First real tests of new labor deal will be Howard, Paul, Williams

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Chris Bosh is right. Part of what is fueling this hardline stance by owners is about Miami and New York. This is what I mean.

What LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony did last year shook small market owners to their core. Those guys pay the bills for owners, yet franchise cornerstones moved on because they didn’t like what Cleveland and Denver had built around them. Owners want to be able to keep their stars (but make it easier to move role players around them) and the last offer from David Stern and the owners was built to do that.

Which makes Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul — next summer’s big free agents — the real test cases for owners.

If Williams decides to leave the Nets next summer, and the latest offer from the owners had been the approved, it would have cost him $25 million, according to Nets Daily.

Whether there’s a season or not, if the Nets re-sign Williams to a new contract this summer, he will be owed roughly $101 million over five years. But if he opts out of his $17.7 million final year and signs with a new team, he’ll get $76 million over four. That’s $25 million.

How so? The owners’ final proposal (much of which the players agreed to) permits teams who hold “Bird Rights” on their own players to re-sign them to five-year deals with 6.5% increase. That drops to four years with 3.5% increases for new teams.

He’s right. But a lot of that was in place for LeBron and Bosh and it didn’t matter.

Cleveland could offer one more year (a sixth, Miami could only offer five) and bigger raises to LeBron, which meant their offer in total was about $30 million more guaranteed than anyone else. And LeBron still left and actually took less than max money to get out of Cleveland (they did a shotgun sign-and-trade that let LeBron and Bosh get a sixth year, but both were gone either way). It may be harder for teams to create cap space under the new system, but teams will do it — how many teams contorted themselves to make room for LeBron? Miami stripped their roster down to two players to make their move.

It’s hard for any team to keep stars. Kobe Bryant almost left the Lakers in 2004, and that’s a destination team. Tim Duncan is an exception to the rule and there were still temptations for him to leave San Antonio, but they had built a team around him that could win rings. Elite players are going to be well compensated, so even if a team can offer more money it will be about the secondary factors — is this a team that can win a title? Do I want to live here?

That’s where New York and Miami and a handful of other cities will always have an advantage. And while the small market owners may have better financial footing under any new labor deal, they will still struggle to keep their stars if the organization is not well run. It’s always going to be that way. Sorry.

But we’ll see what the Nets, Magic and Hornets are able to do with the new rules. Whenever we get them.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.