Report: Rudy Gay to opt in with Kings, holding off on extension talks

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Rudy Gay is getting paid on a massive, old CBA contract that is set to bring him $19.3 million next season. He had an opt-out where he could leave that money on the table (and become a free agent) for the security of a longer deal, but he was going to take a steep pay cut per year no matter where he inked a new deal.

So Gay has decided to opt-in and stay in Sacramento — where he suddenly played the most efficient basketball of his career — and collect those massive pay checks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Sacramento Kings forward Rudy Gay will exercise his $19.3 million contract option for the 2014-15 season, but has tabled extension talks until later this summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Kings want to bring Gay back — they loved how he meshed with DeMarcus Cousins in coach Mike Malone’s system — and if they want until after July 1 they can talk about a four year extension, reports Wojnarowski. It will be for less than his current salary, but four years and better than $50 million at least (maybe more like $60 million) is a given. (If his efficiency numbers regress to the mean that number could fall.)

Gay averaged 20.1 points a game for the Kings, just a couple points above his career average. However, what was stunning was the sudden improvement in his efficiency — he went from a well below average true shooting percentage of 46.8 percent in Toronto to 56.7 percent with the Kings. His PER jumped from 14.7 to 19.6.

The question now is will the Kings be able to keep restricted free agent point guard Isaiah Thomas. The issue is money, with Gay opting in and accounting for the No. 8 pick the Kings have an estimated $68.5 million in salary on the books. That is above a salary cap expected to be just above $63 million and pushing a luxury tax line of $77 million. The Kings want to avoid a tax but if a team comes in and offers Thomas $8 million a year (a possibility) the Kings would have to pay the tax to keep him and round out the roster. And this is still not a roster likely to make the playoffs in the West (maybe they compete for the 7/8 seed). To keep Thomas they need a salary dump.

Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro has some work to do this summer, but keeping Gay helps give him a cornerstone. Those are the hard pieces to get.

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.