In letter to fans about future plans, Nets conspicuously leave out Deron Williams, Joe Johnson

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Joe Johnson is set to make $24.9 million next season. He led the Brooklyn Nets in scoring last season, averaging 14.4 points per game, then upped that to 16.5 points per game in the playoffs.

Deron Williams is set to make $21 million next season (and $22.3 million the season after that). The Nets’ point guard, he averaged 13 points and 6.6 assists per game.

They are owners of two of the worst contracts in the NBA, deals that are anchors on the rebuilding of the Brooklyn Nets. These were guys sold as part of a “big three” a couple years ago but now are not part of the future — in fact they are two guys the Nets would love to trade this summer. They will be shopped. Hard.

So maybe it shouldn’t be a shock that when the Nets sent a letter to season ticket holders this week, Williams and Johnson didn’t get mentioned, reports the New York Post.

(GM Billy) King and (CEO Brett) Yormark stated the Nets have plans to re-sign Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young “to keep our core leadership together.” They stated they wanted to “build on our emerging young core,” mentioning Mason Plumlee, Bojan Bogdanovic, Markel Brown and Sergey Karasev. They mentioned their two draft picks — Nos. 29 and 41 — and a desire in “purchasing’’ another pick.

But King and Yormark made no mention of Williams and Johnson — omissions that can be taken as an ominous sign for the duo. It’s unclear if either Williams or Johnson has requested a trade.

Whether they’ve requested one or not, the implication the duo will not be back is clear. And that’s the right move. Blame injuries or whatever you wish, the Nets have not gotten the Williams they thought they traded for. Johnson had a contract everyone around the league knew would be bad in those final couple years.

However, finding a trade partner is not going to be that simple.

Johnson will be the easier to move — and it’s not going to be that easy. He’s in the final year of his contract, and while expiring deals mean less under the current CBA than the previous one, a team that takes him on wouldn’t be stuck with him. Plus Johnson can still produce, still knock down shots, and has done so in big moments. Still, there are not a lot of teams with the cap space to take him on, fewer still would send anything back to Brooklyn of real quality. Rather, most will want to dump their own bad deals. One team to watch is Charlotte, with Lance Stephenson coming home to Brooklyn (that deal was discussed last trade deadline). If I were a team contacted, I would be asking for a young player or picks to sweeten this deal, Johnson alone is not enough.

Williams will be even harder to move because he is owed money for two more seasons, plus he has a lengthy injury history, his game is in decline, and he’s on the wrong side of 30. Never say never, but the Nets don’t have the young assets are willing to part with to get another team to take on Williams.

But expect the rumors about those two to be flying this summer.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on playing with brothers: ‘Milwaukee, L.A., wherever – that’d be awesome’

Giannis Antetokounmpo in Bucks-Lakers
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Giannis Antetokounmpo – on the elite Bucks and nearing his super-max decision – has the NBA by the tail.

Teams are trying to impress the family-oriented superstar. Milwaukee signed his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Lakers added another brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo. (The Knicks drafted Thanasis, but Thanasis’ tenure in New York reportedly left a sour taste in Giannis’ mouth.)

Now, Giannis – who once said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles – is singing a slightly different tune

USA Today:

Antetokounmpo:

I think that would be amazing. Obviously, we’d spend more time together, and I’m 100 percent sure my mom would love that. But if we could team up on a team – Milwaukee, L.A., wherever – that’d be awesome.

Maybe Antetokounmpo is just paying lip service to the Lakers, because they added Kostas. But at this point, that’s progress for Los Angeles.

Considering Giannis’ agent just said “everything is open,” it seems Giannis could be planting the seeds for leaving Milwaukee. He could definitely stay. But by at least mentioning other possibilities, he’d soften the blow if he chooses to depart.

Giannis’ views on loyalty have always been more complex than people realized. Tastes change. It sounds as if Giannis isn’t quite as averse to Los Angeles as he once was.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between that and actually joining the Lakers. Giannis hasn’t suddenly transformed into a totally different person.

But this quote will keep the candle of hope burning in Los Angeles.

Report: All-Star fourth quarter featured more than 15 minutes of gameplay

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One overlooked feature of the NBA’s new All-Star game format: It seemed designed to shorten the game.

Sure, the league wanted to add an interesting wrinkle to a game that had grown stale. The exact details were tweaked to honor Kobe Bryant.

But – in the era of load management – shaving a few minutes off the exhibition game should be taken as a feature, not a bug.

This year’s game ended when a team scored 24 more points than the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. The last time a team had scored 24 or fewer in All-Star quarter: 2010, when the East scored just 23 in the fourth quarter.  In the decade since – including the first three quarters Sunday – All-Star teams averaged 24 points every seven minutes.

But Sunday’s fourth quarter took a while longer than the standard 12 minutes for LeBron James‘ team to outscore Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s team, 33-22.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Defenses really turned up in the fourth quarter. Here’s how the teams’ shooting percentages changed from the first three quarters to the fourth quarter:

  • 2-pointers: 73% to 46%
  • 3-pointers: 34% to 23%

More shots being contested also led to more fouls. After attempting just 13 free throws in the first three quarters, the teams took 26 free throws in the fourth quarter.

In The Basketball Tournament, which first introduced the Elam Ending, the target score is eight more points than the leading team has at the first whistle inside four minutes. By turning off the game clock later, there’s less room for variance in gameplay length.

I suspect the NBA would have also turned off the clock later if not using the target score to honor Bryant. Because Bryant wore No. 24 last, the league has generally used that – not his other number, No. 8 – in tributes, including the All-Star jerseys.

With All-Star MVP now named for Bryant – a perfectly fitting lasting tribute – the league can alter the ending format next year.

The concept is sound. The exact execution just needs tweaking.

Bulls’ starting point guard Kris Dunn may be out for season with knee injury

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Bulls starting point guard Kris Dunn missed the last four games before the All-Star break with a sprained knee.

He could miss a lot more — like the rest of the season.

From K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

But sources said there’s a growing belief that Dunn will miss the remainder of the season with the injury, which occurred when Thaddeus Young took a charge and inadvertently crashed into Dunn’s knee on the first possession of a Jan. 31 road game against the Nets. When Dunn suffered a similar injury last season, he missed 23 games…

“Dunn still has some swelling in that knee,” coach Jim Boylen said before the Bulls lost to the Wizards on Feb. 11 in Washington, their final game before the break. “Once his swelling goes down, he will get re-scanned and re-evaluated.  But he had a lot of swelling.”

That’s less than ideal for Dunn as he heads into restricted free agency. He has averaged 7.3 points and  3.6 rebounds per game, however, his most significant contribution has been quality defense for Chicago this season.

This is the latest in a string of injuries for the Bulls. Otto Porter has only played nine games due to a broken foot. Big men Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are currently sidelined due to injuries, although Carter could return after the All-Star break and Markkanen by early next month. Now Dunn.

Rui Hachimura gets destroyed by kid in Pop-A-Shot-like game (video)

Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura
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Rui Hachimura got kicked so hard in the groin by a teammate, the Wizards rookie needed surgery.

That’s pretty awful. Yet, there’s still a new contender for the worst moment of Hachimura’s season.

At All-Star Weekend in Chicago for Rising Stars, Hachimura faced a kid in a Pop-A-Shot-like game. It didn’t go well for Hachimura.

Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News:

An NBA player losing to a kid is bad enough. Twice, we’re entering troubling territory.

But claiming the game is cheating, demanding to switch sides and still getting routed?

That’s a ROUGH look.