The real question: How much tax is Oklahoma City willing to pay?

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Clay Bennett and the Oklahoma City ownership has said before they are willing to pay some luxury tax to keep the core of their team together.

Next year that will be put to the test.

They have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on max deals, and they just signed Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million deal. Next up is James Harden. Next summer he will become a restricted free agent and unless the Thunder can convince him to take less he is going to get a max offer on the open market from someone. A number of teams will have the cap space (probably about 10, depends on moves between now and then) to make a max offer and Harden — Sixth Man of the Year, gold medalist, marketable — will get one.

The Thunder can match. But if they do they are paying the tax, and how much is the team in the NBA’s smallest market willing to pay? Zach Lowe breaks down the numbers at Sports Illustrated’s The Point Forward blog.

If Harden gets that max deal from Oklahoma City, the Thunder will be paying the tax for at least the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. Assuming a max deal for Harden and that Oklahoma City gets the No. 30 pick in each of the next two drafts, the Thunder would be set to have about $75.5 million committed to 10 players in 2013-14 and $77 million committed to the same number of players in 2014-15. Fill out the rest of the roster on the cheap — forget the mid-level exception — and Oklahoma City will be looking at $80 million payrolls in those seasons….

The tax line is at $70.4 million now, and it will go up as league revenues rise. But most projections have the tax line somewhere around $75 million in the 2015-16, and very solid growth (about 3 percent) would have it jump only to $72.5 million in 2013-14 and $74.6 million in the following season. Note again: These are estimates.

Under the harsh new tax rates that kick in for the 2013-14 — just in time! — the Thunder would be paying a tax bill ranging from $7.5 million to $12.5 million or so, depending on the exact tax level and how much the team’s ownership is willing to spend on the back of the roster. Is Oklahoma City, the league’s second-smallest market, willing to spend something like $85 million or even $90 million to fill a team?

I bet the answer is yes. They can save money by doing things like using their amnesty on Kendrick Perkins. More importantly, so long as the Thunder are winning they will be able to sell the luxury boxes and sponsorships at a premium, and the regular seats sell out every game to a very loyal fan base. I think the losses (if any, how NBA owners keep the books is murky) would be minimal.

The Thunder can’t afford to go Los Angeles Lakers with their payroll — Los Angeles with taxes and revenue sharing could be paying $230 million in a couple years to field a team at their current payroll levels — but they can afford some tax. They can afford to chase the ring.

The Thunder will be what the Heat and Lakers are, what future contenders will look like — a handful of highly-paid stars surrounded by the best they can get on inexpensive contracts. It is the wave of the future.

Report: Wizards willing to discuss John Wall, Bradley Beal trades

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The Wizards are 5-11, have poor chemistry and are on track to pay the luxury tax.

This might call for extreme measures – like trading John Wall or Bradley Beal.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

As the Washington Wizards’ season spirals, the franchise has started to deliver teams an impression that every player on their roster — including All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal — is available to discuss in trade scenarios, league sources told ESPN.

Washington’s preference remains to reshape the team around Wall and Beal, but poor play among key teammates is limiting their trade value and paralyzing the Wizards’ efforts to make meaningful changes to a roster that no longer appears functional together, league sources said.

In other words: The Wizards are finally acting rationally. There’s no good-enough reason they should have refused to discuss Wall and Beal trades before. That doesn’t mean Washington should have traded Wall or Beal. They’re good players, and the inertia of NBA trades discussions would have made a trade unlikely. For the same reason, trading those stars now remains unlikely. But what was the advantage of not even considering trading those two? Maybe the Wizards would have gotten an offer so good, they would have taken it. There’s almost no downside to discussing trades, especially after setting a tone to players that trade talks are inevitable and not a reflection of a player’s importance to the franchise.

But, under Ernie Grunfeld, Washington has been far more reactionary to proactive. Considering dealing Wall or Beal now – when every Wizard’s trade value has sunk due to the team’s collective stink – is too typical of this stale regime.

Wall’s value is extremely low relative to his star status. His super-max extension kicks in next year and pays him $42,728,000 per season through age 32. That is a terrifyingly large contract for someone who already appears to be slowing down. Trading for Wall now could trigger a huge trade bonus that gives him a big raise this season, too.

Beal remains an elite trade chip. He’s just 25 and locked in the following two seasons at a reasonable $27,922,396 per year. But he hasn’t looked as sharp on the court this season, lowering his value.

Washington’s other planned top players – Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre – have also underwhelmed. Porter is on an unappealing max contract, and Oubre is headed toward restricted free agency next summer. There’s only moderate reason to trade for either now.

So, dealing Wall or Beal could be the Wizards’ way out of their jam.

Or a way into an even bigger jam.

Report: Warriors aren’t interested in Carmelo Anthony

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It’s unclear where Houston Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony will finish the season this year. He won’t return to the Rockets, and nobody has stepped up to complete a deal with Daryl Morey for the aging superstar.

The most logical place for Anthony to land appears to be the Los Angeles Lakers, a team of former stars now lumped around LeBron James. But the Lakers haven’t seemed eager to do so, nor has anyone else.

Jokes around the league about where Anthony could go have been plenty, and one of the most popular refrains is that Carmelo should go to the Golden State Warriors to get his first ring. It’s a ridiculous supposition on its face, but after the Warriors signed DeMarcus Cousins, it oddly doesn’t seem completely out of the question.

However, according to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, Golden State is not considering Carmelo.

Via The Undefeated:

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green believes there is an NBA team out there for his old USA Basketball teammate that will be a better fit. Anthony previously turned down the Miami Heat and also the Portland Trail Blazers twice, sources said. As for Green’s Warriors, a source said the two-time defending champs have no interest despite having a roster spot open.

“Of course, he can still play in this league,” Green said. “There is no doubt in my mind.

“He’s still Melo.”

I honestly don’t know where a good basketball fit for Carmelo is anymore, largely because of his attitude about himself. It’s not clear that Carmelo can be the type of player he used to be on offense, and defense is sort of out of the question. While he did take to shooting more 3-pointers with the Rockets this season, he needs to go into full Vince Carter mode in order to stay on an NBA floor. That seems unlikely moving forward.

All this leaves us with the same question: If Golden State isn’t interested in Anthony, who is?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Watch the Nets’ hype video for their Biggie Smalls-inspired ‘City’ jerseys

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Look, the NBA City jerseys are not good. Most of them are gray, which is the most boring trend in uniform design in any of the four major sports over the last decade or so.

A bunch more are just straight up ugly, or run on motifs that make sense contextually but don’t push the right buttons aesthetically.

But the Brooklyn Nets jerseys? Those are beautiful.

On Saturday the Nets debuted their City jerseys, inspired by Brooklyn native Biggie Smalls, and published an incredible hype video that featured several players and locations around the borough.

Via Twitter:

The coloring on the jersey is Coogi-inspired. Coogi is a fashion brand known for similar patterns, which Biggie was fond of wearing both in music videos and on stage.

What do you think? Is this Nets jersey the best City uniform?

Three Things to Know: After third straight loss Steve Kerr says Warriors now in “the real NBA”

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Each night in the NBA there is a lot of action, a lot to unpack. Which is why every weekday morning during the NBA season we bring you three things you need to know out of the night before, to keep you up on all the big happenings around the NBA.

1) Warriors drop third straight game on road trip and Steve Kerr is blunt: “This is the real NBA…. We’ve been in this dream. So now we’re faced with real adversity.” This is not serious illness the Warriors have come down with, it’s just a little fall cold. Come April, when the chance to threepeat is on the line, the Warriors will be the Warriors again. Don’t doubt that.

But right now, the Warriors are scuffling.

Stephen Curry is out with a strained groin. Draymond Green is out with an injured toe. In his last five quarters of play, Kevin Durant has shot 9-of-32 (28.1 percent) and he picked up a technical Sunday chirping at officials, he just is off his game and seems to be unfocused (insert your speculation about the Green situation here). In his last two games Klay Thompson is shooting 40 percent. On Saturday night both had chances at potential game winners and missed good looks. On Sunday in San Antonio, neither even got the chance as the Spurs handled the Warriors without much trouble 104-92.

With that, the Warriors went 0-3 on a road trip for the first time with Steve Kerr as coach, and they are 2-5 in their last seven. In those seven games, the Warriors are allowing 112.7 points per 100 possessions, the second worst defense in the league during that stretch. On the other end of the floor, the ball is sticking on offense.

“I’ve had a dream run for four-and-a-half years,” Kerr said. “We’ve had such a charmed existence the last four seasons. So, yeah, of course, this is the toughest stretch we’ve been in. This is the real NBA. We haven’t been in the real NBA the last few years. We’ve been in this dream. So now we’re faced with real adversity. We’ve got to get out of it ourselves.”

How do they change this around? Get healthy — Curry was playing back closer to his MVP level before the groin injury, just putting him back in the lineup will spark the offense and the team. Green’s return will help the defense. Durant and Thompson will find their shot at some point. Beyond that, the Warriors just need to get out of their own heads. While everyone around the NBA can talk about how they are on a cakewalk to a title, the reality is they are going to have to work for it. There are good teams in their way.

That said, we aren’t even to Thanksgiving yet. If the NBA season is a marathon, we are just 5.1 miles into it. It is far too early to think the Warriors are in any real trouble, or more unlikely, that they are going to make a trade and break things up (ownership said that is not happening).  The Warriors will be the Warriors again when it matters. Right now, they are facing some adversity, and that’s probably good for them looking ahead towards the playoffs (better to be tested than not).

2) When LeBron James is good, the Lakers are good. Sunday he dropped 51 on the Heat and the Lakers looked dangerous again. Last Wednesday night on national television, LeBron James had one of those “just reminding you I’m the best player on the planet” games dropping 44 on the Timberwolves, and the Lakers looked the best they have all season in a win. Saturday night, LeBron had a pedestrian 22 and did not dominate the game the same way, and the Lakers lost to the Orlando Magic.

Sunday LeBron was back to his dominant ways, dropping 51 on his old team in Miami, getting Los Angeles another win.

Looking at the splits, two things happen in the Lakers’ wins. First, he is a more efficient shooter. For example, he shoots 32.5 percent from three in Laker losses, but 44.6 percent in victories. Or, his true shooting percentage jumps from a good 58 in losses to an insane 64.8 in wins. The second big change is his defense, and the team defense, is more dialed in for Laker wins. LeBron’s defensive rating is 115.6 in losses, and is 101.8 percent in wins.

It’s not just LeBron that has keyed the Lakers’ improved play of late, much of that comes from better team defense overall. But he is the catalyst of the offense, and when LeBron dials it up the Lakers dangerous.

3) He’s no Jennifer Hudson — Heat’s Josh Richardson ejected for throwing his shoe into crowd. When Jennifer Hudson throws a shoe — her shoe, someone else’s shoe, any shoe she can find — on The Voice, it’s a sign of respect. A compliment.

That is not how it came off when Josh Richardson threw his shoe into the crowd Sunday. Richardson — who is having a breakout season in Miami — was frustrated. Very frustrated with the foul calls (he felt he didn’t get one on a dunk attempt, then with his shoe off he fouled LeBron), with the team not winning, with a knot in his shoelace that would not come out, and with Erik Spoelstra subbing him out to get the shoe fixed and to calm down. So Richardson launched his shoe into the crowd.

That’s an automatic ejection. Richardson can break out the checkbook, too, a $25k fine is coming.

But if he wants, Richardson can just tell the league office he was offering LeBron a compliment by throwing his Nikes into the crowd. Not going to work, but he can try.