NBA’s amnesty window open, here are three candidates to watch

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The NBA’s amnesty window is open — from now until July 16, teams that haven’t used their one-time amnesty provision since the lockout can wipe one contract off the official books, so long as that is a contract they signed before the lockout.

Which means there are only 13 teams and 34 total players where they amnesty clause is in play. Most of those are not contracts the teams want to get rid of — Al Horford in Atlanta, Rajon Rondo in Boston, LeBron James in Miami, Tony Paker in San Antonio, Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City and so on.

For all the fanfare of the amnesty clause as a “get out of jail free” card, teams generally are cautious to use it. They have to pay the player anyway — amnesty a player and he comes off the official league books but the player still gets paid — so this has to just be a guy you want gone.

We know one amnesty is coming this year — Charlotte has already said they will amnesty Tyrus Thomas. Which makes sense, he completely fits the mold of a guy it was time to throw in the towel on.

Do not expect the Bulls to amnesty Carlos Boozer or the Thunder to use theirs on Kendrick Perkins. In the case of Oklahoma City, GM Sam Presti has said the organization doesn’t believe in the amnesty clause as useful — they are going to have to pay him anyway, they may as well get something for that. The Bulls might amnesty Boozer a year from now when they can open up a lot of cap room to chase free agents, but this year he stays as the Bulls try to make a run.

Here are three other guys to watch:

Metta World Peace, Los Angeles Lakers. This is obvious because it has already been out there that the Lakers are likely to send World Peace on his way. The Lakers could amnesty Kobe Bryant, but there is zero chance of that. They could amnesty Pau Gasol, but he has trade value if they want to move him. World Peace is the odd guy out and letting him go would save the Lakers in excess of $14 million (that number was much higher until Dwight Howard bolted and the Lakers payroll fell).

John Salmons, Sacramento Kings. Salmons is a nice wing player that the Kings oddly gave a large and long contract to. Now they have the just drafted Ben McLemore and they are reportedly in the hunt for Monta Ellis (Atlanta remains the front runner), so why have Salmons in the picture. Salmons is due $7.5 million in 2013-14, and $1 million guaranteed in 2014-15

Charlie Villanueva, Detroit Pistons. This was a bad contract the day it was signed — back then Villanueva had some value but there was no reason to ink a big multi-year deal. Joe Dumars had cap space and he was going to spend it, no matter what. This should be a no brainer. Villanueva is owed $8.58 million next season.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.