HoopsHype rumors

December 20, 2012 | 08:19 PM ET Update

Russell Westbrook: Russell Westbrook just told me he has interest in participating in a slam dunk contest at some point but isn't sure if it'll be this year. "It's up in the air," Westbrook said about this year's dunk competition. "I would (like to) before it's too late," Westbrook said. "But I don't know whether I'm going to feel like doing it or not." Twitter @DarnellMayberry

A confident @Amareisreal says "I'm on the pace to return back to dominance." More on his impending return: Stoudemire went through his second practice with the Knicks' D-League affiliate and participated in a full court scrimmage. He threw down a strong dunk and had a chase-down block during the workout. "Felt good," he told reporters afterward. "Felt pretty good out there." Sulia

All-Star Saturday night, as part of the NBA’s All-Star weekend slate of festivities, has been largely about two events: the Slam Dunk Contest, followed by, to a much lesser extent, the Three-Point Contest. There are four events in total that make up the Saturday night program, however, and the league is trying something this year to perhaps get a few more people interested in the evening’s first two events. From the official release: For the first time, State Farm All-Star Saturday Night will feature a new format that pits the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference in a night of competition that will raise money for charity, the NBA and State Farm announced today. As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night Champion. Also, each conference will have an All-Star Saturday Night captain who will lead his team during the event. NBCSports.com

December 20, 2012 | 06:20 PM ET Update

Chicago Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who has helped fill the void created by the absence of Derrick Rose, isn't fazed by the fact his contract isn't guaranteed. "I don't know the future to that," he said Thursday after practice. "If God blesses me with that guarantee I'll be more than happy. If not, it's just another chapter to my book." ESPN.com

The Bulls have until Jan. 10 -- when his deal becomes guaranteed for the rest of the year -- to decide if they want to keep him. The team is over the luxury tax threshold and could save money by cutting him. "If it comes and I get the guaranteed contract I'll be happy, if not I'll keep pushing," Robinson stated. "I'm not going to drop my head, I'm going to keep working hard and continue being the player that I am." ESPN.com

But what about Slava Kravtsov? The rookie center from the Ukraine is the only player on the Pistons roster who has yet to appear in a game this season. He's dressed a handful of times but has yet to hit the court in a regular-season game. Wouldn't a stint the D-League – even a short one – be beneficial for the 6-foot-11 Kravtsov? "We've talked about it," coach Lawrence Frank said Thursday. "Joe (Dumars) and George (David, assistant general manager) kind of handle that in terms of the timing with it. But I think it would be great for Slava. He wants to play. He's gotten a lot stronger. He's worked on his upper body. Booth Newspapers

Still, when asked to compare Drummond's advancement to the Raptors' 20-year-old center, Jonas Valanciunas, Frank said there are elements that have gone into the Pistons' decisions on their young center's playing time and groupings. "When we don't play Andre 18 minutes, the reporters (who cover the Pistons regularly) have pictures of me up all around town -- and the fans, too," said Frank, who used that benchmark because Valanciunas played 18 minutes in the Raptors win Tuesday at Cleveland. "But the thing is, there are certain things that we're privy to things that maybe the general public isn't. "There's a lot of things we see and understand the big picture. Not that there's a right way or wrong way, but it's the way we choose it. Plus, there are other guys who may also be doing their jobs as well." Booth Newspapers

December 20, 2012 | 05:28 PM ET Update

The 36-year-old guard has been at an impasse with the Jazz for months, with both sides hoping to reach a buyout agreement after Bell made comments about coach Tyrone Corbin last spring that put him at odds with the franchise. "Hopefully this is wrapping up for me," Bell said, when reached by The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday. "I’m just trying to lie low and be as under the radar as I can for a while." Salt Lake Tribune

Without the guarantee of a new contract, though, it may not be fiscally prudent for Bell to give money back to the Jazz. Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey declined to respond to questions Wednesday asked about the status of buyout discussions with Bell and whether Jazz representatives would meet with him in Miami while the team is in town. Salt Lake Tribune

Second-year small forward Kawhi Leonard has been recalled from his brief rehab stint in the NBA Developmental League, the Spurs announced Thursday. There was no mention of Leonard’s availability for Friday’s home game against New Orleans. But the ensuing release of James Anderson, who was signed to fill in for Leonard, could be an indication he is ready to return. San Antonio Express-News

That doesn’t mean Ainge wasn’t disturbed by the 0-3 road trip during which the Celts surrendered triple figures in each contest. “I’m probably in the same place Doc (Rivers) is,” Ainge said yesterday afternoon, referring to his coach. “We’re not playing as well as we’re capable of. I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet. “The team still has more to give than they’re giving. I don’t necessarily mean individuals. I’m not calling into question all our efforts. I’m just saying that collectively it hasn’t gone well at either end of the court consistently. We’ve had good stretches in a lot of games, but our execution at both ends has been very erratic.” Boston Herald

Here’s my translation of part of Andrei Kirilenko’s recent interview with Pavel Osipov of Sport-Express. - Are the games against LeBron special for you?- They are different. After all, it doesn’t happen every day that you get to face the best basketball player in the world. So each of these games… No, it is not a challenge, but a mini-duel, without any doubt. It is always interesting for me to guard LeBron, because he is a really smart player, who knows not only how to score, but also how to do everything else: rebound, pass, steal the ball. There, he has blocked four of our shots in this game. Rush'n Hoops

After Thursday morning's practice, Nash said, "It felt pretty good. It went well. Maybe I felt a little bit better than I thought I'd feel, but we'll see how it feels in the morning. It's obviously a big barometer." Nash noted that the Christmas Day game Tuesday against the New York Knicks might be more "realistic," but that a return on Saturday against the Golden State Warriors remains a possibility. Los Angeles Times

"It depends on how well I respond today and tomorrow," said Nash. "We don't really need to rush it. I don't want to come back too soon.... I don't want to miss another 10 games because I aggravated it." Nash said he's still experiencing some pain in his leg and his conditioning is well behind after so many weeks without basketball. He won't return immediately if there's any significant risk of any further damage. Los Angeles Times

Gordon said his right knee problems stemmed from having both a patella tendon disorder and bone bruise. It’s the same knee that Gordon had arthroscopic surgery on last February, which forced him to miss all but nine games after he was acquired in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade from the Los Angeles Clippers. "I had a lot of pain and all throughout my knee cap,’’ Gordon said before Wednesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers in which he watched from the bench. "It shut down all my muscles around my leg from my calf to even my quads. So that’s what I was dealing with and if I would have kept on going I would have had to undergo possible surgery.’’ New Orleans Times-Picayune

Jabari Parker, the nation's No. 2 senior, committed to Duke during a press conference at his school on Thursday. Parker, a 6-foot-8 forward from Simeon Career Academy, chose the Blue Devils over BYU, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford. Hats representing all five schools were situated on a table in the Simeon gym, which was filled with teammates, students and the media ESPN.com

But while nothing is more important for a coach's job security than a stamp of approval from the top, the backing of the players can be just as crucial. If Crawford's stance is any indication, Del Negro is doing just fine in that department as well. "He's great, honestly," Crawford said. "I think he learned from (his head coaching experience in) Chicago (from 2008 to 2010), but I think he knows how to monitor his players as far as, 'Oh, this guy's not having a good day, or he needs to get yelled at.' He's the pulse of the team. If we didn't buy into him, then none of this would matter." USA Today Sports

Barnes, who has changed teams eight times in his 10-year career, credited Del Negro with allowing him to play more freely than he did while with the Lakers. "It's good, especially coming from the other side, when I was told when I could shoot," he said. "When I made a mistake (with the Lakers), I had to come out of the game." USA Today Sports

JCF: Can we talk tanking for a moment? The Rockets were quite vocal about their goal to rebuild while refusing to bottom out, but the current system certainly increased the degree of difficulty. Is that a problem in your mind and, if so, what are the most intriguing solutions? David Stern: You know, I don’t think it’s a problem. I’ve learned a lot more and changed my perspective on this over the years. I don’t know what the problem is because different people have different problems that are actually the opposite of each other. Some people think that we should just give the worst two teams the top two draft picks, and that’s a problem because it raises issues that are often covered in the media dealing with the effort that those teams put in. Then when teams wind up having the worst record and only end up with the fourth pick, someone says that’s terrible and they should have the first or second pick, even though we’ve changed it so that wouldn’t be guaranteed and that would eliminate the opportunity to do it. NBA.com

JCF: We began this conversation by talking about All-Star weekend and how, to a certain extent, it’s likely reached its ceiling. What do you envision as the biggest area of growth for the league as a whole going forward? DJS: The All-Star game may have reached its ceiling, but the activities of the NBA and their coverage seem virtually limitless because the game is currently televised in 215 countries – that’s who’s going to be receiving the All-Star weekend: 215 countries in 45 languages. It’s fascinating to me and the growth of that has been astounding. And yet, as television and new forms of distribution – first cable, then satellite, then streaming - have been developing, there are more ways for our fans on a global basis to absorb our game and of course it’s increasingly going to be on smartphones that are just going to be video devices that people can watch our games and highlights on. NBA.com

JCF: Why aren’t you on twitter anyway? DJS: I didn’t say I’m not. I just said you wouldn’t be able to identify it. JCF: Would you think about putting yourself out there publicly? DJS: No, no, no. JCF: Just because it’s a recipe for disaster? DJS: Yeah, I think so. I think the world has enough tweets. I don’t have anything that I think would be valuable as an addition. NBA.com

“I’m getting a slice of what it’s like to be retired,” Frye said, “and I’m not ready to go yet.” Frye believes he’ll play again, but the requirement for preparing his body for a return has been turned upside down. Waiting for his heart to not be enlarged is something of an anti-rehab rehab. “If it was something I could work out,” he said, “something that I could put time in on . . . you know, eat this or don’t drink that . . . take this vitamin . . . it would be something different. “It’s the one problem that hard work can’t solve — only resting can.” Fox Sports Arizona

But refusing to close the door on competing again requires Frye to stay within shooting range of his team. He’s grateful for added time with his family at home while maintaining ties with his family at work, shooting a few jumpers on game nights to “make sure things are staying functional.” Doctor-ordered “chillin' out” takes some soul-searching. “It’s very difficult,” Frye said. “You know, I think — especially at the beginning — I worked so hard this summer to get back from my shoulder. It’s been a long road back. Like I said, I’m not going to stress about shoulda, coulda, woulda. “I didn’t know what was wrong with my heart. The doctors didn’t know. If people knew that for a week I thought I was going to die the next time I exercised . . ." Fox Sports Arizona

Maybe the New York Knicks had already guessed that something was amiss, that their director of pro scouting and free agency, John Gabriel, was not quite the same man they hired in 2008. Maybe they had noticed a twitch or a tremor, or had taken a quick mental snapshot of an otherwise vibrant 50-something executive traveling cautiously down a flight of stairs. Gabriel's oldest brother, Pat, and his childhood friend and former colleague with the Orlando Magic, Tom Sterner, had long suspected something wasn't right with him, yet they didn't think it was their place to bring it up. Men. But Gabriel didn't know for sure what his employer did or didn't know. He only knew he'd been charged to help the Knicks acquire the kinds of stars he'd recruited to Orlando -- Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in the breathless summer of 2000, right after the nearest of near-misses on Tim Duncan -- and now he was about to tell them something that wasn't covered in any front-office playbook. I have Parkinson's disease. ESPN.com

Gabriel finds himself being more careful on the stairs, and he feels more at ease standing than sitting. Malaty said Parkinson's can cause fatigue and loss of energy, leaving the stricken with cramps, a slower and stiffer gait, and unpredictable mood swings. Gabriel tries to manage the vile effects of the disease through exercise, rest and work. Sometimes he has good days, and sometimes he doesn't. "This past summer, in the draft room," Sterner said, "Gabe told me his leg would start to shake under the table and he couldn't stop it. Before he told me about the diagnosis, I could tell something was different, that he moved a little slower and that there was a lower pitch in his voice. But I didn't see the tremors when I was around him." ESPN.com

Like Tom Sterner, Flaherty grew up with Gabriel among the Hanover-area factories that produced shoes and pretzels and Utz potato chips. As a colon cancer survivor (the disease was detected during his first Giants physical in 2004) and as one of the NFL's most respected assistants, Flaherty is a tough guy who's been around a lot of tough guys. Just none tougher than Gabriel. "He has a disease, but John's never going to let that be in the forefront," Flaherty said. "He's already put it in the background. He brings a lot of value to the Knicks as a tireless worker, and he has tunnel vision in whatever job he's doing. He has a knack with people, he has a tremendous amount of experience evaluating personnel, and no matter what he's dealing with he's just not going to let you know anything's wrong with him." ESPN.com

Javaris Crittenton -- ex-NBA star and accused murderer -- is now being accused of slapping his baby mama in the face while she was breastfeeding their 1-day-old child ... TMZ has learned. Crittenton has temporarily been ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from Tyress Daniels and their newborn son ... after she filed court docs outlining a pattern of domestic violence. TMZ.com

December 20, 2012 | 01:24 PM ET Update

The LA Lakers have an inevitability ahead of them. It’s inevitable that Pau Gasol is traded, the problem is there is such a small market for Gasol – maybe three or four teams according to sources dialed into the Lakers thinking. The Lakers could trade Gasol tomorrow if they wanted to, but they wouldn’t get nearly the value back that they’d expect for a player of his size, skill and marketability. It would truly be trading down and possibly includes taking on unfavorable contract dollars or players they do not want or need. HoopsWorld

The Atlanta Hawks have a real good sense of where things stand with would-be free agent Josh Smith. They believe they have the inside track on re-signing him in July and with the way the Hawks are playing there are absolutely no plans to trade Smith. The Hawks have been sniffing around for deals, but are mainly hoping to flip some of their ending contracts into a roster upgrade before the trade deadline. While the Hawks have been linked to some discussions, their stance according to sources that have talked with them is “unengaged” . If they are doing a trade it’s going to be the home run hit and that play just isn’t there. HoopsWorld

League sources peg Al Jefferson as the would-be free agent most likely to stay in Utah, mainly because they can pay him more money. The problem is will the Jazz value Jefferson as a max level player like maybe some other teams will? The Jazz have maintained from the start of the season that they would need their depth to compete in the postseason and that trading off Jefferson and Paul Millsap would only weaken the team, regardless of what they got back for them. The Jazz are currently 14-13 and sitting just outside the Western Conferen HoopsWorld

Bobcat rookie Jeff Taylor has played well this year, leading many to speculate on what the Bobcats will do with Gerald Henderson. The cats’ stance on Henderson is that they will re-sign him, but he continues to be doubt on how committed Charlotte is to that concept. The Bobcats opted to not extend both Henderson and Byron Mullens, mainly because the Bobcats want to have salary cap flexibility in July. That does not mean they don’t want to re-sign both players this summer, they are just keeping their options open. HoopsWorld

Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday that Derrick Rose is "doing great" in his rehab from ACL surgery, and he's hoping Rose will return in the second half of the season. Rose tore his ACL on April 28 during a playoff game, and underwent surgery May 12, and he was expected to be out eight to 12 months. He's been shooting and running for a while, and he started cutting on the knee more than a month ago. ESPN.com

Derek Fisher will miss Thursday's game against the Miami Heat because of a right patellar tendon strain, the Mavericks announced. Fisher suffered the injury during Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He will not travel with the team on its upcoming trip to Memphis and San Antonio. ESPN.com

December 20, 2012 | 12:41 PM ET Update

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Namely, sources close to key Kings players have told ProBasketballTalk that they are frustrated with the fact that point guard Isaiah Thomas isn’t starting and acting as the team’s floor general. Thomas finished seventh in last season’s Rookie of the Year voting, but arguably could have finished as high as second place when one compares his numbers to that of Ricky Rubio, who held that spot. NBCSports.com

Several scouts have told me that Redick is the Magic's most tradable asset -- no surprise there, the way he's playing. J.J. will be a wanted man. Playoff teams should be calling. He is in the last year of his contract, a manageable, league-friendly $6.1 million. But it's hard to imagine a scenario in which the Magic could justify moving Redick or another team giving up enough to land him. Orlando Sentinel

"Chelsea (J.J's wife) and I, we love it here," Redick told me after Wednesday's win against the Wizards. He said he's committed to Orlando "as long as we're going the way we're going," meaning taking the steps necessary to contend. Orlando Sentinel

In the next step in his comeback from left quadriceps tendinitis, small forward Kawhi Leonard has been shipped to Austin for a rehab assignment with the Toros. Leonard, who has been out since Nov. 17, practiced in Austin on Wednesday. Spurs doctors will re-evaluate him today to help determine his availability for Friday’s home game against New Orleans. San Antonio Express-News

It wasn't the first time Batum has closely followed Gallinari's numbers. Last January, Denver awarded Gallinari a 4-year, $42 million extension. The Blazers could not come to terms with Batum, who like the days in his youth, measured himself against Gallinari. "After he signed, I thought I should be around that," Batum said. "It wasn't like I said 'I have to get more than Gallinari,' but when you negotiate, you look at guys who are like you, with similar numbers. So I looked at him, Marvin Williams, Aaron Affalo. But I thought I should be around (Gallinari); I didn't think I would get more than him." Oregonian

"I actually was trying to talk to him," Gee said, "but it wasn't working." Indeed, nothing Gee tried bothered Pierce in the least as the Celtics' veteran forward, who has torched the Cavs so many times in the regular season and the playoffs, went off for a season-high 40 points to lead the Celtics to a 103-91 victory. Pierce made 13 of 16 shots, six of seven 3-pointers as the Celtics snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 13-12. "I was like, 'Man calm down a little bit,'" Gee said with a smile. "He said, 'I'm just trying to make you better.' "It's all good though. He played a great game and made a lot of shots." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Gasol stressed he wouldn't worry about his role in his first game back after missing the past eight because of knee tendinitis. But after sitting in late fourth-quarter stretches in two other games, Gasol voiced his displeasure afterward as swiftly as when he throws a lob to Dwight Howard. "Hopefully it won't happen too often," Gasol said. "When the game is on the line, I need to be on the court. That's what I get paid to do." Los Angeles Daily News

The most pressing details involves how the Lakers will feature Gasol. The Lakers forward pointed to how he helped the team win two consecutive championships. "I'm one of the best post players in the league with my skill set," Gasol said. "I want to be able to utilize it." Los Angeles Daily News

That doesn't mean, however, Gasol doesn't want to play alongside Howard whenever he can. "We're a big couple, we're two talented players, and we can overpower people," Gasol said. "You're talking about having two top big guys in the league and we should take advantage of it." Los Angeles Times

After the Nets' eighth loss in 10 games Wednesday night -- 100-86 to the rival Knicks, amid mocking, sing-songy chants of, "Broook-lyyyn ..." from the Madison Square Garden crowd -- Williams chose his words carefully. He said the Nets' struggles are on "us as players," and added, "It's not anybody's fault," meaning it's not Johnson's fault. Having gotten that out of the way, D-Will went on to lobby for all of the things that happen to bad teams that are supposed to be good: changes, team meetings and the formation of a search party to go find the Nets' toughness and confidence, which are both gone. "We've got to change some things," Williams said. "We've got to get better. ... It's like we lost a little bit of our toughness, so we've got to get that back." CBSSports.com

“You could easily argue that Raymond Felton is having a better year than Deron,” a former D-3 point guard named Jeff Van Gundy said before this game last night. Then the ESPN analyst said this: “I’m trying to figure out how this guy, who was among the very best point guards, is shooting the ball so poorly — and it’s not just this year. “I mean, does he work at it? For all we’ve heard lately from him by way of explanations, eventually shouldn’t you look in the mirror?” Newark Star-Ledger

The Nets, who have struggled to get themselves going in the third quarter all season, saw the Knicks break the game open with a 18-6 run over the final 6:54 of the third quarter last night to hand the Nets a 100-86 loss, giving the Nets three straight losses and eight in their last 10 games. “We’re just trying to stay alive right now,” Gerald Wallace said. “Right now, we know the second half is our downfall. We play 24 minutes of great ball in the first half, and then it just seems like our next 12 minutes we’re kind of lost offensively and defensively. “We’ve got to figure out, as a team, how we can fix that and get this team turned around.” New York Post

The Knicks stormed back into the lead for good on the backs of their two stars, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, who combined for 15 of the 18 points that put the game out of reach. While Anthony scored from both outside, hitting a 3-pointer to put the Knicks ahead for good at 62-61 with 5:39 left, the Nets couldn’t keep Chandler away from the basket, allowing him to get several uncontested dunks off alley-oop passes thanks to pick-and-roll coverage breakdowns. “We had a game plan that we tried to execute tonight at the defensive end, and it wasn’t working,” said Williams, who finished with 16 points and 10 assists. “We weren’t doing the things we needed to. We weren’t getting the help in the right spots, our rotations were slow, we were letting guys drive right to the basket without any help ... that’s not how we want to play.” New York Post

Think about how many times Chandler taps out an offensive rebound extending Knicks' possessions, especially in late in games. “Those are plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We watch film. We see how important that is. "Tyson has been doing that his whole career. We try to take advantage at that point. You get a wide-open three, get a chance to run a new play or attack the basket. Those moments are definitely crucial points of the game.” Sulia

Ask DeMar DeRozan how tough Johnson is and he can barely wait to tell you. “Amir and I are family,” DeRozan said of his fellow Californian. “We go back since I was a kid and one thing about him is you never have to question or worry if he’s going to play. A lot of people don’t understand when Amir is hurt. Most of the time you don’t even know it the way he plays and plays hard.” Toronto Sun

Paul didn't acknowledge the cheers or do whatever a basketball player's equivalent is of doffing his cap. He didn't appear petulant or ungracious. He simply wore the same look he always does when there's basketball to be played, an expression that says, "Let's go, because I have business to attend to." "I didn't know what everyone was cheering for," Paul said. "I'm always so intense in the game, trying to figure out what defense we're in or what we're running. "It's pretty cool to do it here [in Los Angeles] in front of our home crowd, and I told [Griffin] he got the 5,000th and he made the free throw." ESPN.com

Jrue Holiday missed his fourth straight game on Wednesday in Houston because of his sprained left foot. The hope, according to Doug Collins, is that he'll be back Friday when the team hosts the Atlanta Hawks. But the coach emphasized he will not send Holiday out on the floor unless he is 100 percent. Philadelphia Inquirer

"Once he's good to go, he'll go," Collins said. "This isn't an injury that you would say would be chronic unless you tried to do it too soon. I don't think we're sure what happened, how he hurt it. Damien Wilkins was kidding him that it was from coming down 28 times after taking 28 shots [against Chicago his last game]. I'm not sure Jrue knows how he did it. "He changed his shoes; could it have been because he changed his shoe? We don't know. I don't think this is something that you look at and think that it will reoccur if he lets it heal." Philadelphia Inquirer

With Rasheed Wallace’s sore left foot becoming a bigger issue, the Knicks’ need for Amar’e Stoudemire has grown. Thursday will be a huge day as Stoudemire will participate in the Erie Bayhawks’ practice for the second time, to be conducted at the Westchester facility. Stoudemire rested his sore left knee Wednesday, but how it goes Thursday with the Knicks’ D-League affiliate could determine whether there’s any possible chance of suiting up at the end of the homestand Sunday vs. Minnesota. Stoudemire said he has no date set on his season debut and reported his knee being “sore’’ after his initial practice Tuesday. New York Post

The Orlando Magic did not celebrate their victory Wednesday night over the Washington Wizards. Not after they saw Glen Davis writhe in pain and scream in agony as he lay on Amway Center's floor clutching his left shoulder. Davis injured the shoulder with 47.8 seconds remaining in the 90-83 win, making the end result feel almost like a loss. Team officials would not speculate on the severity of the injury, but at least some of them fear Davis dislocated the shoulder. The extent of the damage will not become known until Davis receives an MRI exam Thursday morning, but there is a possibility Davis will miss an extended period of time. "I'm not going to quite write that obituary just yet," coach Jacque Vaughn said at his postgame news conference. "I'll see him after this, and I'll see him in the morning, and I'll be smiling and I'll hug him and I'll see how he is. I'll keep thinking that he'll be ready to go when we play two days from now, until doctors tell me otherwise." Orlando Sentinel

Texas guard Myck Kabongo will be suspended by the NCAA for the rest of the season, Yahoo! Sports has learned. As the NCAA investigated Kabongo's amateur status over the past several months, Texas held Kabongo out of the lineup. The NCAA's investigation has centered around whether Kabongo, a one-time potential NBA first-round draft pick, received impermissible benefits from agent Rich Paul, who represents NBA superstar LeBron James and two former Texas Longhorns players: Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph. Yahoo! Sports

In most impermissible benefits situations, players usually are suspended from three to 10 games and ordered to repay the amount of the benefits received. In this case, the penalty was made more severe because Kabongo provided inaccurate information to NCAA investigators when he was interviewed, sources with ties to Texas' basketball program said. Yahoo! Sports

Powell told Yahoo! Sports that he had a previous relationship with Kabongo through "someone I know who [Kabongo] played a tournament with once." Powell did not disclose who that person is, why he had traveled to Cleveland or how the workout was arranged. "After [the workout] was over, I just went back to my hotel room," Powell said. "I'm not aligned with Rich. I did the workout. That's all I did." An agent is allowed to have a relationship with a prospect and his family, but providing or promising financial benefits could place the player's college eligibility in peril. If the NCAA uncovers violations, Kabongo's eligibility could be compromised. Yahoo! Sports

With the belief in the organization that the Nets have enough talent to be a top team in the East -- straight from the top, straight from Mikhail Prokhorov -- it's easy to see that this will land at Avery Johnson's feet if it doesn't get fixed. The coach always goes before the unhappy star in this sport, and that's especially true with the Nets, whose multi-billion-dollar business plan all hinged on acquiring him from the Jazz against his will and then persuading him to stay. CBSSports.com

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