Kevin Garnett agrees to deal that will send him and Paul Pierce to the Nets

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When the initial shock wore off after hearing the beginnings of a deal between the Celtics and Nets that would land both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn, the one thing that could prevent it all from happening immediately came into focus.

Garnett is one of a very few players in the league with a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning that his approval would be required for the trade to be able to become fully agreed upon in principle.

Despite the way things quickly came together, Garnett informed the relevant parties that he would in fact sign off on the deal late Thursday, and it is essentially done.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Garnett waived his no-trade clause after the Nets agreed to fully guarantee the $12 million owed him for the 2014-15 season, the third year of his contract. Prior to the agreement, the Nets could have bought out Garnett for $6 million.

Garnett also was swayed by the chance to join his close friend, Pierce, in Brooklyn where they could play for longtime rival Jason Kidd.

The trade can’t be made official by the NBA until July 10.

The July 10 part is due to the fact that no free agent transactions can be completed until then under NBA rules, and Pierce’s salary of over $15 million for next season was only guaranteed for $5 million, so the Celtics will need to pick up the entire thing in order for the salaries on the trade to match.

The rest of the moving pieces look like this: Jason Terry will join Pierce and Garnett in Brooklyn, while Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, Kris Humphries and three future first-round picks (2014, ’16 and ’18) head to Boston. The Celtics will also receive Reggie Evans and Keith Bogans.

This is Boston officially blowing things up and beginning the rebuilding that was inevitable with its veteran core reaching the end of its competitive lifecycle. The only real negative in the deal for the Celtics is taking on the three years and over $30 million tied to Wallace, but no contract is immovable, and the team may be able to shed it at some point before it’s through.

As for Brooklyn, they have a billionaire owner who wants to win now, and wants to remain relevant by bringing big names and star power to his franchise, no matter how short-sided that vision may be.

This trade cripples Brooklyn financially for the foreseeable future, and the team will have a luxury tax bill approaching $80 million next season. If money is truly no object, then the franchise will be stuck in this mode of trading for or flat out purchasing star players once Pierce and Garnett retire, because by continually dealing draft picks and other assets away, there is no conventional rebuilding solution available once things begin to go south.

The Nets should have no trouble making the playoffs, but are they now better than Miami, Indiana, or even Chicago in the Eastern Conference? That remains to be seen, of course, and wins are never guaranteed, no matter the personnel.

The only thing certain is that the Nets will be a most interesting topic of conversation with Garnett and Pierce in the fold, and Brooklyn will be one of the more closely watched teams in the league as the season progresses.

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.

Tyronn Lue doesn’t hold back with retort to heckling Pacers’ fan

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It’s a part of the NBA experience that most fans don’t get to hear — some fans courtside heckling opposing players and coaches, and those guys occasionally firing back. We only tend to hear about it when things cross a line.

Sometimes the interactions are just funny, such as this one passed along by J. Michael of the Indy Star.

Well played, Lue.

Although is Cleveland really a city at the forefront of fashion? Well, I suppose if you went to college in Nebraska…

Report: Pelicans picked up Alvin Gentry’s option for next season before sweep

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Last summer the buzz was all over the league: Pelicans GM Dell Demps and coach Alvin Gentry were given a “playoffs or bust” mandate by management. If the Pelicans were not in the postseason — and just barely getting in and then blown out in the first round might be good enough — there was going to be a housecleaning.

The Pelicans made the playoffs as the six seed with 48 wins despite losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn Achilles midway through the season.

That alone was good enough to get Gentry another season in New Orleans, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

As noted, this happened before the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers out of the first round and into a summer of re-evaluation. This option season is the last of Gentry’s original deal with the Pelicans.

Gentry has the Pelicans playing fast, using the elite defense of Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday to get stops, and right now Davis is leading an offense that is just getting it done, with guys such as Nikola Mirotic stepping up. Gentry has earned another year, and a shot to integrate Cousins into this style and level of play, to see where that could take New Orleans next season.

It will be interesting to see if Demps can add more shooting and versatility with a capped out roster.