Kurt Helin

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No. 1 pick Ben Simmons makes it official, signs contract with Philadelphia

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There’s no real negotiation when it comes to signing an NBA rookie deal — the figures are set by the CBA (although teams can, and most do, give up to 120 percent of that number). So for No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, it was just a formality that he would sign with the team and get the deal done.

He did that Saturday.

(Note: Free agents who agreed to terms in recent days can’t officially sign with teams until the end of the moratorium on July 7; however that rule does not apply to rookie contracts.)

Simmons likely will make $5.9 million next season (which is 120 percent of the No. 1 pick slot).

He is expected to play with the Sixers Summer League team in Utah and Las Vegas.

Reports: Clippers make offer to Jamal Crawford, he’s not impressed, likely to move on

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The Clippers wanted Kevin Durant to tell them by Saturday if they were out of the running for him so they could start to retain their own free agents (they already lost Jeff Green to Orlando, although how big a loss that really is we could debate). He must have told them they were out because Saturday the Clippers locked up Austin Rivers, for example.

The Clippers also started talking to their sixth man Jamal Crawford,according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Heard that Clippers formally offered 6th Man of the Year Jamal Crawford on Saturday, too. But he is still weighing options. Not sure where they get bench scoring if he bolts.

Sam Amick of the USA Today was far less optimistic about the Clippers retaining him.

While the specifics of the Crawford offer were not known, it’s clear that it came in well shy of the three-year, $35 million deal given to the son of Clippers coach and president of basketball operations, Doc Rivers, on the same day. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out why Crawford may not be thrilled at the moment.

The Clippers slightly overpaid to keep Rivers, but I’m surprised they lowballed Crawford. At age 36, Crawford can still get buckets. He averaged 14 points a game last season, often running the second unit for the Clippers while Chris Paul rested. He still has one of the best crossovers in the game, and can knock down pull-up jumpers. There are legit concerns: at age 36 he is showing declining efficiency, and he’s never been strong at the defensive end (and that’s getting worse).

Philadelphia, Golden State, and Washington all have reached out to Crawford. He has options.

Here’s the problem for the Clippers: Who are they going to get that’s better than Crawford as a sixth man? Along those same lines, who are they going to get to replace Jeff Green as a starting three that’s an upgrade? The Clippers still have their core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, but they may be getting worse around that big three. And remember, both Paul and Griffin can opt out next summer and become free agents (and with the market the way it is, it’s safe to bet they will). If the Clippers take a step back this season, can they retain those two?

Doc Rivers the GM has some real challenges coming up. Losing Crawford is not going to help.

Danny Ainge finally gets his breakthrough star, Celtics start to change balance of power in East

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This is what Danny Ainge — not to mention legions of Boston Celtics fans — have been waiting for.

Years of gathering assets, developing players, and coming along slowly had gotten the team to the ceiling of 48 wins, but the Celtics were not going to move past that number in any serious way without adding elite talent. They were a team of role players led by a dynamic point guard in Isaiah Thomas and a fantastic coach in Brad Stevens, but talent wins out in the NBA, and the Celtics had maxed theirs out.

Now they have Al Horford.

And that changes everything.

It does not make them an instant threat to beat the Cavaliers next season; they are still a tier below the champions. For now. They may be the second best team in the East, about on par with Toronto, but that’s not the level of a title contender.

What this does — besides seriously upgrade Boston’s talent — is open the door to the next wave of free agents. No more “they can’t land a star” talk. Stars that might have been hesitant to take a hard look at the Celtics before will now give them more serious consideration. Remember, the 2017 free agent class is much deeper than this year’s class (and 2018 could be good as well). Also, players (and their agents) may be more willing to push for a trade with Boston than they had been before.

The Horford signing probably does not change the Kevin Durant dreams — although this news broke during their meeting with him, which certainly gave it a boost. Still, everyone but Oklahoma City is a longshot, and the Warriors may well land him if he does bolt OKC. However, if Durant does sign a 1+1 contract with the Thunder and reconsiders staying in a year, Boston’s meeting and landing Horford will have laid a foundation to open up talks again.

Horford changes the dynamics in the East — Boston has gone from a nice team of role players and picks (thanks again, Brooklyn) to a good team with the assets to make the moves needed to get great. They become a team that could be a contender in a couple of years with the right moves. They look like a team about to be a real threat in the East.

Danny Ainge got his man. And with that it will be easier to get the next one. And the one after that.

An 18th banner in the Boston Garden suddenly seems like less a fan pipe dream and more like a road the Celtics could travel down. It’s a long and difficult road, but suddenly the map is there.

All thanks to Al Horford’s decision. It has started to change the landscape in the East.

Report: Austin Rivers agrees to three-year deal to return to Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers asked Kevin Durant to let them know where they stood on Saturday — if they had the chance to land him they had to start stripping down the roster to nothing. If not, they needed to start re-signing their own free agents (they already lost Jeff Green, who they gave up a first-round pick to get at the trade deadline).

Here is the sign the Clippers are out of the Durant sweepstakes, they are bringing back Austin Rivers.

It’s a three-year, $35 million deal according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports. That seems a bit high for a backup point guard, but not wildly out of line.

There’s been plenty of “he’s only still in the NBA because of his dad” talk about Austin (son of Clipper coach and GM Doc Rivers), but that has become overstated. He’s certainly got flaws in his game, but his defense did improve last season and his shot selection, while not great, was better. Overall he’s a below replacement-level player, but he averaged 8.9 points and 1.5 assists per game last season and in the Clippers crucial Game 6 in the playoffs he played well on that big stage. He’s not as bad as his reputation.

And he’s a Clipper for three more years.

Report: Harrison Barnes to sign four-year max offer sheet with Dallas; Golden State can match

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Add this to the list of things waiting on Kevin Durant‘s decision.

Golden State’s starting wing and restricted free agent Harrison Barnes has agreed to sign a max offer sheet of $94.4 million with the Dallas Mavericks, reports Marc Stein of ESPN. The key here is Golden State has the right to match, and whether they do or not will hinge on whether they land Durant or not.

Barnes can’t sign the offer sheet until July 7, and then the Warriors have three days to match. Durant leaves for a shoe-company tour of the Far East on July 9, he will have signed by then, so the Warriors will know their move.

It’s not a bad play by the Mavericks — Barnes is a good defender, is long and athletic, can run the floor, and he can hit threes (38.3 percent in the regular season). Don’t let his Finals shooting slump fool you, this is a player good enough that Mike Krzyzewski wanted him on Team USA this summer (that’s a Duke coach taking a North Carolina player, he’s that good). How Barnes will do with more offensive responsibility (no Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson opening up the floor for him) is up for debate, but Barnes can play.

Most likely Durant stays, and not long after that the Warriors match the offer. But it’s a good gamble by the Mavericks after they missed out on their other targets.