Winderman: Battier a big loss for Rockets in playoff race

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The reasoning might have been right, but perhaps the target was wrong.

Few approaches at the NBA trading deadline are considered as egregious as trading away your team’s chances at a playoff berth.

So when Michael Jordan traded away (although “gave away” would be closer to the truth) Gerald Wallace to the Trail Blazers at the deadline, it came off as little more than continuing the Bob Johnson penny-pinching approach with the Bobcats.

Yet there stands Charlotte, a mere game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While the Pacers certainly have been accommodating, perhaps Jordan knew more than we suspected.

By contrast, when it comes to front-office intelligence, we’ve long assumed that Daryl Morey was smarter than the rest of us.

Now? Not so sure.

When the Heat was scoring at record paces with all their 30-point performances Sunday night against the Rockets, one couldn’t help but wonder: What would Battier do?

As it turns out, that was the deadline deal that proved most confounding.

In trading Shane Battier, Houston  not only surrendered the type of defensive presence that at least might have slowed LeBron James or Dwyane Wade during their breakout performances Sunday, but they also dealt Battier to their prime competition for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies.

So, to reset:

Without Battier’s defensive presence, the Rockets lost 125-119 to the Heat on Sunday night.

With Battier’s contribution, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs 111-104 Sunday.

The upshot is a 2 1/2-game Memphis lead over Houston for the final playoff spot in the West.

As for what the Rockets got in return for Battier? That would be Hasheem Thabeet, who currently can be found in the D-League.

Somehow, we never quite viewed the NBA trading deadline as a vehicle to improve the playoff prospects of the Rio Grande Vipers (although Thabeet did have a solid two-point performance in a Sunday loss to the Texas Legends, dominated by former Nets center Sean Williams).

It would be one thing if the Rockets moved Battier to the opposite conference, as the Bobcats did with Wallace.

But the deal with the Grizzlies was one that hardly put Battier out of sight, out of mind.

Instead, he stands front and center as a face who could decide the final playoff berth in the West.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Pacers star Victor Oladipo returns from 11-game absence

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When the Pacers ruled Victor Oladipo out indefinitely a couple weeks ago, it seemed gloomy.

But Indiana weathered the storm, going 7-4 without its best player.

Now, Oladipo is back. He started against the Bucks tonight.

I still think the Raptors, Celtics, 76ers and Bucks will comprise the Eastern Conference’s top tier by the end of the season. But the Pacers (17-10, fourth in East) have a chance to crash the party. They acquitted themselves well without Oladipo, and it should get only easier with their offensive focal point/top perimeter defender.

NBA promotes Bulls’ Mexico game with video of their bus bottoming out

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The Bulls will play the Magic in Mexico City tomorrow.

Even amid all Chicago’s problems, that’s still a marquee game for the NBA as it expands its reach globally. So, the league is showcasing Chicago’s trip.

With unintentional hilarity.

NBA:

That sound eight seconds in is Chicago’s season.

Stephen Curry on moon-landing conspiracy: ‘Obviously, I was joking’

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Stephen Curry said he didn’t believe we went to the moon.

That caused an uproar to the point NASA offered him a tour of a lunar lab.

Curry, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“One thousand percent,” Curry told ESPN on Wednesday of accepting the invite. “One thousand percent. Obviously I was joking when I was talking on the podcast. I was silently protesting how stupid it was that people actually took that quote and made it law as, ‘Oh my God, he’s a fake moon landing truther,’ whatever you want to call it, yada, yada, yada. So I was silently protesting that part about it, how the story took a life of its own.

“But in terms of the reaction that I’ve gotten, I am definitely going to take [NASA] up on their offer. I am going to educate myself firsthand on everything that NASA has done and shine a light on their tremendous work over the years. And hopefully people understand that education is power, informing yourself is power. For kids out there that hang on every word that we say, which is important, understand that you should not believe something just because somebody says it. You should do your homework and understand what you actually believe. But I’m going to go to NASA and I’m going to enjoy the experience whole-heartedly.”

Curry said he believed we didn’t actually go to the moon. I don’t find it unreasonable people took him at face value. I don’t find it unreasonable people thought he was joking, either. His sincerity was unclear.

I’m glad he set the record straight now.

We obviously went to the moon. There’s no way everyone who would’ve had to help fake the moon landing would have stayed quiet. People don’t keep secrets that well.

As for Curry, he got the NASA invitation and a lot of publicity. But it’s time to move on. Whatever he actually believed a few days ago, Curry has clarified his current view.

That separates him from Kyrie Irving, who also initially delivered a conspiracy theory during a lighthearted podcast segment. But Irving doubled down on his flat-Earth claim in several subsequent interviews.

Curry put this to rest fairly quickly.

Suns owner threatens to move team if city does not spend $150 million on arena upgrades

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The great professional sports team extortion of cities tour has come to Phoenix.

The Suns are pushing a $230 million renovation of their home since 1992, now named the Talking Stick Arena. As part of the deal, the City of Phoenix would pay $150 million from its “Sports Facilities Funds” (the city says that is mainly tourism taxes) and the Suns $80 million plus any cost overruns, and they would build their own new practice facility to free up room in the arena for the changes.

However, spending city resources on a stadium rebuild to enrich Suns owner Robert Sarver has proven unpopular. Understandably. Wednesday, Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams asked to postpone the City Council’s vote on the issue rather than watch the plan go down in defeat, reports the Arizona Republic.

Sarver threatened to move the team if the deal is not ultimately get approved, according to the report:

Whether they get a continuance or not could mark the beginning of a showdown between the city and Suns owner Robert Sarver, who is telling some council members that he will take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas.

This is a favorite tactic of sports teams owners across the country, regardless of the sport — threaten to move the team, hopefully scaring the hardcore fans of the team to back whatever changes they want. Teams often are part of a city’s identity and a local institution, and the owners use that as leverage to get their business demands.

Public money for arena upgrades are in general a flawed used of city resources — there are far more pressing needs for public money than arena renovations. Studies have shown the economic benefits for a city from these arena renovations (or a new arena) are limited at best — it is more a redistribution of where money is spent, pulling it from other areas into a concentrated downtown, than it is generating new income.

That said, standing up to Sarver comes with risks, he could follow through on his threat and try to move the team. Seattle pushed back on spending on upgrades to Key Arena and that is part of — although certainly not all of — why the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City. (Then commissioner David Stern liked sending the message that cities should pay up.) Steve Ballmer wants to build a new arena in Southern California for the Clippers, but it would be privately funded (on land he purchased from the City of Inglewood).

The Suns’ lease for the arena currently runs through 2032, however, it could be broken in 2022 if the Suns could prove certain criteria saying the city did not live up to its end of the deal. If the upgrades are made the lease would run through 2037.

If the vote is postponed there will be public hearings to discuss what the money would be used for specifically, and the potential economic impact of the renovations. Postponed seems most likely because the other option is it gets shot down entirely. The council is expected to take the issue up again in January.