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New veteran-designated-player rule could land Stephen Curry $209 million contract from Warriors

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The initial reporting on the new veteran designated player rule focused on contract length in extensions.

Turns out veteran designated players will be eligible for higher max salaries. But they must meet certain criteria.

(Veteran designated player has been frequently called a designated-player exception or DPE. Because it’s unclear whether or when it’s truly an exception, I’m not yet calling it one.)

Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post:

A player qualifies for the DPE,  which can be used either to give a player a contract extension or to sign him as a free agent, if he does one of the following:

1. He makes one of the three all-NBA teams or is named either defensive player of the year or most valuable player for this prior season.

2. He has made one of the three all-NBA teams or has been named the defensive player of the year in two of the prior three seasons or the league’s most valuable player in one of the three prior seasons.

And this crucial stipulation: He has to be either on the team that drafted him, or has to have been traded on his rookie deal to another team.

It seems veteran designated players can earn up to 35% of the cap (now a true 35%) and that this veteran-designated contracts are limited to players with 7-9 years experience. Players with 10+  years experience can already earn 35%. Players with 0-6 years experience have the 5th year 30% max criteria (Derrick Rose rule). So, this is a jump from the standard 30% to 35% for qualified players with 7-9 years experience.

Six players have already met the criteria to be veteran designated players next year:

Additionally, the 2017 Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year and All-NBA players will join the list if they hold the requisite experience level.

Curry is the only one of the six who will be a free agent next summer, and this could be lucrative for him. His max offer from the Warriors projects to be more than $209 million over five years (nearly $42 million annually). Because teams can only use the veteran-designated-player framework on re-signings and extensions, other teams project to be able to offer Curry “only” about $133 million over four years (about$33 million annually).* Not that anyone suspected Curry would leave the Warriors, but this just makes it even more certain.

*Calculated using another interesting tidbit from Bontemps: Annual raises will go from 7.5%/4.5% to 8%/5%.

Cousins, Leonard and Thompson could receive similar windfalls when they next hit free agency. Presumably, they could even sign renegotiation-and-extensions sooner to lock in the veteran-designated-player salary.

Jordan will have 10 years of experience anyway when he’s next a free agent, but maybe he could also sign a renegotiation-and-extension. Currently, a player must be three years from his last signing before renegotiating or extending a contract. The wait period for extensions is dropping to two years. I’d be surprised if the renegotiation wait period doesn’t also drop to two years. Jordan re-signed with the Clippers last year.

And then there’s Westbrook, who signed a renegotiation-and-extension just last summer. I’d be shocked if he can renegotiate-and-extend so soon. And by the time he becomes a free agent in 2018, he’ll have 10 years of experience anyway. Really, this rule might have Westbrook kicking himself. He got a $8,770,726 raise this season in exchange for locking in at $28,530,608 next season – which made sense at the time. But this rule would’ve allowed Westbrook to earn far more next season than ever expected if he were signing a new contract. How much more? We won’t know until the 2017-18 cap is set. If the cap is more than $106,575,240, he’ll miss out on more next year more than he gained this year. At last check, the cap was projected to be $103 million.

Kobe Bryant on race for Podoloff Trophy: “We might see our first co-MVPs this year”

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The race between James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the 2017 NBA MVP has narrowed to a two-man race toward the end of the season. The Oklahoma City Thunder star is averaging at triple-double this year, and the Houston Rockets guard is doing things nobody has ever done on a basketball court before.

It’s a tough decision to decide between them, so much so that even former Los Angeles Lakers great and 2008 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant can’t do it.

Speaking on ESPN on Sunday, Bryant said he thought the league might have to just bite the bullet on Westbrook vs. Harden.

“We might see our first co-MVPs this year,” said Bryant.

That would be a huge step for the league, but I’m not entirely sure they would do it. There have been co-NBA All-Star Game MVPs in years past, but never league MVP.

Still, can you decide between Russ and Harden? The Mamba can’t.

Watch Rockets C Nene lead the break, eurostep past Enes Kanter (VIDEO)

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Houston Rockets center Nene is from Brazil, but on Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder the South American native went full euro.

On a fastbreak possession, Nene took on Thunder big man Enes Kanter near the rim and absolutely shook him with a nasty eurostep.

The play was so good that it forced Oklahoma City to call a timeout as James Harden and the rest of the Rockets bench met Nene on the court to celebrate.

Kobe Bryant says he didn’t even have NBA League Pass until a month ago (VIDEO)

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What has retired all-time NBA great Kobe Bryant been doing with his time? A little of this, a little of that. Apparently that doesn’t include watching non-national NBA games.

Speaking with ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Michael Smith on SC6, Bryant revealed that he went to go watch a little NBA while he was getting a workout in at his house and realized he didn’t have the NBA package hooked up on his cable.

Via Twitter:

I don’t know if I totally buy this. On one hand, Kobe is a busy guy and he did spend two decades living and breathing the NBA night in and night out. I would expect that after all that time he might want some kind of relief.

Then again, to think that Kobe doesn’t have multiple assistants that would have handled that sort of thing already is sort of silly. The only benefit here is Kobe trying to sell that he’s just relaxing and not paying attention to the league too much, which is hilarious.

Kobe, we all know who you are by now. You’re watching the league, man. You’re Kobe. We get it. You didn’t suddenly turn into The Dude.

Let’s just hope Kobe’s League Pass works right off the bat. We all know how much of a hassle it can be.

Damian Lillard dismisses playoff expectations as pressure, says it insults regular people

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The Portland Trail Blazers have had a disappointing season thus far. The team is just 34-38 before their game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and they’re battling it out for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs with the Denver Nuggets.

This comes as after expectations rose greatly following the 2015-16 campaign which saw the Blazers finish 44-38, good enough for the No. 5 spot in the West.

Portland has looked better after trading Mason Plumlee to Denver in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, but it might be too little too late. Meanwhile, team leader Damian Lillard isn’t bowing to the idea that last season’s good fortune raised the bar so much that it put undue pressure on his team.

Speaking with Sporting News, Lillard said he thinks the idea is really more about pressure vs. challenges.

Via SN:

Pressure, nah. Fam, this is just playing ball. Pressure is the homeless man, who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. Pressure is the single mom, who is trying to scuffle and pay her rent. We get paid a lot of money to play a game. Don’t get me wrong — there are challenges. But to call it pressure is almost an insult to regular people.

Look at the Wizards, they were kind of on the same wave as us. Didn’t even make the playoffs while we did. Now this year they’re the second-best team in the East. The adversity made them better. It can make us better, too. What I come from and my background made me who I am. As comfortable as I am with the good times, I’m also comfortable in adversity. Yeah, I might feel some type of way when somebody comes for me or says my name. But when it’s all said and done, it ain’t gonna rock me.

This is interesting to hear an NBA player say out loud. One, because I’m not sure I entirely believe it. You can have pressure without it having to be something that threatens your overall wellbeing.

Then again, maybe we’re arguing linguistics here. There’s definitely a different emotion from, say, trying to make sure you make rent and aren’t evicted to the street vs. trying to make the NBA playoffs. If one emotion is being defined as pressure, it makes sense to call the other a challenge.

It’s also interesting to hear an NBA player speak in those kinds of terms. There are a few guys around the league who seem to be relatively grounded and give out quotes like this from time-to-time. The absurdity of the NBA — playing games, making millions, and having folks worship you — would easily bend reality for most of us.

In any case, the challenge of making the playoffs for Portland is not going to be an easy one to overcome. Going into Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers, the Trail Blazers are a game behind Denver for the final spot.

Portland will face Denver on Tuesday, March 28 in perhaps their most important game of the season.