Rockets fined $150K for publicly commenting on Dwight Howard deal during league’s moratorium period

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There’s a reason you haven’t seen a press conference with Dwight Howard holding up a Houston Rockets jersey, or similar events involving Josh Smith in Detroit or Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix.

Once free agency in the NBA officially begins after midnight on July 1, there is a moratorium period in place where teams may negotiate with each other and with available free agent players, but no contracts may be signed.

Since technically none of the deals made during this period are official until the ink on a contract has dried, team personnel are prohibited from publicly discussing anything that has been agreed upon during this time.

That’s the rule and the reasoning behind the substantial fine handed down to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday from the league office.

From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

ESPN has learned Houston Rockets just fined $150,000 for unauthorized public comments on Dwight Howard while NBA’s annual moratorium ongoing

At least part of the offending remarks can be heard in this interview Rockets GM Daryl Morey did with CSNHouston shortly following Howard’s announcement.

While it may seem silly that teams aren’t supposed to discuss already-agreed-upon transactions, there’s likely a legitimate business reason for the policy. If something were to happen and Howard (or any other free agent) were to unexpectedly change their mind before signing with a new team, it could cause problems in the areas of ticket sales or advertising deals that were made under the assumption that a certain new player would be coming to town to improve the immediate future of a franchise.

In case you were wondering why a moratorium period is needed in the first place, it’s due to the league and the players’ association using this time to conduct an audit that assists in determining the salary cap figure, which affects the specific dollar amounts allowed on players’ contracts for the following season.

Most teams are wise enough not to engage in these types of conversations, especially publicly, because everyone that holds a high-ranking front office position is well aware of the rules — no matter how senseless they may seem.

The Rockets organization just got a little too carried away in all of the excitement surrounding Howard’s decision. But after committing in the neighborhood of $88 million to him over the next four years, another $150,000 probably won’t sting all that much.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.