May: The Future of Four Floundering Flagship Franchises

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We are about to witness what may be a first in the long history of the NBA. For the first time, four of the JacksonKnicksleague’s flagship franchises could well be out of the playoffs.

OK, the Knicks aren’t technically out of the race in the Hindenburg Conference, but they have a lot of ground to make up on Atlanta – four games in the loss column with 13 to play. The Celtics, Lakers and 76ers all are making plans for the 2014 draft lottery and the riches it may (or may not) provide.

Twenty years ago, the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers all missed the postseason, but the Pat Riley-coached Knicks made it all the way to the NBA Finals, losing in seven games to the Houston Rockets. That remains the best Knicks’ playoff run since the 1973 championship season (moreso than their surprising appearance in the 1999 Finals, where they were decided underdogs to the Spurs and lost in five.)

But at no time since 1949, when the Lakers entered the NBA in Minneapolis, and the 76ers came in as the Syracuse Nationals, have all four of these marquee teams been on the outside looking in when the playoffs arrived. (The Celtics and Knicks started in 1946.)

Sprung: Celtics aren’t tanking, they’re building

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200px-Brad_Stevens_on_Butler_sidelineIf the Boston Celtics are actually tanking, they are doing a really bad job of it.

The Celtics played three very different kinds of basketball games over the previous five days – I was at two of them – that showed a lot about the way this team is operating.

And giving away wins for ping-pong balls isn’t part of the plan.

On Friday, Boston scored the first 14 points against Denver and led 39-15 after the first quarter. The Celtics nearly gave away all of that lead but regrouped and came away with a 106-98 home win.

Boston learned from that and made its fast start stick two days later in New York. The Celtics had leads of 12-0, 18-1, 25-3 and 35-11 in the first quarter. They were never threatened in a 114-73 rout, the largest margin for any game this season.

It was Boston’s sixth win in eight games, pushing the supposed tank into first place in the abysmal Atlantic Division, which still gets an automatic playoff berth.

StatBox Breakdown: A Look At Who Got Extensions; and Who Didn’t

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220px-Avery_Bradley_and_Jordan_CrawfordThe deadline for teams to sign players from the draft class of 2010 to extensions came and went at the stroke of midnight ET on Nov. 1. Those who did not get extensions will be unrestricted free agents this summer.

Six players received extensions, with three of them getting done during the offseason. Two more were completed during training camp and the last one was executed Thursday in Memphis, just hours before the deadline.

Meanwhile, three other rumored extensions did not get done, with rebuilding clubs unwilling to pull the trigger. Perhaps the biggest surprise was no extension for Eric Bledson of the Suns, who was supposed to be a major rebuilding piece.

Which teams were prudent in signing – or not signing – their three-year veterans? Let’s take a closer look from a statistical standpoint.

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SH Blog: Raptors will move “anyone but Valanciunas”; will Ricky Davis get buckets in the D-League?

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We’re still in the first week of the season, but a few things are already clear: Michael Carter-Williams can play, the Warriors are fun to watch, and the Clippers you know and love are still the Clippers you know and love. As long as you only started watching them when Chris Paul showed up.

SH Blog: Jackson thought Kobe faked injury, Bledsoe and Hayward to become restricted free agents

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Some of the teams around the league had tough decisions to make on Thursday with the talented but unproven players they have on their rosters. With the deadline approaching for rookie extensions, do you pay big money knowing those players could hit the market and sign huge offer sheets? Or do you let the season play out and hope that they don’t exceed your expectations? With Eric Bledsoe and Gordon Hayward, their respective teams have decided to take a risk.

STORY OF THE DAY:

Eric BledsoeAfter trading for Bledsoe in the offseason, the Phoenix Suns have failed to reach an agreement with the guard who is ready to blossom. The Utah Jazz are on the same boat after failing to lock up Hayward. The two players will now be restricted free agents when the summer arrives. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has details:

After failing to reach an agreement on a rookie contract extension before Thursday’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, talented young forward Gordon Hayward will enter restricted free agency next summer, too..

Also, the Phoenix Suns and Eric Bledsoe were unable to come to an agreement on a rookie contract extension, and the young point guard will join fellow 2010 draft class members Hayward and Detroit Pistons forward Greg Monroe as three of the most prominent players in July’s restricted free agency period.

The sides never came close on a deal, remaining several million dollars apart, league sources told Yahoo. Hayward had been seeking a deal in the four-year, $50-million plus range, sources said.

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