Next big free agent questions: What about Brandon Jennings and the other restricted free agents?

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Brandon Jennings. Nikola Pekovic. Jeff Teague. Gerald Henderson. Timofey Mozgov. Gary Neal.

These are the guys who could still make free agency interesting… if another team gets desperate enough to make a big offer.

Now that the big name truly free — meaning unrestricted — free agents are off the market, we turn our attention to the restricted free agents who are still out there. The names above make up the list.

Teams let these players become free agents to let the marketplace set their value. Other teams can come in and make an offer on a player, then the team has three days to decide whether to match. For the teams that comes with the risk that another franchise comes with a big offer and you lose the player for nothing. Or, you could just frustrate the players who do not enjoy watching this play out (Teague apparently is in the frustrated camp).

These are good players, but restricted free agency can have a chilling effect — because the offer can be matched a team that wants to poach a player must make an offer large enough to scare off the other team, but not so large as to be drastically overpaying. So you end up with big contracts for Jeremy Lin.

A couple restricted free agents have found a home this year: Tyreke Evans is headed to New Orleans on a four-year, $44 million deal as part of a sign-and-trade; Tiago Splitter is staying with the Spurs for four years, $36 million.

But there are a lot of guys still on the available list.

There have been multiple reports about Jennings and Teague being part of a sign-and-trade — Teague’s old coach Larry Drew is up in Milwaukee and is interested in coaching him some more. But a reliable source — Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times — says the Bucks may keep him.

That seems a steep price, unless there is a silent suitor trying to steal Jennings away. Are the Bucks bidding against themselves?

Minnesota made an offer to Pekovic, expected to be at $12 million a season. It’s steep, but big men get overpaid a little and he is a perfect fit for them next to Kevin Love so it would be worth it. Pekovic is part of a good young core in Minnesota that should be playoff bound next year. He is expected to give them an answer before Wednesday (when he can sign a deal) but may be waiting to see if a better offer comes in at the last minute.

The Nuggets are reportedly interested in Timofey Mozgov, despite having a plethora of frontcourt men now. The Bobcats reportedly want to keep Henderson but there are no details on those talks.

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’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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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.