Caron Butler agrees to a perplexing three-year, $24 million offer from the Clippers

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Free agency wouldn’t be free agency without a twinge of instant regret, and the Clippers may be the first buyers in this year’s market to experience it. According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, Caron Butler has agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with the Clips, a fair bit more than the league’s more reasonable teams were willing to offer.

Butler’s positional utility is rather obvious, as small forward has been filled by a fluid cast of semi-regulars for Los Angeles over the last decade. Yet in terms of timeline alone, Butler is an unspeakably odd fit. At 31 years old, Butler is nearly 10 years older than the rest of the Clippers’ growing core, aligning his decline perfectly with the rest of the team’s ascent. Just when Blake Griffin and the Clips will be ready to make an actual push for the playoffs, Butler will likely be even less efficient and less productive than he is now.

And that’s before we even touch Butler’s unfortunate injury history, capped off most recently with a 29-game campaign thanks to season-ending knee surgery. Butler has played more than 70 games in a season just three times in his nine-year career.

Don’t get me wrong: Butler is still a very useful player, and his ball-stopping habits are no longer quite as bad as his reputation suggests. He showed a real willingness in Dallas to adapt into more of a complementary role, a fact not revealed in his static usage numbers. Butler still isn’t a terribly efficient scorer (his shooting percentages tend to be acceptable at best), but he’s capable of playing well with others and reining in his less palatable offensive habits. He also played rather well for the Mavs last season on the defensive end, though how he’ll fare post-surgery without the benefit Tyson Chandler’s shadow remains to be seen.

Even with all of that in mind, the Clippers have acquired a player on a completely different course than all of the franchise’s cornerstones, and managed to overpay him in the process. Butler would have been a nice pick up for a team looking to use their full mid-level exception (worth $5 million), but at $8 million L.A. has squandered its financial flexibility and committed more money to an aging star than he was actually worth. And for what? To fill in a bigger name with a more impressive points per game average on the lineup sheet? To sleep better at night knowing that they had secured a superior small forward option than Ryan Gomes?

This signing reeks of haphazardry. The Clippers had money to spend and Butler was looking to fill his coffers, but beyond that the two are an ill-suited match.

Kevin Love throws full court pass to LeBron James for sweet and-1 bucket (VIDEO)

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Kevin Love and LeBron James were locked in an epic battle with the Indiana Pacers during the first half of Sunday’s Game 4 playoff matchup. Part of that matchup included yet another long, full court pass between the Cleveland Cavaliers duo.

Love, as you might guess, was the passer and LeBron was again the receiver.

The play came in the final minute of the second quarter, with Love nabbing a rebound from the right block and LeBron jetting down the floor.

Love’s pass was perfectly placed, and Paul George just didn’t have the strength to keep him from getting the and-1.

Cleveland completed the series sweep on Indiana with the win, 106-102.

Nene’s 28 lead Rockets past Thunder for 3-1 series lead

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109 on Sunday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Nene made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. He helped the Rockets overcome an off night by James Harden, who finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting.

Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points for the Rockets. Trevor Ariza had 14.

Game 5 is Tuesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to claim three consecutive playoff triple-doubles.

Steven Adams scored 18 points and Victor Oladipo added 15 for the Thunder.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led 58-54 at intermission. Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third quarter.

Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four. He rebounded his missed second free throw and found Westbrook for a 3-pointer that cut Houston’s lead to one point. But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a three-point play. Gordon’s two free throws with 6.2 seconds made it a four-point game.

TIP-INS

Rockets: G Patrick Beverley was fined $25,000 by the NBA for confronting a fan after Game 3. The league announced the fine about two hours before Game 4 tipped off.

Thunder: Westbrook had just one turnover in the first half. … Adams went 6 for 6 from the field in the first half. … Westbrook missed all six of his shots in the third quarter.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.

Thunder convert missed FT to 3-pointer, refs miss James Harden push as Rockets win Game 4

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As if the end of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers Game 4 wasn’t wild enough, the finish to the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was just as odd.

The final quarter of Sunday’s game was laden with poor play and heavy fouling, including a ploy by Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni to put Thunder forward Andre Roberson at the line as part of a hacking strategy.

But the final minute was what really caught everyone’s eye, as the Thunder converted a purposely-missed free-throw attempt by Steven Adams into a Russell Westbrook 3-pointer with just 21 seconds left.

Via Twitter:

The Thunder then broke down on the inbounds play a few seconds later, allowing Nene — who had a great game, scoring 28 points off the bench on 12-of-12 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds — to score an and-1 at the other end of the floor.

Oklahoma City then scored again on a tip.

That’s when it got REAL weird.

Houston inbounded the ball to James Harden, who got away with a gigantic, and frankly hilarious push off on Alex Abrines. OKC nearly stole the ball, but instead were called for a foul.

Via Twitter:

This game was wild, weird, terrible, and both sides have something to gripe about when it came to fouls.

Houston beat OKC, 113-109, and take a 3-1 lead back to Texas.

Russell Westbrook clinches triple-double in first half vs. Rockets

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder guard Russell Westbrook achieved a triple-double in the first half of Sunday’s playoff game against the Houston Rockets.

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at halftime. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter. The Thunder led 58-54 at the break.

According to the Thunder, Westbrook became the second player to claim three consecutive triple-doubles in the playoffs. Wilt Chamberlain had three straight in 1967.

Westbrook entered the game averaging a triple-double in the series. He just set the record for triple-doubles in a regular season with 42.

Houston leads the series 2-1.