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David Aldridge

LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant are shoo-ins for the All-NBA First Team, but who should be MVP?
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

This wacky season makes award picks all the more difficult

Posted Apr 23 2012 7:13AM - Updated Apr 23 2012 10:27PM

The lockout claims more victims this week, as media members submit their ballots for the NBA award winners. There is peril in picking this season.

The shortened season has made injuries even more outsized. Players have missed more games, and the concern about being as healthy as possible going into the playoffs has made coaches even more conservative about resting star players down the stretch, meaning they miss even more games.

This, obviously, creates a problem.

As a coach asked me this week, if you don't vote, say, Derrick Rose first-team all-NBA because he missed half of the season with his various back and groin injuries, how can you vote him second team? Or third team, for that matter? How is that any fairer to guys who've played most of the games this season? But if you don't do that, you'll be subject to those on the other side, who'd question how in the world you could leave Derrick Rose off of three all-NBA teams. He's Derrick Rose, for Norm Van Lier's sake! (More on Rose below.)

But you can't punt. You have to vote for somebody. And I owe it to you to explain what is important to me as I fill out the ballots.

Winning matters more than ever this season, because there are so many built-in excuses to not win: injuries, the compacted schedule, the lack of rest and recuperative time, and on and on. So the best players on the best teams should get even more consideration than normal.

But playing matters more than ever this season, for all the same reasons. Part of being great is showing up every night, and this season that was asking a lot. Maybe coaches had their reasons to hold their stars out, but you can't honestly say someone was among the best in the league this season when they weren't on the floor.

So, onto the selections, with the usual caveat: These picks only have to make sense to me, not to you. If and when you're fortunate enough to get a vote, you can vote the way you like. So, please, don't send me any Pythagorean theorem/advanced stat that "proves" Jon Brockman really is more valuable than Kevin Durant. It's not going to change my mind. Really.


• THE WINNER: LeBron James, Miami
RUNNER-UP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City
THE OTHERS: Kobe Bryant, L.A Lakers; Tony Parker, San Antonio; Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers

There is everything to love about my fellow D.C. native Durant, from his scoring to his improved defense to his continued outstanding demeanor as the Thunder's franchise player. But in all candor, this one isn't close.

James has had what I believe to be the best season of his nine-year career. He's had better statistical numbers, but he's never had as much impact on his team, and its game, and he deserves his third league MVP.

Freed earlier in the season by coach Erik Spoelstra to get out and run whenever possible, James has been unstoppable from the start of the season, when he went for 37, 10 and 6 on Christmas Day against the Mavericks. Playing more in the post by design, he has never been more lethal in the halfcourt. He's scored in double figures in each of his 61 games this season, and is shooting a career-best 53 percent from the floor despite taking almost 19 shots per game.

He leads the league in advanced stats, tops both in the NBA's Efficiency Rating and John Hollinger's PER on Defensively, he has been as good as ever, guarding the likes of Durant down the stretch of big wins, and he's guarded point guards and fours with equal effectiveness. His critics will point to his continuing struggles offensively in the fourth quarter, but the Heat are 13-1 this season with Dwyane Wade out of the lineup.

Which is, again, another reason for James' supremacy. While Rose, and Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant, and Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony and many of the league's superstars have each missed large chunks of the season with injury, James has chugged right along, missing just two games, including Saturday night's loss to Washington to rest, not because of injury.

Of course, James will ultimately be judged by the postseason. But we're voting on the regular season. And James has been the best player night in and out by far this season.

Among the others, Bryant has scored at his usual high levels, and he's been a good soldier in backing first-year coach Mike Brown, but his 43.1 percent shooting entering Sunday's game against Oklahoma City was the third-lowest of his career, and worst since the '97-'98 season. Plus there are the missed games with the bad shin. Paul, as the San Antonio Express News' Mike Monroe pointed out compellingly on Sunday, has changed the losing culture in the Clippers' universe, dominated fourth quarters to win games and gotten L.A. to the playoffs for just the fifth time in 36 years. And Parker has had one of the best seasons of his career in leading the Spurs to the best record in the west.


• THE WINNER: Gregg Popovich, San Antonio
RUNNER-UP: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
THE OTHERS: Scott Brooks, Oklahoma City; Mike Brown, L.A. Lakers; Alvin Gentry, Phoenix

As irascible as ever, Popovich has never done a better job of putting a team together. He slapped a rotation together on the fly, giving Danny Green, T.J. Ford (before he retired mid-season) and rookie Kawhi Leonard minutes early in the season, then leaving them on the floor to win or lose games while Manu Ginobili missed his usual bunch of games with injuries. Popovich worked in Stephen Jackson without a hitch when the former Spur was re-acquired at the trade deadline, and he's demanded and gotten more from Tiago Splitter in the middle.

Most importantly, Popovich has not wavered in his determination to bring San Antonio to the playoffs as healthy as possible, no matter the consequence. He has Tim Duncan playing a career-low 28 minutes per game, bringing "DNP-Old" into the NBA lexicon.

The Spurs are not winning with defense anymore; it's been years since they were the shutdown unit that choked the life out of opponents' halfcourt offense. San Antonio wins now by outscoring people. The Spurs are second in the league in points per game and lead in points per possession, and Popovich presided over that transformation. Instead of complaining about his team's deteriorating D, he quickly embraced what they could do to win games.

Thibodeau may have done an even better job this season than last year, when he won Coach of the Year. With Rose out, he told Rose's replacements, from C.J. Watson to John Lucas III to Mike James, to shoot the ball and not think about it. And the Bulls have been locked in just about all season, executing to their never-satisfied coach's demands. He has laid low the cliché that a team can't win long term without its superstar player on the court.

Brooks and Brown both had to deal with huge expectations, and delivered. Brown had the heavier lift, replacing a dude with 11 rings on his hands and pretty unchallenged status as the greatest coach of all time. There have been times when you could wonder if he really was still in charge, given the Lakers' penchant for breaking off plays and Andrew Bynum's occasional insubordination. But the Lakers have been pretty strong down the stretch, winning some big games on the road without Bryant, and look a lot like Brown's Cleveland teams. And he did win a COTY award there, as I recall.

Brooks didn't have an easy task, either, getting the Thunder to play at an even higher level than they did in reaching the West finals last season. He has challenged both Durant and Russell Westbrook to be more careful with the ball, a challenge that has not been met, but at least Brooks has demanded more from his star players.

Gentry worked miracles getting the Suns from six games below .500 at the All-Star break, with an old core and unproven bench players, to having a chance to sneak into the playoffs with a late rush. If the Suns win at Utah Tuesday and at home against San Antonio Wednesday, they'll get the eighth spot over the Jazz. (They also get in if Utah loses to them Tuesday and against Portland Thursday.)


• THE WINNER: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
RUNNER-UP: Kenneth Faried, Denver
THE OTHERS: Ricky Rubio, Minnesota; Isaiah Thomas, Sacramento; Iman Shumpert, New York; Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio

Irving had some competition from Rubio, who exceeded the hype upon his arrival from Europe before going down for the season in March with a torn ACL. But Irving was hands down the top rookie, leading first-year players in scoring (18.6 per game entering play Sunday) and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range on a rebuilding Cavaliers squad. All of the other contenders had a lot more help on their respective teams than Irving had on his.

Faried was outstanding for the Nuggets the second half of the season; his presence made it much easier for Denver to trade Nene to Washington. The three-time NCAA leader in rebounds got right to work in the pros, leading all rookies in boards and ranking third in blocked shots, and was 15th overall in the league (first among rookies) in PER.

Thomas, the last pick in last year's Draft, performed well above expectations for the Kings as a part-time starter, scoring 20 or more eight times and, frankly, having much more impact on his team's fortunes than the much-higher-hyped Jimmer Fredette. Shumpert thrived as a defensive hawk at two guard whose offense came and went but whose effort was there every night. Leonard, acquired on Draft night from Indiana, became an unlikely starter in San Antonio but quickly figured out ways to contribute at both ends of the court.


• THE WINNER: Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee
RUNNER-UP: Ryan Anderson, Orlando
THE OTHERS: Jeremy Lin, New York; Greg Monroe, Detroit; Goran Dragic, Houston; DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento

This surely would have been Lin's award had he been able to stay healthy. For those glorious three weeks right after the Super Bowl, there wasn't a better story in sports -- hell, in the country -- than this kid's meteoric rise out of nowhere to become the toast of New York City. But he cooled off a little and teams started playing him differently and Carmelo came back and Lin got hurt.

So, Ilyasova gets the nod, having upped his scoring and rebounding significantly over his previous career highs. He was 11th in the league in double-doubles beginning play Sunday. And he is, incredibly, fourth in the league in 3-point shooting, hitting 45.4 percent of his attempts, a quantum leap from the 29.8 percent behind the arc he made last season. Only Steve Novak, Mike Miller and Stephen Curry have shot it better.

Anderson also bumped his scoring and rebounding up significantly, while shooting a career high .398 behind the arc -- only Novak, Ilyasova and Matt Bonner shot higher percentages among big men. (Is this when I mention both Ilyasova and Anderson are in contract years?)

Monroe made huge strides in his scoring and inside play for the Pistons, echoing the rapid improvement of fellow Georgetowner Roy Hibbert in his second NBA season. Dragic took over at the point in Houston when Kyle Lowry was felled with an intestinal parasite and responded with gaudy numbers (18.5 points, 6.5 assists, 49.9 percent shooting) as a starter. Cousins got in better shape, exhibited a little more self-control and raised his numbers across the board in Sacramento.


• THE WINNER: Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City
RUNNER-UP: Dwight Howard, Orlando
THE OTHERS: LeBron James, Miami; Kevin Garnett, Boston; Tyson Chandler, New York

Orlando's internal implosion and Howard's back injury worked against his getting a fourth straight DPOY nod. Howard's individual numbers were rock solid, but Orlando has dropped from third in the league in defensive efficiency last season to 12th this season. That is hardly all Howard's fault, but Orlando's defensive success the past few seasons wasn't all his doing, either.

At any rate, Ibaka has already surpassed his block total from all of last season despite playing nearly 200 fewer minutes. He leads the league in swats (3.6), but it's not just the rejections that make him the league's standard bearer. His intimidation factor is close to Howard's, and the Thunder have become tougher to score on in the paint. (OKC has improved from 13th to eighth in defensive efficiency, even more impressive considering the Thunder are sixth overall in pace, meaning they have more possessions per game than most teams.)

James has taken on the likes of Durant and Carmelo Anthony, and Rose and anyone else who could hurt Miami with a perimeter attack. And he's usually come out on top in those matchups, a testament to his lateral quickness, strength and length. Garnett's move to center was a catalyst in Boston's strong second half; as's Zach Lowe argued earlier this month, the Celtics were on one of the league's all-time best defensive rolls with Garnett in the middle.

Chandler has taken his outstanding post D to New York, where the numbers tell the tale: through Sunday, a game Chandler got off for rest, the Knicks have allowed 116.3 points in the three games they've played without him, and 93.8 points with him on the floor.


• THE WINNER: James Harden, Oklahoma City
RUNNER-UP: Lou Williams, Philadelphia
THE OTHERS: Jason Terry, Dallas, Mo Williams, L.A. Clippers; Al Harrington, Denver

This one's easy. Harden is hands down the best player coming off the bench in the league. He'd be starting for 28 or 29 other teams. One NBA head coach asked last week: after Kobe and Dwyane Wade, who would you rather have as a two guard other than Harden?

And he's right. Averaging almost 17 a game, and perhaps the Thunder's best and most efficient passer, Harden has to be the solid third option behind Durant and Russell Westbrook. He could be a big-time scorer if he wanted to or was needed to; witness his 40-point explosion last week in Phoenix. But he does what OKC needs him to do and does it at an amazingly high level.

Williams has been instant offense for the Sixers most of the season, an old-fashioned gunner who is asked to fill it up and has delivered -- to the point where, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday, he'll walk away from more than $6 million and opt out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Terry fulfilled his usual second quarter/end of game role for the Mavs; Williams accepted coming off the bench in L.A. after Paul's arrival took the ball out of Williams' hands. And Harrington looked revived in Denver, shooting his highest percentage from the floor in five years.


Guards: Kobe Bryant, Lakers; Tony Parker, Spurs
Forwards: LeBron James, Heat; Kevin Durant, Thunder
Center: Dwight Howard, Magic

Chris Paul, Clippers; Dwyane Wade, Heat
Forwards: Kevin Love, Timberwolves; Carmelo Anthony, Knicks
Center: Andrew Bynum, Lakers

Russell Westbrook, Thunder; Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
Center: Marc Gasol, Memphis


I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, 'Moron! Why don't they give me the awards to hand out? Rose is averaging 22 points and 7.9 assists a game, both seventh in the league this season. He's the defending MVP and his team is still atop the Eastern Conference. How in the hell can you leave him off all three teams?'

I have a two-part answer:

a) Thirty-eight.

That's how many games Rose has played this season.

b) Sixty-four.

That's how many games the Bulls have played this season.

Rose has missed 26 games with groin and back and foot injuries. If this were a normal season and he'd missed 26 games, no problem; he still would play 56. But this isn't a normal season. He's missed more than a third of Chicago's games this season. That's not a little bit. That's a large chunk of a season in which every game is crucial. I'm not blaming Rose for his injuries, of course. But I can't ignore them, either. He hasn't been on the court. Nor am I factoring in Chicago's record without him, which has been amazingly good. It's irrelevant in this context.

This is analagous -- not completely, but close -- to Michael Jordan's second year with the Bulls, when he missed 64 of 82 games with a broken foot, and came back with minute restrictions put on him by Bulls management.

That was the only year of Jordan's career he didn't play in the All-Star Game, up to and including his last season in Washington. (Of course, he came back for the playoffs in the spring of '86 and averaged 43 in a three-game loss to the Celtics, including Video a 63-point jobber in Game 2 that set the all-time record for points scored in a playoff game, after which Larry Bird said he saw "God disguised as Michael Jordan.") But for the regular season, Jordan didn't make the All-NBA first team -- as he would in the next 10 seasons in which he played.

Just tell me who you'd take off in order to put him on.

Parker is having a great season, averaging 18.6 points and 7.7 assists per game. Rose's numbers are better (though just two-tenths better in assists) except for this one small difference: Parker has played in 16 more games! This season, that's almost 25 percent more games. And Parker's Spurs have the same 48-16 mark as Chicago -- in, I would argue, a tougher division and conference.

Bryant leads the league in scoring. Paul averages three points per game fewer than Rose, but averages more assists (9.0, third in the league) and steals (his 2.45 average led the league going into Sunday's games). Paul had 22 double doubles entering Sunday; Rose had nine. Paul had shot 47.8 percent to Rose's 43.7 percent.

Wade? He is 10th in the league (49.7 percent) in shooting, and ninth in steals; Rose is 65th. In fairness, Tom Thibodeau's defensive system does not want guards trying for steals out front; it wants the guards to push baseline and specifically not go for steals and overplay in the passing lanes. So Rose's steal numbers are likely much lower than they could be if he were allowed to freelance. Rose is averaging more assists than Wade's 4.6, and has five more double-doubles. But Wade is more efficient. And, again, has played in 11 more games.

Westbrook averages more points than Rose and shoots a higher percentage; Rondo leads the league in assists (11.6) and is seventh in steals (1.68, with the caveats mentioned above). And, again, Westbrook has started each of Oklahoma City's 64 games.

Derrick Rose is an all-NBA first team guard. Just not this season. Because he hasn't played in enough of it.


It is a mess at the National Basketball Players Association this morning. A big mess. Grievances are airing in public, leaving everyone scurrying to their respective neutral corners and leaving the immediate future of the union's leadership in question.

What is certain is this: The trust between Billy Hunter, the union's executive director, and Derek Fisher, the union's president, is shattered. The duo that presented a united front for most of the lockout against the NBA's owners will not be working together again, their relationship destroyed amid dueling accusations that came to the surface last week, culminating in the union's Executive Committee voting 8-0 to ask Fisher to resign -- and in the union going the unusual extra step of tweeting out its reasoning Friday afternoon.

"The Executive Committee based its decision on numerous instances over the past six months, where Fisher engaged in conduct detrimental to the union, including acting in contravention of the players' best interests, during collective bargaining, declining to follow the NBPA Constitution, and failing to uphold the duties of the Union President," the committee statement said.

Fisher, who is unpaid for his union duties while playing for the Thunder, had asked that there be an independent review of the union's finances and practices. While he didn't specify any names, the request was seen as a slap at, among others, Hunter, who is reportedly paid more than $2 million annually in his latest contract with the union, which runs through 2016.

And Hunter, the former NFL kick returner for the Redskins and Dolphins, doesn't take kindly to slaps.

"He's not interested in getting along," says someone who knows both Hunter and Fisher very well. "'You challenge me, I'm going to come back at you.' "

For his part, Fisher -- who did not return calls this weekend seeking comment -- has also gotten his back up, refusing to resign.

"I, along with many others, are extremely disappointed with the Executive Committee," Fisher said Friday evening in a statement. "Their demand for my resignation and their need to protect the NBPA management and their own best interests instead of protecting the players we were elected to serve is unfortunate."

He has asked other players to support his call for an independent review, using the law firm Patton Boggs, and insists he wouldn't have taken this action if he didn't have grave concerns about the union, based on the results of previous and regular audits the union has undergone in recent years.

But this is a drama with numerous subplots, any one of which could flash up to the surface like volcanic ash during an eruption.

Hunter still has dissident agents on his flank, those who have questioned his leadership for years, up to and during the lockout. Those agents sought a much harder tack to take against the league, strongly suggesting the union decertify before the league imposed a lockout in order to maximize leverage and force the league back to the bargaining table quicker.

Hunter resisted, opting instead to negotiate with the NBA's owners well into November before hiring prominent attorney David Boies to file a "disclaimer of interest" that dissolved the union into a trade association and led to the filing of antitrust lawsuits against the league in California and Minnesota courts before the two sides reached agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement the day after Thanksgiving.

But those agents, including some of the game's most powerful players like Arn Tellem, Dan Fegan, Bill Duffy and Leon Rose, are still there. If Fisher got them and their clients to back him, Hunter could be in trouble.

Yet Fisher has an achilles' heel as well -- the now-infamous story written by columnist Jason Whitlock last October in which an unnamed NBA player alleged that Hunter and others believed Fisher was negotiating a secret deal with Stern and the league without the union's knowledge.

In exchange for Fisher "delivering" the union in an agreement to split revenues 50-50 with the league, the source claimed to Whitlock, the NBA would make sure Fisher had a job upon his retirement.

Both Fisher and Hunter went to great lengths the day after the story was published to deny there were any problems between the two of them. Fisher specifically denied negotiating in secret with the league or any rift with Hunter. But damage was done.

Now, the issue is whether Fisher violated the union's bylaws by asking for a review.

Two members of the union's Executive Committee reached Sunday, Wizards forward Mo Evans and former Wizards guard Roger Mason, Jr., said that request was part of the problem they had with Fisher. They would accept an independent review, they said, if it were truly independent and not a firm that Fisher had chosen.

"The entire Executive Committee is on the same page with regards to where we are," Evans said by telephone. "We believe this is unbelievably selfish timing, bad timing. It's an unbelievable distraction. With David Stern, Billy Hunter, the last thing we wanted was anything that would distract from the season, the most entertaining season we've put together. We've got parity, we've got everything we negotiated for ... we're achieving exactly what it is we wanted."

Said Mason: "The reason we are where we are now as a board is that the guys on the committee have no problem doing the audit, but the way Derek went about it was not going with the bylaws of our union. Derek's a great guy and he's a friend of mine, but from a union standpoint there was a unanimous vote asking him to resign."

Mason received texts from players over the weekend saying, 'You're really taking Billy's side over Derek's side,'" Mason said. "It's not about that. It's about what's going on in the union."

But a source with knowledge of Fisher's thinking indicated that Fisher is not seeking an audit from Patton, but a business review. The findings of the review would not be binding unless legal problems were discovered during the review.

Such a review would encompass issues like staffing, management, how decisions are made within the union, potential conflicts of interest and other areas. Fisher, according to the source, indicated that he would be amenable to other companies if committee members had objections to using Patton.

Another source, who has knowledge of some of the union membership's thoughts, said that committee members became angry with Fisher during a conference call on Friday the 13th when he refused to answer specific questions about what he believed was wrong with the union's current practices.

Fisher, said the source, claimed during the call that he had sources "inside" the union claiming that things weren't right and a review concerning the appropriation of funds was necessary. However, not all of the members of the executive committee were on that particular call.

That day, only five of the nine Executive Committee members were present, but those five constituted a quorum, and all five voted to go ahead with the review, according to the source with knowledge of Fisher's thinking. The committee members knew Fisher was not requesting an audit, the source said, but a review. And that evening, Hunter sent a communication that he and the union's staff would cooperate.

On Sunday the 15th, the union was notified by Patton that it had to contact all vendors with which it had done business in the past year, and that a business review would begin within days.

This angered many members of the committee. One, center Etan Thomas, pointed out that Hunter had been the union's head since 1996 and that if there were any questions about his leadership or practices, they should have been addressed in private, and that Fisher shouldn't have made his concerns public.

Evans and Mason said Fisher initiated the review without the full committee's approval. Throughout the lockout, they said, the full committee voted on every major decision the union made.

"It's not his responsibility," Evans said. "For one, this is a non-paid position. Billy Hunter is the head of the union. That's why I feel it's not his responsibility. Proper protocol says you handle this in the summer. If there are discrepancies, we handle this internally. You give Billy Hunter the proper respect and handle this internally, just like we'd give (Fisher) the proper respect and handle things internally."

Said Mason: "The biggest thing was as a board, we agreed to do an audit. An audit costs a quarter of a million dollars, and that would be the players' money being spent. So our job was to make sure everybody was on board with this. So our questions were, what is this money being spent on? And we never got a satisfactory answer."

On April 16th, there was another conference call, this time with the full committee present. Fisher was not initially on this call, but joined in during the call at the committee's request. During this period, committee members asked Fisher if he would talk with Hunter on the call and discuss his specific issues with the union's practices. There is agreement among all sources on what happened next: Fisher said he couldn't do that. He wasn't comfortable talking on a call with Hunter, because there were legal ramifications to what they were asking him to do. He couldn't address specific allegations against Hunter without having his attorney take part in the call.

Fisher then left the call. Hunter got on the call, and the full committee then voted to rescind the previous Friday's vote to authorize the review.

Another conference call was held the following day, April 17. Again, committee members pressed Fisher to join the call and address Hunter to see if they could work things out. Fisher told the members they had to speak with the legal department at Patton first, and after that, if they still wanted, they should speak with Hunter. The committee chose not to speak with Patton.

Hunter then told the committee members that the union had been audited last year and that a report would have been made available to the players during All-Star Weekend. But the union did not have a meeting that weekend because Fisher was sick. (Fisher had a sinus infection and didn't go to Orlando, but had told the union he'd be available via Skype or other video conferencing methods if they needed him.)

Hunter, who also did not respond to a text seeking comment, then told the committee he'd be wiling to have another audit of the union's books, and offered to resign if anything untoward were found. But if and when the audit revealed no wrongdoing, he said, then Fisher would be the one who would have to go. That is when the committee voted to ask for Fisher's resignation.

The union had been audited after the 1999 lockout and in 2005, when a lockout was averted at the 11th hour, by the same firm that audits the National Football League Players Association and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

"It's good enough for them, but it's not good enough for us?," Evans asked. "What are we looking for? We're losing focus. This is petty. This is what makes us look unprofessional, and we're not unprofessional ... we're not going to send that message out to our players, that we're not capable of handling their interests."

Fisher was informed Wednesday that the committee had asked him to resign. On Thursday, he informed them that he intended to stay on, and told them why.

The source with knowledge of Fisher's thinking said that while conflicts of interest are part of the proposed review, Fisher is not accusing Hunter of nepotism. ( reported over the weekend that Hunter's daughter and daughter-in-law work for the NBPA, another daughter worked as outside counsel during the lockout and Hunter's son was hired to run a financial awareness program for the union.)

"The nepotism is not the issue he's calling for a review of," the source said.

Hunter and Fisher have a lot of similarities. Agents -- and not just those high-profile ones this summer -- have said that they sometimes have a hard time reaching Hunter and that they frequently don't know what the union is doing.

Fisher has faced similar criticism, though he constantly said during the lockout that any player with a question had his number and could call or text him any time. He has been in contact with both committee members and several rank and file players in the last few days, and several, including former teammates Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake, and current Thunder teammates Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison, have given Fisher their public support.

Mason said since the lockout ended, Fisher "kind of distanced himself a little bit. But everybody's busy with the season, and he got traded and all that. He may have had some things going on."

If Fisher were to resign, Evans said Sunday, vice president Keyon Dooling, the Celtics' guard, would become interim president. (Dooling said Monday he has no plans to run for union president if Fisher resigns from his post or is removed from it.)

Evans had told the basketball website HoopsWorld over the weekend that he believed Clippers guard Chris Paul, also an Executive Committee VP, would become the next union president.

"We talked about Chris Paul," Mason said. "He's on board. If we end up doing the audit, which we are going to do regardless, there's probably going to be a vote. I think it would be the committee first, and after that it would go to the player reps. Because the last thing is about choosing sides, Billy or Derek, or anything like that."

But that vote couldn't be taken until the union's summer meeting after the season, Evans said Sunday night.

"As players, we will still be diplomatic and address these things in the summer," he said. "That's when business deals are taken care of, in the summer. Not just before the playoffs. This is not personal. This is not about Mo Evans, not about Billy Hunter. This shouldn't even be public. I was more excited watching the Knicks and the Hawks today than to dispel rumors and give perspective to people about what's going on with the Players Association now."

As for the allegation that Fisher had been negotiating behind the union's back in October?

"Yeah, I kind of heard just what everybody else heard," Mason said. "I had no knowledge. From what I understand, DFish was on the up and up with everything ... we didn't feel like that was true. We had no reason to think that was true."

The next step will likely depend on whether Fisher can get enough players and player reps among the 30 teams to take his side and demand the internal review. How long that will take -- and how long the Executive Committee would wait before taking additional action against Fisher, if it can take any action -- is uncertain. In addition, six of the nine committee members are up for re-election themselves this summer.

But any one player, as a dues-paying member of a public union, can request a review, and Fisher has already done so. Thus, there will be a review. What it will find is the question.

"It probably will get worse before it gets better," said the source who knows both men. "...They're both guilty of not communicating better, making sure that everybody is on the same page."


(April 9 rankings in parenthesis)

1) San Antonio (1) [5-0]: Won 18 of last 20, and one more win would clinch homecourt throughout the Western Conference finals. You know Pop wants to rest all 12 guys and just bring the Toros up to finish up the last week.

2) Miami (3) [3-1]: D-Wade dislocated finger not the news you want going into the playoffs.

3) Chicago (2) [2-2]: Bulls have rested Derrick Rose as long as they can, and he's back in the lineup. Crossed fingers, toes, organs in the Second City.

4) Oklahoma City (4) [2-2]: James Harden concussion a crucial injury to keep an eye on this week before the playoffs start -- and a good test for the league's concussion protocols, which are strict about keeping players off the court until they're 100 percent.

5) Indiana (6) (3-1): Pacers look like a team that will be trouble in the east: deep, well-coached, motivated and hot at the right time.

6) L.A. Lakers (5) [2-2]: Bynum sits the last quarter and a half of regulation and both of the two overtimes Sunday against Oklahoma City. Jordan Hill played well, but he didn't play that well.

7) Memphis (9) [4-0]: Nobody -- nobody -- wants to play the Grizzlies in the first round.

8) Atlanta (7) [3-1]: Hawks currently down to Josh Smith, Ivan Johnson and Erick Dampier to plug the middle with Zaza Pachulia (sprained foot) on the shelf.

9) L.A. Clippers (8) [3-1]: Clips have already established the best win percentage in franchise history (.625 with two games to go, besting the 49-33, .598 pace of the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves).

10) Dallas (12) [2-2]: Odd scheduling quirk at the end of the regular season: Mavs, who last played Saturday, have four days off before finishing against Atlanta on Thursday.

11) Boston (10) [1-2]: Cs sign Sean Williams, ex-BC product, for stretch run, waiving (finally) Jermaine O'Neal.

12) New York (14) [3-1]: Stoudemire back at center, helps preserve win Sunday over Hawks with last-second blocked shot of Marvin Williams.

13) Denver (NR) [3-1]: My guys at NBAE who've been following the Nuggets around all season for "The Association" can relax -- Nugs not only clinched a playoff spot, but rose up to sixth in the west.

14) Orlando (11) [1-3]: Magic are, as they say on Wall Street, trending down as the playoffs loom without Dwight Howard.

15) Utah (NR) [3-0]: Jazz show mettle with three-overtime win over Dallas and OT win Saturday over Orlando to move into eighth in the west with two games to go.

Dropped out: Houston (13), Philadelphia (15)


San Antonio (5-0): Two punishing wins over the Lakers, three romps over assorted NBA flotsam, including Sunday's win over Cleveland without Tim Duncan playing, average margin of victory: 21.4 points. Yeah, I'd say the Spurs are kind of dialed in going to the playoffs.


Portland (0-3): Blazers setting quietly in the West, and with the team looking to hit a home run with a GM hire, you wonder if interim coach Kaleb Canales will have a shot at the job permanently; a high-profile exec usually wants to put his own stamp on the organization with his own choice.


Will Bad Blake snap?

All season, Blake Griffin's been getting fouled, and hard, as he starts his seemingly inevitable rise to the basket. New Orleans' Video Jason Smith body-checked him in New Orleans last month, getting a two-game suspension from the league. Last Thursday, the Suns' Robin Lopez yoked Griffin around the neck to stop a breakaway dunk, leaving Griffin angry and stiff afterward.

"Yes, you expect hard fouls," Griffin said afterward. "But not like that."

The rough treatment is not unexpected, for three reasons: first, Griffin is a big, strong, 6-foot-10 kid with ridiculous hops. He's hard to slow down once he cuts through inertia and starts building momentum. You must match force with force; ask anybody who tried to guard Shaq or Karl Malone in the paint.

Second, nobody wants to be the Video latest guy Video to be posterized by the NBA's most vicious dunker, so you will resort to any means, fair or unfair, to stop him. Third, Griffin doesn't exactly make teams pay, shooting just 51.7 percent from the line.

But after Lopez's foul, which was ruled a flagrant two and got Lopez ejected, Griffin's teammates wondered aloud how much more he was supposed to take.

"They've been doing it too much to him this year," Mo Williams said. "I don't know if it's in their scouting report or what. I mean, I don't know. The man's blessed with athletic ability; what, he's not supposed to use it ... it's like a movie you see over and over again ... there's going to be some repercussions, and I hate to say that, but that's just how it is. They can't just keep hitting the man like that."

Chris Paul said that he was told by someone -- he wouldn't say who -- that Griffin is "Public Enemy No. 1" around the league. And Paul said he understands and accepts physical play. But Paul says Griffin gets fouled just about every time down the court. Opponents are especially fond of hitting him after he dunks, as he's going back up court, Paul said.

"I don't know what Lopez was thinking," Paul said. "I actually went to the refs and asked them, could they keep him in the game? I'd rather him not be ejected. I'd rather him be on the court. That probably helped them. I told them, I asked the refs, 'Bring him back. You're doing us a disservice sending him to the locker room.' It is what it is. He didn't want to get dunked on, so he tried to do something crazy."

Coaches have told Griffin that this is actually great preparation for his first trip to the playoffs, when the fouls get even harder. He shouldn't look to the refs for calls or anything else, for that matter, and play through the contact.

Of course, there will be those who think Griffin is whining, that there isn't a big man in the league who isn't scratched or cut or knocked around on every play. Most of them, though, are close to the ground. Griffin is often in the air. And every man has a breaking point. For Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it was an elbow to the gut from Milwaukee's Kent Benson. Even Dr. J and Larry Bird threw down back in the day.

But those were the old days, when one of Griffin's teammates would take care of things under the basket. But nowadays, neither Griffin nor any of his teammates can retaliate; that would cost them fines and suspensions, and in the playoffs, that could be fatal to the Clippers' chances.

You just hope that cuts through the anger and muscle the next time Griffin goes down. It would be a disaster to have Griffin's playoff debut marred by an altercation brought about by a clothesline.

"It just don't make sense," Williams said. "If you're on the break, if you want to stop it, beat him down the court and put your body in front of him. And if he runs down the court and beats you, if you can't get to him, you can't get to him."


What I would give for another day in Stanley Park. From Joseph Darren:

With all this talk about how the Kings might be on the move I remember reading your column how Seattle & Anaheim would be a viable market, but what about a market such as Vancouver? It has a corporate infrastructure, an arena that can support a basketball team and an opportunity for the NBA to "expand" outside of the U.S.

My question about Vancouver has nothing to do with the qualities you mentioned, Joseph. I just think it will be hard to convince enough owners that there is long-term support in the city for an NBA team just 11 years after the Grizzlies left. And I acknowledge that Michael Heisley's reasons for leaving may not have gibed with the economic reality of what Vancouver had to offer at the time. But that doesn't change the fact that there will be a lot of support among owners to get a team back to Seattle as quick as possible.

After losing the Grizzlies 11 years ago, it would be hard for Vancouver to get an NBA team again.
Jeff Vinnick/ NBAE via Getty Images

Houston, we have no coverage. From Kelly Iko:

As a devout Rockets fan, it only saddens me how much anti-love we've gotten in the past couple of years. We're in the playoff race, beaten the Thunder and Lakers more than once, but still never get any national coverage. I mean, wouldn't you rather see a Rockets/Lakers game as opposed to a Jazz/Warriors game on ESPN. But about the Rockets, it seems like deja vu all over again with the point guard story. Aaron Brooks is the starter, gets hurt, Lowry plays well, Brooks comes back, wants his job, doesn't get it, traded. Lowry is the starter, gets hurt, Dragic plays out of his mind, Lowry comes back, hasn't gotten job back yet. Will he be traded?? Say it ain't so.

Every week, I get mail or Tweets from people that swear their team is the one that's being slighted by the national media. You can't all be getting the shaft, can you? As for the Rockets, I suspect Lowry is their preferred guard of the future, and they'll make him their priority this summer. Dragic played great in Lowry's place, but I can't see Houston putting big bucks into him when it has so many other areas to address.

I plead the Sixth. From Antony Manokin:

I saw in your "Harden or Ibaka" article that you said Harden is a shoo-in for the sixth man of the year award. What about Lou Williams of the Sixers? He's averaging close to Harden with 15 points and 4 assists and he is helping to keep his team in the playoffs without a true superstar (No offense to Iggy) unlike the Thunder. Early in the season I remember Sixers announcers saying he could be the leading scorer off the bench. Why no love for the city of brotherly love?

Lou has had a terrific season, Antony. But this one is easy. Harden gets the hardware. Period. And it has nothing to do with loving or not loving Philly.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and non-space uses for the retired Shuttle (day care for 1,000! Very uncomfortable dinner parties!) to If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky, we just might publish it!


1) LeBron James (30.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 5.7 apg, .596 FG, .871 FT): Scored the Heat's last 17 points Monday night to finish off the Nets, the latest testimonial to his MVP season.

2) Kevin Durant (29.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, .425 FG, .900 FT): Great season, but didn't close the show on the road against Miami two weeks ago or Lakers Sunday. A minor quibble, but a quibble.

3) Kobe Bryant (22 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.5 apg, .421 FG, .818 FT): Returns from shin injury to play Friday against Spurs and Sunday against OKC. Rust was evident, but heated up down the stretch against Thunder, playing the kind of "hero ball" that drives sabrematicians crazy.

4) Tony Parker (15.6 ppg, 9 apg 0.8 spg, .544 FG, .800 FT): Popped the Lakers for 29 and 20 in two Spurs wins over L.A., setting the tone for a perfect week.

5) Chris Paul (21.3 ppg, 10.3 agp, 3.5 spg, .397 FG, .879 FT): Consider the culture changed for L.A.'s formerly ugly kid sister franchise, who is now beautiful and refined and possessor of one mad crossover.

Dropped out: Kevin Love


5 -- Games this month in which the Spurs have scored 120 points or more. Per Elias, that's the first time San Antonio has done that in one month since November, 1990.

50 -- Points by which the Cavaliers trailed the Pistons Video at the end of three quarters Tuesday, 100-50. Detroit wound up settling for a 116-77 victory.

66 -- Consecutive road games the Wizards had lost when trailing after three quarters Video before rallying in Chicago against the Rose- and Deng-less Bulls last Monday to capture an 87-84 victory.


1) Hard to believe, but the playoffs start on Saturday. The lockout seemed to last forever, and yet, the regular season is already over. But it's going to be a great postseason. Just have a feeling we're going to see some incredible stuff.

2) There was a small move toward détente between Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings co-owner George Maloof in Vegas on Friday. You certainly shouldn't expect a breakthrough, but any hint of progress after the last couple of weeks is welcome.

3) Mercifully, things are about to get better in Charlotte, and by get better I mean they won't have any more games to play.

4) The Hornets have had to deal with the tumult of the CP3 deal all season, and have had Eric Gordon for exactly eight games this season, and until recently they had no idea who was going to be their boss long-term. But Monty Williams should get some dap for having those guys ready to play just about every night. New Orleans plays hard, and Williams has kept a bad situation from getting worse.

5) Tuesday night in Salt Lake City is going to be pretty loud. Should be a great showdown between the Jazz and Suns at Energy Solutions Arena. Last playoff berth at stake. Winner take all.


1) Yeah, Metta is gonna have to go away for a while. If Andrew Bynum (correctly) got five games at the start of the season for taking J.J. Barea out of the air in the playoffs, World Peace should get 10 for 'bowing James Harden in the head Sunday. You don't really think the Commish's NBA is going to go easy on Mr. Brawl at Auburn Hills, do you?

2) Don Cornelius in February, and now Dick Clark. This has been a sad spring for my youth. I didn't watch American Bandstand every week, but I know people who did and whose musical tastes were shaped by whether the kids on Bandstand liked the beat of a song or could dance to it. Clark's influence on American music in the second half of the 20th century cannot possibly be understated. I heard Berry Gordy talking Wednesday about how Clark insisted that Motown songs be played for his mostly white audience, because Clark knew how good the songs were and he knew they deserved to be shared with the world. And I heard this a long time ago about Clark: He would volunteer to have a picture taken with a fan. That tells you something about how good a man Clark must have been. He was one of the most famous people in the States for 30 to 40 years of his life, yet you've never heard a story about him big-timing someone or being cross or anything other than the seemingly pleasant man he was. I'm sure he was a tough businessman; you don't get as rich as he did without being able to ruffle some feathers. But he seemed to be so comfortable in his skin. His death leaves me sad. Who will ring in the new year from now on with the grace he showed for a generation? What a life he had.

3) It would be great if someone would reach out to Dwight Howard now and give him some PR help. He needs it, desperately. How can you have back surgery and still have people wondering if you're legitimately hurt?

4) Stat that means absolutely nothing: after Saturday's Video two-point win in Miami against the LeBron- and Bosh-less Heat (and with Dwyane Wade playing just three minutes before dislocating a finger), the Wizards are the only team in the league this season with road wins at Miami and Chicago. Not to take anything from the Wizards. OK, take a lot from the Wiz, who played the Bulls without Derrick Rose and Luol Deng as well.

5) Someone beat me to this joke, I'm sure, but is the term "Secret Service" meant to be taken ironically?


If there's a more unlikely comeback story in this crazy season than Michael Redd's, please submit it. Given up for dead career-wise after suffering a second torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in 2010 while with the Bucks, Redd is, improbably, helping the Suns make a playoff run after signing with Phoenix in December. Redd is shooting just 39 percent, but what would you be shooting after playing in just 61 total games the previous three seasons?

The two ACL tears (the first occurred in January, 2009) derailed Redd's status as one of the league's premier shooters. He'd averaged at least 21 points in six straight seasons before his first injury, and had earned Olympic gold as a member of the 2008 U.S. men's team. Redd managed to return last season for the Bucks' final 10 games, but Milwaukee had no interest in re-signing the franchise's fourth all-time leading scorer after paying him $90 million on a max deal. So Redd wound up in Phoenix, where he's averaged 8 points in 14 minutes a game (49 games). That he'll have a future in the league next season is testament to his incredible desire and hard work in his native Columbus, Ohio, where he spent most of the last two years undergoing grueling daily workouts to get his knee back into shape. Now 32, Redd is finally able to look forward to playing instead of limping.

Me: At this point of the season, are you doing anything different maintenance-wise for your body?

Michael Redd: No, just the same as usual. Come in early, get the necessary treatment from the training staff, go in the weight room, lift weights. We call this exercise "correctives," so we just go in there and do some things to fire up the glutes, fire up the core, do that for about half an hour, come out and shoot and just get ready.

Me: Are you doing squats, or stretching, or both?

MR: It's not necessarily squatting. You have your knees just slightly bent just to aggravate your glutes in certain exercises. A lot of core work, we do in the weight room, just to get the core activated, which will help all this (the lower body). Before that, it's a lot of stretching, rubdowns, personal, soft-tissue work on your legs. It's a good marriage. You can't do one without the other.

Me: Do you do Video the cryo-chamber every day?

MR: I do it every day. It's good. It's good for your body. I feel the difference ... I feel good, man. No setbacks. I don't know many games I've actually played in this year, but no pain. I keep getting stronger, I keep moving better. I feel good.

Me: Did you anticipate this would be a bounceback season or a "show" season?

MR: A lot of teams, last year, in free agency, wanted to see me play. And that was the main thing: can he move? Can he last a season? So this was a heck of a season to come back and prove that, with the lockout, back-to-back-to-backs. So I withstood all that, played well, had some great games. It was good to come back out and play this year without having any pain. This was that year where he's back.

Me: Who was with you in Columbus while you did you rehab?

MR: I had a great team. Jim Landis was my personal trainer, and we did some great things this summer, but the team at Ohio State was great. The rehab center at Ohio State was phenomenal. When I got here, they just built on top of what I had already. They did a phenomenal job. The lockout helped me, having that extended time (to rehab). It took the year last year to get (the knee) right, and I didn't want it to happen again. So I spent all summer with them, between my trainer and the rehab center at Ohio State. Chris McKenzie's the main guy who headed that up. He was phenomenal. I feel good, man. They checked my graph, made sure my leg was good. And everything's fine.

Me: Did you become an ACL expert after all this?

MR: I talked to (Oklahoma City's) Eric Maynor the other night. I've talked to a number of guys who had ACLs -- Josh Howard, Perk (Kendrick Perkins). I know I'm missing some guys. We've all kind of talked about that experience. That's almost a fraternity within a fraternity, guys who are playing with ACLs. Shaun Livingston, I've talked to him about his situation. Jamal Crawford did his early in his career. A lot of guys reached out to me when I did mine. We all kind of talk amongst each other to see how we're doing.

Me: I know you want to make the playoffs, but even if you don't, has this been a successful season for you personally?

MR: This has probably been one of my greatest achievements. The Olympics was phenomenal. All-Star was great. The things I achieved in Milwaukee. But this is probably one of my proudest moments, coming back from two ACLS ...

Me: Small club.

MR: I don't know too many people who have done that. To play at a high level, to still be able to score, to still be able to move, to still be able to do things that somebody who never had one could do, it's been a proud, proud year for me. I put a lot of work in. A lot of tears to come back at this point. I'm so proud of myself and also people around me who were positive around me. A lot of people said, 'You know what, you had a good career, go ahead and retire'

Me: Did you hear that?

MR: Oh, man! A lot. 'Mike, you've had a great year, you spent your whole career in Milwaukee, end it on a good note. Walk away.' And I'm like, that sounds kind of premature to me. The first time it happened, it really happened kind off the cusp of the Olympic experience. Those three years, so you don't know what might have happened as far as fatigue, and my knee, you know, just (gave out). But I'm not blaming it on that at all. That was a long three years for me. So things happen for a reason. But I don't know too many guys who came back and could do this on two (repaired) ACLs. It's amazing, man. God's amazing. A lot of it was my faith in God. I trusted Him through the storms.

Me: Was there a time when your faith was tested?

MR: The second time it happened. Before that, I was playing well again, in Milwaukee. We had a big win in Chicago and we come out here to play the Lakers and Phoenix, and one small move, and it happened again. And I'm like, how is this happening to me? Wow. That was probably one of the most difficult times. Because you go from being an elite player to, all of a sudden, you don't know if you're going to be able to play again. That's hard. So I was gone for a year and a half, and when I came back this year a lot of guys, they're playing me differently, because they're not used to playing me. The other team is like, 'Why are you playing him like that?' Because they don't know. I've been gone for a year and a half. I was getting played differently. The last week or so, I've been getting played tighter, the usual. But they're not knowing. I've taken advantage of that. Being away for a year and a half, a lot of the young guys, they kind of, forget, the teams forget. Or, he can't do those things again. So, I guess (it's) a lack of respect for what I can do. But I understand why. Can he move? Can he drive? Can he attack still?

Me: Do you feel any different on the court?

MR: I feel good. I can do anything I want to do. I can drive. I can shoot. The biggest thing people want to know is, can you still attack? Can he still move? And granted, this is the first year I've been back playing. So I'm only going to be better after this year.

Me: Alvin (Gentry) said he thinks you have another level you can get to.

MR: Totally, totally, totally. This is my first year playing basketball. I haven't played basketball since I got here to Phoenix, like, played basketball, besides last April in Milwaukee. It takes a while to get your rhythm, to get acclimated playing. A lot of the guys are so glad to see me back, the LeBrons and Kobes, and even the young guys, Durant and Westbrook, said great things to me to encourage me, saying 'man, we're glad to see you back.' A lot of the league has been really kind in that respect. This is the first year coming back, and you look at Grant (Hill) and Steve (Nash), 39, 38, I feel like I've got years to go if I keep working and training and improving.

Me: What will you do after the season?

MR: Probably just stick around, just to get the postseason treatment I need, then go home and enjoy the family in Columbus, and get back to my usual offseason training.

Me: When was the last time you had a normal offseason?

MR: In 2005. 'Cause, think about it. In '06, we went from the playoffs to the Olympics (qualifying). '07, the Olympics. '08, the Olympics. In '09, poof--rehab. In '10, poof rehab. And this year, still getting that rehab. So this year is the first summer where I can go on the court and get my game back in seven years. Literally. My life has not been my own for seven years, man. I'm going to play this summer, I'm going to train. I'm going to do what I do and come back next year and try to have a crazy year.

Me: For whom?

MR: Good question. I don't know. I don't know, man. Phoenix has been gracious. They've been kind. They took a chance when most teams didn't want to take a chance. I give them all the credit for taking a chance on me. It would be nice to come back. So we'll see what happens. I want to win a championship, though. That's my target. I know I can help a lot of teams out there. It's going to be interesting. It's going to be interesting. This year, I've shown that I can still play. So it's a matter of who. If I can return to my form of a couple of years ago, it should be fun. I'm hungrier than ever. Not to prove people wrong, necessarily, but to prove to myself that I can still do the things I'm accustomed to doing. If I can't, I can live with that. But I feel like I still have a lot left in the tank.


Another day of good Rehab. Hate I won't be ready to play b4 the season ends but have to fix this ankle for good. Gotta play all 82 next year
-- Warriors guard Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30), Wednesday, 3:09 p.m., getting his offseason off to an early start and identifying Golden State's top concern. If Curry can't stay healthy, nothing else matters.


"There's first class, and then there's Larry."
-- Suns coach Alvin Gentry, joking about the travel demands his former University of Kansas boss, Larry Brown -- the new coach at SMU -- will be making as part of his deal to coach the Mustangs.

"When I do retire, I don't look at it as a big celebration, riding off in the sunset smiling with dancing and music playing in the background. To me, it's not that. Retirement, to me, is depressing. Depressing. It's one of those things where it's not something you want to do; nobody wants to retire from basketball. You want to play basketball forever."
-- Pistons center Ben Wallace, lamenting life without hoops to the Detroit Free Press. Wallace was expected to retire after this season but has recently, according to the paper, been more noncommittal about his future.

"He looks like he's about 12 years old. I don't think anybody recognized him."
-- Wolves coach Rick Adelman, joking about the clean-shaven look of his formerly scraggly All-Star, Kevin Love, who is hoping to play in Minnesota's last couple of games after suffering a concussion

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

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

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