Dan Feldman

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Lamar Odom: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban kicked me during game while I played for Dallas

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban oversaw an organization with a sexual-harassment problem. He said he’d cross the street if he saw “a black kid in a hoodie” late at night. He praised former Clippers owner Donald Sterling years after Sterling’s racist and sexist practices had come to light.

Now we’re hearing Cuban – in a page straight from Sterling’s playbook – heckled his own player during games.

Lamar Odom had a miserable 2011-12 season in Dallas. He handled personal issues by abusing drugs, played poorly and even later apologized to Cuban. In his new book, Odom details Cuban’s profane heckles.

Odom said Cuban also once went beyond verbal degradation.

Odom, via D Magazine:

During one homestand, I was having possibly the worst game of the season. Head coach Rick Carlisle subbed me out, and I looked for a seat near the coaches, but none were available. So I went down to the only open seat at the end of the bench. Right next to Cuban.

Cuban extended his right foot and kicked my shin. “Come on, motherf[—]er!” he shouted.

I was stunned. This wasn’t a tap. I felt it. That was the last straw. It was painfully clear he did not respect me as a man.

This might get brushed off because it was so long ago and because Odom has become gossip-page fodder. Reality-TV stars generally don’t get taken seriously.

But the NBA should investigate Odom’s claim.

Look at the wrath Warriors minority Mark Stevens (rightfully) received for pushing Kyle Lowry during the NBA Finals. We now recognize that as inexcusable, and this sounds even worse.

Maybe Cuban remembers the story differently. He deserves a chance to defend himself.

But this should receive deeper attention.

With this era’s flame still flickering, Pistons load bench with name recognition

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Just three teams have had the same trio of $16 million-plus-salary players each of the previous two seasons and next season:

Golden State won a championship, returned to the NBA Finals and enters next season with four-ish stars in a two-star league.

Detroit missed the playoffs, got swept in the first round and enters next season with, um, a reasonable chance at making the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Pistons’ expensive core has underwhelmed while limiting flexibility. Drummond and Jackson are paid too much to trade for value and too good to tank with. The best option is probably the least drastic, keeping this group together and hoping for the best.

Same story last summer. Same story this summer.

But maybe not same story next summer.

Jackson’s contract expires after next season. Drummond has a player option he sounds ready to decline. At that point, the Pistons must decide what to do with Griffin – keep his top supporting players, find new ones or trade him to kickstart a rebuild.

In the meantime, Detroit added yet another expensive potential starter and a few recognizable reserves. This far into the plan – no matter how lackluster the results so far – the present remains a high priority.

The Pistons turned Jon Leuer‘s deadweight contract and the No. 45 pick into Tony Snell, No. 37 pick Deividas Sirvydis, No. 57 pick Jordan Bone, the Trail Blazers’ 2023 second-rounder and $3 million. I would’ve rather kept Snell and the No. 30 pick sent by the Bucks for taking his undesirable contract (and Detroit’s original second-rounder, No. 45). But that wouldn’t have generated the $3 million cash.

Milwaukee dumped Snell because he’s too expensive for a fringe rotation player there and due $12,178,571 in 2020-21. Leuer’s contract was expiring. But the Pistons are so desperate on the wing, they might start Snell.

The Pistons also signed Derrick Rose (two years, $15 million), Markieff Morris (two years, $6.56 million) and Joe Johnson (partially guaranteed, surely minimum). That’s a former MVP, someone who finished fourth in Most Improved Player voting at age 24 and a seven-time All-Star.

But those likely backups are past their primes. Rose looked like he’d fall out of the NBA before a resurgent/outlier-shooting season last year. Though helpful more often recently, Morris didn’t crack the Thunder’s playoff rotation. Johnson has been playing in a 3-on-3 league for NBA retirees.

Expectations shouldn’t be too high. But there’s at least hope this group packs more punch than departed Ish Smith provided off the bench. More bench scoring could limit the load on Griffin, who – even in his best season in years – wore down by the playoffs.

Because of Rose’s injury history, it was important to sign Tim Frazier (minimum) as third point guard. Claiming Christian Wood off waivers was another a good under-the-radar move. But signing Joe Johnson will make it harder for Wood to make the regular-season roster.

If all goes well, Detroit’s best move of the offseason will be drafting Sekou Doumbouya No. 15. I rated him No. 7 on my board. But that was because I like his raw talent in a weak draft, not because I’m convinced he’ll become a good NBA player. It’ll take a while to assess that pick.

This summer wasn’t easy for the Pistons, but it was simple. Their status quo could change soon. If they play well next season, they’ll face difficult choices with Jackson and maybe Drummond. If they don’t play well next season, that’ll invite its own problems.

They’re hoping to face the play-well issues and built this team accordingly. But with limited flexibility, the outlook remains similar, with next summer looming as the major inflection point.

Offseason grade: C

Shaun Livingston retires

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Shaun Livingston was a high school phenom drafted No. 4 overall by the Clippers. He was damaged goods with a devastating knee injury that nearly caused amputation and cost him nearly two full seasons. He was a savvy veteran who won three championships with the Warriors.

His career was full.

And now it’s finished.

Livingston:

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After 15 years in the NBA, I’m excited, sad, fortunate and grateful all in one breath. Hard to put into a caption all of the emotions it takes to try and accomplish your dreams. I wasn’t supposed to be here. Anybody that has beat the odds understands the mental and emotional strain it takes to inspire yourself on an uphill war, let alone inspire others. “The injury” gave me a chance to find and prove to myself (and the world) that I wouldn’t be defined by my circumstances. With my time in the League what I will be most proud of is the fact that my character, values and faith were tested, and I persevered. To my pops that told me to “go get the big ball” I THANK YOU. To my Grandpa that always showed me there was more to life than basketball I THANK YOU. To my Uncles that helped raise me like I was one of their own, THANK YOU. To my wife and kids…the future IS BRIGHTER than our past, and I couldn’t see myself taking on this chapter without you. To all of my teammates, coaches, TRAINERS, staff, my journey is a collection of experiences, and those of you that helped me along the way, THANK YOU! To all the fans and anybody else that inspired me, supported me, cheered for me, or even said good words about me, THANK YOU. “The greatest gift we can give is service to others” #Raiseaglass 🍷

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Livingston had been contemplating retiring. The Warriors waiving him likely only made the decision easier. The 34-year-old could have maybe found a team in free agency. There’s a market for decent backup point guards. But a new team would have been an adjustment and maybe too much of one at this stage.

Though he never fulfilled the star track he appeared to be heading down, Livingston earned so much respect for his perseverance after the injury. His mid-range shot became his signature move – an ironically boring play for someone once so flashy. But it befits the necessary transformation. Livingston found a role and filled it well, stretching his career a once-unfathomable 15 years.

It’s a career to be proud of.

Australia’s Luc Longley: ‘Spain gets kissed on the d– by the basketball gods every time we play them’

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Spain will play Argentina in the FIBA World Cup championship game Sunday.

But Australia stole the show in the semifinals.

Argentina advanced with an 80-66 win over France, which just beat Team USA. Says something about the state of American basketball, huh?

In the other semifinal, Spain beat Australia, 95-88, in double overtime. Late in the fourth quarter, Andrew Bogut fouled Marc Gasol (33 points) – a controversial whistle that Bogut responded to with a money gesture:

Then, Bogut really got going. As did Australia assistant coach Luc Longley.

Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports Australia:

As he walked through the mixed zone after the loss, Bogut shouted, “We all know where FIBA’s headquarters is. It’s a f***ing disgrace. Cheating ass motherf***ers… Google where headquarters of f***ing FIBA is… f***ing disgrace.”

FIBA’s headquarters are in Switzerland. Was Bogut implying the organization favored European teams? Or was he incorrectly implying FIBA was located in Spain? With his conspiracy theories, it’s hard (and not worthwhile) to keep up.

I won’t assume FIBA is beyond reproach. But sometimes, a bad call is just a bad call. These are not the world’s best referees.

Nene’s contract gives Rockets valuable trade chip

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Under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, players’ full salaries counted toward trades. It didn’t matter whether the salary was fully guaranteed, partially guaranteed or unguaranteed. Teams are generally required to match salary in trades, but this offered a workaround.

A team could trade someone with a guaranteed $10 million salary for someone with a $10 million unguaranteed salary then waive the unguaranteed player. The salaries technically matched, but one team added $10 million in payroll while the other team shed $10 million in payroll. That hardly met the intention of matching salaries.

The current CBA closed that loophole. Now, only the guaranteed portion of a player’s salary counts as outgoing for matching purposes while the full salary counts for incoming. That’s why J.R. Smith – who signed under the previous CBA and therefore still fit under the previous rules – looked so valuable.

But the Rockets have found another way to get a similarly helpful player. (Of course, Daryl Morey cooked this up.) Houston’s deal with Nene makes him one of the NBA’s most intriguing trade chips.

Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights:

Nene and Houston signed a two-year contract that will pay him the minimum in each year in base salary and enough likely bonuses to take him to $10 million in total salary each season.

Bobby Marks of ESPN:

The bonuses in his contract are broken down into 3 categories; 1) $2.435M for playing at least 10 games and 52+ wins; 2) $2.5M for playing at least 25 games and 52+ wins; 3) $2.5M for playing at least 40 games and 52+ wins.

Incentives are deemed likely or unlikely by whether or not they were met the previous season. Nene played 42 games for the 53-win Rockets. So, these incentives are likely. The only limit on likely incentives is a max salary. (Unlikely incentives are capped at 15% of base salary.)

Nene re-signed through Bird Rights, meaning Houston could give him any salary up to the max. His base salary plus likely incentives count as his cap number.

So, that’s a $10 million trade chip. The key: His team can pay only the guaranteed portion of his salary. These technically likely bonuses are realistically unlikely ever to be triggered. It’s a great way for another team to trim salary.

Nene can be traded Jan. 15. The trade deadline is Feb. 6. That’s the window to watch.

Here’s the big catch: Trading Nene this way would likely push the Rockets into the luxury tax. The main idea is using his contract to acquire a better, more expensive player. Will owner Tilman Fertitta go for that? He has talked big but delivered less.

Only base salary plus met incentives count toward the luxury tax, which isn’t assessed until the final day of the regular season. Houston controls his playing time and surely won’t let him trigger too many, or any, bonuses. So, if they don’t trade him for value, the Rockets should easily enough avoid the tax if desired.

Whatever money Nene earns this season will be a nice windfall for a player who seemingly planned to retired. Remember, an important aspect of this scheme is him not playing much. That could explain why he didn’t retire. Will the Rockets even make him show up?

This type of contract isn’t completely unprecedented. The Laker structured Yi Jianlian’s contract similarly in 2016. But that was under the previous CBA, when a simpler unguaranteed deal would’ve brought the same trade upside. Los Angeles waived Yi before the season.

This too could amount to nothing. But this opens the door for big spending to improve the team. We’ll see whether Houston steps through it.