One thing the owners really want — to get out of bad deals

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Next season, Kobe Bryant will be the highest paid player in the NBA. That seems fair.

Rashard Lewis will be second at $22.1 million. Gilbert Arenas will be fifth at $19.2 million. Antawn Jamison will make $15 million.

There are some terrible deals in the NBA landscape and one of the real sticking points in the NBA labor negotiation is the issue of guaranteed contracts — the owners want to be able to get out of these stale deals. They look at the NFL — where even productive players can be let go because the team wants to pay another player — and drool. While NBA owners have backed off the demand for NFL-style non-guaranteed contracts, they want an out.

The players note that the owners agree to these contracts in the first place. If you don’t think Eddy Curry is worth all that money, don’t sign the deal. And for ever bad deal out there they can point to the good deals the owners get, like Serge Ibaka making $1.2 million in Oklahoma City, or the value the owners get out of star rookies who make way below their value to the franchise.

The Washington Post’s Mike Wise breaks that all down today in his column (including a great story of David Stern bringing up Eddy Curry during negotiations with the union).

Nowhere was the impetus for a long labor stoppage more obvious than here in Washington, where what was once thought to be a blockbuster deal — Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis this past December — was in reality one franchise’s lemon traded for another.

Only in the NBA can a town be excited by moving a player with three years and $60 million left (Arenas) for another with more than two years remaining on a $118 million deal. Why were the Wizards ecstatic? Because as bad as Lewis’s $19 million-plus deal per year was for a player with declining numbers the past three seasons, at least they only had to have his contract around for two years instead of three. That’s sadly called success before the trading deadline.

It’s not just owners who are frustrated with these deals, it is fans. Especially fans of rebuilding teams. It’s hard to tell some guy busting his but to sell cars or medical supplies or whatever — someone who makes his living on commission — that a player who can’t produce but has a massive guaranteed deal is getting paid fairly. For all of the rest of us, if you do not produce you are let go.

The players are going to have to give something to the owners here — most likely having buyout percentages built into the deal. They can argue over the percentage and how it changes over the life of the deal, but it should be a standardized rate. If the Knicks wanted to buy out Eddy Curry three years ago to start rebuilding earlier, is that so wrong? If the player can produce, he will get another deal.

But this is just another issue the two sides are nowhere close to finding a resolution for.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.