Nets get $5.25 million disabled player exception approved for injured Brook Lopez

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It’s been well-documented that the Nets will have the league’s highest payroll this season when including luxury tax costs, a bill that will total in the neighborhood of $180 million when all is said and done.

The league offered Brooklyn a small amount of relief on Tuesday, granting the Nets a disabled payer exception worth $5.25 million that the team can use to replace the injured Brook Lopez if it chooses to do so.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

After the season-ending injury to center Brook Lopez, the NBA has approved a $5.25 million disabled player exception for the Brooklyn Nets, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

For Brooklyn to use the full exception and pay the ensuring luxury-tax bill, it would cost the Nets approximately an additional $20 million on top of the $180 million-plus in roster salary and taxes they’re already paying this season.

The Nets have until March 10 to use the exception through a free-agent signing or a trade. The Nets have a full roster of 15 players, so they would need to clear a roster spot to make use of the exception.

Multiple reports have the cost of adding an additional player with the exception to be in the $16-$20 million range, and with the championship aspirations seemingly out the window now that we’ve seen exactly how little Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett appear to have left, it doesn’t make sense to spend all that money for a player who may or may not ultimately affect the team’s immediate future.

Andrew Bynum is an interesting name, of course, but it’s unclear if there would be mutual interest in a pairing at any price. Bynum wasn’t engaged in Cleveland, and it may take a championship or bust situation to truly pique his interest.

Most reports say the Nets won’t use this exception to add additional talent, due to the prohibitive cost. But they applied for it and it has been granted, so it’s at the very least something to watch.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.