Winderman: Cap holds change free agent equation

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Hold on. No, seriously, hold on.

Because all is not as it appears when it comes to the heavy hitters and free agency this summer.

With the passing of the trading deadline and now the passing of this week’s waiver deadline for postseason eligibility, we have a much better read on where teams stand entering the July 1 start of NBA free agency.

We certainly know the heavy hitters.

Based on the accounting of one team executive, factoring in salaries for 2010 first-round picks, nine teams will enter the offseason with more than $10 million in cap space: New York, at $31.65 million, New Jersey at $23.32 million, Miami at $21.35 million, Washington at $19.49 million, Chicago at $18 million, Sacramento at $16.85 million, the Clippers at $15.36 million, Minnesota at $12.46 million and Oklahoma City at $11.5 million.

Yes, you’ve seen other numbers elsewhere, because no one truly knows where the 2010-11 cap will fall or how teams view their own impending free agents, as well as players with option clauses.

But even with the aforementioned space figures, all is not always as it appears, which is where the “hold on” part enters the equation.

Ah, those pesky cap holds.

Basically, if you plan to re-sign one of your own impending free agents and retain the right to give them a typical free-agency raise, you have to deduct their “cap hold” from your impending space.

The formal definition, if you must: “Players who finished their last year of their contract and do not re-sign with another team will have a salary-cap hold for that season.

The cap holds for each player continue to count against the team’s salary cap until they are renounced. If the player is renounced, then he can only re-sign with that team for either remaining space under the cap or the minimum.”

It is why, if the Knicks follow up with their plan to sign two top-tier free agents, David Lee has to be sacrificed.

His cap hold is $10.5 million.

Of course, not all cap holds matter. Al Harrington, for example, has a $15 million cap hold, and no one is holding their breath about the Knicks carrying that on their books for a minute longer than necessary.

The point is that to get free agents you often have to sacrifice your own free agents.

To that end, from the salary book of one NBA team, we offer a look at other cap holds not currently figured into the space of the league’s 2010 heavy hitters.

Chicago: Jerome James, $9.9 million; Brad Miller, $18.4 million; Hakim Warrick, $2.8 million; Joe Alexander, $3.6 million; Flip Murray, $.24 million.

L.A. Clippers: Drew Gooden, $5.5 million; Mardy Collins, $5.6 million; Craig Smith, $4.6 million.

Miami: Quentin Richardson, $13.1 million; Jermaine O’Neal, $24.2 million; Udonis Haslem, $10.7 million; Dorell Wright, $5.8 million; Yakhouba Diawara, $1.2 million.

Minnesota: Damien Wilkins, $7.3 million; Darko Milicic, $11.3 million; Alando Tucker, $1.9 million.

New Jersey: Josh Boone, $6.2 million; Trenton Hassell, $8.7 million; Bobby Simmons $16.2 million.

New York: Chris Duhon, $7.8 million; Al Harrington, $15 million; David Lee $10.5 million; Sergio Rodriguez, $4.7 million.

Oklahoma City: Etan Thomas, $11.9 million.

Sacramento: None of note.

Washington: Javaris Crittenton, $2.3 million; Randy Foye, $10.1 million; Josh Howard, $16.2 million; Mike Miller, $14.7 million; Fabricio Oberto, $2.4 million.

Again, what matters most is that none of the aforementioned players can be retained if their team opts to maximize its cap space.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Lance Stephenson on why he blew in LeBron’s ear: “I was really trying to get him mad”

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Lance Stephenson and LeBron James are teammates with the Lakers.

It’s not something anyone would have seen coming back in 2014 when Stephenson blew in LeBron’s ear, creating a meme for the ages and adding to the legend of Stephenson. From the moment it happened, people have asked: “What was Stephenson thinking?”

“I was really trying to get him mad, really trying to win the game, get him unfocused,” Stephenson told The Score in an interview (video above). “And I was trying anything, and for you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing playing hard, it’s like: ‘yo, how do I…’ I was just trying to find stuff… LeBron was such a good player, you know, I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. It’s going to be different, being friends with LeBron, you know what I mean?”

We do, because Stephenson did other stuff over the years, like tap LeBron on the face, trash talk LeBron, and kicking him in the “groin,” and those antics occasionally worked.

LeBron has said before he could put that behind him and play with Stephenson, but of all the signings the Lakers made this summer this was the one that left people around the league scratching their heads. In part because of the history between the two, but more because of Stephenson’s history outside of Indiana — he’s struggled. Badly. Now he’s going to be put in a tight role on a team with high expectations and ridiculous levels of scrutiny. Is this really going to work?

It’s just a one-year deal, the Lakers set themselves up to chase another star (via trade or free agency) and that remains the priority. Everything else is just window dressing. But man, there could be quite a show in that window with the Lakers this season, that’s a lot of big personalities in one space.

 

Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. guesses Vince Carter’s first NBA season was in 1987 (video)

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Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. insisted he meant no disrespect to Luka Doncic after liking an Instagram comment that called the Mavericks rookie overrated.

But this is darn sure disrespectful toward Vince Carter.

Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

Carter – who signed with the Hawks for next season – entered the NBA in 1998. He’s old, but he’s not that old.

Hawks rookie Trae Young: ‘I know there is a lot on my plate’

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The Grizzlies plan to bring No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson along slowly.

No. 5 pick Trae Young won’t have the same luxury.

After picking Young, the Hawks traded Dennis Schroder, their incumbent starting point guard. Though Atlanta also dealt for Jeremy Lin, Young knows where he stands.

Young, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Obviously when they move the point guard they’ve had for a while, their starting point guard, it definitely opened my eyes,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from New Jersey, where he was taking part in the Rookie Transition Program. “It shows how much they are committed to me. Bringing Jeremy in as well is a good fit for us. I know there is a lot on my plate. I’m looking forward to it.”

Unlike Memphis, the Hawks aren’t trying to win now. They can ride through Young’s highs and lows.

Though I’m quite high on Young, I also expect him to struggle next season. Most rookies do, especially point guards. And the small Young could face an especially tough adjustment to NBA size and athleticism.

But he seems to be embracing the challenge with the right attitude, giving himself the best chance of emerging on the other side ready to lead an NBA team.

76ers’ Ben Simmons: ‘We’ve got to get past Boston. Those are the guys at the top right now’

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After winning the Eastern Conference the last eight years, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers for the Lakers has created a power vacuum in the East.

The Celtics, Bucks, Wizards and Pistons have staked their claims as teams ready to fill the void. The Raptors announced themselves with their trade for Kawhi Leonard.

But 76ers forward Ben Simmons isn’t ready to put Philadelphia atop the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

Simmons, via James McKern of SportingNews:

“We’ve got to get past Boston, those are the guys at the top right now. Beating them, that’s our next goal,” Simmons said.

“Obviously getting further than the second round and winning the Eastern Conference Finals and then moving on to the Finals.

This is a surprisingly restrained approach by Simmons. Many of his peers are talking bigger.

But the 76ers belong behind the Celtics, who beat Philadelphia in the second round last year. The 76ers could pass Boston. They just must prove it. In the meantime, Simmons is paying the Celtics proper deference.

Don’t forget about Toronto, though. Though Boston and Philadelphia were poised to own this next era in the East, Leonard reinvigorates the Raptors. If he’s healthy, they belong at the top with the Celtics.