Raymond Felton

Jeremy Lin
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Jeremy Lin: I wanted Rockets to lower offer sheet so Knicks would match

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After joining the Rockets in 2012 restricted free agency (via an offer sheet unmatched by the Knicks), Jeremy Lin made a blunt admission: He preferred New York.

We didn’t realize how much.

Lin, via MSG Network (which is spending the week revisiting Linsanity):

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever even said this publicly because, in my mind, like you said, I’m looking forward. And I think, I’m not sure if I said this publicly, but I don’t have any regrets. Because really, to me, I didn’t really have a decision like I only have one contract. I was only offered one contract. We couldn’t get anything from any other team. And so, I had to go find a contract from somebody. And I remember when Houston gave the offer, I promise you, I had just finished a workout and got into my car and got the phone call from my agent and I said to him, ‘can you tell Houston to lower the offer, this is too much. Can you tell someone to lower the offer’, because I wanted to go back to New York and I wanted New York to match. The time there, with the fans, everything. It was so special. I was like, I need to go back to New York. That’s where my heart is. So, I call my agent and said ‘hey, find a way to get out of Houston. Give me a less good of a contract so that New York will match it’ and he said, ‘we can’t, this is Houston’s final offer and we’ve been talking to them for a week, two weeks, three weeks, this is it. We’re at the end and this is the only offer that you got, you have to sign it.’ So I remember signing it, and again, this is no disrespect to Houston. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the organization or the city. I just knew New York. So, I actually was trying really hard. I was like, man, we have to find a way to make this contract, like bring down the money, bring down the years, whatever we need to do, make it easier. So that it’s not a poison pill. And that’s honestly where my heart was at the time and obviously it didn’t happen, but in my mind, I was like, ‘all right, well, I still hope that New York matches and there’s still a chance.’ But it was a long 72 hours.”

The problem: The Rockets actually wanted Lin. They even increased Lin’s guarantee to make the offer sheet more difficult to match.

Salary-cap rules at the time also aided Houston.

Because of the Arenas rule, Lin was limited to a $5,000,000 salary his first season and $5,225,000 salary his second season. The third year could pay more, and the Rockets offered $14,898,938 to bring his total compensation to $25,123,938.

For Houston, Lin would count against the cap each season at his average salary: $8,374,646.

But if the Knicks matched, their cap hit would have been Lin’s actual salary each season: $5,000,000, $5,225,000 then $14,898,938. That third-year balloon payment could have caused a jam in 2014-15.

As a result of this situation and the Rockets signing Omer Asik to an identically structured offer sheet (which the Bulls didn’t match), the NBA changed its rules in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Now, the matching team can choose whether to make the cap hit the player’s actual or average salary.

That was too late for Lin, though.

Even if it weren’t, we’ll never know whether the Knicks would have matched.

New York star Carmelo Anthony publicly called Lin’s offer “ridiculous.” The Knicks found a point guard they liked in Raymond Felton. And it’s not as if Lin proved to be great value on this deal. Houston had to attach a first-round pick just to dump Lin on the Lakers a couple years later.

But Lin carried incredible star power and was intriguing as a player. If it were a little easier to keep him, New York might have.

Would Linsanity have continued? Doubtful. That was a well-timed hot streak, a solid player going supernova. But Lin and the Knicks are left with the “what if?”

That’s not ideal, but it’s better than another potential outcome – the Knicks matching, Lin not living up to his contract and New York turning on him.

Ten biggest NBA trades of the decade

Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant
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Here are the most significant NBA trades – for better or worse – of the last decade:

10. Nuggets trade Carmelo Anthony to Knicks in 2011

The Anthony trade saga loomed over the league for a while, which is partially why this trade – and the next one – rank ahead of a few higher-impact deals like Chris Paul to the Rockets, Celtics trading the No. 1 pick (Markelle Fultz) to 76ers for the No. 3  pick (Jayson Tatum) and the Clippers trading a first-rounder that became No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving to unload Baron Davis’ contract. Anthony was a very good player. But New York had to give up so much to acquire him then had to pay him such a large share of the salary cap, it made winning around him difficult. The Knicks mostly weren’t up to the task. Denver got several players and picks – Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, a first-rounder used to become Andre Iguodala and a first-rounder that became Jamal Murray – that helped the Nuggets in multiple eras of winning.

9. Magic trade Dwight Howard trade to Lakers in 2012

This trade set all four involved teams in motion. After a lengthy drama, Orlando moved its big star and settled into mediocrity. The Lakers got a hobbled Howard for a year, showed cracks in their foundation, watched Howard leave for the Rockets in unrestricted free agency then stunk a while. The 76ers got Andrew Bynum, who turned out to be damaged goods and was mostly finished. That failure made The Process look appealing. Andre Iguodala helped the Nuggets win 57 games, though Denver lost in the first round.

8. Hawks trade Luka Doncic to Mavericks for Trae Young in 2018

This draft-night trade will shape these teams for a long time. Dallas will probably come out ahead. Doncic and Young are both already stars. Doncic might already be a superstar. The extra pick the Hawks got for moving down from No. 3 to No. 5 turned into Cam Reddish, whose early returns haven’t been encouraging. But Young is good enough to at least pose a challenge as this trade gets re-analyzed and re-re-analyzed over the next decade.

7. Celtics trade Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Nets in 2013

Of all Brooklyn’s ill-fated moves of this era (Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson) this was the coup de grace. With pick swaps, the Nets pushed the limits of the Stepien rule – and paid for it. Brooklyn wound up sending Boston the No. 17 pick in 2014, No. 3 pick in 2016, No. 1 pick in 2017 and No. 8 pick in 2018. Garnett and Pierce were over the hill, and their big contracts left the Nets stuck. The Celtics meanwhile gained assets essential to acquiring Kyrie Irving and Jason Tatum. Ironically, Boston built a winner far quicker than Brooklyn.

6. Pelicans trade Anthony Davis to Lakers in 2019

Davis’ trade request sabotaged the Pelicans’ season and created a stir that hovered over the whole league. Davis got his wish, joining Los Angeles. New Orleans got major return. And the Lakers got a second superstar to pair with LeBron. It’s a little risky with Davis approaching unrestricted free agency. But if he leaves, it changes only the winners of the trade. It’d still be a big deal.

5. New Orleans Hornets trade Chris Paul to Clippers in 2011

This trade is most infamous for the trade it wasn’t. Ostensibly acting as governor for the league-owned Hornets, NBA commissioner David Stern nixed a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. Lakers fans still haven’t forgiven Stern, and theories run rampant about what he truly meant by “basketball reasons.” Paul led the Clippers to their best era in franchise history, throwing lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Though the Clippers never advanced past the second round, Paul helped the beleaguered franchise gain credibility, paving the way for L.A. to get Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

4. Spurs trade Kawhi Leonard to Raptors in 2018

This trade won Toronto a championship. It’s hard to beat that. Though some have downplayed the risk – especially in hindsight – the Raptors took a real chance by disrupting their very-good status quo to raise their ceiling. They stayed only one season, but Leonard and Danny Greenan underrated accompaniment – delivered immediately. By getting so little (DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a draft pick that became Keldon Johnson) for its superstar, San Antonio might have sealed the end of its empire.

3. Pacers trade Kawhi Leonard to Spurs in 2011

The Spurs didn’t want to move Hill, a nice example of their developmental system. Leonard became the crown jewel of San Antonio’s culture. He grew into the Spurs’ best player, winning 2014 NBA Finals MVP as they lengthened their dynasty. San Antonio and Indiana were right about Hill’s potential. He became a quality starter on the championship-contending Pacers that fought the Heat hard, but twice came up short. For a while, this trade seemed like a win-win. But Leonard was so good, the Spurs came out way ahead, even considering his unpleasant departure from San Antonio.

2. Clippers trade for Paul George in 2019

L.A. surrendered an unprecedented package –  five first-round picks, two first-round pick swaps, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. Worth it for just George? No. But this trade cinched the Clippers getting Kawhi Leonard, too. There’s no guarantee this works out for L.A. Leonard and George are each locked up only two seasons. But this trade created an instant championship contender. That’s worth the potentially massive cost. Oklahoma City got a huge jump on its rebuild, gaining a threatening bunch of picks for a team that once drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in quick succession.

1. Thunder trade James Harden to Rockets

This trade undermined a budding dynasty in Oklahoma City and established Houston as a force for years to come. We’ll never know how Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden would have developed together. But considering the Thunder never won a title with any of them, it’s natural to wonder, “What if?” Questions about why Oklahoma City made this trade, particularly centered on the luxury tax, continue to this day. Even Rockets general manager Daryl Morey admits he didn’t foresee Harden becoming this good. But Houston targeted Harden and gets all the credit for landing a superstar just before everyone realized he should be valued like one.

Report: Iman Shumpert rejects offer from Rockets, who’ll have several familiar names in minicamp

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Iman Shumpert is the best free agent available.

Why hasn’t he signed yet? Apparently because he spent the offseason negotiating with the Rockets, but those talks haven’t produced a deal.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kelly Iko of The Athletic:

Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:

I wonder whether Houston tried to sign Shumpert to a contract similar to Nene’s, creating another trade chip. The Rockets are close to the luxury tax and probably wouldn’t guarantee Shumpert much. It doesn’t take months to negotiate a simple minimum contract.

Shumpert (29) is a credible wing in a league starving for them. He played well for the Kings last season before getting traded to Houston, where he struggled. Other teams should be interested.

The Rockets have just nine players with guaranteed salaries. There’s plenty of room for some of these past-their-prime veterans to make the regular-season roster. It might mostly depend on which of Terrence Jones (27), Nick Young (34), Luc Mbah a Moute (33), Corey Brewer (33), Raymond Felton (35) and Thabo Sefolosha (35) are in the best shape at this stage.

Jazz forward Thabo Sefolosha: ‘I stand 100 percent with Russell Westbrook’

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Russell Westbrook profanely yelled at a fan during the Thunder’s win over the Jazz last night:

The important question: Why?

Westbrook said the fan made inappropriate and personal remarks toward Westbrook. The fan denied it. Westbrook’s teammates, Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton, backed Westbrook’s account.

Sefolosha on Instagram:

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Sefolosha’s perspective is important.

Though he’s a former teammate of Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Sefolosha plays in Utah. It’d be easy for Sefolosha to stay out of this and avoid local backlash.

But what’s right is right.

Sefolosha is all too familiar with problematic power dynamics. New York police officers broke his leg while arresting him for not moving out of the way quickly enough in a chaotic situation two years ago. His then-Hawks teammate Pero Antic, who was also arrested, called it pure racism.

Westbrook has contended Jazz fans have repeatedly gone too far. At this point, they might be emboldened to continue crossing the line.

A player on their team calling for this type of heckling to end will hopefully change behavior in Utah.

Paul George, Russell Westbrook each have triple-doubles in Thunder win

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook set an NBA record with his 10th straight triple-double, Paul George scored 47 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-111 on Monday night.

Westbrook broke a tie with Wilt Chamberlain, who had nine straight triple-doubles in 1968, by finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. He clinched the record on an assist to George for a 3-pointer with 3:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was his 23rd triple-double of the season and the 127th of his career.

George had 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the third triple-double of his career. Rookie Deonte Burton had a career-high 18 points and Raymond Felton added a season-high 15 for the Thunder.

Damian Lillard scored 31 points and Jake Layman added 17 for Portland.

The Thunder shot 56 percent in the first half to lead 68-49 at the break. George scored 21 points and Felton added 15.

The Trail Blazers started the second half on a 7-0 run to make things interesting, and they trimmed Oklahoma City’s lead to 87-82 by the end of the third quarter.

Westbrook had five assists heading into the fourth, and he re-entered the game after a rest with 9:36 remaining. He got his first assist of the quarter with 6:54 left, but was up to his ninth with 4:57 to play.