Winderman: CBA rules grind NBA player movement to a halt

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Donte Greene to the Nets, Martell Webster to the Wizards . . .

If it seems like the NBA is in a bit of a personnel limbo, it is because, well, it is.

For as much as the floodgates open with the July start of free agency, and for as much as things can change on a Dwight Howard whim, there also are plenty of regulations in the collective-bargaining agreement that can just as quickly stem the tide of transactions.

To a degree, the NBA’s personnel calendar is a time-release process.

The Howard trade has been the NBA’s only trade during August. Why? The rules, that’s why.

Foremost, teams are not allow to trade a player for the later of three months or Dec. 15 after signing him as a free agent or matching an offer sheet. Under the new collective-bargaining agreement, the trade ban extends to the later of three months or Jan. 15 for players re-signed as free agents with Bird Rights or Early-Bird Rights for teams over the cap (with a few caveats to that process).

So for those wondering why there has been no follow-up move from the 76ers with Kwame Brown, Lavoy Allen or even Spencer Hawes after obtaining Andrew Bynum, the reality is nothing can happen with any of those three until Dec. 15 at the earliest.

Similarly, for those wondering exactly what the Lakers are still doing with Chris Duhon on a roster that already features Steve Nash and Steve Blake, the rule is that a player acquired in a trade cannot be combined with another player in a trade by a team operating above the salary cap for two months. (And it’s safe to say there hardly is a stand-alone market for Chris Duhon and his contract.)

One restriction that largely already has been overcome, though, is the ban on trading draft picks for a month after they sign.

By and large, the NBA personnel market, particularly the trade market, is designed to be on hiatus during periods such as these.

So, instead, we’re left to chronicle the movement of Donte Greene and Martell Webster, play out the final days of free agency with the likes of Andray Blatche and Darko Milicic, while waiting, essentially, for the trade restrictions to ease and the pre-Christmas shopping to begin anew.

To be continued . . . in December.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Warriors say Kevin Durant doing non-contact drills, could return before end of season

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Kevin Durant has been working out on the court before the last couple of Warriors road games, and people watching have taken note — he was moving well, shooting, and generally looking healthy for a guy coming off a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise.

Reports were out that Durant was on target to return before the end of the season.

Wednesday the Warriors confirmed that.

Teams are vague, realistically what is that timeline?

Durant likely would be on a minutes restriction for those game, but just getting to shake the rust off and work on his conditioning in a real game would help Golden State heading into the playoffs.

Not that they need much help, having won eight in a row. The Warriors have a 2.5 game lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the game between the two Wednesday night.

Check out Lakers’ stretch of hitting 15 straight shots to end third quarter (VIDEO)

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The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.

But that young Lakers core also has its moments.

Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.

After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.

It’s official: Joakim Noah cleared to play, 20-game suspension starts tonight

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What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.

Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).

That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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