What luxury tax? Nets new payroll massive because owner not concerned.

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Let’s run through the Nets starting five and their salaries for next season:

Point guard Deron Williams, $17.2 million; shooting guard Joe Johnson $19.8 million; Gerald Wallace $9 million; Kris Humphries $12 million; Brook Lopez $13.7 million.

That is $71.7 million, not counting incentives some players may hit. That is with a salary cap of $58 million and a luxury tax threshold of $70.3 million. That’s not counting Mirza Teletovic at $3 million, Reggie Evans at $1.6 million, MarShon Brooks at $1.2 million or any salary from the other six or so guys needed to fill out the roster.

And every one of those starters will make more next season.

There is a new luxury tax looming in a couple years, a punitive one that has teams scared. The more over the tax line you are, the higher the tax rate. If you’re over the tax line three years in a row, you pay fines on top of the tax. Look at it this way, the Lakers $16 million dollar-for-dollar tax this season would have cost them $52 million in 2015.

Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t care. The Russian billionaire made more money in interest since you started reading this article than you will all year. Plus for him, owning the Nets is part of a larger real estate deal around the arena — the Brooklyn Yards project — that will make him a lot more money. If the Nets are a draw but a loss-leader in that equation, so what?

Prokhorov knew he needed a better team to open the Barclay’s center and told GM Billy King to go out and buy one.

You can justify each an every one of these signings individually. Williams is one of the best point guards in the league and the team’s franchise player. Johnson is still an All-Star point guard and his level of talent was needed to make sure Williams didn’t bolt for Dallas. Gerald Wallace is pretty good at both ends of the floor. The Nets needed a big man and Lopez had other teams ready to step in and give him a max deal, so to keep him that was the price.

As for Humphries, yes he is overpaid at $12 million a year but with a short two-year deal he is still a trade chip the Nets can try to use to get Dwight Howard after Jan. 15 (the soonest they can move any of the players they re-signed this summer).

But man, together that is one healthy tax bill coming due. That new, harsher CBA and luxury tax really only matter if an owner is concerned about the bottom line of that team by itself. Prokhorov is in it for a bigger picture.

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

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It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

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After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.