Warriors sign Andre Iguodala after trading Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins to Jazz

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The Warriors have either put themselves in prime position to get Dwight Howard or completely eliminated themselves from the race.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Sam Amick of USA Today:

In the short term, this makes the Warriors much better. Jefferson and Biedrins were dead weight, and Rush, after  missing nearly the entire season with an ACL injury, can’t be counted on to offer much. Iguodala is an excellent wing player who will be key defensively and has point-guard skills that will allow Stephen Curry chances to play off the ball on the other hand

This might mean Harrison Barnes (or, less likely, Klay Thompson) goes to the bench, or maybe Iguodala becomes a super sub who still plays a lot. The Warriors have options – all of them better than earlier in the day.

As far as the cap implications, unless more details emerge – and isn’t fun when so many NBA writers collaborate to break details of a move? – the Warriors can offer Iguodala just $47,395,710 if they waive Kent Bazemore

, Dwayne Jones, Scott Machado and Murphy, who all have fully unguaranteed contracts. There’s probably some rounding happening in some of the reports, and I don’t expect Iguodala to throw away the deal over the missing $604,290 if it comes to that.

Now, the Warriors will set their sights on Howard, who will likely see a team that just added Iguodala for scraps as more appealing. But they won’t have any cap room or, guessing what it took to unload the bloated contracts of Jefferson and Biedrins, draft picks. So, if Howard chooses Golden State, it will certainly take a sign-and-trade.

The Warriors could offer David Lee and Bogut for Howard and Metta World Peace (another player who likely has negative trade value), though I doubt the Lakers would do that. Including Thompson and/or Barnes could make the deal palatable, but there’s still no guarantee the Lakers go for it.

For the Jazz, this deal comes down to the picks. What round are they? What are the protections? When are they coming? Without knowing more specifics, it’s tough to say whether this deal was worthwhile, but taking such bad contracts, Utah better be getting favorable protections and multiple first rounders.

Update: Jody Genessy of the Deseret News reports the Jazz will get unprotected 2014 and 2017 first rounders, and Wojnarowski says they will also get multiple second rounders. This seems like a pretty good haul, though Iguodala means that 2014 pick is likely to be in the 20s.

There’s an added cost for the Jazz, because this deal could cost them Paul Millsap.

If this trade is completed before they sign Millsap or make another move to clear cap space – trades can’t become official until July 10 – they will have to renounce Millsap. In theory, they would be allowed to re-sign him, but without his bird rights, without cap space and without the mid-level exception, that would essentially be impossible.

Utah’s best – and perhaps only – feasible plan for re-signing Millsap is to reach a deal before July 10, when presumably, the Warriors will want this trade executed. By waiving Jerel McNeal, whose contract is fully unguaranteed, the Jazz could offer Millsap five years for up to $ 41,200,843 and still have enough cap room to absorb Jefferson, Biedrins and Rush. Then Utah could simply execute its signing of Millsap before the trade.

But if Millsap wants more money or to take more time, he’s gone.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.

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.