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New CBA has special provision so James Harden, Russell Westbrook get PAID

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Last summer, the old CBA worked as the owners had hoped in the case of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden signed an extension to stay with the Rockets. After Kevin Durant bolted for the Bay, Westbrook extended his contract with the Thunder.

The new CBA is going to reward superstar players who stick with their teams — Stephen Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, and others who are All-NBA team players with the team that drafted them are in line for five-year, $207 million (or more) extensions. It’s the designated player rule — better named the Kevin Durant rule — that piles on the incentives for those players to stay with their teams (teams can offer 35 percent of the salary cap to those stars, not just 30 percent).

However, in framing the new CBA, both sides wanted to reward the players that inked a deal last summer, so a special provision benefiting Harden and Westbrook is in there, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The National Basketball Association’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes a special provision that grandfathers Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook into the windfall of super-max contract extensions available to several star players this summer, league sources told The Vertical.

This summer, Westbrook could sign a five-year, $219 million contract extension that would begin in the 2018-19 season. He’ll make $28.5 million in 2017-18.

Harden could sign for an additional four years and $171 million starting in 2019 – on top of the $58.7 million owed to him in the next two years of his current contract.

This is all part of the goal by the owners of small and middle market teams to make it hard for stars they draft to walk away. The incentives in the last CBA came in response to LeBron James leaving Cleveland for Miami. The stakes were upped when Durant made his move this summer, and the new CBA reflects that.

Players can still get out of town. If DeMarcus Cousins wants out of Sacramento, or eventually guys such as Kawhi Leonard or Anthony Davis want to leave their teams, they are free to do so — they are just going to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table. Maybe north of $60 million. For someone like Durant, who has a massive shoe deal with Nike, that contract money may not be enough to keep him in town. But it makes the discussion more interesting.

Zion Williamson has right knee soreness, won’t play final preseason game

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It’s the preseason, and so teams are trying to be extra cautious with their stars. That will apparently be the case this week as No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson has reportedly not traveled with his New Orlean Pelicans for the final preseason game of the year against the New York Knicks.

Williamson has apparently strained his right knee, and his not heading to New York with the team isn’t looking like it’s just for rest as the regular season approaches. Williamson may actually have a bit of soreness working against him right now, which is the last thing any NBA fans want to hear right now.

Via Twitter:

The release from the Pelicans says that Williamson remained in Louisiana to undergo further testing on his right knee.

Hopefully this is nothing serious and the season can get off to a thrilling start. It certainly looks to be headed in that direction based off of how Williamson has performed already in preseason action.

New Orleans kicks off the regular season on Oct. 22 against the defending champion Toronto Raptors in Ontario.

Michael Jordan opens first of 2 medical clinics in Charlotte

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — An emotional Michael Jordan unveiled the first of two medical clinics he and his family funded in Charlotte, North Carolina that will provide care to underprivileged members of the community.

The six-time NBA champion and Hornets owner was on hand Thursday for the grand opening of the $7 million Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic. Tears streamed down Jordan’s cheeks as he said, “this is a very emotional thing for me to be able to give back to a community that has supported me over the years.”

The clinic, located in a lower-income section of the city, will provide vital access to primary and preventive care to individuals in the community, including those who are uninsured or underinsured.

Jordan vowed to do more, saying “this is just the start of a battle of being able to touch as many people as we can.”

Jordan first announced the $7 million gift in 2017.

Andrew Wiggins doesn’t agree with people who don’t rank him very high

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This season, his sixth, is going to be the season where Andrew Wiggins looks and plays like he loves the game. His steadily-declining shooting percentages are going to rocket back up. He’s going to break out as an elite player who should have gone No. 1, and not just a guy who gets empty-calorie points.

That’s what Wiggins is thinking, anyway.

ESPN put out its list of top 100 players in the league and very reasonably did not have Wiggins on it, despite him scoring 18.1 points per game last season. In an excellent job of trying to create a second story out of the 100 list by asking about the “snub,” Wiggins said he isn’t worried about what people say about the four-years, $122 million still on his contract, but he wants to re-establish himself, he told Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

“Everyone is counting pockets. Some people are mad about [it], some people are happy for you,” Wiggins told ESPN. “That’s how the world goes, especially when you’ve got something they don’t have or do something they don’t do. That’s how the world goes.

“Even when I averaged almost 24 points and got the max deal, people were still saying stuff,” he added. “Look at max players and some max players don’t average as much, but it is what it is. I’m just trying to get right, get back on track.”

If you just shrugged your shoulders, join the rest of the league.

Most Timberwolves fans have moved on from counting Wiggins as the second star to help out Karl-Anthony Towns. Most front office people on other teams have moved on as well, as evidenced by Wiggins’ nonexistent trade value (sources around the league say Minnesota has tested the market only to find no team that wants that contract unless the Timberwolves throw in sweeteners). 

Minnesota’s new head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said Wiggins has to be a ‘main contributor’ if the Timberwolves are going to return to the playoffs. Which is one reason most experts have them missing out.

But Wiggins believes in himself. Timberwolves fans should expect and want nothing less than that, they just may not want to get their own expectations too high.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse shreds Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson

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The Raptors no longer have championship-level talent.

They still have championship-level expectations for effort and attention to detail.

Newcomers Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson are learning that the hard way.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

That is HARSH.

But the last time he was coaching, Nick Nurse was overseeing a dominant defense deep in the playoffs. It must be a dramatic adjustment going to preseason intensity and sans Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

Nurse might also be trying to motivate Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson, who have the tools to be more effective.

This aren’t new issue for these forwards, though. They were available so cheap for a reason.