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Court Vision: Celtics nearly traded Paul Pierce to Mavericks at deadline?

Paul Pierce was reportedly almost traded to Dallas at the deadline. (Cameron Browne/Getty Images)Paul Pierce was reportedly almost traded to Dallas at the deadline. (Cameron Browne/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

•  Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Celtics nearly traded Paul Pierce to the Mavericks in a deadline move.

In a three-way deal that would've secured Josh Smith and surrendered Paul Pierce to Dallas, Atlanta wanted Boston's first-round draft pick, too.

As much as any of the proposed deals discussed in February, perhaps this had been the closest Pierce had come to parting with the Celtics, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Dallas had constructed a package that included Jae Crowder, Brandan Wright and Dahntay Jones to Atlanta, with the Mavericks and Hawks exchanging positions in the 2013 NBA draft.

Nevertheless, Boston wouldn't relent on the pick and the deal died on meeting-room grease boards in three cities.

•  Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen has a lengthy interview with the NBA's former deputy commissioner, Russ Granik, who was chosen as a direct-elect to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

He grew up playing basketball as a 6-foot-4 high school big man in Spring Valley in suburban New York.

"I was a fanatic as a kid," Granik said. "All I lacked was real talent. I never played beyond high school and I got cut from an Ivy League team -- that tells you how good I was or wasn't. I had a hoop in the backyard and I played all the time. I hear these stories about great players and how hard they worked when they were younger, and I think to myself, I bet I played as hard as they did. But I was slow and skinny."

•  Bill Simmons of Grantland on the NBA's two worst contracts.

2. Amar'e Stoudemire: three years, $65.1 million

1. Joe Johnson: four years, $89.3 million

You knew it would come down to these two -- they're like the Jay-Z and Kanye of atrocious contracts. Joe makes more money, but Stoudemire's contract is 100 percent uninsured. Joe is a better and more durable player, but Stoudemire's contract expires one year earlier. Neither contract could be traded under any circumstances (not during the New and Improved Luxury Tax era, anyway). Both contracts make me giggle if I look at the numbers long enough.

So this is close. Damned close. Johnson gets the hammer for one reason: for the 2015-16 season, after Stoudemire's contract comes off New York's cap, Brooklyn has to pay Joe Johnson nearly $25 million. The exact number: $24,893,863. They're also on the hook for $31.15 million of Wallace and Williams that year, which means Brooklyn will be shelling out more than $56 million for three well-past-their-prime players that season. No wonder everyone keeps driving up the price tags of NBA franchises -- everyone wants to own an NBA team in 2016 just for their cut of Brooklyn's luxury tax fees.

•  Here's Rob Mahoney's list of the most problematic contracts in the NBA, in case you missed it.

•  Tom Ziller of SB Nation suggests that we avoid sleeping on the Nuggets given how well they play at home.

When you look at it all, Denver's just not quite at the level of OKC or San Antonio -- we can expand the field to the entire league and add Miami to that tier. But the Nuggets are on par with the next level of team -- the Clippers, Grizzlies and Pacers (and maybe Knicks). Advanced stats would indicate that Denver is the No. 5 or No. 6 team in the NBA.

Does that make them a contender? Probably not. The champion will likely come from one of the best three teams this season. But if there's a surprise in the first round in the West or injuries take their toll, Denver is well-positioned to capitalize. And in the meantime, there's a distinct possibility that the Nuggets could enter the postseason ahead of the Clippers and Grizzlies, which would be huge for the team's hopes of advancing past the first round for the first time since 2009.

•  At The Basketball Jones, Andrew Unterberger says that the Magic should be the people's choice to win the 2013 draft lottery.

Was there any doubt? No other team appears to be making the conscious effort to tank this season quite like the Magic, and the force of their commitment to being bad is really quite breathtaking. Hard to argue their strategy as unsound -- all the NBA GM maxims of late about avoiding the middle at all costs would support them -- and you gotta feel at least a little bad that their textbook tank of a season didn’t even come in anticipation of a Blake or Kyrie or even a John Wall. But clearly nobody wants this one worse than the Magic. And after the mercilessness of the season-long Dwightmare, there aren’t a whole lot of teams that deserve it more, either.

They’ll probably be back near the top of this column again next year, and possibly the year after that, until the years of damage done in the seasons leading up to Howard’s trade to Los Angeles is finally undone. But this is the way they wanted to do it, so fair enough. I’ll oblige them for this year at least.

•  Ken Berger of CBSSports.com wonders whether the new collective bargaining agreement will undercut the value of large expiring contracts.

I think you've hit on another vestige of the old way of doing NBA business that is not as valid as it used to be. Teams used to be willing to take on a couple of longer-term deals for an expiring contract as long as they got an asset -- either a young player or a draft pick -- that made it worth their while. Now, the more punitive luxury tax has made teams not only averse, but in some cases incapable of absorbing future money. That leaves teams with cap room as a landing spot for expiring deals, but a number as high as Humphries' ($12 million next season) would be an impractical placeholder for a room team to accept. Unless they're getting a lottery pick, why bother? Just keep your room. Plus, teams aren't parting with first-round picks like they used to.

•  Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post writes that Dwyane Wade's recent uptick shouldn't be lost in all the headlines that go to LeBron James during Miami's 16-game winning streak.

Wade, however, is shooting 55.0 percent in the 42 Miami wins in which he has played, and 41.8 percent in the 13 losses. Even when you break down this streak, during which Wade has been almost uniformly brilliant, you’ll find that the more efficiently he performs, the bigger the blowout. (In the four games that the Heat has won by 16 or more, he has shot 62.5 percent.) You’ll also find that Wade has played a major role in Miami playing great late — over the 16 games, he has shot 64.1 percent in fourth quarters and overtimes.

•  Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com (Insider) writes that the Celtics' defense has been better without Rajon Rondo.

Before Rondo's injury, Boston was a very good defense. According to NBA.com/Stats, the team ranked seventh in the league in defensive rating when Rondo was sidelined. Since then, they've been elite. The Celtics are holding opponents 5.5 points per 100 possessions below their usual offensive rating. Over the course of the season, only two teams (the Indiana Pacers and the Memphis Grizzlies) have been so stingy on defense.

•  Henry Abbott of TrueHoop wonders whether the NBA's plans for HGH testing will amount to much.

Meanwhile, pretend you're an NBA player using HGH right now. What does this mean for you?

Likely not all that much. For one thing, you'll have months if not a year or more to either get yourself clean, or -- more likely -- learn the workaround to this test.

That's the real lesson of the Lance Armstrong scandal: There is a cheat to almost every test.

•  Sam Amick of USA Today Sports with a thorough rundown on where the prospective sale of the Kings stands as the NBA's Board of Governors meetings approach in a little over a month.

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