Weekend NBA rumors and deals (constantly updated)

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Just because you didn’t go to work today — you’re at home trying to hang Christmas lights, like that’s not work — doesn’t mean the wheels of NBA free agency and trades stopped. Not in the least.

This post is your one-stop shop for up-to-date, breaking info on what is happening around the league. (If you want a great wrap of what has happened up through Saturday morning, check out Matt’s post about how the league has gone nuts.)

8:47 pm: Eddie House recently had surgery on his left knee and will be out a couple weeks, possibly missing the start of the season for the Heat. With Battier and Miller and a versatile lineup, it will be interesting to see how much run House gets this season.

8:40 pm: The Boston Celtics have inked Jeff Green to a one-year deal worth $9 million. That is wildly overpaying for a nice player, which maybe is what they had to do to get him to take a one-year contract. There is a lot of potential in Green, he’s athletic, but in the end he is just average at everything — shooting, rebounding, defending, you name it. He’s not a bad player but the Celtics have given him a contract and will be giving him a role that is going to require him to grow a lot to fill. At least it’s just one year.

8:34 pm: Jason Richardson has agreed to a four-year deal to stay with the Orlando Magic, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. He was maybe the top swingman out there, but Caron Butler is headed to the Clippers and Rip Hamilton likely is headed to the Bulls, so the two prime landing spots are gone. Orlando may be rebuilding but J-Rich gives them a solid player and fan favorite on the court.

6:30 pm: J.J. Barea is not going back to the Mavericks — after his playoffs he was rightly ticked about getting a one-year offer — and it looks like it is down to the Knicks and Timberwolves are leading for his services.

6:09 pm: Dwight Howard has told the Magic that he wants to be traded. There is no uncertainty now.

That trade may be to the Nets, which is what Howard wants, according to Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo. The Magic have said they will trade him where they can get the best deal going forward for the team.

4:23 pm: Jeremy Pargo — the brother of Jannero — has signed a two-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. Pargo has played the last couple years for European powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.

4:04 pm: Mike Bibby has reached a one-year deal to join the New York Knicks, reports Sam Amick of SI. Knicks fans, if you think this is a good thing you have not watched Bibby play since 2005. You would rather have Toney Douglas on the court. Bibby is not going to solve any problems.

3:55 pm: Reports are that the Milwaukee Bucks will match the four-year offer Denver made to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. As they should have, this is less than $5 million a year for one of the elite perimeter defenders in the league.

3:50 pm: It’s official, Mike Dunleavy is a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. Two years, $7.5 million deal. That’s nice and all, but they had better keep Mbah a Moute, that matters a whole lot more. (and they are.)

3:18 p.m. Yahoo reports Spencer Hawes will sign a one-year deal with Philadelphia. Philadelphia is very big on bringing back the same team that lost in five games to Miami in the first round last year. No, we don’t know why either.

1:41 p.m.: The Nuggets have tendered a four-year, $19 million offer sheet to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Mbah a Moute is a restricted free agent, so Milwaukee has three-days to match the offer. You’d think they’d match, but Milwaukee’s done some weird things with their frontcourt in the past two years .

Brandan Wright is a Maverick. Good luck to all parties. 

Utah has reportedly made an offer for Josh Howard, which makes zero sense and a half.

1:26 p.m.: Aaron Gray has agreed to a deal with the Raptors, via Woj. The Raptors are going to be terrible, just a heads up.

12:05 pm: What are the Mavericks going to do with that massive $11 million trade exception from the Chandler to the Knicks deal? Rumor is try to get Samuel Dalembert in a sign-and-trade with the Kings, according to Marc Stein at ESPN. However, if the Kings renounced their rights to Dalembert (which Tom Ziller says they did) then this would only be able to be a four-year deal.

12:02 pm: Rasual Butler is about to sign with the Toronto Raptors, according to Yahoo.

12:00 pm: T.J. Ford is officially a member of the Spurs, backing up Tony Parker.

11:56 am: The Tyson Chandler to the Knicks deal is all-but done. There is a press conference where things get formalized later today. It’s a sign-and-trade that sends Andy Rautins and an $11 million trade exception back to the Mavericks (something they will use to try and land Dwight Howard or some other star).

This means Ronny Turiaf is officially a member of the Washington Wizards, where he can show Andray Blatche what hustling every night looks like.

11:26 am: The New Jersey Nets offered Nene a four year, $70 million deal, according to the New York Daily News (other sources say the offer is more like $64 million). That is a lot of money for a team that already has Brook Lopez at center, and a lot of money for a guy who has had a history of injuries. Make no mistake, Nene is the best big on the market right now, but that is overpaying. He is not Dwight.

11:13 am: The Hawks have signed Jerry Stackhouse to a deal. Feel pretty “meh” about that, but like it better than the Vladimir Radmanovic signing for them.

11:10 am: Brad Miller just had knee surgery and is slated to return to the Timberwolves the second half of January. He’s the guy with the old-man game who will spell Kevin Love and his old-man game.

11:00 am: A whole bunch of things happened while you were sleeping. Here is a quick rundown of the highlights:

• Dwight Howard’s agent Dan Fegan was given permission by the Magic to try and work a trade with either the Nets, Lakers or Mavericks.

• The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets are still trying to swing a three-team deal that gets Paul moved.

• Chicago is targeting Richard Hamilton — you call him Rip — after Detroit bought him out yesterday, reports our man Aggrey Sam with CSNChicago.com.

• Looks like the Celtics are going to land Delonte West.

• Grant Hill might have gone to the Knicks if they didn’t lowball him.

• Antonio McDyess is still trying to decide whether to retire or play another season. Didn’t he enter the league when George Mikan was still playing?

• The Spurs have not yet dropped the amnesty hammer on Richard Jefferson’s head.

• The Magic got Von Wafer as part of the Glen Davis/Brandon Bass trade. He was thrown in to soak up a trade exception. He got a three-year deal but only the first year is guaranteed.

• The Hawks have signed Vladimir Radmanovic. Yea, that is going to go well.

Raptors bench play key reason Toronto on cusp of first trip to NBA Finals

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There are multiple reasons the Toronto Raptors have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks three times in a row and now are one win away from the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals.

Kawhi Leonard and his play — particularly his defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo — is a huge one. So is the Raptors incredible halfcourt defense, which has held the Bucks to an 84.3 net rating on halfcourt possessions in this series. When the Raptors have been able to slow the game down (which they have done very well the last two games, with possession totals in the mid-90s) they win.

Just don’t forget about the Raptors bench.

Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell — the three guys coach Nick Nurse leans on in his regular rotations — have been critical for the Raptors, and if they are again on Saturday night in Toronto it will lift the franchise to a place it has never been before.

Toronto’s starters are -23 in this series. That fivesome — Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol — were -10 in Game 5, struggling against an impressive Milwaukee starting lineup.

In Game 5, it was the Raptors’ bench that led the comeback after the Bucks’ fast start. It has been that way all series. Lineups that have at least one of those core three Raptors bench guys on the floor are +30 this series. Lineups with all three of them on the court together are +12.

Different guys are stepping up each game. In Game 5 it was VanVleet’s turn. After a rough few games in this series, he got to Milwaukee late after being with his wife for the birth of their son, then proceeded to knock down 7-of-9 threes in Toronto’s come-from-behind win.

“He oozes the confidence that spreads to the other guys,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said of VanVleet. “Again, he just stepped into the shots that were there tonight, and he was probably due to get hot in these playoffs. It’s been probably a long time coming. Great game by him.”

Toronto’s bench — and Leonard — are key reasons that this team responded to adversity, going down 0-2 in the series and bouncing back. It’s the experience of having been there before, having dealt with the pressure before, learning about themselves because they have been tested like this in previous years. Leonard and Green have rings from San Antonio, Gasol has been to conference finals in Memphis, Lowry has been there through all the Raptors struggles in recent playoffs. On the bench, Ibaka has seen plenty, and these guys have not been fazed by the moment.

It’s the test the Bucks are facing now — this group had never been challenged like this. Their athleticism and Antetokounmpo’s MVP-level season propelled this team to the best record in the NBA, then they swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs with an 8-1 record. After that, they beat the Raptors the first two games of this series.

However, now they have lost three in a row for the first time all season and they are learning about their weaknesses. The Bucks entire offense is based around the idea that nobody can slow Antetokounmpo one-on-one, except that Leonard has done just that. The Greek Freak has shot 35.5 percent this series (11-of-31, via Second Spectrum data) when Leonard has been his primary defender. Antetokounmpo also hasn’t found shooters and those guys have not hit the passes he does make, particularly in the halfcourt. Toronto has controlled the tempo the past few games, and when Antetokounmpo isn’t getting easy buckets in transition the Milwaukee offense stumbles. Toronto also has taken care of the ball and hit shots, with Leonard getting to his spots on the floor, which has limited the Bucks transition chances.

The Bucks need to make adjustments — finding ways to get Antetokounmpo the ball with better matchups, not having him attack from the top of the key every time and giving him some picks to force switches — and they need another ball handler, such as Eric Bledsoe or George Hill, to have a monster game. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon can and should do a little more shot creation.

And Milwaukee has to contain that Raptors bench and not get beat so badly when they are on the floor.

If not, the Bucks will be on vacation in Cabo next week while the Raptors are still playing.

Are Rockets trying to push Mike D’Antoni out the door?

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After a slow start to the season, by the end the Houston Rockets had found their groove and were the second best team in the West. That still wasn’t good enough to get by the Warriors dynasty. That has led to some soul searching in Houston.

And some changes to the assistant coaching staff. First came the news Jeff Bzdelik would not return in his defensive coordinator role. Then on Friday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle put out a series of Tweets talking about the other coaching changes coming.

Cho had been with the Rockets for a decade. Roland worked closely with James Harden, among others.

This is a near total overhaul of Mike D’Antoni’s staff, which has led to speculation the Rockets are trying to push their coach out the door, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

D’Antoni has done an excellent job — and adapted his style — to coach these Rockets into being contenders. He is part of the reason this franchise is a contender. The Rockets have fallen short the last two seasons not because of D’Antoni, but rather because of the Warriors. Golden State is an all-time dynasty level team, they are beating everybody.

This feels like the East in recent years when coaches lost jobs and teams were broken up because they could not get past LeBron James‘ teams when the issue was really LeBron is one of the game’s all-time greats.

There could be other dynamics at play in Houston, but the challenge there is not the coach. If Tilman Fertitta is frustrated his team fell short again, he should start by looking in the mirror at the cost-cutting moves his team made this season to get under the tax line. That put a ceiling on this team more than anything D’Antoni did.

NBA makes it official, moves up free agency six hours to 6 p.m. June 30 (Eastern)

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I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.

There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.

Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.

This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.

Now we know what time the wild times start.

Why does Kevin Durant respond on social media? “I’m qualified to talk about basketball”

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Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.

Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.

Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.

“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”

Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.

Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?