Heat, Knicks may be big winners in last minute deal changes

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Part of the motivation for the hardline owners during the NBA lockout was to never let what happened with LeBron James going to Miami to ever happen again. To never let what Carmelo Anthony did to the Nuggets ever happen again (they lost the ‘Melo part of the fight). Small market owners didn’t like players banding together to go to a better market and win together and they couldn’t stop it.

Except, in the system concessions made in the last 48 hours the Heat and Knicks may be the biggest winners.

The way the rules are set up those two teams are in good position to bring in mid-level players and some depth to put around their stars that could put them over the top.

Brian Windhorst broke down the Heat case at ESPN.

The biggest move was owners allowing teams that are not more than $4 million over the luxury tax line to use the full mid-level exception of $5 million, according to multiple reports. That $4 million window makes a world of difference for the Heat and should allow them to:

• Use the entire $5 million mid-level exception in free agency without having to use the amnesty clause on Mike Miller to waive him and get his contract off the books.

• Use the entire mid-level exception on a free agent and still be able re-sign restricted free agent Mario Chalmers and rookie point guard Norris Cole.

Mike Miller could still be let go by the Heat, but if they think he could contribute they no longer have to get rid of him to clear the way for others. It will depend on his recovery from thumb and knee injuries. But they have $67 million on the books and options now.

The Knicks have $7 million less on the books for next season than the Heat, meaning they can bring in a mid-level player to go around Anthony and Amare Stoudemire plus use a second exception to get a guy. They can use the $14.2 million deal of Chauncey Billups (in its last year) as the base for an offer to try and get Chris Paul or Dwight Howard and if it works they still might be able to get a mid-level player again next season.

Even teams like the Lakers and Mavericks — teams with owners willing to spend and in a “win now” mode due to a core that only has a few more years in their championship window — also may benefit in the short term. It will cost them more in tax, but they can go get a mid-level exception guy, the kind of role players they need around their stars.

Over time, the goal of this labor deal will be to flatten out the payroll disparity in the league — teams have to spend up to $49 million next season and $90 million payroll will be almost impossible due to the tax structure. (One should not confuse that with parity or competitive balance, the owners like to tell you those things go hand-in-hand but they do not.)

But in the short term two teams who need good role players to go around their stars may have been the biggest winners in the last 48 hours.

Boston offense stumbles, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic scores 24 in Magic upset win

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BOSTON (AP) — Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 12 rebounds while the Orlando Magic survived two 3-point attempts by Boston in the closing seconds to beat the Celtics 93-90 on Monday night.

Jonathan Isaac added 18 points and 12 boards for the Magic (2-2).

Kyrie Irving led the Celtics (2-2) with 22 points. Al Horford had 15 and Gordon Hayward 11. Irving and Hayward each missed a 3 in the final seconds. Boston shot 9-of-40 from three on the night and 40.7 percent overall, looking out of sync as they have much of the season (and preseason).

The Celtics, who never led in the game, trailed by at least five points from the midway point of the final quarter until Jaylen Brown nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner, closing it to 89-86 with 71 seconds left.

But Isaac answered with a foul-line jumper on the next possession.

Horford and Irving then had consecutive baskets 32 seconds apart, slicing it to 91-90 with 14.2 seconds to play.

With Boston forced to foul Evan Fournier after Orlando inbounded the ball after a timeout, he stepped to the line and made both free throws with 7.8 seconds left.

Irving then missed his 3 from the right corner, and after Horford grabbed the rebound and fed it out – Hayward’s rimmed out just before the buzzer sounded.

Orlando had pulled ahead by 13 points twice late in the third quarter before Boston closed the period by scoring 10 of the final 12 points to slice it to 75-70 at the break.

 

Watch Stephen Curry get the volleyball set assist from his mom during warmups

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Wherever the Warriors are, home or road, fans are filling the building long before tip-off just to watch Stephen Curry warm up. With good reason, he’s a show even before the ball goes up.

Curry’s mother, Sonya, was courtside for his warmups before the Warriors hosting the Suns. Curry played a little volleyball with her, got a good set, and hit the corner three.

Pretty sure rules prohibit him from doing that during the game, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

Warriors say DeMarcus Cousins making “good progress,” will participate in part of practice soon

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Don’t confuse this with “DeMarcus Cousins is almost back on the court.” The Warriors are going to be CSPAN call-in show host patient in bringing Cousins back, and a return date is still well down the schedule. There is no official timetable.

Cousins is, however, making progress and will be part of some segments of team practice shortly, the Warriors announced Monday.

“DeMarcus continues to make good progress with his rehabilitation program. After spending the last few weeks doing various individual on-court activities and drills, he will, in the near future, be integrated into controlled aspects of team practices, although not scrimmages at this point. Additionally, he will continue with his off-court strength and conditioning program.”

The Warriors want to keep Cousins happy but also know they don’t fully need him yet — they need him in the playoffs as another option to punish switches. Golden State needs Cousins healthy, back in shape, rust off and ready to go in April, but he doesn’t need to be on the court in October, or even by Christmas, to get there. Cousins wants to play, but as a guy looking to get paid next summer, he needs to come back right and show what he can do, not come back too early and damage his stock. It’s a fine line.

The Warriors and Cousins are moving closer to that line, but there is still a long way to go.

Report: Nuggets’ starter Will Barton out 5-6 weeks with surgery to repair groin muscle

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Non-contact injuries can be the worst.

Against Phoenix over the weekend, Denver’s Will Barton went in for a relatively uncontested reverse layup, but as soon as he lands he grabs his hip and goes to the floor in obvious pain. It did not look good.

There wasn’t much in the way of information from the team.

However, a report from Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated gives us more details.

The adductor muscles are traditionally called the groin muscles. It’s a series of muscles that help the hips move and are connected to the thigh.

That’s bad news for Denver, a team off to a fast 3-0 start including a win over Golden State. Barton has averaged 16.5 points per game and five rebounds a night in 27 minutes per game through the first three, and he’s been hot from three shooting 55.6 percent. Expect the defensive-minded Torrey Craig to get the bulk of the minutes with Barton out, but both Juancho Hernangomez and Trey Lyles could see a little extra run as well.