How much can the Pacers offer Lance Stephenson?

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Lance Stephenson’ days with the Pacers might be numbered.

Indiana reportedly offered Stephenson a five-year, $44 million contract. His response? Look around for a better deal.

In turn, the Pacers have gone on a spending spree that prevents them from still offering Stephenson even that. They:

Because Miles received the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, the Pacers face a hard cap this season – projected to be $81 million.

To fit under the hard cap, the largest contract Indiana could offer Stephenson is five years, $43,708,217.

But few think the Pacers would go that far. The luxury tax line – projected to be $77 million – is likely their limit.

To stay out of the tax, Indiana could offer Stephenson just five years, $20,708,217.

I don’t think that’s going to cut it for a 23-year-old near-All-Star. Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game this season. The only other players who hit 13-7-4 in the last 20 years at such a young age – Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Chris Webber, Tracy McGrady, Lamar Odom, Paul George, Grant Hill and Juwan Howard – all received massive paydays.

Questions about Stephenson’s maturity will lower his offers, but not all the way down to barely above $4 million per year.

If the Pacers – who have few resources to replace him if he walks – want to keep Stephenson, they must trim salary. They have three reasonable unilateral options to do that:

  • Waiving Donald Sloan, whose salary is fully unguaranteed
  • Waiving Luis Scola, whose salary is partially guaranteed
  • Waiving and stretching Ian Mahinmi, who’s still owed $8 million the next two years and would therefore have a cap hit of $1.6 million each of the net five years

Depending on which player(s), Indiana wants to waive, here’s how much money Stephenson could make on a five-year contract:

Waive Stephenson’s potential five-year salary keeping Pacers under tax
Sloan $26,160,154
Mahinmi $34,508,217
Scola $37,541,647
Sloan+Mahinmi $34,697,507
Sloan+Scola $37,730,937
Scola+Mahinmi $46,078,999
All Three $46,268,289

The luxury tax is not assessed until the final day of the regular season. Indiana could always sign Stephenson and trim salary later, though that plan would obviously be risky.

The Pacers are clearly seeking a big trade, and though it might prove difficult, they might trim payroll in such a deal. Maybe Larry Bird has something up his sleeve.

But unless he does or the market for Stephenson is cooler than expected, Indiana is running out of room for Stephenson beneath the tax line.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

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The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.