Buyout season helps the NBA's rich get richer. The remainder of the schedule will determine if they actually got better.
With Danny Granger signing with the Clippers and Caron Butler with Oklahoma City, teams that were already good were able to add former All-Stars without having to give up anything except a little money.
It sometimes even seems unfair, since just a few days earlier adding players would've cost assets if teams wanted to improve via trade before the deadline. "Buyouts at this point of the season are not good for the game. They strengthen better teams & further destroy competitive balance," former NBA player and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose wrote on Twitter.
The buyouts usually start as soon as the deadline is over, when the agent of an unhappy veteran who didn't get moved — or in Granger's case, moves somewhere he doesn't want to go — works out a deal in which the player agrees to leave some money on the table in exchange for his release.
As long it's done by March 1 and he clears waivers, he's free to sign with any team except the one that released him and would be eligible to suit up for that team in the playoffs. The Clippers picked up Granger and Glen "Big Baby" Davis that way. Jimmer Fredette signed with Chicago on Sunday, and Metta World Peace remains available.
Indiana coach Frank Vogel thinks the Clippers got "dramatically better" with Granger. But tinkering this late in a season can be tricky, and not everyone is sure it's best. "They're adding pieces. With adding pieces, sometimes you can add too much, so I wouldn't fall in love with every move that's made," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "Sometimes the best move is no move at all."
Here are five things to watch this week: COLLINS COMES HOME: More than a week after signing a 10-day contract and becoming the NBA's first openly gay player, Jason Collins makes his home debut Monday when Brooklyn hosts Chicago. Then the Nets will have to decide if they want to give the veteran another contract.
TOURING TEXAS: The Miami Heat, who have won seven in a row, face a couple of big challenges in Texas, visiting Houston on Tuesday before heading to San Antonio for another NBA Finals rematch on Thursday.
CHALLENGERS CHASING: Nobody in the East is catching Indiana or Miami, but the race for third place in the much-maligned conference has turned into a good one. Chicago has won nine of 10 to tie Toronto at 33-26, while Washington is two games back after six straight victories.
MAKINGS OF A MISMATCH: Philadelphia has lost 14 straight, its longest skid since dropping 15 in a row in 1994, and its next game is Tuesday at Oklahoma City, where the West-leading Thunder are 25-6. RUDY! RUDY!: Rudy Gay returns to Toronto on Friday for the first time since the Raptors traded him to Sacramento on Dec. 9. The forward has played well for the Kings but the Raptors have been terrific without him, going 25-14 since the deal.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Goran Dragic, Phoenix: career-high 40 points, 14 of 21 from the field, 9 of 11 from the free throw line in a 116-104 victory over New Orleans on Friday. Dragic, having one of the best seasons of any player who didn't make the All-Star game, made it even better while logging 42 minutes on a night he wasn't sure he could play because of a sore right ankle.