Tuesday And-1 links: The new NBA luxury tax and you

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

• There’s a great post from Mike Prada at SBN that starts to explain why traditional big-spending teams — Lakers, Knicks, Celtics, Mavericks — are making moves now to lower payroll, because they are scared of the increased taxes that will kick in starting in 2014. He has a great paragraph explaining the implications:

As an exercise, consider the Los Angeles Lakers. Last year, they had a payroll of nearly $86 million. Under the old system, which was in effect, the Lakers owed just under $16 million in luxury-tax fees. Under the new system, though, they would have owed $7.5 million for the first $5 million over the tax, $8.75 million for the next five million, $12.5 million for the next five million and $3.25 million for the final $1 million. Right there, that’s a $32.25 million tax bill. In addition, since the Lakers were over the tax in four of the past five years, they would have owed an additional $5 million at each juncture. That leaves them with a tax bill of over $52 million for being $16 million over the threshold.

• Despite the future tax implications, James Harden expects to sign a new contact with Thunder this summer. Nobody doubts he will, but there is a big bill coming for the Thunder down the line and they will make changes.

• My take on those last two notes — the owners fought hard to have this heavy tax and flattening of payrolls in the NBA, thinking it would flatten out the salary levels (it will) and give more teams a chance. To force some parity. But what it will do — whether you built your team like the Heat or Thunder did — is force you to break it up sooner or have stars with no real talent around them. Is that good for the league? Especially a league that sells stars? I think it backfires.

• Tyler Zeller talks about going through the workout process leading up to the draft with Zach Lowe at SI. And they talk fashion.

• As expected, the Blazers extended a qualifying offer to Nicolas Batum. Other teams like him but the Blazers will not let him go.

• Tyreke Evans has told the Sacramento Kings he doesn’t want to play the small forward next year. The smart money is he doesn’t play for the Kings next year — his name comes up in all kinds of trade rumors.

• As was expected, San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills has been named to the Australian Olympic basketball team.

• However, Bobcats big man Byron Mullens will not play for Great Britain in the Olympics due to a toe injury.

• LeBron is back being active on twitter and has more followers than you.

• Taj Gibson’s birthday cake was a picture of him dunking on Dwyane Wade. Nice.

• With Danny Ferry signing on to be GM of the Hawks, the 76ers are scaling back their search for the guy who will take over for Rod Thorn.

• Danny Ainge talks about how the Celtics overachieved this year. His word, not mine.

• A Q&A with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

• By the way, Thorn said the 76ers would be drafting the best player available regardless of position. Every team should do this (or use a tier system). Drafting for need works in the NFL, but the NBA draft is a different animal.

Here’s a breakdown of how the appeal of the arbiter’s ruling on the Jeremy Lin/waiver/Bird rights ruling will go down. Big implications for the Knicks offseason on the line.

• Thunder co-owner Aubrey McClendon is having some business troubles.

RIP to Ted Luckenbill, the former University of Houston college star who played in Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game.

How do you like “The Process” now? Sixers eliminate Heat, advance to second round

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It felt inevitable.

Not “The Process” from the start. There were some severe downs before the ups.

Not this first playoff series against Miami from the start, because it felt even… until Game 3 when Joel Embiid returned in his mask and tipped the scales.

No, it was Game 5’s result felt inevitable as it unfolded. Not because Philadelphia won the previous game in Miami and could close it out at home. Not because the Sixers have the two biggest talents in the series in Ben Simmons and Embiid.

Rather, Game 5 felt inevitable because the Sixers got better looks all night long. They got them with ball movement, with player movement that created mismatches or clean jumpers. It was tied 46-46 at the half because Philadelphia just missing its good looks while the Heat were struggling with hands in their face all night. Philadelphia shot 38.1 percent in the first half overall and were 2-of-12 from three.

In the third quarter, it all changed.

Philadelphia went on an early 9-0 run, shot 50 percent as a team for the quarter, all while continuing to play defense and get stops. The Sixers won the third 34-20 and held on through Miami rallies in the fourth to take the game comfortably, 104-91.

With the win, Philadelphia wins the series 4-1 and advances to the second round, where they will face either Boston or Milwaukee (Boston leads the series 3-2).

They did it behind 27 from J.J. Redick, who knocked down five threes. Embiid had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Simmons had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. However, it was the defense that held the Miami to 38.6 percent shooting overall and 16-of-31 from three within eight feet of the basket that won the game for Philly.

This young Sixers team learned lessons in this first round, and maybe the biggest was how to adapt the physicality of the playoffs, and keeping your cool while things don’t go your way.

“I thought we withstood the physicality of the Heat,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “They’re a great organization. They came to mean it, we knew they wouldn’t go away easily, and we had to have that physical element to match.”

They matched that physicality, but what they had was talent that could step up.

They also savored the moment. Midway through the fourth, up comfortably and still knocking down shots, the young Sixers were reveling in the deafening crowd in the Wells Fargo Center. Philadelphia was reveling in success after years of struggling through the process — the players and fans wanted to start that party midway through the fourth.

However, Heat have no chill and no quit in them, they went on a 10-0 in the fourth quarter, not-so-coincidentally after Sixers fans started chanting, “We want Boston!”

But when it mattered the Heat couldn’t get stops — the Sixers talent showed through. Redick hit threes. Embiid owned the paint. Simmons did a little bit of everything.

It was a moment of revelry in Philadelphia. One years in the making — and maybe the first in many years of future celebrations on that court.

Sixers players douse Brett Brown, present him with bell after closing Heat (VIDEO)

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The Philadelphia 76ers are moving on. Let’s just try to process that for a moment.

After beating the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, 104-91, this iteration of the Sixers experienced their first playoff series win together. It was also the first series win for coach Brett Brown as the man in charge of an NBA team.

As such, players gathered in the locker room after the win to hear Brown speak about the win, and about how the team had more to give and to learn as they moved forward together in the playoffs.

When Brown concluded his speech, he tried to hand off the victory bell to JJ Redick. As soon as Redick received it, he bestowed the honor of the bell right back upon Brown.

That’s when teammates showered Brown with whatever they had nearby, and Brown rung the bell.

Man, what a moment.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.