NBA teams put in stiff luxury tax penalties… which luxury-tax payers will still benefit from

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Wait, what?

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

The luxury-tax “cliff” experienced by tax teams, by which they felt the full brunt of going slightly over the tax level by losing all the tax money they would’ve received had they stayed under, also was addressed in the owners’ proposal. The league offered that such teams would receive half the tax money squandered by going from being a tax receiver to a tax payer.

via Talks blow up with ultimatum, Wednesday deadline – CBSSports.com.

So just so we’re clear on this. You’re the small-market owners. And you’re threatening to detonate professional basketball in the United States if you don’t get more financial help. And you’re creating an acrimonious atmosphere with the players that essentially amounts to legalized extortion. And giving them ultimatums and threats. And yet the system you’ve supported which creates stiffer penalties for going into the luxury-tax… is still going to give them half the collective money back?

To clear this up, if the Knicks send an exorbitant amount of money, they pay the tax amount into a pool that is redistributed to the teams, with the tax-paying teams essentially getting a rebate.

I’m not going to crunch the numbers because I suck at it, but basically, the Knicks will still earn money from the luxury tax pool, despite being tax payers. The fact that the tax they will likely spend will far exceed the amount they get back isn’t the point. It’s that giveback that makes it easier to swallow. If you’re a small-market owner, couldn’t you find the financial gap between where the union and league are, almost entirely in the amount you’re going to be surrendering to the luxury-tax-paying teams, who again, chose to spend that much?

It’s maddening. But then, it’s teams looking out for themselves. They want to keep their options open, so that if they draft a Tim Duncan, they can spend around him to compete and keep him, while also easing the burden on themselves. As always, as we’ve seen in these negotiations, the league wants the players to make up the whole difference, while giving themselves all the breaks they can handle, thereby extending the flawed system.

Funny way of doing business.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.