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David Aldridge

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LeBron and D-Wade are sure to rack up some frequent flyer miles come July 1.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Trade deadline moves set the stage for an epic offseason


Posted Feb 22 2010 10:10AM

Finally, you got what you wanted: two weeks of deals, dazzling at times, involving some of the bigger names to be dealt at the trade deadline in some time. Trades that involved the NBA's elite and its also-rans, each getting something of value out of the transactions.

And finally we all get what we've been craving: a hot stove league this summer that will rival any in any sport over the last half-century. This is not hyperbole: No fewer than a half-dozen franchises may survive or crater based on what happens beginning July 1. Think about it: Someone will get LeBron James, and everyone else will not, and everyone else will have to live with the ramifications of that failure.

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If it's the Knicks that fail, what can Donnie Walsh possibly say or do to revive his fans?

If it's the Cavaliers ... well, the franchise would continue. I'm just not sure it would continue for long in Cleveland.

And on and on.

But it's not just LBJ, of course. Chicago could throw in for native son Dwyane Wade, just as Dallas could move heaven and earth to get Lincoln High School alum Chris Bosh. Rumors are prevalent that the Knicks have already decided on the Hawks' Joe Johnson as their No. 2 and hope to add James or Bosh as their top gun. Or, Wade could convince James or Bosh to come play with him in Miami, a scenario just as plausible as his leaving Miami.

Or, Amar'e Stoudemire could break the bank, either in Phoenix, or Chicago, or Miami, or D.C.

So many scenarios.

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Joe Johnson
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

It is also just as likely that James and Wade and Bosh and Johnson stay right where they are, and that would cause just as much seismic angst as if they left. It would also bring others into play who currently are on the sidelines; if a team that cleared cap room has no one to sign, guys like Vince Carter (only $4 million of his $18 million salary in 2011-12 is guaranteed, making him eminently tradeable this summer), Gilbert Arenas (averaging 22 and 7 dimes when he was suspended) and Tayshaun Prince and Peja Stojakovic (one year remaining on their respective contracts after this year) will become very, very popular.

So, now that Danny Ferry has done everything he possibly could to surround James with as much veteran talent as possible, and the Knicks and Bulls and Heat and Clippers and Nyets have all cleared their decks (think of it! Gotham, South Beach, Hollywood and the City of Big Shoulders all making their pitches) to try and woo James, and Wade, and Bosh, and Johnson; now that the Celtics and Blazers and Bobcats have tweaked their rosters for the stretch drive; now that Orlando and Denver have stood pat (the Magic by choice); now that the Rockets and Kings and Bucks have retooled their rosters for the Summer of '11 (it'll be Carmelo's turn); now that the Wizards have taken a howitzer to their roster in order to ... well, I'm not exactly sure ... let's turn the page, move forward and see who the power players are now, four months from the remaking of the NBA world.

In inverse order of power:

10) Ted Leonsis
The Wizards' prospective new owner has not been afraid to open up the checkbook with the NHL's Washington Capitals, and now that Washington has top-five cap room following its teardown, if Leonsis is in control by the summer, Washington could well be as aggressive as anyone in going after free agents. Or, Leonsis could roll the cap room over to 2011 and wait to bid on Anthony, who just happens to be from nearby Baltimore.

9) Larry Brown
With Michael Jordan's future in Charlotte up in the air if George Postolos buys the team, it's Brown who stands to become the Bobcats' face and voice this summer. Making two quiet deals before the deadline -- picking up Tyrus Thomas from Chicago and Theo Ratliff from San Antonio -- the Bobcats became quite long and athletic at the defensive end, and a team that might be able to make an impact trade this offseason. With Thomas available to play power forward, 6-foot-9 Gerald Wallace can play more at small forward, and Charlotte already has 6-foot-7 Stephen Jackson at the two. It will be hard for opponents to get to the rim past the 6-foot-10 Thomas and, eventually, I think, 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler. At any rate, it's a team now in Brown's image, and if there's no one around with the experience or gravitas to tell him no, expect Charlotte to be busy this summer.

8) The freshman point guard whose name cannot be mentioned here, but you know his name and that he'll be the first pick in the draft in June if and when he officially declares for the Draft.
'Cause he's that good, and people will want to play with him, wherever he goes. And if that's a team with cap room, that team will suddenly become a player for better free agents than a team that normally gets the first pick would usually be able to attract.

7) Larry Coon, cap guru
Coon's Collective Bargaining Agreement FAQ is required reading for anyone who wants to translate the hieroglyphics of the the CBA. You want to know the cap hold for a seventh-year veteran? Coon's your man. The max contract that a player coming off his rookie deal can make? Look it up on Coon's website. More than a few teams will be poring over his cheat sheet, I suspect -- and a smart team would throw enough bucks his way to hire him permanently.

6) Phil Jackson
He is taking it year by year now, but if he decides to hang it up after this year, win or lose, the Lakers are no longer prohibitive favorites to win the championship in 2010-11. Which gives every other team looking to sign or trade for an impact free agent a stronger argument to said impact free agents.

5) Arn Tellem/Bob Myers, Wasserman Media
Already among the game's major power brokers, the majordomo agents will be master chess players this summer, moving their small army of impact free agents (including Johnson, McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal and Mike Miller) around the league and likely finding top dollar for their clients through their unique brand of persuasion and pressure.

4) Donnie Nelson and Kevin Pritchard
Always active by nature, the GMs of the Mavericks and Blazers, respectively, will have the hammer this summer -- desirable players and owners willing to put $3 million into just about any deal -- to use on the many teams that won't be able to sign LeBron, Wade, et.al, but will still have to do something with all that cap room to appease angry fans. Would it thus shock me to see, say, Chris Bosh wind up in Dallas and Jose Calderon wind up in Portland -- and, maybe, Steve Nash wind up in Toronto? No, it would not.

3) David Lee
As the New York Times' Howard Beck details here, there is no way the Knicks can hold onto Lee if their plan is to sign two max-level free agents; New York will have to renounce its rights to all of its free agents -- including Lee -- in order to have enough cap room to sign two max players. That means Lee will be unrestricted this summer, and would likely be among the most coveted free agents after the Big Five: LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Amare and Johnson.

2) The Utah Jazz
No team could have a bigger say about free agency than the Jazz, which has A) the Knicks' unrprotected first-round pick, now even more valuable after New York has jettisoned much of its already-thin talent in the Tracy McGrady trade, meaning a likely further plummet down the standings for the Knicks -- and a higher pick for Utah; B) Carlos Boozer's Bird Rights, so even if Boozer wants to leave after this season, he's still more likely to do a sign-and-trade through Utah; C) the expiring contract of Kyle Korver; D) the revitalized Andrei Kirilenko with one palatable year left (expiring in 2011) on his contract. Those are four huge assets that will enable the Jazz to go in many different directions this summer.

1) LeBron Raymone James
In the modern, post-Robertson, free agent history of the NBA, there has been only one other time when a league-shaping free agent, approaching the apex of his prime, was a real free agent. (Michael Jordan was a free agent in 1996, but no one really expected him to leave Chicago. Kobe Bryant was free in 2004, and the Clippers made a serious push, but the smart money was always on his returning to the Lakers.)

Only Shaq, in that Class of '96 -- the only class to compare to this one (Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Reggie Miller, Allan Houston and Dikembe Mutombo were among the superstars available that summer) -- had the kind of sway that James now has. O'Neal was 24 that year; James has just turned 25. But even then, few people thought Shaq would wind up anywhere other than Los Angeles. James is keeping everyone guessing. There's an argument to be made for him staying in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are championship-ready and will be for the next few years. There's an argument for his teaming with Wade, his Olympic teammate, in Miami.

Of course, there's the New York state of mind, with Cablevision able to give James anything he wants, starting with a superstar teammate of his choosing. There are the longshot Nets, with a Russian billionaire and James' friend and role model, Jay-Z, moving into Newark and, then, Brooklyn, a blank canvas on which James can paint his own masterpiece. And there are the longer-shot Clippers, who have three terrific young pieces (Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Blake Griffin) and need a superstar to fill Staples Center just as Kobe does for the Lakers.

Anyone who tells you they know what James is going to do is lying. How could he even know, when he hasn't even heard what teams have to offer? My guess is that this will be much more a pitch, where teams come to him (sort of like how all the networks met David Letterman when he was leaving NBC), and it might take longer than we think, but that's just a guess. We're all guessing for the next 16 weeks.

Dribbles

• Here is what George Karl has on his docket.

"I don't feel any differently," he said Friday, "other than a couple of days ago, on the first treatment, I had some headaches. But that's gone. Now, ask me that in a couple of weeks. It could be a different answer. That's what I've been told."

You will feel fine, coach, until you can't keep down your lunch, and can't think about eating. Then, it's not so good.

This is what George Karl has to look forward to: in every city, being asked by well-meaning people about the cancer.

Karl is scared, and he's angry, and he's hopeful, and he has a team that has a chance to win the NBA title this season. Not that there's ever a good time to deal with squamous cell head/neck cancer, the second time in the last five years he has been diagnosed with a lymphoma. In 2005, he had prostate surgery, and was clean for more than four years. Then, six weeks ago, he discovered a lump in his throat. A biopsy determined it was malignant. And for a couple of weeks, Karl kept the diagnosis to himself. Through All-Star Weekend, he knew, but only a handful of others did -- not his players, not his coaches. Denver's ownership knew, and that's why the Nuggets and Karl both agreed a one-year extension for next season was in order. Suddenly, it didn't matter much whether he was making $2 million or $10 million; the haggling both sides had done over the past few montns was over.

When he finally told the team after practice on Tuesday, "it was very, very quiet in the room," a witness informs.

"He was the only one talking," guard Anthony Carter said. "Everybody started putting their heads down. The first thing I did was call my wife and tell her we need to start a prayer chain for him, make sure all the prayers go out to him, and hopefully everything will be all right. The next day she wrote down scriptures and stuff and gave him something from Israel that she had got this past summer, just something to give him hope and keep his hopes up. That's what it's going to take. But he didn't want no sympathy or anything like that."

Karl will be around for most of the next six weeks, while he undergoes chemotheraphy and radiation treatments. But he can't be assured he'll be up to coaching. On the days he can't do it, assistant coach Adrian Dantley will; Karl's already circled this week's game with Golden State and a March 10 game at Minnesota as ones he's probably going to miss. Dantley has long aspired to be a head coach in the NBA, but not like this.

Karl was emotional when he first publicly disclosed his illness, but he's been bolstered in recent days by the fraternity of NBA people that he wants to stay near and close with while he undergoes treatment. It was that extended family that reached out to him when he was first sick, and that comforted him when son Coby was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2006 while in college (it's in remission).

"I got a lot of calls from coaches, a lot of calls from ex-players," he said. "The list is long. It's been very good. And the fans have been very good. It's kind of funny; when fans meet you, they kind of never look at your eyes. When fans say things to me now, they kind of look at my eyes ... we (coaches) backstab and cuss each other. But when something serious and real comes up, it's an amazing fratetnity. Not only of coaches. I think the basketball world is pretty unified, and pretty sincerely caring. I know the NBA has the NBA Cares program. They have a power to touch you. And they have touched me. And I do appreciate it."

• A text from Herb Rudoy, agent to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 11:30 p.m., Sunday evening, asked about a Tweet from veteran L.A. Times NBA reporter Mark Heisler that the league will not allow Ilgauskas to return to the Cavaliers when and if he receives a buyout from his current team, the Wizards:

Just looked at it. Absolutely no truth that we have a pre-arranged deal with Cavs! Z has no idea what he will do and will take his time in making a decision.

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Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Now, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night. It would be beyond stupid if Rudoy and the Cavs have any kind of arrangement that can be unearthed through any kind of trail -- paper, electronic, phone records, a witness -- not to mention out of character for both the agent and the team, both of whom have great reputations. But nothing that anyone does surprises me. It keeps me from being disappointed.

Here's what we do know:

1) The Wizards aren't going to just roll over and placate Cleveland. 2) This has to get done soon.

After Washington traded little-used forward Dominic McGuire to Sacramento Thursday, the Wizards fell under the $69.9 million luxury tax threshhold, and no longer are looking at dollar for dollar payments for being over. The Wizards were initially looking to their expected buyout with Ilgauskas, acquired in the Antawn Jamison trade, to provide the savings to get them under the tax. Now, that's not needed. It doesn't mean Washington doesn't want or expect a buyout to occur, only that the pressure to get it done is no longer on Washington, but on Rudoy and Ilgauskas.

The Wizards, someone in the know says, are "open" to Ilgauskas' thoughts, but the buyout, the someone says, is not going to be cheap. While sympathetic, the Wiz can now hold out for more savings.

Adding to Washington's leverage is time. If Ilgauskas is still on Washington's roster a week from today, March 1, he would not be able to be on anyone else's roster for the postseason. So he may have to leave some major bucks -- maybe the trade kicker that is, as of now, around $591,000 (the prorated amount of the 15 percent trade kicker Ilgauskas is due by Washington after being dealt) -- on the table in order to be free by next week. (Ilgauskas doesn't have to be signed by Cleveland by next week; only not on someone else's roster.)

Top O' the World, Ma!

1) Cleveland (43-14)
It will be good ultimately, but the Cavs have lost three straight since trading for Antawn Jamison. Cavs defense has slipped of late.

2) L.A. Lakers (42-14)
Surprised the Lakers weren't able to make a move at the deadline to shore up their not-great bench, especially with Luke Walton out for a while.

3) Utah (36-19)
Suddenly, Jazz are within striking distance of the second seed in the west. That would be huge.

4) Orlando (38-19)
That bald fellow that dominated the final quarter against Cleveland Sunday looks familiar. What's his name, again?

5) Denver (37-19)
Awfully, awfully hard to keep the Nuggets under 100. Or 110, for that matter.

6) Boston (35-19)
Ray Allen looks relieved. Playing like it, too.

7) Dallas (35-21)
Mavs can make hay at home in March: 10 of 14 at American Airlines Center.

8) Oklahoma City (33-21)
I'm officially requesting Flex Scheduling for the rest of the NBA season to get more Thunder games on TNT Thursday!

9) Atlanta (34-20)
Troubling for a good team: Hawks under .500 on the road.

10) Phoenix (34-23)
Per my man Schuhmann: Suns allowing 96.8 points/100 possessions since break, best four-game stretch in two years.

11) Toronto (31-24)
Keeping the hot streak going despite Bosh's sprained ankle. Bargnani made a couple of huge defensive plays to preserve Saturday's come-from-behind win over Washington.

12) San Antonio (31-23)
Spurs end Rodeo Trip with no momentum and a hard way to go before the playoffs.

13) Portland (32-26)
The Blazers held up for half of the season through all the injuries, but it looks like all that attrition may finally be catching up with them.

14) Chicago (29-26)
Bulls have won 15 of 21 despite Joakim Noah missing eight games with plantar fascitis. Trading John Salmons was a gamble, but Hakim Warrick is going to help more than people think.

15) New Orleans (30-26)
Treading water since Paul's injury, which is a victory.

Team of the Week (2/15/10-2/21/10)

Oklahoma City (3-0): Thunder have not lost in almost a month, winning nine straight after Sunday's victory in Minnesota. OKC is the most fun team in the league to watch. Kevin Durant is effortless, (after LeBron, is there anyone else that you'd want to build a team around, right now? Kobe's injuries and mileage make him less attractive as a cornerstone) Jeff Green sublime, Russell Westbrook explosive. And rookie James Harden ain't bad, either.

Team of the Weak

New York (0-3): It's all about July 1, 2010 for the Knicks, who made their final move last week in clearing max cap room for a run at LeBron, Wade, et.al. by picking up Tracy McGrady's expiring contract. Don't be fooled by McGrady's great debut Saturday night; he's a means to an end for Donnie Walsh, auditioning for 29 other teams. But at least things will be more interesting the last two months of the regular season.

Nobody asked me, but ...

Is there some reason everyone feels qualified to parse every phrase Tiger Woods uttered Friday, like they got a junior psychiatrist kit for Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa?

In case you were on Jupiter since November, Woods crashed his car Thanksgiving night outside him home, an accident whose details are still murky at best. He hadn't had a thing to say in the three subsequent months, during which time a number of women came forward to claim -- some, luridly -- that they had had affairs with Woods. There were no denials from Camp Woods -- and then, finally, an admission of infidelity on his website, followed by apologies. Yet no one had actuallly heard from Woods until Friday, when he made a statement at the PGA's headquarters in Florida in front of selected friends and handpicked media -- none of whom was allowed to ask questions.

Woods spoke for 13 minutes. I have no idea who his target audience was (sponsors? Women? Women sponsors?). I don't know if he was robotic, or just nervous; defiant, or just embarassed; angry at the media or furious at himself for putting himself in this position.

And neither do you.

This need for immediate analysis -- television was especially horrifying at this Friday -- was absurd. This wasn't picking between the Colts and Saints. You don't have to have a "take" on whether Woods was sincere. Here's what we know about Tiger Woods: We don't know anything about Tiger Woods. So what makes anyone qualified to interpret what Woods says, like Kremlinologists? A lot of people that I respect wrote some really silly things on Friday and Saturday about how "sincere" or "phony" Woods was.

Look, I've followed this like everyone else. Not my proudest moment. But the only person whose opinion matters when it comes to Tiger Woods is Elin Woods. The rest of us are just woofing.

... and nobody asked you, either

But he draws the line at mascots throwing down. I'm looking at you, Gorilla! From Brhan Adem:

I was watching the Detroit vs Minnesota game halftime show with [NBA TV's] Kyle, Dennis and Brent! And they were talking about the Dunk Contest and I was upset about the contest. I felt that both Wallace and Brown had a lot more to their (repertoire) than they showed on the contest! And Brent had an idea that he was going to present to the league office soon. I was so curious of what he had to say but he didnīt want to mention it on TV.

I had an idea of who should participate on the contest. Why not have the same rules as the 3-point contest?? 3 point contest you have the highest percentage of the season (that) will participate. Why not have that on the dunk contest??...the top 4 or 6 players that have most fast break or high flying dunks of the season?? For example Wade, Howard , Wade, Josh Smith etc. I also had another idea, why not bringing in all the dunk champs on different levels- NBA, College, D-league and McDonalds, just one night for the fans!! "The Air Up There" was just vicious on the D-league dunk contest. It's just an idea that I had!

Brian, we'd all do anything to get Wade, Howard and Josh Smith, among others, to dunk. Nothing has convinced them, and nothing will, I'm convinced, other than cold, hard cash. I've suggested a million bucks to get everyone's attention.

Time to dust off my Acela schedule. From Michael T. :

How far u think the new york knicks will go with Tracy McGrady?

It's a great system for TMac, with a coach in Mike D'Antoni that will give him every opportunity to shine in the open court. He will not score 26 every night, and there will be times when the inactivity of the last year will show. But it's a win-win -- a chance for McGrady to audition for the other 29 teams, and a chance for the Knicks to steal some games down the stretch and maybe have a couple of meaningful nights in the Garden again.

MVP Watch (2/15/10-2/21/10)

1) LeBron James (32.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 10 apg, .458 FG, .718 FT): Did you see the look on LBJ after he missed that game-winner against Denver on Thursday?

2) Carmelo Anthony (28.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 apg, .429 FG, .769 FT): Shooting is off, but he's never been a better leader.

3) Kevin Durant (31 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, .391 FG, .868 FT): High volume, low percentage, but made up for it with 38 free throws in three games.

4) Kobe Bryant (DNP-sprained left ankle)

5) Dirk Nowitzki (25.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4 apg, .440 FG, .957 FT): Should be even more lethal with Caron Butler around as a pressure release.

By the Numbers

18 -- Consecutive games in which Toronto has scored 100 or more points, a franchise record. The Raptors' league record for games with at least one 3-pointer stands at 915.

.714 -- Carmelo Anthony's win percentage over LeBron James in Cleveland since 2004. After their double-overtime victory at Quicken Loans Arena on Thursday, the Nuggets have won five of their last seven road games against the Cavaliers.

773 -- Career 3-pointers by Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, breaking the Bulls' team record for threes previously held by Ben Gordon (770).

I'm feelin' ...

1) A great duel Thursday night between Carmelo and LeBron. To paraphrase Sacramento's play-by-play guy Grant Napear, if you didn't like the back-and-forth with Anthony and James, each one topping the other with one great shot after another, you don't like NBA basketball.

2) That was a phenomenal comeback Sunday night, Utah. Down 25 on the road to a strong Portland team that had Brandon Roy back in the lineup? Amazing.

3) An enterprising young man composes a 30-team trade that, of course, helps all 30 teams.

4) I could kill the Knicks, up three Saturday, for giving up a three to a wide-open Kevin Durant in the final seconds of regulation. But that was a great pick set by Nick Collison that freed up Durant.

5) Dollar for dollar, Toronto's Jarrett Jack might be the best free-agent pickup this season. Four years, $20 million is pretty good value for a guy shooting 48 from the floor (and 41 from 3-point range), averaging 10 and five.

6) Don't know how many cases of bourbon I'd have to polish off before I'd go ski jumping, but this Simon Ammann guy, from Switzerland, just won his fourth gold medal in the Individual Large Hill jump at the Olympics. Can you imagine having four golds in anything?

7) If there's a better rookie right now than Darren Collison, inform me. Besides Taj Gibson, I mean.

Not feelin' ...

1) I hate cancer. Cancer killed my mother and it's attacking a lot of my friends, and it's got something against George Karl, and I wish it would stop. Godspeed, Coach.

2) Not sure I'd play it the way Phoenix played it with Amar'e Stoudemire. If the Suns get nothing for him this summer they'll have one ticked-off fan base and two ticked-off vets in Steve Nash and Grant Hill.

3) Not mentioning any names, but there's a veteran referee whose hair has been white for about 10 years now whose hair now is ... not white. Perhaps he's a regular in the Hot Tub Time Machine.

4) Chuck? The five-buck box doesn't rock. Not even close to rocking.

5) If I'm a fan of the76ers or Pacers, and my team didn't pull off a major trade for young players or picks, or at least cleared cap space for this summer, what do I have to look forward to, exactly?

6) The suspicion here is that after United States 5, Canada 3, in the sport Canada loves more than any other, it's not a good morning in the Great White North. Not a good morning at all.

Tweet of the Week

U should apologise 2 the world 4 being money hungry attention seeking ppl. Hav sum self respect and fade bak into obscurity. Thank u kindly.
-- The Bucks' Andrew Bogut (@AndrewMBogut), Saturday, 2:13 p.m., responding to reports that some of Tiger Woods's mistresses say they haven't received an apology from Woods after his public mea culpa Friday morning.

They Said It

"That's why I signed a three-year deal."
-- Uh-oh. Deron Williams, to the Salt Lake Tribune, after expressing his frustration at the Jazz trading Ronnie Brewer at the deadline last week instead of adding talent -- and then being asked if the trade affected his long-term thinking about Utah. (In case you're wondering, Williams' contract is up in 2012, though he has a player option for 2012-13.)

"It's just like the CBA."
-- Wizards Coach Flip Saunders, on Friday, talking about his revamped roster in Washington after the trades of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in the last two weeks left Saunders with a new rotation including Josh Howard, Al Thornton, James Singleton and Quinton Ross.

"Biathlon."
-- Nets new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, to the great Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger, who caught up with Prokhorov at the Olympics, when D'Alessandro asked him if there was anything he could talk about after refusing to talk about the Nets.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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