Ten biggest NBA signings of the decade

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The amnesty clause, stretch provision and rapidly rising salary cap made toxic contracts less burdensome in the last decade than other times. On the highest levels, it was more about attracting top talent. Here are the most significant NBA signings – for better or worse – of the last decade (sign-and-trades that occurred after a player chose his destination count here):

10. Chris Bosh signs with Heat in 2010

He wasn’t the biggest star to sign with Miami that summer. Maybe the Heat still would have won big with their two superstars (more on them later) and Bosh’s big money divided among role players. But Miami signing three stars – not two stars and a few helpful role players – transfixed everyone. Considering how well he morphed into a supporting style, it’s easy to forget how good Bosh was with the Raptors. He was a go-to scorer, a perennial All-Star, a bona fide franchise player. And he played third fiddle for the Heat this summer.

9. Kyrie Irving signs with Nets in 2019

8. Kevin Durant signs with Nets in 2019

These signings go together, and obviously Brooklyn hasn’t accomplished anything notable yet. But Durant is an all-time great, and Irving is a true star. Them joining forces is notable – especially how they did it. Durant made waves by leaving the mighty Warriors. Irving caused an uproar by leaving the Celtics after pledging to re-sign. This was a wake-up call: Super teams can pop up anywhere.

7. Dwyane Wade signs with Heat in 2010

He also wasn’t the biggest star to sign with Miami that summer, and re-signing didn’t carry the same fanfare as switching teams. But Wade was an elite player who explored the market, especially the Bulls. Wade staying with the Heat keyed one of the biggest stories in NBA history and led to Miami winning two more titles.

6. Kawhi Leonard signs with Clippers in 2019

By leaving the Raptors, Leonard became the first consensus star to leave a defending champion for another team. That’s the Clippers’ gain, though we’ll see how far Leonard lifts L.A., especially considering his health concerns. Still, Leonard deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’ll manage his load through the long regular season and be ready for the playoffs. At his best, Leonard is arguably the NBA’s best player.

5. Stephen Curry signs four-year, $44 million extension with Warriors in 2012

When Curry was up for his rookie-scale contract extension, the Warriors reportedly told him they’d pay the max if he waited for free agency and got healthy. Instead, Curry — who’d been plagued by ankle injuries — took the security of this extension. That set the stage for a dynasty. Curry blossomed into an all-time great, and his bargain salary allowed Golden State to add Andre Iguodala then Kevin Durant. By not complaining about being underpaid, Curry helped set a team-first tone of sacrifice on the star-studded Warriors.

4. LeBron James signs with Lakers in 2018

LeBron immediately put the Lakers on another level. He didn’t immediately lift them from the lottery, but he changed how people viewed the once-great, but more-recently down-and-out franchise. With LeBron, the Lakers became an even bigger attention magnet. They lured Anthony Davis. Now, LeBron and Davis have Los Angeles back in title contention.

3. LeBron James signs with Cavaliers in 2014

LeBron does whatever he wants. Returning to Cleveland, where he was vilified? To a lousy team? Owned by Dan Gilbert, who wrote that heinous letter? That didn’t even have max cap room? LeBron demanded the Cavs do their part then made it all work. He forced the Cavaliers to clear more cap space, orchestrated a trade of No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love, got Gilbert to spend huge, put the team on his back and – in the signature moment of his career –a ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. Then, he left again.

2. Kevin Durant signs with Warriors in 2016

Durant both shook the rest of the league and torpedoed his own reputation by leaving the Thunder for the Warriors. Golden State won two straight titles and built a credible case as best team ever. But, despite his individual dominance, Durant couldn’t shake criticism for leaving the Thunder for the team that just beat them in the playoffs. Still, Durant led the Warriors to multiple championships. That’ll get remembered longer after heat-of-the-moment criticism fades.

1. LeBron James signs with Heat in 2010

This wasn’t just the biggest signing of the decade. It was the NBA’s biggest story of the decade. LeBron transformed the league’s power structure, tilting balance toward players. The NBA hasn’t been the same since. The Decision was pompous, and we still couldn’t look away. The Heat became the major story and generated massive attention. They delivered with four straight conference titles and two championships.

Jonathan Isaac, Al-Farouq Aminu not expected to be back for Magic when games restart

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Jonathan Isaac was having a breakout season for Orlando. He had become a go-to defensive stopper for the Magic, a long, athletic, switchable defender averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals a game. He was going to get All-Defensive team votes this season and looked like a future Defensive Player of the Year candidate. (On offense he’s averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, both career bests, but he is still a project.)

He hyperextended his knee and suffered a bone bruise in January, but it looks like neither he nor veteran Al-Farouq Aminu (torn meniscus) will be on the court for the Magic when games restart in July, reports Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Injured forwards Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) most likely will not be healthy enough to return…

“Not a whole lot of news there,” [Magic president of basketball operations Jeff] Weltman said when asked about the possibility of Isaac or Aminu returning. “As always, we’re going to wait and see how they respond to rehab. They’re both working very hard.

“There’s a difference of being healthy and then being safely healthy. It will have been a long, long time since those guys played and you know organizationally that we’re never going to put our guys in a position where they’re exposed to any sort of risk of injury. So that being said, we’ll just continue to see how they progress.”

Put plainly, the risk is not worth the reward. Isaac is a key part of what the Magic want to build in the future and they do not want to push him too hard to return for this handful of games.

Come July, the Magic will head down the street to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando as the eighth seed in the East with a 5.5 game lead over the ninth-seeded Wizards (who will not have John Wall back). If Washington can close that gap to four games or fewer during the eight “seeding games,” then there will be a two-game play-in series between the teams, with the Magic just needing to win one of the two to advance (assuming they are still the eight seed).

After that, it’s on to the first round of the playoffs and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Isaac’s defense would be helpful against Bradley Beal and/or Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Magic are thinking bigger picture.

Winning percentage will determine final seedings in NBA restart; regular tiebreakers used

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Heading into the NBA’s restart in Orlando, the Trail Blazers are the nine seed in the West, followed by the Pelicans and Kings. All three of those teams are 3.5 games back of Memphis for the eighth seed, however, Portland gets the nine seed because it played two more games than either New Orleans and Sacramento, went 1-1 in those two games, and that gives Portland a slightly better winning percentage (.439 to .438).

That winning percentage matters because it’s how the league will determine seeding in a situation where teams have played a different number of games, reports Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

In practical terms, this may not matter much.

In the West, if Portland and New Orleans both went 8-0 in the seeding games then winning percentage would play a role with the Blazers getting the higher seed. However, that scenario is highly unlikely. More likely is wins and losses in Orlando will decide this and other tiebreakers (New Orleans beat Sacramento in their one head-to-head meeting, but our projected schedule for those teams has them playing twice, so the head-to-head tiebreaker is still up in the air). Because of how the records shake out, tiebreakers are irrelevant to Portland — it will not tie any teams, winning percentage will decide their seed.

In the East, winning percentage is irrelevant for the playoff chase — either Washington gets within four games of Orlando hand forces play-in games for the final playoff spot, or it doesn’t and Orlando is in.

Eight teams not headed to Orlando considering mini-camps, summer games to help players

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Nine months is a long time to go without playing a basketball game.

That’s what the eight teams not going to the NBA season restart in Orlando — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State, Minnesota, and New York — face. And for all of those teams except the Warriors, developing young players to be the future core of the franchise is their goal, and no games from March to December will set that effort back.

Which is why the teams are talking about “mini-camps” — think college spring football — with two teams at least playing each other during those camps, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Among the front-office ideas presented to the NBA, sources said:

• A combination of voluntary and mandatory workouts for two weeks in July.
• Regional minicamps in August that include joint practices for a period of days and approximately three televised games.

Those teams also want other “voluntary” team workouts and to start their training camps for next season earlier than the teams headed to Orlando.

The NBA isn’t going to grant teams everything on their wish list, but there should be some allowance for organized mini-camps and scrimmages/exhibitions. This would be particularly important to New York (and maybe Chicago), where a new coach will be installing a new system and trying to start a new culture.

Those eight teams missed out on 17 or so “meaningless” games with their season put on hold, games that would have meant something in terms of developing young players and giving guys key minutes. The league should — and almost certainly will — take steps to allow those off-season camps and scrimmages, helping teams get their player development programs back on track.

Gregg Popovich’s powerful statement: ‘Our country is in trouble and the basic reason is race’

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As protests continue across the nation — sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, but really the culmination of decades of systemic and, sometimes, overt racism across the United States — NBA voices have spoken up. Players, coaches, and staff have done more than take to social media, they have participated in and led marches across the nation, and put their money where their mouth is.

One of those voices is Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

He had spoken to Dave Zirin at The Nation, and on Saturday he released a powerful video statement through the Spurs.

Popovich has been at the forefront of NBA voices willing to speak out on social issues and criticize President Donald Trump. Popovich’s voice carries a lot of weight, both as a leader of men, and as a former Air Force officer who underwent intelligence training and specialized in Soviet studies.

In addition to coaching the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich will coach the USA Basketball team in the Tokyo Olympics, now set for July of 2021.