Darren Collison may be the carrot to go with a bad-contract stick

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NBA_collison.jpgThey’ve got a new owner and a new coach, so predicting what the New Orleans Hornets are going to do this off-season is about like predicating what Lamar Odom is going to show up for Game 5. Basically, you can’t.

But this is not a high-revenue team and they are already over the luxury tax for next season with $71.7 million committed. The Hornets would love to shed a few of their worst contracts this summer — Peja Stojakovic (one year at $14.2 million, Emeka Okafor (four years and $52 million total) or James Posey (two years, $6.5 million per).

But teams will not take on bad contracts for you just because they like you. If you’re going to give them the stick, you need a carrot.

That carrot might be promising point guard Darren Collison, suggests ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

…look for the Hornets — based on the hints we’ve received from more than one exec — to make Collison available as long as the interested party is willing to take back the cap-clogging contract of Emeka Okafor, James Posey or Peja Stojakovic with Paul’s backup.

Everyone loves Collison, frankly it would be foolish to give him up just to get rid of Posey. But, if someone takes on the Okafor deal, the Hornets need to consider it. Seriously consider. If the Hornets are going to keep Chris Paul in a couple years when he can be a free agent, they need to provide a roster he thinks can win. To get there means shaking off some of these existing contracts and rebuilding the roster. The sooner that process starts the better.

All of which leaves new coach Monty Williams trying to make a nice-but-not-thrilling roster into a playoff team for a year or two while the front office does its thing. Not an easy job.

James Harden scores 61, ties Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden visitor’s record (VIDEO)

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James Harden has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-level streak the past few weeks, it’s unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA.

Wednesday night he topped himself.

James Harden scored 61 points against the Knicks. That would be:

• Harden’s career high.
• Tied with Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• A Rockets’ franchise record.
• His 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history.

Oh, and Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.

Harden also had 15 rebounds in the game. The last player to have 60+ points and 15+ rebounds in a game? Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal back on March 6, 2000, with the Lakers.

Harden is playing like an MVP — and the banged-up Rockets need him to if they are to have a chance to win every night.

Report: Wizards not trading Bradley Beal, but if team slips Otto Porter could be available

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The Washington Wizards have won 7-of-10 and have climbed up to the nine seed, just a couple of games out of the playoffs in the East. Without John Wall, the Wizards are making a push to get into the postseason.

Which impacts whether they are willing to trade players at the deadline.

The Wizards are not trading Bradley Beal — the most coveted of their stars — but might be open to Otto Porter trades if the team slides back, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Wizards star guard Bradley Beal is not going anywhere, which Washington has made adamantly clear, league sources told The Athletic. Depending on how the next week to two weeks shape up, the Wizards could look more aggressively toward moving Otto Porter. The Utah Jazz have been an interested suitor for Porter, league sources said.

History suggests the Wizards will not be sellers. The pattern for owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld has always been to think short term and make the playoff push, even when it was not the smart thing to do. We should expect that again. Maybe Washington crawls into one of the final playoff slots in the East, but is that the smart play?

Don’t expect the Wizards to move Porter, even if they wanted to finding a team to take on his $26 million for 13 points a game this season would be difficult (although Utah would be a good fit), plus Porter is owed $27.3 million next season and has a player option he very likely will pick up for $28.5 million two seasons from now.

Pacers’ Victor Oladipo stretchered off court after scary knee injury (VIDEO)

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Let’s hope this is not as scary as it looks.

Pacers’ All-NBA, All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was trying to defend a length-of-the-court pass to Pascal Siakam when Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury were his kneecap was clearly not in the right place. Oladipo had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The video is below, but be warned this is not pretty.

The team’s official announcement called the injry “serious.”

Oladipo is the Pacers’ best player and was a lock to be an All-Star reserve averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a game this season in Indiana. His efficiency had dropped his season as teams game planned more for him. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more genuine person around the NBA than Oladipo.

Quickly the NBA community rallied on social media to Oladipo.

Grizzlies franchise burning down. Literally. They had a locker room fire Wednesday.

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Things have seemed like they are burning down around the Grizzlies the past few weeks: The team has lost 12-of-13 games and now long-time franchise stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are on the trade block.

Now the franchise is on fire — literally. They had a locker room fire in the FedEx Forum, which fortunately was small and no one was injured.

Fortunately, there were no injuries or serious damage.

But this seems about right for the Grizzlies lately.