Knicks sign-and-trade for Raymond Felton, is Jeremy Lin on the way out?

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Things went from “easy and predictable” to completely insane Saturday night in Gotham. It had been a few days since things with the Knicks had seemed berserk, so of course, all that detonated as news broke that the Knicks’ point guard situation could be altered dramatically in a matter of hours.

Here’s a rundown of how this happened.

Late Saturday night, a television reporter in South Carolina tweeted that he had spoken with free agent point guard and former New York Knick Raymond Felton and the guard told him that he was headed to New York in a sign-and-trade and that Jeremy Lin would not have his 3-year, $25 million offer sheet from the Rockets matched by the Knicks. Chaos ensued.

Then the New York Daily News reported that the Knicks had in fact reached out to Felton to discuss a deal and sign-and-trade, giving the report from South Carolina credence.

Yahoo Sports reported the deal was close and that Jeremy Lin was “close to being a Rocket.” 

The New York Daily News reported that the deal was done, with Felton and Kurt Thomas headed from Portland to New York for Dan Gadzuric and Jared Jeffries. CBSSports.com confirmed the trade. Yahoo Sports reported that the Knicks would give Felton a 3-year, $10 million contract.

The New York Post reports that a source indicates the Knicks will not match the offer. Every other outlet is staying quiet on that matter for now, waiting on confirmation.

That’s a huge question looming for both the Knicks and the Rockets.

For the Knicks, it’s a stunning move away from both the player who set the sporting world on fire for a few weeks in late winter, a financial boomtown all by himself due to marketing potential, and from their long insistence that they would match any offer made for Lin. It was a guarantee that Lin would be a Knick, by most sources. Now it appears as if it’s very possible that the richest team in the land is being scared off by the fear of the luxury tax hitting them in three years, when the structure of a matched contract for Lin would result in $15 million owed to the point guard.

It has long been thought that the Knicks couldn’t care less about the luxury tax. This would render all of that false.

Even more complicated still is the prospect of the Knicks matching for Lin. It would mean a three-point-guard rotation, with J.R. Smith signed to the two-guard spot and Iman Shumpert expected back early next year. Where does Jason Kidd fit into that plan? Would the Knicks play Felton, Lin, or Kidd at the 2-guard spot as a reserve? What role does Felton fit in? How would Lin fit in with his relative inexperience next to Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd?

Why would they sign three point guards at that level and price?

The questions go on and on and still have to be answered.

For the Rockets, there are huge questions about how it impacts their chase of Dwight Howard and the questions remain in flux as we try and get a handle on the situation. There are indications that the deal could sink the trade for Howard, or have no impact on it whatsoever. What is clear is that if the Bulls do not match the offer sheet Houston signed Omer Asik to, there’s going to be a huge chunk reserved in terms of space, and the Rockets would be unable to trade either player until December 15th, meaning they’re running out of options to trade for Howard.

The Blazers got a second round pick and some roster filler for a point guard they weren’t going to retain. No big deal for them.

The Knicks have one of the biggest choices of their franchise in front of them, and the implications either way could be massive. Lin could be massively overpaid, having only excelled in a handful of games last season. Letting him go could be a killer with the kind of skillsets and physical conditions Felton and Kidd bring with them. This is a monstrous decision for the Knicks, and the stakes are as high as they can be.

We know Raymond Felton is back as a Knick. Everything else we’re still working on.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

MVP James Harden, dominant Rockets show up in second half, crush Timberwolves

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We had to wait three-and-a-half games for it.

We had seen James Harden play like an MVP all season. We had seen the Rockets bury threes at a record rate all season. We had seen Houston’s switching defense impress all season (sixth best in the NBA). We had seen Houston rack up 65 wins and make it look easy.

Then we got to the playoffs and the Rockets couldn’t put it all together at once. Harden struggled after Game 1, including going 0-of-7 in the first quarter Monday night. The defense was inconsistent and the threes were not falling. All of it let the Timberwolves hang around in the series — down 2-1 — and the same in Game 4, down just a point at halftime.

Then the Harden and Rockets we all expected showed up.

Houston put up 50 points in the third quarter alone, shooting 61 percent overall and 9-of-13 from three, plus they got to the line 13 times and made every shot. The Rockets opened the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, with almost all of the damage from Harden, who had 22 in the quarter.

The Rockets pulled away and cruised from there to an easy 119-100 win.

“We hit the switch, the switch we’ve been trying to hit since the beginning of the playoffs on both ends of the floor,” Harden said postgame. “It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of when defensively we’re locked in like that, and offensively we got rolling.”

Houston now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out at home in Game 5 Wednesday night.

In the first half this looked nothing like something that would end with a comfortable Rockets win. Houston struggled at the start of Game 4, opening 0-of-5 in the paint, including Harden missing an open layup. As a team, the Rockets started the game 4-of-16 from three, and a lot of those were uncontested looks. The Rockets play a lot of isolation, but even for them the ball seemed to stick in the first half. If not for Trevor Ariza knocking down three from beyond the arc, the Timberwolves might have been able to pull away.

The fact they didn’t was a blown opportunity for the Timberwolves, something they just can’t do in this series. It was a one-point Rockets lead, 50-49, at the half.

Minnesota had some moments on offense in the game, usually when attacking quickly off the Rockets switch. Derrick Rose had some moments and finished the game with 17 points. Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points and 15 rebounds, Jimmy Butler had 19 points on 17 shots.

But that was no match for the Rockets when they flipped the switch.

It was a barrage of threes that we have waited for all season, and it all started with Harden and Chris Paul, they had all of the first 15 points of the second half for Houston. Harden finished with 36 points and hit 5-of-11 from three. CP3 had 25 points and six assists, Eric Gordon finally woke up in this series with 18, and Ariza finished with 15.

Minnesota is a talented team, but they are learning fast what a contender can do — even not at their peak the Rockets had taken two of the first three in the series, and when they did flip the switch it was another level. A level the Timberwolves want to get to, there are just some rough lessons along the road to getting there.

James Harden puts on show to start second half vs. Timberwolves

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James Harden started Game 4 0-of-7 from the floor, including missing a lay-up. It was an extension of Game 3, and it let the Timberwolves hang around for a half despite their own offensive woes.

Then in the second half the MVP Harden showed up.

Houston started the second half on an 11-0 run that extended all the way to 25-4, and a lot of it was Harden (with a little help from Chris Paul). Harden had 22 points in the third (with 4:30 left in the quarter). After a couple rough games the Timberwolves were going under the pick when Harden had the ball, and suddenly he made them pay.

Or, he was just stepping back.

With all the buckets the Rockets turned a close game into a 25 point lead.