Kings sign Chuck Hayes to a modest four-year, $21 million deal

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The post-lockout free agency period has seen teams throw gobs of money at Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, and Nene, but out in Sactown they’re showing some impressive restraint. The Kings aren’t in any rush to substantial salary commitments to their books, but in their efforts to build up their roster and meet the league’s payroll floor, Sacramento has (according to Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports) signed Chuck Hayes to a smart, four-year deal worth just a shade over $21 million.

Hayes, who stands just 6-6, has spent the entirety of his career thus far playing center for the Houston Rockets. Don’t let the lack of size fool you, though; Hayes is an impressive, physical defender with great intuition. He rotates beautifully, he counters any unstoppable post force by being an immovable object, and he rebounds well on top of it all. Plus, over the last few seasons, Hayes has actually become a reasonably effective offensive player — or at least good enough to avoid being an on-court liability.

Hayes is more or less a complete product, but he’d be a great rotation big man for virtually any NBA team. Sacramento was able to secure his services, and Hayes will likely be paired with bigs like DeMarcus Cousins and J.J. Hickson in order to help mask their defensive deficiencies.

Kudos to the Kings for letting the core of their team — Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and the recently drafted Jimmer Fredette — develop at its own pace without being lured into substantial spending. That’s especially true for a team with so many versatile, interesting pieces; Sacramento is still in the process of figuring out how all of these young players fit together to form a coherent team, which makes roster flexibility absolutely essential. Build slowly. Evaluate and adjust. Assemble useful pieces. But above all, maintain financial freedom in anticipation of a key move to come, even as other teams indulge in huge free agent signings.

Rockets owner appears to leave seat, yell at refs during matchup with Thunder (VIDEO)

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The Houston Rockets are in control of their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and were up 3-1 heading into Tuesday night’s Game 5 in Texas.

That did not stop what appeared to be Rockets owner Leslie Alexander from complaining to NBA referees. During gameplay. While standing directly next to an official, some 20 feet from his courtside seat.

Via Twitter:

Congratulations are in order to Bill Kennedy, the official in question, for keeping his cool. Or perhaps he just was so surprised by some dude yelling in his ear from right next to him he didn’t know how to react.

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.