Caron Butler

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Report: Kings waiving Caron Butler, Duje Dukan

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You have to appreciate Caron Butler‘s savvy.

Butler seemingly wanted out of Sacramento. When the opportunity came, he opted into the final year of year of his Kings contract.

Yet, Butler is still getting his freedom.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings are going a variety of different directions: Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Garrett Temple and Matt Barnes. They don’t need Butler.

But Sacramento is still on the hook for Butler’s guaranteed minimum salary ($1,551,659).

If the 36-year-old Butler signs with another team, he can double dip — though set-off rules will limit his additional salary to $1,213,148 if he signs a minimum deal. Still, that’s not bad for daring the Kings to waive him.

Duje Dukan‘s salary was unguaranteed, so he’s off Sacramento’s cap. He should probably just feel fortunate for earning an NBA salary all of last season.

Vince Carter wins NBA’s Teammate of the Year

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Vince Carter has successfully transitioned from star to role player.

That’s not just learning to play with reduced athleticism, though Carter has. That’s being someone teams want around.

Carter is – and people noticed.

The Grizzlies forward won the 2015-16 Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.

Twelve finalists were chosen by a panel of NBA legends, NBA executives and and National Basketball Players Association executives. Then, current players voted among the 12.

The full voting (first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-place votes, total points):

An important note: In previous years, players were banned from voting for their teammates. For a teammate award. That’s why I dubbed this the Hearsay Award.

But the Hearsay Award is no more. Players are now allowed to vote for their teammates, and you can bet Carter got plenty of support from his fellow Grizzlies.

Reports: Kings’ “deflated” when George Karl wasn’t fired, Joerger setting new tone

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The Sacramento Kings desperately want to turn the page on the past 10 seasons — they are moving into a new building and see that as a new era and a chance to change the dynamic around the team.

They also have a new coach in Dave Joerger they are counting on to lead that change.

Caron Butler was on the kings Last season and was on ESPN’s First Take Friday, and talked about the impact former coach George Karl had on the locker room (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“As players, from All-Star break and everything, I mean, as far as we knew, he was fired. We’re in Philadelphia a game before All-Star break and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘You’re not moving [on], I’m coming back.’ It was deflating to the locker room, it was deflating to the guys, and we tried to move forward and tried to do the best that we possibly could. But that was deflating to the team, it was a big blow and it was tough to move forward.”

Everyone in the locker room and, frankly, around the league knew the Karl/DeMarcus Cousins relationship was doomed. From the start. The franchise needed to move on.

Joerger is trying to move on, trying to create a new culture. So far so good, at least to hear Willie Cauley-Stein say it. Here is what he told Jared Zwerling on the NBPA’s website:

“Yeah, I’ve spoken with him. A lot of it is just expanding my game out, allowing me to become something instead of being labeled as something. He’s giving me a chance to label myself, whereas other coaches in the past that automatically label you as something else.”

We’ll see if he and the organization can carry some of that momentum into the fall.

Rockets clinch playoff berth with 116-81 win over Kings

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HOUSTON (AP) — After it looked as if they’d be heading home early just a week ago, the Houston Rockets are in the playoffs after securing the final Western Conference playoff spot on the last day of the regular season.

“A lot of people wrote us off, thought we weren’t going to make the playoffs and here we are,” James Harden said.

Harden scored 38 points to lead the Rockets to an easy 116-81 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night for the playoff spot.

The Rockets never trailed and had a 64-44 lead at halftime behind 16 points from Harden and 10 each from Dwight Howard and Michael Beasley.

They won their last three games to sneak into the playoffs after losing three of the previous four to fall behind Utah and into ninth place in the West. Houston will meet top-seed Golden State in the first round of the playoffs this weekend.

“We … sat here at the beginning of the year thinking the playoffs wouldn’t have been this big of a struggle, so we had expectations of making the playoffs,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “So, now we have to get busy.”

Ben McLemore had 24 points for the Kings, in what was likely coach George Karl’s final game with the team amid reports that he could be fired as soon as Thursday. Karl went 44-68 since taking the job in February 2015, and this season is the 10th straight season in which the Kings did not make the playoffs.

Karl didn’t address his job status directly, but did reflect on his time with the Kings and said he thinks they built a good foundation for the future.

“There were many, many more good days than bad days, but there’s no question this season had a lot of negative to it,” he said. “But I think I’m proud of how we’ve persevered and fought through it and actually became a stronger team as we finished the year.”

The Rockets are in the postseason for the fourth straight year, but they certainly didn’t have the regular season they had hoped for after reaching the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1997 last season. They returned most of the pieces from that team that won 56 games, but weren’t able to build on last year’s success.

Things went wrong early this season and coach Kevin McHale was fired after the team won just four of its first 11 games. He was replaced by Bickerstaff, but it didn’t lead to more consistent play and the Rockets were never able to keep pace with the elite teams in the West.

After a loss to the Suns on Thursday, it seemed likely that Houston would miss out on the playoffs. Instead, Utah dropped two of its next three games and the Rockets got back on track to win the remainder of their games and lock up the last postseason spot.

“We needed some big wins and guys got those,” Harden said. “Tonight we played really well. Even though the Sacramento Kings were short-handed, we went out there and just took care of business. It’s about us from here on out.”

Sacramento was overmatched in this one from the start with Houston racing out to a 10-2 lead by the first media timeout. It wasn’t surprising considering the Kings dressed just eight players, with DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Darren Collison, Rudy Gay and Caron Butler sitting out for rest, and Omri Casspi (strained right hamstring) and Marco Belinelli (sore right foot) missing the game with injuries.

Houston led by 21 in the third quarter when Harden scored the next 10 points, with two 3-pointers, to push it to 88-57.

That spurt gave Harden his fourth straight 30-point game, which ties a career high, and it was his 38th game this season with at least 30 points. He played less than a minute in the fourth quarter, and he and the rest of Houston’s starters went to the bench for good after his 3-point play with about seven minutes remaining made it 103-71.

Harden set career marks in points (29), assists (7.5) and rebounds (6.1) to join LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to average at least 29 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a season.

TIP-INS

Kings: Eric Moreland did not play in the second half because of a sore left foot. … James Anderson added 13 points. … Willie Cauley-Stein had six points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block.

Rockets: Howard finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds. … Patrick Beverley had nine points and his six steals and 12 assists were both career highs. … K.J. McDaniels added 11 points with four rebounds. … Clint Capela had a career-high 17 rebounds.

HOWARD HELPS OUT

Howard hosted a blood drive on Wednesday to honor Turner sideline reporter Craig Sager, who is fighting acute myeloid leukemia. Howard visited donors at the drive after shootaround, and those who gave blood received a T-shirt featuring illustrations of Howard and Sager. Sager, who is receiving treatment in Houston, attended the game and received a loud ovation when he was introduced in the first quarter.

 

Report: Kings working with Ben McLemore on trade

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The Kings reportedly promised to try trading Caron Butler.

It hasn’t happened yet, but Sacramento is also reportedly partnering with another one of its players to find a deal – Ben McLemore.

Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

McLemore, sources say, is working with the Kings to try to find a new home via trade.

Word is that the Kings, who are desperate to end a playoff drought spanning nine seasons and counting before moving into a new building next season, prefer immediate help in trade talks more than future picks.

There should be much more interest in the 23-year-old McLemore than the 35-year-old Butler. McLemore has often struggled since entering the NBA, but his outside shot is developing, and he has shown glimpses of the potential that made him the No. 7 pick just three years ago.

That’s a regime change or two back in Sacramento, though. Vlade Divac and George Karl might not be as committed to McLemore.

McLemore had been starting before a wrist injury sidelined him for a few games. Still, he was a starter in name only. Backup Marco Belinelli plays more.

The Cavaliers were reportedly interested, but win-now Cleveland is a strange fit with one important caveat: McLemore shares an agent, Rich Paul, with LeBron James. Paul might want McLemore out of Sacramento, but I’d be shocked if the Kings would just dump him. They probably will require Paul to find a team willing to surrender value in return.

This seems like a poor time to sell low on a young, talented – admittedly underachieving – player. That’s especially true if the Kings, who are 4.5 games from playoff position, are seeking someone who can help immediately.

But these are the Kings, and there’s no telling what they’ll do.