Court Vision: Thunder mind their money

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Kevin Martin left the Thunder this summer to sign with the Timberwolves. (Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kevin Martin

• Teams are bound to navigate the luxury-tax line -- and its new, beefed-up penalties -- on their own terms. Those like the Nets take it as a mere suggestion; Brooklyn will stomach a $101 million payroll this season without much regard for the brutal tax payout that corresponds with that kind of total. Those like the Thunder, however, seem to make every move with the tax in mind. A star guard was traded (James Harden), a valuable contributor was let go in free agency (Kevin Martin) and various bargain-bin contributors were signed this summer out of a clear, emphatic interest in avoiding the tax. Grantland's Zach Lowe details Oklahoma City's relationship with the luxury tax:

Every dollar matters to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Which is why they've been in the news over the last 10 days for money-related tidbits that barely registered with casual fans — especially with the Lakers prepping for a 2014 free agent spending spree, and the Nets on course for a potential repeater tax payment the league hoped it would never see. The two little cap-related revelations barely amount to $3.2 million annually, the equivalent of Mirza Teletovic's salary, but they say a lot about the state of the Thunder — where they are, where they've been, and what must happen for them to reassert their ownership of a Western Conference in which seemingly everyone but Oklahoma City has gotten better.

The two tidbits:

• The Thunder will pay Andre Roberson, the 26th pick in the draft, only 80 percent of his rookie scale amount, an alleged cheapskate move that will save them about $185,000 this season — at least when compared with the full scale amount.

• The league's Board of Governors, in a bizarre and controversial turnaround, voted in Las Vegas during Summer League to repay the Thunder part of the difference between what Kevin Durant would have earned under the old collective bargaining agreement and what he actually earns now.

• Carmelo Anthony has been praised plenty for his stellar scoring season, but SB Nation's Tom Ziller puts Anthony's volume-scoring achievements in the proper context:

Of those seasons from 2005-06 (his third season) and 2011-12, Melo was generally less efficient the higher his usage registered. That makes sense: if you're taking more shots, quality shots take up a smaller share of the mix. You can't get 20 bunnies a game. (Unless Steve Nash or Rajon Rondo is your point guard, I suppose. No offense to Raymond Felton.) The rule isn't perfect, but the general trend in those seven seasons follows the expectation: the higher Anthony's usage climbs, the less effective each shot becomes.

But in 2012-13, that changed. Dramatically. He had his third-most efficient season ever while taking far greater a share of the offense than he ever had before. He'd always taken a lot of shots, but last season, he went well beyond his norm. Yet he managed to do it efficiently, and by his own historical standards, really efficiently.

Ziller also notes that Kobe Bryant has had only two seasons with a higher usage rate than the one Anthony posted last season.

• Go with JaVale McGee, and you'll be, in a world of pure imagination. (via Andy Hutchins)

• New Clipper Byron Mullens rates as a pretty average center, which Andrew Han of Clipperblog argues might not be such a bad thing:

And I can go on and on in constructing a narrative about Mullens’ situation and assessing a player within the context of his situation, but here is the gist of the message: Byron Mullens has already proven himself to at least be an average to slightly below average center. If a team can march out merely average players as a part of their bench, that is a boon in terms of maintaining momentum during games.

• Tim Hardaway might be giving himself too much credit here, but at the least his years-old, blatantly homophobic comments -- followed by education and seemingly genuine human connection with some whom he had wronged -- wound up framing discussions of homosexuality in the NBA in an interesting way. (via PBT)

• Players on the Spurs' summer-league team had blinking green lights under their jerseys, and Steve McPherson and Andrew Lynch have connected the dots to a biometric program run by Catapult Sports. The gist is this: Players are fitted with a vest that harvests a wealth of data relating to movement, force and impact -- all of which ties directly into physical workload. Using that kind of data, Catapult reportedly has had a lot of success in reducing injuries and boosting late-game effectiveness in other sports, which certain executives hope will translate to the NBA. The technology has a wide range of applications (and, as the authors note, potential reasons for concern on the players' side), beginning with a more controlled, graceful decline:

The way [Catapult's Gary] McCoy talks about the company reflects Catapult Sports’ core mission: to maximize athlete effectiveness by minimizing injury and the deleterious effects of exhaustion. “We’re getting questions from one of the biggest profile [NBA] teams that has an aging athlete,” McCoy said. “And one of the questions coming from their training staff was, ‘Can we look at his physiological matrix and what makes up his exertion level and know that we might have to pull him every six minutes or so to sustain his output in the fourth quarter?’” How to extend an aging athlete’s career is a vital question as teams work with players like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, but it can be just as important for younger players to start making the most of their bodies now.

Be sure to follow over to TrueHoop to read McPherson's and Lynch's piece in full. Four NBA franchises have already invested in biometric resources with more likely to follow. The vests can't be worn in a regular-season game yet, but it seems only a matter of time before this detailed strand of physical data becomes more common.

• Larry Sanders -- no stranger to hot-headedness himself -- talks about DeMarcus Cousins and reeling in his reactions:

who scored the first official NBA basket