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.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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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.

Video Breakdown: Rockets launch Eric Gordon from 3-point range against Thunder in Game 4

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The Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, 113-109, and now the series heads back to Texas with the Rockets in the lead, 3-1.

Houston and OKC played a weird game, with Nene scoring 28 points off the bench for the Rockets and serious mischief in the final moments. The end of the game included a purposely missed free throw by Steven Adams that allowed Russell Westbrook to grab a quick 3-pointer and a missed call when James Harden shoved Alex Abrines out of the way like an NFL tackle.

While the Rockets didn’t shoot a stellar percentage from 3-point range — just 31.5 percent — they still knocked down 11 buckets from deep. Part of that action was a play run for Sixth Man of the Year candidate Eric Gordon that included a little semi-Pistol action, and a stagger screen that allowed Gordon to work his way free.

I picked this play to go over this week because it exemplifies just how committed to the 3-point shot the Rockets are. Plus, Gordon ran around three screens just to get this one bucket, which is always fun to see.

Watch the full video breakdown above.

Jimmy Butler on Marcus Smart dustup: ‘He’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down’

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Marcus Smart and Jimmy Butler had to be separated during the Celtics’ Game 4 win over the Bulls after Smart pushed Butler, who was hounding him defensively in the backcourt.

Butler:

As far as the Marcus Smart situation goes, he’s a great actor. Acting tough, that’s what he does. But I don’t think he’s about that, and I’m the wrong guy to get in my face. So, he needs to take it somewhere else because I’m not the one for that.

Was that their first run-in? Butler:

That’s the first time. Last time, too. We’re not going to sit here and get in each other’s faces like that. Like I said, he’s not about that life. So, he’s calming down.

The Bulls, who’ve lost two straight to allow Boston to tie the series 2-2, is angling for any edge. Butler tried to intimidate Smart on the court, and the Chicago wing might actually rattle the too easily shakable Smart with his postgame comments.

The irony: Some might say Butler, who did come up hard, lost touch with his roots as he entered stardom. I don’t buy that, at least not majorly.

But even if both – or neither – are posturing to any degree, this will be a matchup to watch in Game 5.

Remembering former NBA official Jess Kersey, who passed away Saturday

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Jess Kersey, who officiated more than 2,200 NBA games, including being part of 19 NBA Finals, passed away over the weekend, losing his battle with cancer at age 76.

Kersey was a well-respected official who feared nothing. Maybe the most remembered image of Kersey is him trying to break up a fight between Mitch Kupchak and Hakeem Olajuwon, essentially trying to tackle Olajuwon with his head in Olajuwon’s chest and his arms wrapped around him. Kersey got in the middle of everything if that was what was required.

Our thoughts go out to the Kersey family for their loss.