Kevin Durant, Scott Brooks

Three Stars of the Night: Upset Edition

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So, who had the Bobcats, Magic, Bucks and Knicks all winning tonight? Of course you did. There were lots of upsets around the league, but who are the PBT Three Stars of the Night? Who is hanging out with Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan in the record books? And where in the world is Carmen San Diego?  We’ve got Three Stars (and most of the answers) right here:

Third Star: Kemba Walker (30 points on 10-for-21 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)

The nice thing about a new coach is you get a fresh start, and really, you have the green light until it’s taken away. Kemba Walker shot 36% from the field in his rookie year, and as a 6-foot-1 scoring guard, the degree of difficulty on many of his shots last year ranged from tough to impossible. But it’s a new year, and with defensive guru Mike Dunlap scheming to keep the Pacers off balance tonight, it was Walker who shouldered the load offensively by drawing fouls and being aggressive off the bounce.

Second Star: Kevin Durant (23 points, 17 rebounds, 7 assists)

Barbershop, pickup game, school – if you’re an NBA fan, you’ve had the argument. Who is the best player in the league? There’s the “count the rings!” contingent that still think that it’s Kobe, and the “he’s not clutch!” group who rally against LeBron. And even though everyone loves Kevin Durant, the knock on him is that “all he does is score.” Well, uh, no. Durant may not be the overall talent LeBron is (newsflash: no one is) but let’s not push him as a one-dimensional player, either. Durant put everything on display tonight, gobbling up 17 rebounds and forcing a pretty good player in Nic Batum into a 1-for-11 outing.

First Star: James Harden (45 points on 14-for-19 shooting, 7 rebounds)

Oh me, oh my. Not only did Harden set a new personal career high for points, but he also entered some rare territory only two of the NBA’s greatest players occupy. Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have scored more than 82 points in the first two games of the season – and now Harden is right there with them. And don’t for a second think this is a guy chucking up shots on a bad team, because Harden scored his 45 points on only 19 attempts, and the Rockets got the win. With Jeremy Lin flirting with triple-doubles and Omer Asik wiping the glass clean, the Rockets could be a lot better a lot faster than just about anyone thought.

Report: Celtics to pay second-round pick Demetrius Jackson more than 10 first-rounders next year

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25:  Demetrius Jackson #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers with a score of 56 to 61 during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Celtics became the first team to pay a second-round pick more the season immediately following the draft than some first-rounders received. Last year, No. 37 pick Jordan Mickey had a higher salary than four 2015 first-rounders.

Now, Boston is pushing the envelope even further.

No. 45 pick Demetrius Jackson will make more than the last 10 (!) 2016 first-rounders can earn in the NBA next season.*

*At least two players picked in that range, No. 23 pick Ante Zizic and No. 26 pick Furkan Korkmaz, will play overseas next season. Their salaries with their foreign teams might be higher than they could’ve gotten in the NBA.

Jackson’s salary will be $1,450,000, according to Yahoo Sports. No. 21 pick DeAndre’ Bembry will get $1,499,760 from the Hawks next year, and following first-rounders will fall in line behind him.

The issue is the antiquated rookie scale, which was set well before new national TV contracts pushed the salary cap north of $94 million. With all this new money flooding the system, everyone can grab a share — except first-round picks, who are tied to the scale.

That leaves even more money for second-rounders, and Jackson is the second to cash in in this major way. No. 31 pick Deyonta Davis will get $1,275,917  next season — more than the last six first-rounders. But the Grizzlies also guaranteed Davis’ first three years.

Jackson’s contract becomes much more team-friendly after this season. His salary the following three years is slated to be lower than this year’s: $1,319,500, $1,384,750 and $1,319,500. Yahoo’s wording is ambiguous, but it appears none of those seasons have any guaranteed compensation.

So, the Celtics are getting something in exchange for paying Jackson more now — flexibility in later years. The bargain works for them, because with the salary cap suddenly so high, they had little other use for that 2016-17 money. They essentially bought a better deal later by spending more when they were overrun with cap room.

And Jackson gets a bigger payday as he enters the pros. If he plays well, he’s stuck with a lower salary — though, for the next couple years, it’s still higher than a few first-rounders. If he doesn’t play well, he can be waived at no more cost. This is the opposite of betting on yourself, but that’s totally fine. Jackson will earn a lot of money this year in exchange. He got something significant with his bargaining power.

Projected by some to be a first-round pick, Jackson fell to the middle of the second round. Predictably, that probably turned out better for him.

Watch the best plays of the 2016 Orlando Summer League

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Summer League is long in the rear view mirror — particularly the Orlando Summer League from the beginning of the month.

But with no NBA basketball on the horizon for three months (although we do have the Olympics, here on NBC), why not look back at the top plays from Orlando? So here you go.

Heat fans, Briante Weber is at the top of the board.

Former NBA player Von Wafer takes to Twitter to beg for one more NBA chance

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers, Game 7
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Von Wafer was the quintessential gunner without a conscious during his six NBA seasons. He never saw a shot he didn’t like.His propensity to shoot rather than make the right basketball play is why he bounced around the league for six seasons. Well, that and his locker room fights and throwing of chairs and the like.

Wafer looks back on that and winces.

And he went to Twitter to beg for another chance, despite not having been in the league since 2012. The message came after a tweet showing part of his last workout.

Wafer is now 31 and last set foot on an NBA court in 2012, having played in China, Russia, Puerto Rico, and the D-League since them. We’ll politely call his comeback attempt a longshot.

But a guy who can shoot the rock asking for one more chance? We know there will be worse and stranger camp invites.

(Hat tip Ball Don’t Lie).

 

Report: If Durant/Curry relationship goes south, teams will try to poach Stephen Curry. Well, duh.

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07: Kevin Durant speaks to the media during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are a handful of true game-changing players in the NBA. Not max players, there are a chunk of those, we’re talking “you can build a contender around him” guys. Kevin Durant is one, and he is headed to Golden State.

Stephen Curry is another. And he is a free agent next summer. So many teams — including one contender — are ready if the Durant/Curry relationship goes south, reports Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report.

B/R EXCLUSIVE: A contender is planning to poach Steph Curry from Dubs if chemistry with Durant turns 'poisonous'

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Well, duh.

Again, there are not many Curry level players; teams should have a “what if” plan. Including contenders.

That is very different than saying Curry is going to leave the Warriors — nobody around the league sees that as likely. Nobody expects a “poisonous” Durant/Curry relationship. Everyone expects Curry to re-sign for the max with the Warriors. The man just recruited Durant, now he’s going to bolt?

But like a Boy Scout, a team is always prepared. So they should have that plan, just don’t count on it for a primary option.