Trade rumor roundup: Lots of talk Tuesday, no action

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We warned you this could be a slow trade deadline — with the new CBA kicking in fully next summer teams are concerned about both the more regressive tax and the repeater taxes for going over the luxury tax line. Meaning teams that might normally take on more salary simply are hesitant now.

Here is a roundup of where things stand as of late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning:

• Josh Smith remains the biggest name on the market and the Hawks have been aggressive and have talked to a lot of teams. They are trying to create leverage (good luck). They want pieces that can help them rebuild — first round picks, good younger players — and not expensive veterans (although they have to take on something to make the numbers match up), reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com. The teams at the front of the line are the Suns, Bucks, Celtics and Nets. A number of other teams are hesitant because Smith is a free agent and wants a max contract this summer — five years, $90 million. Teams are balking at that. Understandably.

If the Hawks don’t get a deal they like they may well keep him, but they are aggressive in shopping him.

• The Clippers have stopped talks with the Celtics regarding Kevin Garnett, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Maybe that has something to do with Kevin Garnett saying at All-Star break he would kill any deal with his no-trade clause. The only deal Boston would consider would send Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan back to Boston, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

What I’ve heard is that coach Vinny Del Negro wants the deal but the rest of the front office doesn’t — it is a win now move that would have the Clippers with a roster of guys over 30 and Blake Griffin. As the Yahoo report says the one thing that could tip the scales is Chris Paul — the free agent to be who wields a lot of power — saying he wants it.

• If Boston were to move Garnett they would almost certainly move Paul Pierce as well. Wojnarowski said there have been some talks with the Hawks about a Pierce for Smith trade. That really doesn’t work for Atlanta, which wants to both save money and get younger, not take on Pierce for a year. But if Boston blows it up, they will blow it all up.

• The Hornets have shopped guard Eric Gordon around but because he has a max contact and hasn’t been his old self after knee surgeries there’s not a lot of interest reports Chris Broussard of ESPN.

• No deal for J.J. Redick yet but you can expect one, the Magic know contending teams are going to bid more than they are willing to pay for him this summer when he’s a free agent. Orlando has wanted a first round pick. Indiana, Milwaukee, Chicago and Minnesota are interested according to Wojnarowski but are not willing to part with that pick. Yet. I could see him doing a lot of damage as a Bull or Pacer.

• The list of guys being shopped but without a deal yet is long — Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in Utah, Eric Maynor in Oklahoma City, Timofey Mozgov from Denver, Monta Ellis in Milwaukee, and of course Andrea Bargnani in Toronto (he may be the least likely of the group to be moved).

• The Knicks wants some size off the bench and have talked to the Suns about Jermaine O’Neal, according to ESPN’s Broussard.

• The Nets continue to shop Kris Humphries. But in a salary cap conscious world nobody wants to pay him $12 million next season.

• The Bobcats continue to try to find a home for Ben Gordon, who has issues with the coach in Charlotte. But again, he makes $13 million next year and teams are balking.

• There is this line from Wojnarowski:

The Minnesota Timberwolves were turned down on an offer of Brandon Roy and a first-round pick to Denver for center Timofey Mozgov, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

My only question is how much Masai Ujiri laughed before saying no.

• The Spurs will move DeJuan Blair before the deadline, they are just trying to get the best deal for him.

Thunder star Russell Westbrook scores 45, leads 25-point comeback against Jazz

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The Thunder lost three straight games, fell behind by 25 in the second half at home and looked as if they had no interest in returning to Utah.

Then, Russell Westbrook reminded everyone why he’s a superstar.

Westbrook is a singular force who can take over a game and rally his teammates – not a liability who makes everyone around him worse. His confidence and determination in the face of calamity were invaluable tonight. He kept attacking, and as shots started to fall, he and his teammates massively increased their defensive intensity.

The result: A 107-99 Game 5 win over the Jazz that looked highly improbable 21 game minutes before it ended. But Westbrook (who finished with 45 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists) singlehandedly outscored Utah in that final stretch.

The Thunder are hardly out of the woods yet. They still trail 3-2 in the series with Game 6 Friday in Utah. Teams with home-court advantage in a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6 win it just 37% of the time. Those teams win the series just 26% of the time.

But thanks to Westbrook, Paul George (34 points) and plain all-around defensive effort, Oklahoma City still has a shot. At minimum, the Thunder won’t send George into unrestricted free agency with four straight losses.

Not that Oklahoma City erased all concerns.

Rudy Gobert devoured the Thunder’s offense in the paint – at least while he could avoid the foul trouble. Utah was +7 in Gobert’s 30 minutes and -8 in the 18 minutes he sat.

The Thunder made most of their comeback with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. They continued to play well once he returned in the fourth quarter, but by then, the Jazz had lost all rhythm.

Utah – led by Jae Crowder‘s 27 points – looks deeper. Anthony was still Oklahoma City’s third-leading scorer with just seven points.

And the Thunder haven’t won in Salt Lake City this series.

But they’ll make another trip there. Considering where this game and series looked midway through the third quarter tonight, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.

Another massive third quarter lifts Rockets past Timberwolves into second round

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We saw this movie just a couple of nights before, but Rockets fans love the ending and would gladly pay to see it 12 more times this postseason.

Much like Game 4, the Rockets were down at the half in Game 5 Wednesday after having played disinterested defense and with cold shooting from their stars (James Harden and Chris Paul combined to go 3-of-16 from the floor). Minnesota was up 59-55 and had hope.

Then the third quarter the Rockets flipped the switch. Again.

Harden had 15 points in the third — matching the Timberwolves as a team. Minnesota started to double Harden and take the ball out of his hands (especially late in the shot clock), but he often moved the rock and it led to open threes — the Rockets were 6-of-10 from three in the quarter. Houston won the third 30-15, not as overwhelming as the 50-point quarter the game before but once again enough to comfortably pull away from Minnesota and cruise in for a 122-104 win.

With that, the Rockets win the series 4-1 and now await the winner of the Utah vs. Oklahoma City series.

In that series, the Rockets will need to play with more consistent focus than they brought against the Timberwolves — they can’t just play a couple of good halves in the next series and expect that to be enough. Unlike Minnesota, those teams in the next round will make Houston pay a steep price for a lack of focus.

Houston got a massive night from Clint Capela, who led the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds, running the rim hard in transition and making plays inside while the rest of the Rockets launched threes over the top.

Harden finished with 24 points and 12 assists, and Eric Gordon had 19 off the bench in the win.

Minnesota had 23 points from Karl-Anthony Towns and 17 from an energized Jeff Teague.

For the Timberwolves, a team with elite young talent, this was a glimpse of what it will take to reach the heights they envision. This was a good step — the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs since 2004 is not to be diminished. It matters. But there are higher levels this team can attain. Defensively they have to be better, offensively they need to feed Towns more and play to their strengths better. It’s a work in progress.

Houston just showed them where they want to be.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.