Warriors owner Joe Lacob on paying luxury tax next season: No choice

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The Warriors have $78,772,757 committed to David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Brandon Rush and Festus Ezeli next season.

Even if they fill the rest of their roster with minimum-salary players, they’d eclipse the projected luxury-tax line of $80.7 million.

Of course, they don’t want to fill their roster with just minimum-salary payers. They surely want to re-sign Draymond Green and exercise Marreese Speights’ $3,815,000 team option.

It’ll get costly, but it sounds as if Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are ready to foot the bill and let general manager Bob Myers keep the team together.

Lacob, in a Q&A with Tim Kawakami of Talking Points:

Are you prepared to go into the tax next summer to keep this team together?

-LACOB: Committed or not committed, I don’t think we have any other choice. Numbers would dictate–anyone can look at them–that we’re very likely in the luxury tax and very likely very substantially, next year.

And you know what? We’re OK with that. I tell Bob all the time; he keeps asking me, ‘Are you sure?’ We’re prepared to do whatever it takes to win a championship; I’ve said that before.

You want to do it when the timing is right. Maybe the timing’s right, right? We’re pretty good. And so, I think we need to take advantage of that and go for it.

-Q: So you’re re-signing Draymond Green?
-LACOB: Draymond Green! I’m not allowed per NBA rules as you know to make certain statements about who we’re going sign or how hard we’re going to try to sign that person.

What I will say is, he was born to be a Warrior. And we love him. I certainly think today as we look at our team, he’s part of our core and can’t imagine it being otherwise.

Lacob could announce his intention to re-sign Green – you can’t tamper with your own team – but his statement implies enough.

So, how much will this cost him and Guber?

Let’s create a scenario and assume the projected tax line sticks:

  • The Warriors get the No. 30 pick in the draft and give him the standard 120 percent of scale
  • Rush exercises his $1,270,964 player option
  • Golden State exercises Speights’ $3,815,000 team option
  • Green re-signs for a starting salary of $11 million
  • The Warriors sign two minimum-salary players

That roster would cost a whopping $128,335,643 – $96,614,269 in salaries and $31,721,374 in luxury-tax payments.

The Warriors could try to save money by letting Speights loose, trading their first-round pick or making some other deal. Trading Lee, who is set to make $15,493,680 on the final year of his contract next season, would be ideal and could even sneak Golden State under the tax line. But other teams won’t rush to pay Lee.

Lacob’s statement suggest the Warriors, who owe Utah their 2017 first rounder as a result of a previous salary dump, aren’t willing to send out the sweetener necessary to move Lee. If they were, paying the luxury tax wouldn’t be so inevitable.

Golden State has never paid the luxury tax, so no repeater penalties would apply, and this is unlikely to trigger a run of repeat-penalty-inducing tax seasons. With Lee’s contract off the books in 2016 and the salary cap set to skyrocket under the new national-TV contracts, the Warriors should have plenty of leeway. Only the 2015-16 season is sticky.

But if Lacob and Guber are willing to pay the luxury tax to get the team over the hump, Golden State fans should be thrilled. This is the exact time to pay the tax, when the team is contending.

It’s hard to see what would derail the Warriors this season. If the luxury tax isn’t an impediment, it’s hard to see what would derail them for coming seasons, either.

How did Paul George score 70 points in 44 minutes? “I got new shoulders”

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Paul George is back.

Not that he really went all that far away, the man did finish third in MVP voting last season, but he faded at the end of that campaign due to shoulder pain, which led to both shoulders being operated on during the offseason. That delayed his entry into the 2019-20 NBA season by a few weeks.

He has come back looking smooth: He scored 37 points in 20 minutes against Atlanta, the most points scored in fewer than 21 minutes played in NBA history. PG13 has scored 70 points in 44 minutes across the two games with an 80.9 true shooting percentage, hitting 56.3 percent from three, and he scored the most points in a Clippers home debut (37).

How is he doing it?

“I got new shoulder. I can’t say nothing else to that, I got new shoulders. And they haven’t been this healthy in a long time.”

George has looked fluid on the court, playing great defense and clearly just having fun out there.

The Clippers have yet to play George and Kawhi Leonard at the same time because pain in Leonard’s knee has kept him in street clothes the past two games.

The Clippers have George on a minutes limit right now and are letting Leonard have all the time off he wants (George will ultimately get some load management nights, too). While that’s led to pushback from some fans — and LeBron James, trying to score some PR points on the other team in town — the Clippers shrug it off. They don’t have their sites set on November wins, they are targeting April, May, and they hope June.

George already looks in peak playoff form.

Watch James Harden scores 49 points, lead Rockets past Timberwolves

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Undermanned and playing for the second consecutive night, the Houston Rockets still had plenty of reason to be confident.

“I would think it would give you confidence,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You’re playing with a bazooka out there.”

A bazooka named James Harden.

Harden unloaded Saturday night, scoring 49 points on a whopping 41 shots from the field to lead the short-handed Rockets to their seventh straight victory, 125-105 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With Russell Westbrook resting and several key contributors injured, the Rockets needed Harden to shoulder an even bigger scoring load than usual. The 41 attempts are the most in his career, and the most in the NBA this season, surpassing the 37 Golden State’s D'Angelo Russell took in an overtime loss Nov. 8 in the same building in Minnesota.

“It was a collective effort,” Harden said. “We’ve got six, seven guys out. So it could have been an easy game, where we just chalked it up and got ready for next game. We wanted to come here and win this game, and we showed it.”

Harden made 16 of the 41 shots, going 8 for 22 from 3-point range. He was 9 of 11 on free throws.

“He scored (49) on 41 shots,” Timberwolves forward Robert Covington said. “That’s what we want. But it’s just the other guys hurt us. We followed the game plan with him.”

Ben McLemore scored 20 points. Undrafted rookie Chris Clemons scored a career-high 19 off the bench for the Rockets, who broke open the game with a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter. Austin Rivers also scored 19 points.

 

Paul George’s 37 in home debut lead Clippers past Hawks 150-101 (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George scored 37 points in his Clippers home debut, Lou Williams added 25, and Los Angeles led all the way in routing the Atlanta Hawks 150-101 on Saturday night.

The anticipated first game with George and Kawhi Leonard in the lineup together didn’t happen when Leonard sat out with a left knee contusion.

But the Clippers didn’t need both of their new superstars on a night when George tied his career high with six 3-pointers and made all 11 of his free throws in the team’s biggest blowout of the young season.

George was clearly having fun in the fourth when he stole the ball, dribbled down and tossed it off the glass, setting up Montrezl Harrell for a two-handed dunk that ignited the crowd and pushed the Clippers’ lead to 36 points.

George sat down for good with 9:58 remaining in the game, having done all his damage playing 20 minutes.

Two nights after scoring 33 in his debut at New Orleans, George had it going from the start. He scored 15 of the Clippers’ first 22 points in a six-minute span. They led by 17 and shot 59 percent in the opening quarter.

George is the first player in franchise history to score 30-plus points in his first two games with the team.

The Hawks scored 11 straight points to close within four early in the second quarter, the closest they would come the rest of the game. The Clippers answered with an 18-6 run, fueled by George’s nine points, to go back up by 17 again.

George had 25 points at halftime when the Clippers led 74-62, shooting 52% and making all 16 of their free throws.

Leonard also sat out on Thursday when George made his Clippers debut in a loss to the Pelicans.

George missed the season’s first 11 games while completing rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.

“I would love them to play every game and be out there,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before the game. “We knew early on this would be a tough go.”

Trae Young had 20 points for the Hawks, who dropped their second in a row. They trailed by 52 points in the fourth.

The Clippers dominated in nearly every category, with their bench outscoring the Hawks’ reserves 81-35. Los Angeles made 17 3-pointers and hit 33 of 35 free throws.

 

Gregg Popovich gets ejected, Tim Duncan takes over coaching, Spurs still fall to Trail Blazers

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan was back in charge in San Antonio and the Spurs were flourishing under his leadership again.

Duncan was directing players on defensive assignments, encouraging them and providing needed leadership. But in the end, he couldn’t provide the same late-game heroics from the bench that he long did on the court.

CJ McCollum scored 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Spurs 121-116 on Saturday night to spoil Duncan’s first shot at coaching following Gregg Popovich’s ejection.

Duncan took over just 13 games into his first season as an assistant coach. Popovich was ejected after walking onto the court to berate official Jason Goldenberg over a non-call. Popovich calmly walked off the court following his first ejection of the season (you can see it in the video above).

On Twitter, this led to a debate as people tried to figure out who took over as coach. Assistant Coach Becky Hammon ran one time out, but it was Duncan — the assistant coach assigned to scout Portland on the staff — who was the main man. Duncan, Hammon and Will Hardy coached by committee, but it was Duncan calling the plays and screaming out instruction.

“It was cool,” Spurs guard Bryn Forbes said. “It didn’t really feel like a huge difference. I think he did a good job. He took control. He helped lead us to a big lead.”

Popovich was asked if he considered having Becky Hammon take over to make history as the first woman to lead an NBA team.

“I’m not here to make history,” Popovich said.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 13 rebounds but the Spurs lost their fifth straight and fell to 5-8.

Damian Lillard added 22 points and Hassan Whiteside had 21 points for Portland (5-8), which rallied from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter to snap a four-game skid in San Antonio.

“We’ve blown leads before, so we kind of know what to expect,” McCollum said. “Once you do it, you’ve got to stay grounded, focus on the little stuff.”

Before the game, Popovich said coaching could only go so far and it was up to each player to take responsibility for his own mistakes and performance during this losing streak. Popovich put that responsibility squarely on the Spurs when he was ejected early in the third quarter.

McCollum had 23 of his points in the first half.

Bryn Forbes added 17 points and DeRozan and Rudy Gay added 16 apiece.