Once with star forward Rudy Gay and a steady, familiar bench, and once without.
Dwight Howard dominates the paint on both ends, Kobe Bryant plays less than 30 minutes for the first time this season, Steve Nash runs the offense with precision, the defense has its best game in weeks and the Lakers run away with a 20-point win in their Sunday home whites.
So, everything’s back to normal again in Tinseltown, right?
Who cares that it was against the Cavaliers, who lose three of every four games they play? Or that Cleveland was missing Anderson Varejao, their best rebounder, post defender and energy player? Or that Howard and Bryant were primarily matched up against rookies Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters?
SH Blog: Billy King believes the Nets can win championship, Jason Terry’s mission is to kill the Heat or the Lakers
With the season approaching and the players gearing up for training camp, there’s not much to be done except discuss goals and aspirations for the upcoming season, as well as feelings about all that has happened over the summer. That’s exactly what today’s blog will contain plenty of – goals and feelings. See how Jose Calderon feels about backing up Kyle Lowry, why Doc Rivers blames himself for Ray Allen’s unhappiness, what Billy King thinks about the level of the Nets roster and much more below:
- Chris Paul may play one preseason game before the start of the season as he recovers from an injured thumb, from Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles: “Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul went through basketball drills without a protective brace around his right thumb for the first time Monday, and said he anticipates playing in at least one preseason game and being ready for the Clippers’ season opener Oct. 30 versus the Memphis Grizzlies. ”Today was the first day they actually allowed me to shoot layups, so today was the best day ever,” Paul told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “I hope I get a preseason game in before the season. I probably have to start off the season wearing a brace, but I get to wear the brace less and less. I wear it when I go to sleep, but I’m on track. I go to rehab every single morning at 6:30 a.m.” Paul underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb last month after injuring it during Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas back in July.”
- Rasheed Wallace will have the choice to join the Knicks. Or don’t, according to Marc Berman of New York Post: “It’s up to Rasheed. The Knicks are willing to take a gamble on 6-foot-11 power forward Rasheed Wallace, who retired two seasons ago after finishing a disappointing one-year stint as a Celtic. But Wallace, who worked out with Knicks players Saturday at their training facility, still has not decided whether he is willing to dedicate himself to getting himself back in NBA shape at age 38. Clearly, he’s nowhere close now. Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who was on Larry Brown’s staff in 2004 when the Pistons won the title with Wallace as a linchpin, wants this to happen. The Knicks feel they have nothing to lose for the veteran’s minimum of $1.7 million.”
- Lou Amundson had to choose the Timberwolves over the Knicks to ensure more playing time, according to Alan Hahn of MSG Network: “Amundson was concerned about being one of the last free agents standing this late in the offseason. With the reality of a veterans minimum staring him in the face, Amundson, a hustle, intangibles player best suited for a reserve role, knew he had to go where he can get enough burn to earn a better contract after this season. He wasn’t going to get that role here in New York, not with Carmelo Anthony expecting to get ticks at power forward when Amar’e Stoudemire goes to the bench. Amundson did have strong interest in playing in New York, but this wasn’t the best opportunity for him, and his career, right now.”
- Kyrie Irving discussed a number of things with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports, including his inability to do anything with his broken hand and what it meant to play against Team USA over the summer: “Kyrie Irving was back at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice facility on Monday, playing in his first five-on-five scrimmage since breaking his right hand more than two months ago… Irving improved his left-hand dribbling skills while he was sidelined, but he couldn’t do much with his right hand. ”I couldn’t tie my shoes,” Irving said. “I couldn’t put my belt on. There were a few things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t cook, open up juice. I had my best friend and my father with me all the time.”… Irving played well for the Select Team against Team USA during the Olympic training camp in early July. ”I came on a mission to prove that I was one of the best guards there,” Irving said of competing against Team USA this summer. “I came in wanting to show everybody why I was the No. 1 pick and the Rookie of the Year.”
- Think Jose Calderon is upset about the acquisition of Kyle Lowry? Don’t expect to hear him say it, from Doug Smith of thestar.com: “I don’t know if we have to use that word (controversy) before even training camp,” said Calderon before flatly denying a summer report that he was put out by the acquisition of Lowry and wanted a trade from the only NBA team he’s ever played for. “I think we are just two more players for the Raptors team, we’re going to try to win games for the Raptors. “I think it’s just wanting to make a big thing before anything has started. It doesn’t matter, we have to win games, we want to make the playoffs. If he scores 20 points a game, I’ll be happy; it’s helping us win.”
- Doc Rivers blames himself for the unhappiness of Ray Allen during his tenure as a Celtic, according to Jackie MacMullan of ESPN Boston: “At some point, the Boston Celtics needed to get over Ray Allen. Let’s just say Doc Rivers is there. ”I tell you what,” Rivers declared, “You give me [Rajon] Rondo and Avery [Bradley] andJason Terry and Courtney Lee and I’ll take that four-guard rotation over any other in the league.”… ”It’s just not right to put it all on Rondo,” Rivers said. “Ray didn’t leave because of Rondo. He left because of Ray.”He wanted the ball more. He wanted a bunch of different things. He didn’t feel loved. That doesn’t make Ray a bad guy.”I needed to take some responsibility for [his unhappiness]. I made some of the decisions on how we should use Ray, and I would say Ray played pretty well in the role we drew up for him. ”What it came down to was I felt I’d rather have the ball in Rajon’s hands. That was Ray’s problem, not Rajon’s. Rondo was the guy with the ball. It’s not his fault.”
Andrew Bynum is feeling good after going through a knee procedure in Germany, according to Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com: “New Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo confirmed that star center Andrew Bynum returned to the U.S. last week after receiving a plasma therapy injection in Germany. DiLeo said at his introductory news conference Monday that Bynum told the Sixers “he feels very good” and will be ready for next Tuesday’s start of training camp at Saint Joseph’s University. Bynum received the injection to reduce the inflammation in his occasionally troublesome knees. Bynum decided to fly to Europe for the procedure after former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant raved about how much it helped his knees. In other Bynum news, DiLeo said the team and agent David Lee have yet to speak about a contract extension. Bynum, set to make $16.5 million this season, can become a free agent July 1.”
- Billy King believes the Nets are capable of winning a championship with the current roster, from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York: “I think we’ve got talent. I think we’ve got a good team. And now it’s gonna be how quickly do those pieces jell,” King said. “We have a team that’s a playoff team on paper. I think we have a team that can withstand injuries because we have depth. ”Can we win a championship? Yeah. But it takes luck in an NBA season to do that. You’ve gotta be healthy, get some breaks and the ball has to bounce your way sometimes.”
- Brook Lopez is looking forward to proving the doubters wrong now that he is fully recovered from his foot issues, from Tim Bontemps of New York Post: “There has been plenty of debate about whether Brook Lopez is worthy of the four-year maximum contract he signed with the Nets as a restricted free agent this summer following an injury-plagued season. But now that Lopez has fully recovered from the pair of foot injuries that limited him to just five games last season, he’s ready for this season to get underway and for the chance to prove his doubters wrong. “I just can’t wait,” Lopez said yesterday at the opening of the Nets team shop at Barclays Center. “I’m glad that it was just talk and it has passed. For this moment, and for the foreseeable future, I’m here, and I’m excited to go out there with my comrades and play on the floor.”
- Isiah Thomas may have a bad reputation as an executive, but he does his share of notable work off the court, from Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago: “Ninety to 95 percent of the people who are living in poverty in those situations, they’re kids going to schools, their parents are doing the right things,” Thomas said. “There’s a community of the church, community of aunts and uncles who are about contributing positively to society. ”Now, there is a fraction to be addressed, and we need to address that small minority that is in need and is doing harm to the community. We are all affected by it personally.” Thomas isn’t just saying Chicago needs help, he’s also trying to provide it. He has teamed up with St. Sabina on the South Side and father Michael Pfleger to create the PEACE basketball tournament, which will unite rival gang members through basketball in hopes of ceasing the violence between them. The tournament will be held at St. Sabina’s gymnasium from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday.”
- Check out the projected starting lineup for the Blazers, from Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:
- How difficult was it for Anthony Tolliver to leave the Timberwolves? Not at all, from Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida: “Anthony Tolliver is critical of Timberwolves upon his exit. Said they never really offered to bring him back. “No,’’ Tolliver, a power forward, said when asked whether it was tough at all to leave the Timberwolves after two seasons. “It’s a business. They told me they were looking to bring me back… But they never really offered me anything. They had said signing me was a priority, but at the end of the day they didn’t move forward. Everything happens for a reason. It’s all part of the business.’’
- Marquis Daniels will join the Milwaukee Bucks, according to Sam Amick of SI:
- Jason Terry wants to kill some teams, from A. Sherrod Blakely: “First group or second group, Terry’s focus this season remains the same. ”My mission is to kill; whether it’s the Heat, whether it’s the Lakers. Hopefully both. That’s my mission, and that’s what I’m here to do,” Terry said on Tuesday shortly before teeing off at the Fifth Annual USI Shamrock Classic which was hosted by the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation.”
- Clyde Drexler believes the Suns are a fourth or a fifth-seed playoff team, from Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: “They’ve got a real team now,” Drexler said in initiating a discussion about the Suns while attending the Jerry Colangelo Basketball Hall of Fame Golf Classic in Litchfield Park last week. “They can really play. You already got (Marcin) Gortat. Now, you got (Luis) Scola. You got (Goran) Dragic. And you got (Michael) Beasley. You’ve got three new starters coming in who can play.” But Glide, most people are saying the Suns will not be a playoff team and ESPN’s pundits figure on them being the second-worst team in the conference. ”What?!” Drexler said with slightly less shock than when Jake O’Donnell ejected him for protesting a second-quarter foul in a 1995 playoff game at Phoenix. “Are you kidding me? If they don’t get the fourth or fifth playoff spot, I’m not standing before you. They’re big. They’re athletic. They know how to play.”
- Check out Derrick Rose’s newest Adidas commercial:
As August ends and calendars are flipped to September, it dawns on you: NBA training camps will open in a few weeks.
Although the Summer of 2012 will ultimately be remembered for when the Los Angeles Lakers somehow managed to acquire two of the top prizes on the market, there are still quite a few free agents that could ultimately be the difference between your favorite team making a trip to the postseason or anxiously awaiting the results of the draft lottery.
My respective five best available players are Leandro Barbosa, Andray Blatche, Kenyon Martin, Lou Amundson and Mickael Pietrus. And scores of others – including Matt Barnes, Rasual Butler and Josh Childress – are worthy role players.
As we draw closer to camp, taking note of which teams still have their midlevel, room, and biannual exceptions is a worthwhile endeavor. And to a lesser extent, the same can be said of traded player exceptions. Any of these four exceptions are assets that can ultimately result in the acquisition of a player who can help.
Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers, who used a traded player exception to acquire Steve Nash.
At this point, a surprising number of teams still have available money to spend. Here’s a full account.
Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception ($5 million)
This offseason was the first full one in which there were two midlevel exceptions. Entering this offseason, if a team had less than about $70 million in guaranteed salaries committed for 2012-2013, it was granted a $5 million midlevel exception. As usual, the exception can be used to sign one player or it can be split among multiple players. As of today, the only team in the league that has the entire $5 million exception available is the Washington Wizards. Each of the other teams that entered this offseason with the $5 million exception have used a portion of it.
The Milwaukee Bucks ($4.35M), Orlando Magic ($4.21M), Denver Nuggets ($3.33M), and Oklahoma City Thunder ($3.33M) have more than half of the exception remaining. The Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz each have approximately $2.5 million remaining, while the Memphis Grizzlies have $2 million.
Clearly, the Wizards, Bucks and Magic – and to a lesser extent, the Nuggets and Thunder – have the best chance of landing one of the best remaining players. Of those teams, the Thunder are the only one who can offer a shot at competing for a title. However, after recently signing Serge Ibaka to a rich extension, the prevailing thought seems to be that the Thunder will try to curb their spending. That seems especially probable considering that last season’s Sixth Man Award winner, James Harden, is entering the final year of his rookie-scale deal.
Taxpayer Midlevel Exception ($3.09 million)
Teams that entered the offseason with about $70 million or more committed in guaranteed salaries for 2012-2013 were allowed a smaller version of the midlevel exception. The Miami Heat used their taxpayer exception to sign Ray Allen, while the Los Angeles Lakers used approximately half of their exception to sign Jodie Meeks. As of now, the Lakers ($1.4 million) are the only team that has a portion of its taxpayer midlevel exception remaining.
However, after their busy offseason, the Lakers’ 2012-2013 payroll now sits at $100.7 million. This season, its projected starting lineup will earn a whopping $82.5 million. Maybe (just maybe), they’re finally finished spending.
Room Exception ($2.575 million)
The new “room” exception is a salary exception that allows a team to spend all of its room under the salary cap, and then, once at the cap, exceed it using the room exception. In other words, a team that entered the offseason with $8 million under the cap could sign a free-agent for $8 million, and then have the ability to spend an additional $2.575 million using this exception.
Ten teams still have the full exception available. They are the Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, New Orleans Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings.
Of the teams listed here, it’s probably safe to assume that the Indiana Pacers would be the most desirable destination, perhaps with the Philadelphia 76ers a close second.
Still, it’s worth noting that there’s nothing to say that teams have to spend this money, and we should expect to see some frugality with the new luxury tax era on the horizon.
Biannual Exception ($1.957 million)
The biannual exception is a familiar friend, though the rules that govern it were changed since the enactment of the 2011 CBA. It was only made available to teams who entered this offseason with less than about $72 million in guaranteed salaries committed for 2012-2013. It also is not available to any team that uses the room exception.
At slightly less than $2 million, the biannual exception doesn’t seem like much money when compared to the midlevel and room exceptions. But the minimum salary for a 10-year veteran is $1.35M, so that means that a veteran being paid with the biannual exception (as opposed to the minimum salary) stands to be paid 45 percent higher. That could make a difference with a veteran free-agent such as Chris Andersen, Rasual Butler or Derek Fisher.
Currently, 11 teams can use the biannual exception if they choose. They are the Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards.
Traded Player Exceptions
A traded player exception (TPE) is a bit different than the other salary exceptions. The other exceptions can be used to sign free agents, but a TPE may only be used to acquire a player via trade. Despite this limitation, a TPE is a very valuable asset because it allows additional flexibility in deal-making. Under normal circumstances, if two teams are over the cap and wish to execute a trade, the salaries being sent and received must within a certain range in order for the trade to be allowable under the league’s CBA. By using the TPE, teams – under certain circumstances – may execute trades that otherwise could not have occurred.
A traded player exception is most commonly created when a team on one end of a deal trades a player to team that is under the salary cap. The Orlando Magic ($17.816M) currently own the biggest trade exception in league history after consummating their deal for Dwight Howard.
The Denver Nuggets ($13M, via Nene), Chicago Bulls ($5M, via Kyle Korver), and the Golden State Warriors ($3.3M via Ekpe Udoh) also have noteworthy trade exceptions.
Ultimately, this type of exception allows the team to execute a trade in which it accepts salary in return without trading any away. As always, there are rules and caveats (and expiration dates) that govern the exception. Nonetheless, the major point remains: a TPE is an asset that can help facilitate player movement and help a team build itself into a contender.
The 2012-2013 season is right around the corner. But until it actually begins, rest assured that some of these teams will spend some of their available money if they feel it will improve their chances of competing.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.