Magic would like their own Florida-based D-League franchise

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The D-League is gaining in popularity among NBA franchises, and more and more teams are looking to have one-on-one affiliations with one of the developmental franchises in order to stock a pipeline of talent that’s being brought up to speed with a specific level of instruction.

The problem, of course, is that while there are 30 NBA teams, there are only 17 in the D-League. Nevertheless, the Orlando Magic wish to make it known that when expansion does occur, they’d like to be among the first to lock up a Florida-based minor league squad.

From Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Magic want to have a “one-to-one” affiliation with an NBA Development League franchise that’s based within the Sunshine State. The Magic would like a “hybrid” agreement in which the Magic would run and pay for the D-League team’s basketball operations, while a separate ownership group would run the rest of the franchise.

Dan Reed, the D-League’s president, said D-League expansion is being discussed and will occur eventually.

“It will be carefully managed and hopefully an intelligent expansion process,” Reed told the Orlando Sentinel. “The long-run goal is 30 teams, where every NBA team has its own NBA D-League team. I can’t tell you exactly when that will happen, but I think we’ll get closer to that in the near future.”

There are two obvious obstacles in the way of full-fledged D-League expansion to the point where every team could be accommodated — the first is available talent, and the last is purely financial.

The quality of play drops dramatically once you get past a certain level of D-League players who have a legitimate shot of becoming NBA-ready. As for the dollars involved, not all NBA teams want to bother with a one-on-one affiliation, because any club can sign any player off of a D-League squad if they so choose, and all are not sold on the value of running a developmental franchise specifically geared towards creating players for a given team’s system.

As of right now, 14 NBA teams have that single affiliation relationship, while three D-League franchises are technically tied to the remaining 16 NBA teams. The Magic’s affiliation for next season will be the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who also will support the Bobcats, Pistons, Grizzlies, Pacers, and Bucks — that, along with the more than 1,0000 miles that separate the two cities may explain why Orlando is so interested in pushing to get its own developmental squad at some point in the near future.

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.