Shaun Livingston has played his way to a payday the Nets can’t offer

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Shaun Livingston has been a solid point guard for the Nets this season and he has looked even better of late as the Nets have gotten hot — in his last 5 games he has averaged 11.8 points on 53 percent shooting, plus dishing out four assists a game. He is a quality veteran backup point guard now. Which considering the injury ravaged start to his career — his 2007 knee injury was as bad as you will ever see — and the long road back it is a great accomplishment to be at this level (and a lot of people around the league are rooting for him).

That quality play is going to get him a nice payday as a free agent this summer, a number of teams will be interested.

And those teams will offer more money than the Nets can — Brooklyn is hamstrung by being so far over the salary cap.

Which means Livingston could bolt this summer, something he hinted at in an interview with the New York Daily News.

The Nets, who are way over the cap and deep into the luxury tax, can only offer Livingston up to the entire (tax payers) mid-level exception, which is for three years and $10 million. The 28-year-old Livingston is expected to attract more in the open market, although there’s still plenty of important basketball remaining before July.

“(My enjoyment with Brooklyn and how I fit) definitely plays a factor. You have to weigh your situations, your options. The reason I’m in a situation where I can demand a contract is because I’m playing for this team, this coach, this system,” he said. “I realize that and I’m not over my head. But at the same time, it’s a business. You have to look at it like (the next contract) could always be your last. Especially me.”

It sounds like Livingston isn’t going to bolt Brooklyn for just a few more dollars. But what if a team under the tax line offers the full regular mid-level exception — four years and $21.2 million (estimated)? Or even three years and nearly $16 million?

That’s a lot of money to leave on the table.

This is what Brooklyn has really done with their utter disregard for the luxury tax system — it’s not just the tax money, it’s that once you pay the tax the rules restrict what you can offer free agents. Even your own free agents.

It’s going to make it hard for Brooklyn to keep bringing in players. For years. Because remember in the 2015-16 season Joe Johnson and Deron Williams alone will make nearly $46 million, and the summer before is when Brook Lopez can opt out and try to get a max deal. Brooklyn has some cap challenges in its future to say the least.

Livingston is just the first wave of this.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.