague steal the ball once play resumed.

The Spurs responded behind veteran reserves Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. San Antonio went on a 16-4 run bridging the first and second quarters to take a 29-26 lead.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points for Minnesota and Teague had 16.