Cleveland Cavaliers v Denver Nuggets

What Carmelo Anthony signing with the Lakers would mean for Karl Malone, Brian Shaw and John Salley

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With Chris Kaman headed to the Trail Blazers and Jodie Meeks to the Pistons, I projected the Lakers to be $23,998,667 over the salary cap.

So, how is Los Angeles in the race for Carmelo Anthony?

Free agents continue to count against the salary cap until they sign – either with their current team or elsewhere – or until they’re renounced. Beyond their four players under contract (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall) and first-round pick (Julius Randle), the Lakers have 21 free agents counting against the cap.*

*Technically 23 including Kaman and Meeks, but those two are good as gone.

Among those 21, according to ShamSports.com, are:

  • Andrew Goudelock (last played in 2013)
  • Theo Ratliff (2011)
  • Joe Smith (2011)
  • Ira Newble (2008)
  • Shammond Williams (2007)
  • Jim Jackson (2006)
  • Karl Malone (2004)
  • Horace Grant (2004)
  • Brian Shaw (2003)
  • Mitch Richmond (2002)
  • Ron Harper (2001)
  • John Salley (2000)

That list includes two Hall of Famers (Malone and the elected-but-not-yet-inducted Richmond), a TV personality (Salley) and the head coach of the Denver Nuggets (Shaw).

In total, those 12 count nearly $15 million against the cap – though when the time comes, the Lakers will simply renounce them. It’s a effortless step.

So, why bother to keep them listed in the first place?

Simply, there is no reason for the Lakers to renounce those players until there’s a reason to renounce them. They don’t actually get paid. They don’t count toward the luxury tax.

They just count against the cap, and it’s been many years since the Lakers tried to dip below the cap. If the Lakers want cap room this season, those 12 will be the first to get renounced.

So, again, what’s the point keeping them on the books?

In the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, those players could be signed-and-traded. The Lakers could exceed the cap to re-sign those players using Bird rights, early Bird rights or non-Bird rights and include them in sign-and-trades in order to make salaries match.

Famously, Keith Van Horn participated in such an arrangement, going from the Mavericks to the Nets in the Jason Kidd trade two years after his retirement. In it for Van Horn? The $4.3 million necessary to make the trade work.

However, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement requires a player finished the preceding season with a team to be sign-and-traded. So, keeping these retired players no longer serves the scheme’s once-primary purpose

Once more, why do it? Still, the answer is, why not?

Maybe Harper will train really hard and make a miraculous comeback that has teams bidding over his services. In that case, the Lakers would have the inside track at re-signing him. There’s no reason to throw away that possibility, no matter how remote.

The Lakers are not alone with such strange cap holds.

The Celtics still have cap holds for Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Long and Michael Finley. The Knicks have Baron Davis and Mike Bibby. The Grizzlies have Gilbert Arenas. There are others around the league.

But this quirk won’t last much longer.

The new CBA makes these holds a relic. Beyond the inability to sign-and-trade these players, the current climate encourages teams to dip below the cap more frequently. I can’t imagine any team going more than a dozen years without cap room anytime soon.

Enjoy John Salley’s last days with the Lakers – 14 years after his retirement – while you can.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.