Cavaliers, Grizzlies trade Speights and Selby for Leuer

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Memphis has been looking for a way to get under the luxury tax line for this season — they may have just found it without shipping Rudy Gay out the door.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke news of a trade that could benefit both teams on twitter, then Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports confirmed it as a done deal.

The trade sends Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby and a protected 2015 first-round pick to Cleveland for Jon Leuer.

For Memphis, this is all about the money. It is a cash dump. They are about $4 million over the NBA’s luxury tax line and this deal saves the a little more than $4 million, moving them under the line as payers.

One of the reasons Rudy Gay was being shopped around was to save money, this saves the cash while keeping the team’s core players intact for a playoff run. No Rudy Gay trade, no Zach Randolph trade. For now. Look for Gay to be shopped around more this summer.

For Cleveland, this is about getting some help on the front line with Anderson Varejao now ruled out for the season. Speights is a solid NBA big man, but one nobody sees because he is buried behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. But Speights has given Memphis 6.6 points and 4.7 rebounds a game with an above average PER of 16.2.

Speights has a $4.5 million player option for next season and could veto the trade due to Bird Rights considerations, but that would be a surprise. The lightly used young guard Selby is still on his rookie deal.

Leuer, the forward out of the University of Wisconsin in his second NBA season, has played in just nine games for Cleveland. He may play less for Memphis.

The move brings the Grizzlies under the NBA roster league minimum, so look for a D-League call up or some other inexpensive addition to the roster.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.