Kurt Helin

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Markieff Morris, P.J. Tucker

It’s official: Hornets, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist reach $52 million contract extension

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It’s a head-turning number — $52 million for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. A good player, a player on the rise, but also a player with plenty of question marks. In the NBA of three years ago, $13 million a year for that would be a terrible move by the Charlotte Hornets.

But times change quickly. In the new normal of an NBA about to be flooded with television money, this is a good gamble by the team.

We told you a four-year, $52 million extension was coming for Kidd-Gilchrist and on Wednesday morning the Hornets made the deal official.

“Michael is a huge part of what we are trying to build here in Charlotte,” Hornets GM Rich Cho said in a released statement. “He has dedicated himself to improving and expanding his game. Michael continues to develop on both ends of the court and has become a key piece of our team. We are thrilled that he is a Charlotte Hornet.”

What we know MKG brings is elite defense — both on-ball and help. He is the guy assigned to the opponent’s best perimeter player every game. Kidd-Gilchrist is also a good rebounder for his position, and he plays with an infectious, relentless energy. He’s simply fun to watch because of it.

The question has always been his raw offense. He’s okay if he has driving lanes and can get to the rim (and in transition), but if he has to shoot a jumper things got ugly. That said, he’s improving, working last summer with then assistant coach Mark Price to rework his form. Last season he shot 50 percent last season between 10 and 16 feet. There’s still a long way to go (he didn’t even attempt a three last season), but there have been strides.

The Hornets are betting on bigger, better strides to come — and if he made those strides this season and then hit the market as a restricted free agent next July, the Hornets would have paid more. MKG gets some financial security out of the deal.

This size deal is the NBA’s new normal. Get used to it.

 

 

Report: Miami still open to trading Chris Andersen, Mario Chalmers, but can’t find partner

Orlando Magic v Miami Heat
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There are rarely NBA trades in late August or September, and the ones that do happen can best be described as a minor shuffling of contracts.

Which means Heat fans should expect to see Chris Andersen and Mario Chalmers in uniform when the Heat open training camp next month. Both have long been part of trade rumors, and both have yet to be moved as there isn’t much of a market.

Expect that to continue as Heat training camp opens, reports Barry Jackson at the Miami Herald.

Though there is no absolute edict from owner Micky Arison to trim payroll (and that’s beyond Miami’s control to a large extent anyway), we’re told the Heat still would prefer to lower its looming tax bill, which would be around $23 million if Miami closes the upcoming season with this current roster.

Miami remains willing to dealing Chris Andersen (due $5 million) but hasn’t found much of a market for him, according to an NBA official who has been in contact with the Heat… The Heat expects to bring Mario Chalmers to training camp (as opposed to trading him first) but hasn’t ruled out trading him in October or beyond if it can find a taker, something it hasn’t been able to do to this point.

I wonder how big a mandate lowering the tax bill actually will be. Lowering those payments has been a concern for Arison in the past (it was one thing that ticked LeBron James off) and it should be more so now. Miami faces the repeater tax this season, which would mean for every dollar over the tax line ($84.7 million) they would pay $2.50 instead of $1.50. (That’s just for the first $5 million over the line, the penalties get harsher from there.) If the Heat don’t think they have a good shot to knock Cleveland off the top of the mountain, why pay that extra cash?

Chalmers has been on the trade block since roughly Grover Cleveland’s presidency and at some point another team will need a point guard and will take him on. Probably.

Andersen couldn’t care less if the Heat are shopping him. Still, with bigs always in demand around the league, the Heat will be patient and expect teams will come calling to take on the Birdman’s $5 million deal.

Watch Russell Westbrook rock out at a Taylor Swift concert

Spike TV's "Guys Choice 2015" - Arrivals
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T SWIFT …WAS ROCKINNNN LAST NIGHT!! …. @taylorswift

A video posted by Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) on

Turns out Jimmy Butler is not the only NBA star who loves him some Taylor Swift.

Add Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook to the list — he was rockin’ out to her Tuesday night.

We can also add Kobe Bryant to the list — he came out on stage in Los Angeles and presented her with one of those cheesy sellout banners that hang in arenas (I’m not a fan of those banners on principle).

There are probably others, but that’s enough for now.

Happy Birthday James Harden, we’ve got his top 10 of 2014-15 (VIDEO)

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What do you buy James Harden for his birthday? I’m guessing beard moisturizer.

Happy 26th birthday to the Beard, who likely will celebrate with Khloe Kardashian somewhere expensive, trailed by paparazzi. We’re going to celebrate more quietly (and at less cost) here at PBT looking back at Harden’s best plays of last season.

Ricky Rubio loves Kevin Garnett as a teammate

Ricky Rubio, Kevin Garnett
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Minnesota brought Kevin Garnett back — and he waived his no-trade clause to come back — in part to mentor the young stars of the Timberwolves such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.

KG has long been seen as a guy you love to have on your team but hate playing against — something Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio confirmed, something Rubio confirmed speaking in the Philippines.

Rubio said he used to be intimidated by Garnett, as reported by rappler.com (hat tip NESN).

“When I was growing up, I watched a lot of KG’s games and I was a little afraid, so when he came to the team I was concerned but at the same time I was super excited, because I had a chance to play with him in 2012 locally,” Rubio said on Friday, August 21.

“I was working out in LA and we played some friendly games and he was over there and I had a chance to meet him,” recalls the 6-foot-4 point guard, who went on to say that the KG NBA fans see on their TV screens or on the court isn’t precisely the person he really is.

“He’s not that guy that it seems on the basketball court. He’s really a good guy, nice guy, and helps your teammates. He kills for you,” said Rubio, who’s about to play his fifth year in the NBA.

Garnett has lost a step on the court, but the mental part of the game is still there — and he’s willing to teach it if a player is ready to listen and take it seriously. Not every player takes their opportunities to learn from the greats seriously — *cough* Andrew Bynum *cough* — but Towns has said he already has started working with Garnett back around Summer League.

The goal with rebuilding — at least everywhere outside of Philadelphia — is to have a down season or two, draft good young players (maybe trade for another), then build back up with them at the core. It helps that process along to have a veteran the players will listen to on the way back up.

Garnett is perfect for that role — when he came to the Timberwolves last year he was still the first guy in the gym working out. Young players need to see that, need to see what it takes to be great. They need to see that drive. It’s going to make Minnesota better in the long run.