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Gilbert Arenas, who was cleared to begin rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee over the weekend, still plans to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Washington Wizards to become an unrestricted free agent. But he doesn't plan to file the necessary paperwork with the league any sooner than the June 30 deadline. The free agency period opens July 1, and Arenas has until June 30 to opt out of a deal that would pay him $12.8 million with the Wizards next season. Yesterday, via a text message, he revealed his plan to wait until the final day. Washington Post

When asked why he planned on waiting until June 30 to opt out, Arenas wrote, "I just want to wait." Arenas expects to make a full recovery by the time training camp opens in October. Yesterday, he wrote that he has followed his plan so far: traveling and spending time with his family when he might otherwise be in the gym working on his game. "Everything feels good now," he wrote. "I have to get it strong this month." Washington Post

I changed the subject -- although it was fun to think about playing cards with those guys, the lapping Pacific in the background. I asked if Baron Davis will return next season. I expected Nelson to stonewall. "Of course, he's coming back," Nelson said. "Why?" "He has one year left at $17 million. That'll do it. Press Democrat

You get the feeling that Dumars will, indeed, break up the core group this time around. There's a chance that one, maybe two pieces, will be different in the starting lineup. Many expect one of those players not back next season is forward Rasheed Wallace. What a difference a year makes. After Wallace blew up in the fourth quarter of Game 6 in the conference finals against Cleveland last season -- he was ejected -- many fans cried for the Pistons to get rid of him because of his antics. Detroit News

Wallace will be 34 in September. He has one year left on his contract ($13.7 million). Because of that, and because he still can be a force especially in a contract year, Wallace has trade value. Certainly Dumars will at least test the waters to see what return he might be able to get on Wallace. He might even look to package him with another starter. Detroit News

A league executive responded to a story in Saturday's Newsday that said NBA executives don't believe Stephon Marbury has trade value, even with his expiring contract. "He has value, but it is limited," the executive said. "Could you convince somebody to suffer through a year of paying 'Starbury' in order to have financial freedom? The problem for the Knicks is that they wouldn't want to take on players that would be on the books in 2010." Newsday

See if you've heard this one before: The Spurs need younger, more athletic players who can beat people off the dribble. It's exactly what they should have added last July, instead of bringing in another aging standstill shooter in Damon Stoudamire, whose only action against the Lakers in the West finals was nine minutes of mop-up duty in the Spurs' 30-point loss in Game 2. This summer they can offer the mid-level exception, but they're not going to break up their nucleus of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Limited by what could be an arthritic condition in his ankle, Ginobili scored 10 points or less in all four losses to L.A. New York Daily News / June 1

Marc GasolThe seemingly smallest piece in the Pau Gasol-to-the-L.A. Lakers trade could end up being the biggest asset the Memphis Grizzlies received. Check out who could be their next big import. Read more

For Iverson to re-sign with the Nuggets he would have to opt out of the last year of his current deal, which means he would be leaving almost $22 million on the table. Most have speculated that if he did opt out, the 33-year-old Iverson would then sign a new three-year deal with the Nuggets; the question is how much money Iverson would get over the course of the next three seasons. If he agreed to a deal which averaged $10 million annually through the 2010-11 season that would open up a substantial amount of flexibility for the Nuggets financially, thus allowing the organization to restructure the roster. It would also allow Iverson the ability to make $8 million more than he would be due to make next season by the end of the three-year pact. HoopsWorld

This may be different. This is why he finally nagged the Clippers into a release. “I got traded to a losing franchise,” said Cassell, referring to the 2005 deal that sent him from Minnesota to the Clippers. “It’s the winning attitude and the winning atmosphere that I remember from being with Houston. “They have it here, and it’s something that starts in training camp, September and October, with 15 or 20 guys saying, ‘This is our goal,’ and some teams don’t have that goal.” Cassell was on some of those teams. He never wants to go back there. “Minnesota was different from the Clippers,” he said. “They would play good for 44 minutes and then lose the game. One year they lost 23 games by four points or less. That just takes your confidence away.” Boston Herald

Just like 1987, the last time the storied rivals met in the Finals. "I don't think any of these players have a semblance of an idea what the rivalries were in the '60s or '80s," Jackson said. Bryant begged to differ. "I remember it like it was yesterday. My grandfather used to send me tapes of the series, and I used to just watch them over and over," said Bryant, 29, who spent part of his youth in Italy, where his father's basketball career took the family. Boston Globe

For most of this period, the Celtics gave out rings only to players winning their first championship. The rest of the squad got cuff links, goblets, captain's chairs, or pendants with a shamrock and a little diamond. "My wife and daughter wore the pendants," Ramsey said. When the Celtics won their first title in 1957, Ramsey's playoff check was $1,500. "That helped you get through the summer and buy groceries," he recalled. Los Angeles Times

The Lakers likely will start out with Vladimir Radmanovic on Paul Pierce — with Luke Walton, Trevor Ariza and Odom as other options. But if the Lakers want to give Sasha Vujacic extensively playing time once again with the idea that Vujacic can hound Boston sharpshooter Ray Allen the way that he did San Antonio's Manu Ginobili last round, then Bryant will slide to small forward a lot and match up with Pierce. If it's Pierce, Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter said Bryant has to "stay attached, which is hard for Kobe to do." But Winter also said: "You don't want to put Kobe on Allen. Allen has always been very effective against Kobe. Kobe just won't pay enough attention to him." Orange County Register

Watching Wallace battle Boston's Kevin Garnett -- two of the elite power forwards of our time -- offered a fascinating contrast in personalities. Off the court, Garnett can be a jerk. He is rude to ball boys and locker room attendants. He gets himself so intensely wound before games, he's even a jerk to his teammates at times. But on the court, Garnett is the perfect teammate. He plays hard every second he's on the floor. He shares the ball. He executes the game plan completely and without questioning anything. If the coach says to cut, he cuts. If the coach says to play zone, he plays zone. Detroit News

Wallace off the court is one of the warmest and funniest guys in the league. There isn't a ball boy or locker room attendant that he hasn't tipped lavishly. You think back on all the things he has done -- buying championship belts for his teammates, working patiently and tirelessly with the young guys on the team, working tirelessly for underprivileged kids in the community -- he has a heart of gold. But on the court, Wallace can be a jerk. There are times, because he is so ridiculously skilled, he just gets bored and lax. He doesn't always agree with the game plan, but instead of arguing about it before the game, he sometimes tries to rebel against it during the game. Detroit News

Eddy CurryKnicks center Eddy Curry, who had season-ending knee surgery March 17, has been cleared to begin his offseason workout program this week. And the 6-11, 290-pound Curry, who is back working out at Tim Grover's Attack Athletics facility in Chicago, can expect a full regimen of wind sprints to prepare Big Eddy for new coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo system. D'Antoni, who had to incorporate the equally lumbering Shaquille O'Neal in his run-and-gun style with the Phoenix Suns, said he hopes to utilize Curry a great deal in the game plan next season. And it's up to Grover to get Curry prepared for it. "It's never that he can't, it's does he want to?" said Grover, who has worked with Curry since he entered the NBA out of high school in 2001 and is fully aware of Curry's issues with putting in the work. Newsday

Isiah Thomas started benching Curry late in games and said Curry was not suited for the new style of the NBA game. D'Antoni doesn't believe that. Neither does Grover. In the D'Antoni system, the big man usually follows the break and can be an outlet for a mid-range jumper, something Curry insists he has in his repertoire, though Thomas never tried to utilize it. D'Antoni also is sure to incorporate a lot of the pick-and-roll plays that Curry and Jamal Crawford turned into alley-oops. All the D'Antoni system calls for from Curry is to remain in constant motion. "If he does," Grover said, "then he'll get baskets very easy." Newsday

The United States will complete its training for the Olympics with exhibition games in Shanghai against European champion Russia and Australia. The Americans will play the Russians, who stunned world champion Spain in Madrid to win last summer's European title, on Aug. 3 at Qizhong Arena. Russia is led by Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who was the tournament's MVP. Two days later, the U.S. team will face Australia, whose top player is Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut. The Americans crushed the Australians, the Oceania champions, 113-73 when they met two years ago in a round of 16 game at the world championships. AP

Reporter: What would you tell the Clippers to make your case for playing in LA? Kevin Love: Well knowing the situation, I would be talking to Elton Brand, trying to get him to opt out of his contract (laughs). Other than that though, I mean they have Elton Brand already so I haven’t set up anything with the Clippers yet. But LA is a great place and it’s been great to me especially because of UCLA and the fan base I have there. With that 7th pick I feel like that would be a good opportunity for me as well; I could learn from Brand and play alongside Kaman, but we’ll just have to see. DraftExpress.com

Reporter: Is Milwaukee bringing you in at all, do you know? Kevin Love: I don’t know if they are. Reporter: Have you been to Milwaukee? Do you have any thoughts on that? Kevin Love: Hey, I’m just saying, any place that’s going to draft me…I know Bogut. I used to watch Bogut in college. Then there’s Yi, I mean how many people are watching him each night, there’s billions. So I think it would be a great place for me, I could play alongside those guys. DraftExpress.com

DraftExpress: What have you been doing to prepare for the draft? Kevin Love: I’ve been at the Home Depot Center working my butt off. I get up at 6:30 and get to the gym by 8. Also, I’ve been on the Sun Fair diet where Sun Fair delivers your meals. Just seeing the changes to my body, after losing 15 pounds, I feel a lot quicker and a lot more explosive. I feel great. It’s been strenuous, it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s going to be worth it come draft night. I want to come into training camp and next season even better prepared than I am now, I just want to be ready to go. DraftExpress.com

Reporter: What are you eating now that you didn’t before? What did you have to give up? Kevin Love: I’d say the only thing I had to give up was my chocolate milk fetish. I think everyone has their one thing, and chocolate milk was probably it for me. I’m always drinking water, but other than that, it was never really about what I ate, it was just when I ate it. After a 7:30 game in college, you get back to the hotel around 12 o’clock and you’re eating. Also with my portions, I just had to minimize that, and Sun Fair has really been doing it for me. Also just getting into the gym and running, working out six hours a day, has really done a lot for me. Reporter: What did you weigh before you started training for this? Kevin Love: I weighed upper 260’s and I’m hoping to weigh in tomorrow at 250 to 255. DraftExpress.com

Reporter: How do you feel about the rule requiring players to go to college first? How did you feel going in? How do you feel now coming out? Kevin Love: I feel like college not only made me a better player, but it made me a better person both on and off the court. I’ve always been put in a leadership role and being a freshman it was a little different in that respect with my other teammates. Having my teammates there supporting me and bringing me in, that really helped me. Also off the court as well; going to school and making honor roll was really good for me. It was big for my parents as well. I think school really has prepared me. At first I didn’t know what I was doing; I was throwing myself into different interviews and different workouts all at the same time, so I really had to manage my schedule, time management was huge for me. So that’s just an example there of how school really helped me. DraftExpress.com

D.J. Augustin: I’m working out twice a day with Coach John Lucas in Houston; I have a trainer down in Houston also, so I’ve been lifting weights, and doing conditioning and skill work. DraftExpress: What has been the biggest emphasis skill wise that you’ve been working on? D.J. Augustin: Just being able to get bigger guards off of me, being able to play against the bigger guards. I have a lot of help with T.J. Ford down in Houston teaching me tricks. I’m just trying to learn as much as possible. DraftExpress.com

DraftExpress: Is there any player in the NBA that you try to model yourself after? D.J. Augustin: Offensively I try to play like Steve Nash; he has a lot of crafty shots he gets off against bigger guys. That’s going to be my main thing; I have to learn to do that. DraftExpress: You went to Steve Nash’s camp over the summer. Is there anything you added there specifically that you feel helped you? D.J. Augustin: Just learning how to run the pick and roll; executing that to perfection. That’s the biggest thing in the NBA, a lot of teams run pick and roll the whole game. That’s going to be a big key. DraftExpress.com

Reporter: Who is your agent? D.J. Augustin: Thaddeus Foucher DraftExpress: You hired your agent kind of late in the process; what went into that decision? Why did it take so long? D.J. Augustin: I just like to take my time with every decision I make, I don’t like to rush things. I sat down with my family, we picked the guy I felt the most comfortable with, and that’s how it went. I took my time and went who I felt comfortable with; I think it was a good decision. DraftExpress.com

DraftExpress: What player would you compare yourself to? Anthony Randolph: I don’t know, I really haven’t been any thought into that. Most likely though, Tayshaun Prince and Chris Bosh. DraftExpress: Based on what you’ve been hearing from teams, what would you say is your draft range right now? Anthony Randolph: I’m hearing anywhere from four to ten. DraftExpress.com

"Certainly having a number of second-round picks are great assets to have, and we can look at those at several different ways,” said Sonics general manager Sam Presti. "Come draft night I'm sure they will be popular in trade (proposals), but they'll also be popular in our draft room in terms of making the best use of those. "We could certainly look at international players. We could also look at domestic players as well. I think you're just looking to make the best use of the pick regardless of where it is in the draft.” Although the names of this year's international prospects are not familiar — especially not those projected to go in the second round — overseas prospects rarely are household names before starting their NBA careers. The one saving grace for the Sonics is Presti is the man in charge. Presti, the former San Antonio front-office exec, was instrumental in the Spurs selecting Tony Parker with the 28th overall pick in 2001. Oklahoman

It'll be up to Presti and his staff to find a diamond in the second-round rough like Anderson Varejao in 2004, Zaza Pachuilia in 2003, Luis Scola in 2002, Mehmet Okur in 2001, Marko Jaric in 2000 and Gordon Giricek and Manu Ginobili in 1999. "The draft is an unpredictable thing,” Presti said. "We have to continue to do our work and make the best decision that we can. It's not easy to find players of that caliber, but we're going to do our work and try to put ourselves in the best position to add a player at each position that we feel can help us.” Oklahoman

The Pacers have the 11th and 41st picks in the June 26 draft. Team officials have said they need to address the point guard and post positions, but they also haven't ruled out taking the best available player, regardless of position, when it's time for their pick. The Pacers will bring in players who are projected around their picks, meaning players such as UCLA's Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, Texas' D.J. Augustin and Texas A&M's DeAndre Jordan likely will work out at the fieldhouse. North Carolina's Ty Lawson said last week that he has a workout scheduled with the Pacers. The Pacers have plenty of film on players they don't work out in case they acquire another pick through a trade. Indianapolis Star

IU's D.J. White is not currently on the Pacers' schedule. The Pacers won't select the forward at No. 11 and there's talk that he'll already be gone by the time they pick in the second round. White could work out for them as the draft nears. Indianapolis Star

According to the Fan 590, the Raptors, who currently hold the 17th pick, will bring in six players a day from Tuesday-Thursday. Notable players tentatively scheduled to work out in front of Bryan Colangelo and co. include swingmen Brandon Rush, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Bill Walker and centre Robin Lopez. Toronto Star

"I'm definitely excited, but I just am not real sure (what he'll decide)," Anderson said last week at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento. "When I do these workouts, I'll get a lot of feedback from (teams), and they'll tell me what to do. Hopefully, it's a clear answer." The latest information from various teams, Anderson said, had him going from "16 to 25." "I'm hoping for that," he said. "That would be amazing." Sacramento Bee

Despite comments by Alabama coach Mark Gottfried declaring that junior point guard Ron Steele will return for his senior season, Steele has not made a final decision. Steele's mother, Linda, told The Huntsville Times this afternoon that she spoke with her son earlier in the day and he was still considering keeping his name in the NBA draft and not returning to school. "It's actually not 100 percent certain," Mrs. Steele said. "I talked to Ron earlier today. (Returning to school) is the way he's leaning. But he hasn't just made a complete decision yet. He's going to make that decision in another day or two for sure." Huntsville Times

Alabama point guard Ron Steele has decided to return to school for his senior season, postponing his pursuit of a career in the NBA. Tide coach Mark Gottfried told ESPN.com that Steele will withdraw from the NBA draft. "Ron made a great a decision," Gottfried said. "He's a smart person, who evaluated this whole process and I believe that he will again be considered one of the premier point guards in the country next year and at the end of next year be a first-round pick.'' Huntsville Times

But a first-round spot - and the guaranteed two-year deal that comes with it - is far from a certainty. It remains to be seen if that's enough to convince the recent graduate to return for his senior season at Alabama. Because he hasn't hired an agent, he has until June 16 to withdraw his name and return to the Crimson Tide. "It's a numbers game, and only so many are going in that first round," said T.R. Dunn, another former Alabama player and current Houston Rockets assistant. "There are 30 teams in the NBA, and they aren't going to add any more." Huntsville Times

The good ... "I like him a lot. He's a workhorse and brings it every night." - an Eastern Conference director of player personnel. "I believe players should do the things they're good at. I think too many people make the mistake of coming here and trying to do things they've got no business doing. I'd say 'Play your game' to Hendrix. He's definitely a rebounder, and I know he can score inside. He's got a lot of plusses." - an Eastern Conference general manager. "He was a much better player than I anticipated. I just enjoyed him a lot. I didn't have any prior knowledge about him, but he surprised me." - Brian James, Hendrix's coach during the early part of the week. The bad ... "Can he pick-and-pop? Does he have a go-to move on the box? It's not there. He has very good instincts and is a good passer, but the whole thing is not there yet." - an Eastern Conference scout. "He's got a big, strong body, but he's not overly mobile or active. He could go back to school and get better, but there's also a chance he won't. What we see now is what we may get." - a Western Conference GM. Huntsville Times

Staying in this draft is certainly a risk - and Hendrix knows it - if he wants to be a first-round selection. Only one of the projected top 20 picks this year is a junior - and a majority of them are freshmen. For years, teams have drafted on potential over productivity. Hendrix has two weeks to change some teams' minds. "The scary thing is you never know what will happen on draft day," Hendrix said. "But the deadline is June 16th, right? Why not take it right down to the wire?" Huntsville Times

In declaring for the NBA draft but not signing with an agent, Mbah a Moute left open the opportunity to return to college. Yet he is shelling out a few thousand dollars to train for NBA workouts, and he enlisted Joe Abunassar to help him turn his inconsistent jump shot into an asset and work his way into the June 26 draft. "Consistency is very important to me on a jump shot," said Abunassar, who runs Impact Basketball training company. "The real thing with Luc is getting him repetition. Luc needs to be a dangerous mid-range guy, which he's very much become. "His 3-point shooting has gotten much, much better, and it's going to continue to improve. Mostly with him, it's the consistency of his release and his footwork." Daily Breeze

Boeheim and Brey said the NBA could mimic baseball’s system, in which prospects can sign professional contracts straight out of high school. If they choose not to, however, they must spend three years in college or be at least 21 before re-entering the draft. Two years in college may be more realistic for basketball. But the NBA, which raised its minimum age two seasons ago to force players to go to college, would probably not go along with that. Solutions will be discussed through the summer recruiting period, but none is imminent. “From my perspective, there is no silver bullet to all this,” said Jim Haney, the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. “It’s all about ethics and character. You can’t legislate that.” Tacoma News Tribune

Doug CollinsThe Doug Collins watch is winding down: Barring any last-minute hiccups, the Bulls are expected to introduce him as their next coach at a midweek news conference. An announcement of Collins' hiring could come as early as Tuesday, a source said, with a formal introduction Wednesday. Sources told the Sun-Times last Thursday that Collins, who coached the Bulls from 1986 until he was fired in '89, had agreed to return. Chicago Sun-Times

But a source said Collins and general manager John Paxson have discussed which assistants would land on Collins' staff, another indication Collins is nearing a return to the franchise that fired him in 1989 after three successful seasons. Paxson's initial statement, released Thursday, that confirmed he and Collins had discussed the job also indicated Paxson would interview other candidates. No interviews took place over the weekend. Chicago Tribune

Contrary to a published report, Bulls general manager John Paxson never intended to talk to another former NBA coach about the job over the weekend. Speculation is that Paxson will want Collins to give a spot on his coaching staff to one of the candidates the Bulls have interviewed over the last six weeks. Collins could groom that person to eventually succeed him. Utah Jazz assistants Tyrone Corbin and Jeff Hornacek, former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey and Sacramento Kings assistant Chuck Person interviewed with Paxson. He also met with Los Angeles Lakers assistants Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw and former New York Knicks guard Mark Jackson, currently an analyst for ESPN. Chicago Sun-Times

Sources told the Tribune Thursday that Collins initiated this process with a May 23 phone call, three days after the Bulls overcame 1.7 percent odds to land the No. 1 pick in the June 26 NBA draft. He interviewed with Paxson and team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in San Antonio on Memorial Day and has had at least one known follow-up phone discussion. Chicago Tribune

Saunders met briefly with Pistons president Joe Dumars on Saturday and all indications are that he was told he will be back. Understand that with the Pistons, a coach's job security can change in an instant, but as of today, the plan is for Saunders to finish out the final year of his contract. He's already working on next season. He will supervise a workout of draft candidates at the practice facility Wednesday. Detroit News

Don NelsonFirst, the news part. Don Nelson is returning to coach the Warriors next season. He informed the Warriors of his decision two weeks ago. How do I know? Because he told me. How did he tell me if I'm in California and he's in Maui? I called him, that's how. I called the other day and got his voice message, and he phoned back the next day and dropped the news nugget on me. In the interest of total disclosure, I must add he subsequently flew to his Oakland penthouse to prepare for the NBA draft. At least, that's what he said he was planning to do. Press Democrat

"I won't make that judgment until the end of the year. I'll see what happens and how I feel." I stuck with health questions for a while. I asked how he feels now -- sports people love to talk about that stuff. "I feel great," he said. "I'm exercising. I lost 10 pounds. But I'm getting bored." Press Democrat

General Manager Otis Smith has signed a contract extension with the Magic, a deal that should run for at least another three seasons. The deal was expected. Orlando Sentinel

While the Magic are on an uptick, Smith has a fairly busy summer, with seven players who are eligible to become free agents. Twardzik, who has served as assistant general manager the past two season, also signed an extension. Orlando Sentinel

With the Summer Olympics two months off and basketball likely one of the biggest stories at the Beijing Games, Johnson & Johnson and 24 Hour Fitness have signed as new sponsors of USA Basketball. The deal complements other Olympic sponsorship rights held by both companies. J&J is a TOP global Olympic sponsor, and as the official health care products sponsor also has team rights for more than 20 countries’ Olympic committees, along with Paralympic Games rights. DePuy Orthopaedics, a company owned by J&J, also has an endorsement deal with USA Basketball men’s coach Mike Krzyzewski, who, not coincidentally, has two DePuy hips. Sports Business Journal

24 Hour Fitness holds U.S. Olympic Committee rights as official fitness center, along with rights for 11 national governing bodies. Among the NBA athletes that are 24 Hour Fitness spokesmen are Yao Ming, Shaquille O’Neal and hall of famer Magic Johnson. “We’d like to think what this is saying is that this NGB is one of the most compelling,” said Mark Tatum, senior vice president of marketing partnerships for the NBA, which sells USA Basketball rights. “When you look at the activation from brands like McDonald’s and State Farm, that says a lot.” Sports Business Journal

So on Saturday afternoon, I put a call into Bobby Jackson to discuss the Sac Pro League that starts on Monday at Capital Christian High in Sacramento. (More info on that must-see event here) But the voice on the other end didn't sound anything like the former Kings player and current Houston guard. It was, I would find out, a young man named Ben. Ben was nice enough to tell me that this was no longer Bobby's number, but I couldn't resist asking what it's like to have the old line of a guy who is as popular in NBA circles as he is among Kings fans. What's more, Jackson is a yapper in every sense, whether he's talking trash on the floor or chatting with friends, colleagues or family off it. As Ben explained, his new phone has opened a window into the world of an NBA player. "I get text messages asking me to sign trading cards, and every time there's a basketball game I get a call or more text messages," said Ben, who is an IT manager at a construction company locally but didn't want to share his last name. "I don't mind it. I just tell people they've got the wrong number." Sacramento Bee

Some people, however, don't believe him. "I've had people asking for money, saying like, 'Yeah, I owe somebody so much money and I'm broke and could you please send me some,'" he said. "I'll tell them they've got the wrong number and they won't believe me. Ben said he's not a basketball fan, but he will occasionally watch the Kings and was well aware of who Jackson was. As for Bobby himself, I eventually tracked him down and had a laugh about the mixup. "That's exactly why I changed my number," he said. Sacramento Bee

But with election day almost here, Johnson is in the unlikely role of underdog, his poll numbers plummeting, his golden reputation sullied. Reports circulated by foes and the local media have shattered Johnson's choirboy image. In the grainy netherworld of hit mailers and scandal-fanning websites, he's been rebranded as a child molester, slumlord, creep. He's accused of letting properties rot, of fondling young girls. Los Angeles Times

For an altruistic athlete named one of the "15 Greatest Men on Earth" by McCall's magazine, who received the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and was named a "Point of Light" by former President George Bush, the fusillade has been tough to take. "Politics are dirtier and more physical than the NBA," said Johnson, 42. Johnson, known to friends and fans simply as KJ, is trying to overcome the hurricane headwinds of this campaign the only way he knows how: with hustle and determination, by running hard, literally. Los Angeles Times

Living at the time in Calabasas, the three-time Oklahoma All-American, 1984 Olympic gold medalist and 12-year NBA veteran was making his way downstairs in the middle of the night when he heard something snap. It was his right leg. The 6-foot-9 former power forward, who says he never suffered a broken bone in college or during an NBA career in which he averaged 15 points and six rebounds, had not tripped or fallen, but he ended up gently settling onto his backside. Sitting there on the stairs, he says, he wondered how his leg could break so easily. Los Angeles Times

Two months and countless tests later he had his answer: bone cancer. Doctors told him a cancerous cyst below his right knee had caused the injury. "When I first heard," Tisdale, 43, says of his initial reaction to the cancer diagnosis, "I reflected back on my life and thought, 'I had a great life, I had a great time, I did a lot.' I lived two careers that most people only dream of." Los Angeles Times

"When they told me what I had to go through to get well, the approach I took was, 'Let's do it.' Because of basketball, I wasn't no stranger to battles, I wasn't no stranger to hard work, I wasn't no stranger to pain." Still, a summer tour had to be scrapped. Chemotherapy sapped his strength. In July, Tisdale had his knee replaced during an eight-hour procedure. By the fall, however, he was walking with the aid of crutches and, newly energetic, feeling well enough to record his new album in West Hollywood. Los Angeles Times

Joe Axelson, a former executive and general manager with the NBA's Cincinnati Royals, has died at the age of 80. Axelson's son say he died yesterday at his home near San Diego. He didn't release a cause of death. Axelson started with the Royals before the team moved to Kansas City-Omaha and became the Kings. The team later shifted to Sacramento. WTOL.com

Axelson resigned from the Kansas City Kings in 1979 to become the NBA's director of operations. The position managed the officiating staff and has become more widely known while being manned by Rod Thorn and now Stu Jackson. Axelson returned to the Kings in 1982. "He came back to the Kings because the team was floundering," Reynolds said, "and the organization believed it needed him." Axelson was quoted by the New York Times with this description of his new five-year deal with the Kings: "It's a typical NBA contract, paying me about four times what I'm worth." Reynolds said the fondest memory he had of Axelson stemmed from meetings Axelson held with the coaches and basketball staff. "We'd have these 'road win lunches,' " Reynolds said of his days as a Kings assistant. "Joe would be kind of charming and witty and tell all kinds of stories about the league and players. He had a lot of insight. Of course, we didn't have as many of those lunches as we'd have liked. But Joe knew road wins were hard to come by." Sacramento Bee

Reynolds said he believed the league's growth ultimately became Axelson's biggest hurdle as an executive. "He'd been in the league when it was basically a small business, but that changed. I remember when the salary cap went up to $12 million. Joe thought that was ridiculous." Reynolds said he didn't always agree with Axelson's calls. "I know I wanted to take (Dennis) Rodman (in 1986) or Scott Skiles," Reynolds said, "but Joe wanted to take Harold Pressley. But I do know this: (in 1987) Joe was set to take Scottie Pippen, but Chicago's (GM) Jerry Krause made a deal with (former Kings executive) Bob Whitsitt to jump ahead and get Pippen." Sacramento Bee

John Amaechi, an athlete whose career is almost as notable for the causes he has championed as for his achievements as one of a handful of Britons to flourish in the NBA, believes it is an opportunity they should grasp. The 37-year-old will travel to Beijing as Amnesty International's first sporting ambassador and will use the platform provided by his sporting pedigree, and his role as a BBC commentator, to highlight China's broken promises over human rights. Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, he urged athletes bound for Beijing to do likewise. "During their Olympic bid Beijing said the Games would be used to improve the human rights situation in China. They opened the door to that scrutiny and by aligning myself with Amnesty I hope that we can help hold those promises to account," he says. "People who have issues with the policies and behaviour of the Chinese authorities should speak out. Guardian / May 31

DerMarr JohnsonPolice arrested Spurs guard DerMarr Johnson over the weekend and charged him with driving while intoxicated. Johnson, 28, was released Sunday morning after posting $1,000 bail. A breath test showed the 6-foot-9 basketball player had exceeded the legal limit of 0.08 percent, police said. “I just had a few cups of wine,” Johnson said as he left the city's detention center. San Antonio Express-News

About 11:30 p.m. Saturday, a traffic officer pulled over a black SUV on Loop 1604 near Interstate 10 West because it was traveling 20 mph over the speed limit, weaving and following other vehicles too closely, police spokesman Joe Rios said. The officer noticed that Johnson, the driver, smelled of “intoxicants” and his speech was slurred, Rios said. After a field sobriety test, Johnson was taken downtown, where he submitted to a breath test. “He was very cooperative,” Rios said. Asked if he believed the arrest would affect his position with the Spurs, Johnson said, “I don't know. Probably so.” Tom James, a spokesman for the Spurs, declined to comment, citing a lack of details. “At this point, our main focus is working to gather more information,” he said. San Antonio Express-News

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On the "flip side," assistant Michael Curry - not Terry Porter, a leading candidate for the Suns' vacancy, or Dave Cowens - is certain to succeed Saunders. The former Pistons guard, union president and league official was a Dumars appointment last summer. New York Post

Clearly, Curry was placed in position to inherit management's enduring grand expectations (that cannot be realized unless a relatively young, established big man is imported) should its objective prove unattainable. At least Flip's coaching finally helped the Big Ticket get to the Big Dance, zaps column contributor Michael Dortheimer. New York Post

More than two hours later, the perceived top candidate to replace him emerged. Assistant coach Michael Curry talked briefly about his future with the Pistons but said he didn’t speak about the top job with team executives Saturday morning. “It hasn’t been discussed,” Curry said. “We just finished the season. My mind was focused on the opportunity that we had to get to the Finals. My mind wasn’t on nothing else and no other team prior to now.” Detroit Free Press

Saunders has a year remaining on the four-year, $20 million deal he signed in 2005 which had incentives that could have increased his salary by another $6 million. But considering how his teams have struggled in the playoffs, it's hard to imagine the Pistons bringing him back for another season. These Pistons players haven't exactly given Saunders a ringing endorsement in the past, but Tayshaun Prince was quick to acknowledge after the team's Game 6 loss to Boston on Friday that the defeat was more on them than anything Saunders did. "The media has talked about the last couple of years as far as us losing in the Eastern Conference finals, it's Flip's fault. (Friday's loss) was a prime example that it wasn't," Prince said. "Us as players it's up to us to respond and really close the game out like we should." Michigan Live

The Detroit Pistons losing in the Eastern Conference finals has put Flip Saunders' future as the Pistons head coach in limbo. But he may not be the only member of the coaching staff on his way out. Assistant coaches Terry Porter and Michael Curry are both candidates for NBA head coaching jobs in Phoenix and Chicago, respectively. Both have been reluctant to say much about their job prospects elsewhere because their attention was focused on trying to get the Pistons to the NBA Finals. Michigan Live

Porter, who coached the Milwaukee Bucks for two seasons (2004-2005), has already interviewed once with the Suns and is among a handful that Phoenix GM Steve Kerr will talk with a second time. "I'm thankful I'm in the second round process," Porter said on Saturday. "Go down there and do the best that I can do, and see how it plays out." Kerr has been in Orlando at the NBA pre-draft camp to scout prospective players, as well as speak with potential head coaching candidates. Michigan Live

If the Pistons fire Saunders, both would be under consideration to become Detroit's head coach. If the Pistons went with someone more experienced, former Dallas coach Avery Johnson will likely get some interest as well. "I'm not touching that question," Porter said. "I respect Flip for giving me an opportunity to come here, and Joe (Dumars) giving me an opportunity to come here. I learned a lot under both of them. We'll see how it plays out. But I'm not going to touch that." Michigan Live

Doug Collins' broadcasting duties have concluded and general manager John Paxson returned from the predraft camp on Friday with no plans to travel throughout the weekend. Given the fact Collins already has interviewed formally with Paxson and team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and had a follow-up phone interview, not to mention the three principals' long relationships, only negotiations would remain to make Collins coach. Chicago Tribune

Mitch KupchakThere are several versions of the story behind the re-emergence of the LA Lakers, but does the true story give Kobe Bryant enough credit for the way he pushed Mitch Kupchak to radically improve the team? Read more

Paxson's initial statement indicated he wanted to interview other candidates until Collins' TNT work ended. There were no plans for any weekend interviews. People close to Collins remain convinced the job is his. Collins has shared his excitement about getting the job with confidantes. Chicago Tribune

A source close to the situation believes if Paxson holds any further interviews, they would involve second visits with known candidates. Two strong possibilities are Utah assistant Tyrone Corbin and Sacramento assistant Chuck Person. Corbin met a second time with Phoenix general manager Steve Kerr about the Suns' vacancy, according to reports. The buzz at the Orlando predraft camp had Detroit assistant Terry Porter emerging as a front-runner for that position. Arlington Heights Daily Herald

Mark Jackson hopes to go from the microphone to the sideline, just as Doc Rivers did. Rivers took over as the Celtics coach in 2004 after spending a year working at ABC as an NBA analyst. Jackson is currently an analyst for ABC and has interviewed for head coaching jobs with New York, Chicago, and Phoenix. Rivers didn't have any head coaching experience prior to getting hired by Orlando in 1999; he was an analyst for Turner Sports for three years before that. Jackson has no head coaching experience, either. "Doc is a guy that really opened the door and allowed it to be a reality," Jackson said. "When you think about going from the booth to coaching with no experience, here is a guy who has done it and been successful." Boston Globe

Said Rivers, "I told him this, 'All you want to do is win, and if that's your reason for coaching, I think you'll have a chance to be successful.' I think he will be." Jackson played for such esteemed coaches as Pat Riley, Larry Brown, Larry Bird, Lenny Wilkens, Jeff Van Gundy, and Jerry Sloan. He was a finalist for the Knicks job before Mike D'Antoni was hired, isn't expected to get the Suns job because they want a more experienced coach, and is expected to lose out on the Chicago job to Doug Collins. "I've been playing for Hall of Fame coaches, and it's something I'm excited about," said Jackson. "If I didn't get an opportunity and I'm still calling games, I'm fine." Boston Globe

Mark Jackson was notified by Steve Kerr the Suns plan to hire someone with NBA coaching experience. This from the team's top personnel executive who had no front office experience when hired last summer. I assume Jackson might've learned a thing or two playing the game for 17 regular seasons and 14 postseasons. Does anyone honestly believe if Steve Nash retired tomorrow morning and wanted to coach the Suns, we'd hear word one about his lack of know-how? He'd have the job by nightfall. New York Post

Jose CalderonA league source has informed HOOPSWORLD that the Raptors are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep restricted free agent Jose Calderon. This same source confirmed that the Raptors have been sending out feelers around the league to see what they might be able to get in return for T.J. Ford. HoopsWorld.com

With the Heat eager to clear big 2009 salary-cap space to add another elite player, one logical scenario -- if the Bulls pass up on Derrick Rose -- would be drafting Rose at No. 2 (Miami's hope) and pursuing potential free agent power forwards Carlos Boozer or Elton Brand in the summer of 2009. But if Miami drafts and keeps power forward Michael Beasley, Pat Riley faces harder decisions. Although nothing can be assumed in free agency, an associate said Boozer -- who has a residence here -- likes Dwyane Wade and would be very receptive to Heat interest in 2009, when he is expected to opt out of his Utah contract. Miami Herald

Brand displayed a liking for Miami when he signed a Heat offer sheet that the Clippers matched in 2003. Brand can opt out this summer, but the Clippers do not expect that. They believe he will sign an extension or play for $16.4 million next season and become an 2009 free agent. So if the Heat drafts and keeps Beasley, what about playing Beasley (6-9) alongside Boozer (6-8) or Brand (6-8)? One rival executive said that could work. But, ''it wouldn't be an ideal situation,'' ESPN analyst-former college coach Fran Fraschilla said. ''It would be duplicating each other in some ways.'' Beasley said he can play small forward, but ESPN's Jay Bilas said it would be a ''tougher challenge'' defensively, and Fraschilla said that's realistic only ``in bits and pieces.'' Miami Herald

Unless Miami gets Rose or ends up with O.J. Mayo and makes him a point guard, the Heat likely will need to address point guard via trade. In addition to Toronto's T.J. Ford, one NBA person said the Heat also has indicated it likes Chicago's Kirk Hinrich. Miami Herald

It is expected to be a fruitless endeavor. During the week here at the NBA predraft camp, Newsday polled several team executives, general managers and scouts to see if Marbury, a former all-star, had any trade value at this point. Even with his valuable expiring contract, most said no. "Personally I don't think he has much value," one team executive said. "I don't know who would want to deal with him." Newsday

When healthy, Marbury has proved he can still put up numbers and even defend, but teams mostly fear his combustibility in the locker room and history of issues with coaches. Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas were each initially endorsed by Marbury -- Thomas was even his personal choice to be the coach -- but within a year he wound up feuding with all three and each time the coach eventually lost his job. So why should Walsh think things will be any different with Mike D'Antoni? "Well, I know one thing," Walsh said. "Mike's not going to be the problem. Let's put it that way." Newsday

Marbury has done his best to impress since the season ended, heading to Los Angeles to run the Hollywood Hills to rehabilitate his surgically repaired ankle. Friends say the workouts have been spectacularly good and he's working into phenomenal shape. Marbury knows his Knicks career would already be over had Thomas stayed in power. Sources told The Post that Thomas planned to buy out Marbury's contract this summer. New York Post

Walsh will keep an eye on whether Marbury has any lingering issues with teammates. Malik Rose in particular was irritated when Marbury and Thomas feuded in Phoenix in November, leading to Marbury leaving the team and flying home. The Post has reported Thomas sent Marbury home after their argument. Sources also say Thomas turned on Marbury because of Marbury's carefree performance as a witness in Thomas' sexual-harassment trial. New York Post

Despite falling out of the rotation when the playoffs arrived, Jarvis Hayes wouldn't mind coming back to Detroit next season. "I still like this situation," said Hayes, who did not play (coaches decision) in most of the playoffs after appearing in all 82 games during the regular season. "Flip tightened his bench. I didn't know it would be this tight. But we'll see. I still like the situation here. The teammates are good; things like that." Hayes anticipates having a conversation with Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations, before returning to his offseason home in Atlanta. Michigan Live

Lindsey Hunter said he hasn't made up his mind yet about retiring. Theo Ratliff, who is also giving some thought to retirement, said he'll sit down with his family to discuss the matter before he makes a decision. Michigan Live

Michael FinleyFinley, who started 61 games and increased his scoring average by more than a point over 2006-07, would love to return to the Spurs. “I'm not ready to hang it up yet,” he said Saturday, after the final meeting with coaches at the team's practice facility. “I still feel I can give a team some added help. “In a perfect world, I'd love to stay here and help reclaim a championship. But I understand it's a business, so from that standpoint, I have to remain open-minded.” San Antonio Express-News

“I haven't had time to think about being a free agent,” Finley said, “but it is my future, so it's something that, at some point, I will have to sit down with my agent and my family and make a decision about what we have in store.” San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio Spurs forward Robert Horry said Saturday he's considering stepping away from the game after winning seven NBA championships in a 16-season career. "Right now I'm up in the air," Horry said. "That's all I can really tell you, up in the air. I want to play, 80 percent of me wants to play and I'm sure as soon as I get in the gym and see people bouncing the ball it would turn into 100 percent. So we'll just have to wait and see what happens." Seattle Times

If he returns for a 17th season, he wants it to be as a Spur. “It's basically here, or nowhere else,” he said, “but I'm not going to close the door. If somebody has a chance of going to the playoffs and has a team I respect and players I like and think I can enjoy battling with, I'd look into that situation. Other than that, no.” San Antonio Express-News

Thomas, meanwhile, played his best game of the playoffs in the Spurs' final game. With 2007 draft pick Tiago Splitter's apparent decision to stay in Spain, it's more likely the Spurs will re-sign Thomas. San Antonio Express-News

Sasha Vujacic has emerged as a possible target, but the Lakers will probably exercise their option to keep him. San Antonio Express-News

Spurs coach and executive vice president of basketball operations Gregg Popovich said the Spurs are certain to adjust their roster. “We usually adjust,” he said, “first, based on guys who don't have a contract, whether they want to come back or we want them to come back.” San Antonio Express-News

The Nets have said they want to keep their three prime free agents - Nachbar and DeSagana Diop (both unrestricted) and the restricted Nenad Krstic. Nachbar said the Nets are his first choice. "Come July 1 when we can talk, they will be the first team," said Nachbar, who averaged a career-best 9.8 points this past season. "I appreciate what the Nets have done for me." New York Post

The Nets, who like his shooting, figure to face some competition for his service. One team that might have interest is the Knicks: Nachbar played for Mike D'Antoni in Italy. "Mike is a terrific coach," said Nachbar. When asked how he thinks D'Antoni will do in New York, Nachbar said, "I can't talk about that, but I will tell you he is going to be unlike anyone they've had there in years." New York Post

Kobe BryantBut the Lakers got off to a surprisingly hot start behind Bryant and Bynum. After the stunning addition of forward-center Pau Gasol via trade Feb. 1, the Lakers went on to finish with the West's top record, and Bryant was named NBA MVP. "Once the season started, I didn't think about a trade or anything like that," Bryant said. "I just buckled down into what I needed to do to get this team to play our best basketball." Boston Globe

Paul Pierce grew up in Los Angeles watching the Lakers play the Celtics for NBA titles. Now he's the captain of the Boston team that is back in the finals for the first time since losing to the Lakers in 1987. "As a kid, I hated the Celtics," Pierce said Friday night after Boston eliminated Detroit to advance to the NBA finals and a matchup with the Lakers. "I'm going back home to play against my team that I grew up watching. It's a dream come true, man, just thinking about it. I think that rivalry really revolutionized the game of basketball, and now I'm a part of it." Boston Globe

But -- cheerleaders aside -- the new owners have embraced the history. "The whole reason to buy this team was to be trustees for the past," Wyc Grousbeck, one of the partners who bought the team in 2002 and named their company Banner 17, said Saturday. "We're trustees of one of the great franchises in the history of sports, and we're trying to extend the past. The legacy's the whole idea." Boston Globe

Rasheed Wallace was a no-show Saturday when most of his teammates were cleaning out their lockers for the summer. It's not mandatory for the players to be there, but most arrive to catch up with each other one last time before each departs for the summer. Michigan Live

Dumars must also decide what to do with Rasheed Wallace, who was a no-show Saturday. The day got off to a bad start for Wallace when he arrived late for the team's morning shoot-around. Even his pre-game routine wasn't quite right. The demonstrative dancing routine he does with the bench players prior to tip-off, was shorter than usual. The finger-pointing he does toward fans, encouraging them to get loud before the game didn't happen. Michigan Live

But those accomplishments mean little to this group, if a trip to the NBA Finals isn't awaiting them in the end. "It's like a wasted year, another wasted year," Detroit forward Antonio McDyess said. "You play your heart out in the regular season, at the end of the playoffs, it's hard to accept sometimes when you think about it. We worked so hard for nothing." Michigan Live

"I think that when we lose games – especially (Friday) and in this series – it's just the little stuff," said Richard Hamilton. "Even when we play a mediocre team during the regular season, stuff needs to be pointed out because it will hurt us at the end of the season. "At the end of the day, when we lose, we all look bad. We know what it takes to win, and when we don't do it, it's on us." Toronto Star

When last we left Bostjan Nachbar, the Nets forward was hampered considerably by a bad back, debating his status of playing for the Slovenian National Team in the Olympic qualifying tournament and also heading for free agency. Now, six weeks later, Nachbar still is headed for free agency. "The back is doing well. I'm running, doing some light lifting with weights and shooting," said Nachbar via telephone from Slovenia, where he has created a bit of a rift regarding the National team. New York Post

The Heat is looking for a player who can develop quickly enough to contend next season after a 15-67 finish in 2007-08. And Heat president Pat Riley also wants a player who is dynamic enough to convince Wade to re-sign for the long haul when Wade can opt out of his contract in the summer of 2010. With only backup Marcus Banks under contract at point guard, Miami is desperate for an upgrade at the position. But several team executives believe the Heat's only choice would be Beasley, a power forward, if Rose is off the board. Riley maintains he has expanded his view beyond the obvious options. ''There's a consensus two that everyone talks about,'' Riley said of Rose and Beasley. ``But there are other guys that light up your eyes when you really look at them. I can't wait until this camp gets over with.'' Miami Herald

Rose and Beasley—the former, in his typically humble and self-deprecating manner—both talked glowingly about the 2005 rule that set the minimum age for NBA entry at 19. "I'm so happy that they made that rule," Rose said. "I matured a lot when I went to Memphis. Coach [John Calipari] helped me so much, especially last summer, to make me a better player. I'd be on the bench or probably in the [NBA Development League] or something if I hadn't gone to college." Chicago Tribune

An ex-NBA player close to the league's predraft camp in Orlando gave his insights on several of the top performers, including Gary Forbes of the University of Massachusetts. Forbes "can get to the basket. In Portsmouth, he was shooting everything. He was very aggressive getting to the cup [in Orlando]. Teams will like his aggressiveness. He can score. He can give a little bit of everything. I think he has a shot at getting drafted. I'm sure people are already looking at him and he didn't hurt himself. He is on people's radar." Boston Globe

California center DeVon Hardin "looked good, he gets off the floor, he's strong, rebounds well, and was a big defensive presence early than offensive. Offensively, he showed some things. He may slide into the first round." Boston Globe

Chauncey BillupsChauncey Billups' right hamstring is feeling a lot better, which is why he doesn't think it'll be an issue when he joins his fellow Team USA teammates next month for a mini-camp in Las Vegas. Billups is one of four point guards -- Dallas' Jason Kidd, New Orleans' Chris Paul and Utah's Deron Williams are the others -- under consideration by the selection committee that likely will only keep three on the final 12-man roster. Michigan Live

Spurs star Manu Ginobili expects his injured ankle to be healed for the Beijing Olympics, allowing him to play for defending champion Argentina. "It's something that I am looking forward to," he said Saturday. Practices don't begin until early July, meaning Ginobili will have more than a month for his ankle recover. The Olympics are Aug. 8-24. "Yesterday I got an injection to get the swelling off of the joint, and they told me that in a week, 10 days I'll be totally fine," Ginobili said. "So I trust them and I think I'm going to be perfectly healed." SI.com

With his impending free agency, Nachbar is skipping the qualifying tournament because he will not have insurance without a contract. Some fans back home understand and some others see something just short of treason. "But I'll play for the Olympics if we qualify, and if I have a contract by then (end of July)," Nachbar said. New York Post

Cavaliers assistant general manager Chris Grant seemed poised a week ago to become the Hawks' new GM. But an NBA source said the Hawks told him that they decided to go in a different direction because of philosophical differences, contract issues, and concerns about experience. The Hawks ended up hiring ex-Sonics general manager Rick Sund. Other candidates included Washington vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard and ex-Magic general John Gabriel. Former Hawks stars Dominique Wilkins and Steve Smith were not considered. Sund's addition instantly put the status of coach Mike Woodson in question since they have no previous relationship. Boston Globe

The Hawks chose a veteran executive in Rick Sund to replace Billy Knight as GM, but only after Chris Grant, a former Hawks employee and now Danny Ferry's No. 2 man in Cleveland, turned down the job. Grant has never run a team, while Sund, who was on Donnie Walsh's short list of potential Knick GMs, has called the shots in Dallas, Detroit and Seattle during a 30-year front-office career. With Mike Woodson's contract up, Sund figures to make a run at former Timberwolves head coach Dwane Casey, whom he had in Seattle as an assistant coach. Casey has a place waiting for him in Dallas on Rick Carlisle's new staff if he doesn't get a head coaching gig. New York Daily News

Word out of the Knicks' contingent at the NBA's pre-draft camp here is the club is pulling out of Charleston as their October training camp site. The historic, quaint seaport town has been their training-camp fort since Pat Riley arrived in 1991 and a favorite of the media and players. They have trained there every year except the 1998-99 lockout shortened season. The thinking, according to sources, is the club wants a fresh start and outlook in all aspects. New York Post

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