HoopsHype rumors

January 25, 2013 | 09:23 PM ET Update

Toronto is perhaps the most realistic landing spot for Gasol, given the uncertainty in the organization about whether Andrea Bargnani will ever develop into a star there. Bargnani wouldn't have to be a star in LA. He would simply have to stand at the 3-point line and make shots, a La Howard's former teammate in Orlando, Ryan Anderson. Toronto also has a point-guard problem to solve. And while Jose Calderon has frequently been mentioned as trade bait, league sources say the Raptors are far more amenable to trading Kyle Lowry, who has not made many friends in his new surroundings. The Raptors gave up a sure lottery pick for him (which Houston subsequently sent to Oklahoma City in the James Harden trade), so Gasol might be a way to salvage that transaction. Plus, with the new CBA taking effect and shortening teams' windows for winning, a team like Toronto might feel better about committing 1½ seasons to Gasol than using its cap room this summer to sign a lesser player for four years. CBSSports.com

Kyle Lowry, who has quickly worn out his welcome in Toronto, could be an option for the Mavs or Hawks, who are both in need of point-guard help. With only $1 million guaranteed next season, Lowry would be a short-term fix without clogging up future cap space. CBSSports.com

Trading Howard or Gasol looks good on HoopsHype, but there are serious issues involved with moving either of them. The Lakers gave up Andrew Bynum for Howard, and a potential lottery pick for Steve Nash. They've played 15 games together. Even in the short attention span theater of the NBA, that's not enough time to blow up the five-year plan to have Howard carry the franchise beyond the end of the Bryant era. Gasol? His stock couldn't be lower at the moment. He's 32, his knees hurt and he's having the worst season of his career. And oh, by the way, he makes $19.3 million next year. There are a few teams that might be willing to make that investment, and we'll get to those later. First let's look at whether the Lakers' problems could possibly be repaired from within. As one rival executive, when asked which teams would make sense for Gasol, told me, "I think he makes the most sense for the Lakers." CBSSports.com

The Bobcats would be interested in having a conversation, sources say, but what could they offer beyond ball-stopping Ben Gordon and other fodder? A long shot? One rival exec mentioned the Grizzlies, who still need to trim future payroll despite the trade with Cleveland last week that delayed but did not solve their luxury-tax concerns. Rudy Gay or Zach Randolph for Gasol? It's far-fetched, but it would save Memphis tens of millions in luxury tax in 2014-15 and put the Gasol brothers on the same team. The basketball gods are rooting for that one, but as I've said, let's not get carried away. When it comes to trading Gasol, "It's not a big market," one of the executives said. CBSSports.com

Minnesota has long been intrigued by the idea of Ricky Rubio and Gasol playing together, and Gasol might give the Timberwolves the boost they need to get back into the playoff hunt. But while Minnesota would be able to make the money match with some combination of Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic and Luke Ridnour (who D'Antoni has always coveted), the Lakers lack the picks and other assets to make it worth the Wolves' while. CBSSports.com

Rival executives continue to believe the Grizzlies are open to trading Rudy Gay, despite last week's trade with Cleveland that got Memphis under the luxury tax this season. Based on the same logic I applied to Pau Gasol, there are several cap-space teams doing their due diligence on Gay, knowing that getting a B-plus player on a max contract via trade might be preferable to committing four years this summer to a worse free agent. CBSSports.com

Though he did not say it specifically it appears he’s leaning toward staying with the Nuggets long term, but here’s how: By opting out of his current contract, which would pay him roughly $16.2 million next season and signing a new, multiyear deal – even if the annual value of the contract comes out to be less than what he’s making now and scheduled to make next season. “A lot of players have done it where they’ve gave up a large bulk of their contract, say, giving up $16 million to get $60 million,” said Iguodala, who turns 29 years old on Monday. “In the grand scheme of things that makes sense. But if you give up $16 million and you get $20 million (it doesn’t make sense). So it’s all about playing your cards right and seeing where you’re at. At the end of the day winning takes care of everything, so if we win here, then hopefully the organization and myself will come to an agreement and we’ll continue to build on what we have here.” Denver Post

Iguodala’s contract status is one of the season’s biggest storylines for the Nuggets, and it will spill over into the summer. But increasingly it looks like the Nuggets are taking center stage in his mind. “It’s not as hard as it seems,” Iguodala said. “It’s basically just weighing your options, seeing who has interest in you, or making a guesstimate on who has interest in you or what your value is at the current time. That’s pretty much it.” Denver Post

Kaman on his experience being traded from the Clippers to New Orleans two years ago. “I got traded two years ago, and you don’t know. It just happens. I found out from my realtor’s son that I got traded. They didn’t call me, they didn’t tell me, they didn’t say anything to me. Then I got back from this meeting that I was having and at the facility they were ready and they told me. It happens all different ways for a lot of guys. Imagine the guys who get traded every year. Those guys who have been traded 13 times in this league. That’s not fun to have to move your whole family and all that but it’s part of the job and the money that we make is really good money obviously. There shouldn’t be many complaints.” Dallas Morning News

Delonte West’s stint with the D-League’s Texas Legends will not lead to his return to the Mavericks. “Not gonna happen,” Mark Cuban said, cutting off any speculation that the Mavs might welcome back West. “That doesn’t mean we don’t like Delonte, care about him as a person, want to help him get back on track.” ESPN.com

However, Howard said the attitude surrounding the team can do a lot to change those circumstances. "I'm just talking about negativity in general," Howard said. "That's like a dark cloud, and the more you feed into the negativity, the bigger it gets. So, we have to change that and we have to believe. For all the fans and everybody who support the Lakers, believe. Yes, we're struggling. Yes, it's not the best time to be a Laker fan or a Laker player, but we will get out of it. There's a rainbow on the other end. We just got to make sure we get to it. I don't know if we got to eat some more Skittles or whatever it may be, but we got to find a way." ESPN.com

"I just got to play," Howard said. "It's the same thing with my back. My back, I'm not 100 percent with my back. My body is not 100 percent, but I just got to go out there and leave it all on the floor no matter what the situation is and just play through it. "There are a lot of things that I have to learn myself. I'm not saying I'm all-knowing and I'm perfect. I understand there are still things to my game, myself that I have to learn, and this has been a great time to learn it. Throughout all the things that have been going wrong, everything that didn't matter when we were winning in the past, it didn't matter. It was kind of swept under the rug. Now when we lose, everything is magnified so you get a chance to really look at it and figure out what you need to do. So, this is a great time to do it." ESPN.com

Even with four All-Stars -- Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Nash himself -- they seem to be running in a giant vat of oatmeal. Going into Friday night's home game with Utah, they had lost eight of their past 10. If the season ended right now, they wouldn't be within a moon landing of the playoffs. Yes, the Lakers. It's driving Nash nuts. "We're not all committing to what they want us to do," he moans. "We're half stuck in our own, old ways. We have to stop thinking about our pasts and ourselves." ESPN.com

Now it’s Bryant, acclaimed by Johnson and West as the greatest of all Lakers but now almost disoriented by a team that, entering Friday’s game against Utah, was 17-25, 12th in the 15-team Western Conference, and closer to last place (three games ahead of New Orleans) than to the last playoff slot (four games behind No. 8 Portland and Houston). He is danger of missing the postseason for just the second time in his 17-year career. Asked this week if he could envision next season being as ugly as this one, Bryant, whose contract will expire after the 2013-14 campaign, emitted a long “Noooo!,” laughing so operatically that heads turned across the dressing room. New York Times

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio said Friday he has apologized to acting coach Terry Porter for an outburst over the team's loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Rubio was upset that he sat out the final minutes of the Timberwolves' 91-83 loss Wednesday night. He was especially agitated after he went to check into the game around the 4-minute mark but was called back to the bench when Porter decided to keep J.J. Barea in the game. "I apologized to him because it came out like I was saying something against him, and I never went against him," Rubio said following a morning shootaround ahead of Friday night's game against the Washington Wizards. "It was something against me, by myself, because I was frustrated with me because I didn't play. It was something that didn't have to be against him or the team." ESPN.com

Executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson doubts his team will make a significant move at the trade deadline and said the return of former MVP Derrick Rose figures to be their big move. "We're up against what's called a hard cap," Paxson said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "In order for us to do something we're not in a position to take on any real salary so we're kind of limited in what we can do. I think our team has grown -- it's not always pretty, let's face it; we've had some ugly games this year and that's kind of who we are right now. But we do grind it out and play hard. "You're always on the lookout to do certain things, but I think our move hopefully will be bringing Derrick back into the fold." ESPN.com

The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because it was a private meeting. While the Maloof family that currently owns the team has an agreement with the Seattle-based group led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell 65% of the team for approximately $341 million, the deal must still be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors. Burkle -- the supermarket mogul who is part owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins -- has been planning to make a competing bid with fellow money man Mark Mastrov, the Northern California-based founder of 24-Hour Fitness, in an attempt to convince the NBA to keep the team in Sacramento. The goal all along from the Sacramento side has been to force the NBA into a tough decision by putting together an arena plan and a bid that's competitive with the Hansen-Ballmer group. USA Today Sports

The Sacramento-Seattle saga has predictably continued with yet another unanticipated twist. A bankruptcy attorney overseeing 7 percent of Kings shares claims that minority owners are being denied their legal opportunity to match any sale purchase offer for the franchise. A hearing is scheduled for next Thursday in the bankruptcy case involving Kings minority partner Robert Cook. Meanwhile, Sacramento's best chance for a local savior to step forward appears to be a combination of two buyers: Supermarket magnate Ron Burkle and 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Burkle and Mastrov have met to discuss teaming up. Mastrov also plans to be in Sacramento next week to meet with other potential local investors. CBSSports.com

January 25, 2013 | 04:32 PM ET Update

The Texas Legends, presented by Veracruz (visit Veracruz.mx), have acquired guard Delonte West. West, a former member of the Mavericks, will be making his way back to Dallas in an effort to once again reach the NBA. West (6-4, 180, St. Joseph’s) was selected 24th overall by the Boston Celtics in the 2004 NBA Draft. West played in Boston for three years averaging 12.25 pts, 3 reb, and 4.4 ast his third season. Following that, West was traded to Cleveland where he played for three years before returning to Boston for the 2010-11 season and then to Dallas where he averaged 9.5 pts, 2.3 reb, and 3.1 ast last season. West helped his team to post-season play in six of his eight seasons in the NBA. Dallas Morning News

Chris Kaman On fans following players more than they follow a specific team. “One exception to that is the Spurs. They understand what they have. That’s why David Stern hates the Spurs. I probably shouldn’t say that but he doesn’t like when the Spurs are in the finals because the ratings go down. People say that all the time. I don’t know how true it is but you hear stories all about that is that the ratings are down. Their basketball is the purest basketball you’re going to find, in my opinion, in the NBA, just watching them play. They play a nice pace game. They’re defense is solid. Their plays are solid. They get all their guys involved. That’s why when he sat them guys against the Heat and sent them home, they still almost won that game.” Dallas Morning News

Kaman: “The true haters are the ones that really know that it’s all about money and they’re not pure fans. The pure fans should understand that hey, this is going to be a team, we’re going to have LeBron James for as long as we can and if we don’t win, then, hey, he wants to win. He’s a lover. He’s a pure basketball player that loves the game. He’s got to go. He’s wants to go somewhere where he can try to win. He tried it here, it didn’t work. Most people should understand that.” Dallas Morning News

Brandon Jennings was snubbed for an all-star berth Thursday night. The Milwaukee Bucks point guard admitted he was disappointed not to be chosen for the Eastern Conference reserves but sounded ready to move ahead as his team finishes the first half of the season Friday night against Cleveland. "Yeah, I was a little disappointed," Jennings said after the team shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena. "I'm not going to sit here and front and act like I wasn't. "But Jrue Holiday and Kyrie Irving are two great young players. Of course, Kyrie with his numbers and Jrue Holiday the things he's been doing and his career averages with the 76ers have been amazing. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

In Buss' case, the plan is to hand the Lakers down to his six children – already having daughter Jeanie in place to run the business side and son Jim the basketball side. Well ... Jeanie and Jim aren't speaking to each other. They haven't since Mike Brown was fired as Lakers coach in early November and the Lakers went through that unseemly, confusing, hurtful dance with Phil Jackson – the love of Jeanie's life and now her fiancé – before hiring Mike D'Antoni. Orange County Register

Details are scarce as to how Buss' trust is set up, but it is believed that amid all the complicated rules and regulations, the children agreed previously to heed their father's wishes and structure the trust to keep that majority ownership in the family. The six children (Johnny, Jim, Jeanie, Janie, Joey and Jesse) are believed to be locked in together by the trust – so that they stay together or they sell together. It is unclear if any one of them can sell his or her individual shares at any point, though logic would suggest that no one can be bound for perpetuity. Orange County Register

If the family does not sell, one looming possibility is either Jim or Jeanie leaving his or her post in the organization and becoming an absentee owner. How that might be determined and whether their siblings would have a say in that is hard to say, but such a development would obviously alter the entire top of the Lakers' organizational structure. If it turns out to be Jim who departs, it's no stretch at all to speculate what so many fans would love to imagine right about now: Jackson returning to the Lakers, to help Jeanie bring championships back. Maybe – and what a twist it would be – Jackson returning as Jim Buss' replacement in running basketball operations? Maybe as head coach again? Maybe in a Tex Winter role as hands-on advisor to the head coach? Orange County Register

The Philadelphia 76ers announced their revised television for the remainder of the season today, with broadcast partner Comcast SportsNet carrying 30 games while The Comcast Network will air eight games. All 38 of those broadcasts will be available in high-definition. The eight games appearing on The Comcast Network are: Jan. 26 vs. New York, Feb. 1 vs. Sacramento, Feb. 11 vs. L.A. Clippers, Mar. 18 vs. Portland, Mar. 24 at Sacramento, Apr. 3 at Charlotte, Apr. 9 at Brooklyn and Apr. 15 at Detroit. The game at Miami on Apr. 6 has been moved from The Comcast Network to Comcast SportsNet. The Sixers have two games remaining on their schedule which will be carried exclusively by TNT (Feb. 28 at Chicago and Mar. 5 vs. Boston). NBA.com

The still shot's obviously goofy and great, but I wish we could see more of Hawes in motion — there's a brief (unfortunately not-playing-nice-with-our-publishing-system) clip of him exiting the practice gym, and he looks like he's handling it pretty well, so I'd love to see him tooling around a bit more. The better he gets at it, the more likely he is to spread the green-transportation gospel to his teammates; we've already know he's gone out on a Segway tour with Evan Turner, and we already know the Sixers' front office is looking for every possible way to reduce the stress on Andrew Bynum's haunted legs. Just a bit more Hawes evangelizing and Philly'll be rolling around like Team USA in Barcelona. Well, a version of Team USA that is eight games under .500 and has lost eight of its last 10, but still. Yahoo! Sports

Same-sex marriage is legal in nine of the 50 United States and recognized in two more; civil unions are legal in eight states. None of them is Colorado. The Centennial State does acknowledge domestic partnerships in a limited framework, but not the right of same-sex partners to fully, officially and legally participate in married life. Colorado is where Kenneth Faried plies his trade as a double-double machine for the 26-18 Denver Nuggets, and as you can see in the video above — produced by One Colorado, an advocacy organization that works to achieve and protect equality and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Colorado residents and their families — the state's present position on civil union strikes the 23-year-old power forward as kind of odd. See, he's long since made his peace with the notion of the LGBT community having the same rights as heterosexuals because he's come of age in a loving environment with two mothers. It's clearly worked out pretty well for him; he's not sure why other folks mind it so much. Yahoo! Sports

While National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter plans to continue implementing some of the recommendations made last week by the Paul, Weiss firm in its scathing, 469-report on union finances and governance, CBSSports.com has learned that another legal challenge may be brewing. The New York State Attorney General's office is aware of the report's findings and is examining whether action may be necessary regarding Hunter's oversight of the NBPA's charitable foundation, law enforcement sources said. CBSSports.com

The report found that the union's foundation never held elections for board members or for an executive director and did not hold or keep records of regular meetings, in violation of its bylaws. Also, the report found that the foundation often made charitable donations at Hunter's sole discretion, and in some cases, those donations went to charities with which he was personally involved. While Paul, Weiss investigators found no evidence that Hunter misappropriated foundation funds, the foundation is subject to New York state non-profit law and is under the jurisdiction of the state attorney general. “We cannot comment on potential or ongoing investigations,” a spokesperson for New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement to CBSSports.com. CBSSports.com

Since the investigators found that Hunter's 2010 contract extension was not voted on by the player reps, the players have the option of not recognizing the contract as valid and dismissing him. Due to the union's vague constitution and bylaws, however, the process for such a decision isn't clear. "There's definitely some work that needs to be done," Novak said. "It's a good thing. What's gone on is a good thing. Having the reports come out like this and having everything aired, I think, is a great start. I think at this point guys are going to feel more involved, are going to be a part of what goes on from here on out." CBSSports.com

January 25, 2013 | 12:59 PM ET Update

The Wolves have indicated to center Nikola Pekovic they have no intention of shopping him. But as someone close to Pekovic said, "What does that really mean?" For what it's worth, I'm told Pekovic wants to stay with the Wolves long-term. 1500 ESPN

Orleans agreed to terms with Kris Joseph on a six-week deal, David Pick reported. Joseph will replace the injured Caleb Green. The player was selected with the 51st overall pick by the Celtics in the last NBA Draft. Sportando

Before Australian center Aron Baynes signed a multi-year deal with the Spurs earlier in the week, the Wolves were in the mix. But the combination of the Wolves' injuries, the need for more immediate help and Baynes' relationship with Spurs guard Patty Mills and assistant coach Brett Brown made it an easy call. 1500 ESPN

Are you disappointed, or how disappointed, are you on not being named to the All-Star team? Josh Smith: Not as disappointed as people think. I mean I got my hopes up last year thinking I was going to make it, probably a couple of years before that too, but it ever happened. It’s not a surprise to me. All I can do is keep playing my game. Keep doing what I’m doing to keep this team positive and successful and not worry about anything else. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Paul George locked his jaw as if he was about to take his defender off the dribble. He gave a hard look as if trying to determine where the offensive player was going with the ball, when he showed a side of him rarely on the display. “I don’t want to be cocky in any way, but I knew this is the level I could play at,” George said. Indianapolis Star

January 25, 2013 | 08:58 AM ET Update

What's more, the return of random Howard-related reports is — as we learned through the Orlando chapter that was so badly mishandled — yet another sign that something may be amiss. Two people with direct knowledge of the situations adamantly denied both the Jan. 7 report that Howard and Bryant had a locker room altercation and a Jan. 22 report that the Brooklyn Nets were discussing a three-team deal to land Howard. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. USA Today Sports

The Grizzlies are still interested in moving Gay, the first executive insisted, they simply can be more judicious about what they want in return and how long they'll wait -- possibly until this summer -- to strike a deal. Sulia

More money. A familiar leading role. Bigger city. All those pluses are likely available to Martin in free agency this summer. But if the Thunder offer a fair deal, Martin says he prefers to re-sign with the small-market winner than do his due diligence in free agency. Playing with Durant and Russell Westbrook is a bonus, too. "This summer, hopefully everything works out here," Martin told Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday. "I haven't said that too often. But I will put it out there; hopefully I have found a home in the NBA. I love playing with this group of guys. The organization is great to me. The community has been great to me. It's the happiest I have been during my NBA career." Yahoo! Sports

"I'm enjoying life now," Martin said. "In Houston and Sacramento, I probably didn't get out too much. It's fun just interacting with [Oklahomans]. It's such a community feel. That's what I love about the whole situation. The city itself, I feel like an Ohio boy here so I feel at home. Oklahoma City just reminds me of Ohio." Yahoo! Sports

Second, Mozgov has an expiring contract, and that is gold in the NBA. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, which is even better for a team that covets him because that team would have the option to match any offer sheet extended to him. Mozgov sits and watches all of this, expressing a desire to stick around. But he prioritizes playing time over staying in Denver. "I want to play," he said Thursday. "I want to stay," he said. "But more than I want to stay, I want to play." Denver Post

The Miami Heat is among several teams believed to be interested in Mozgov. "People ask me, but I don't know what to say to people because I don't know what is going on," Mozgov said. "You've got to understand, the (trade) deadline is coming soon. So people are going to be talking more and more. I don't really know what's going on. I just want to play." Denver Post

The selection prompted unabashedly appreciative strings of comments on both players' Twitter timelines. Noah thanked everyone from teammates to parents to youth coaches and friends. After his emotional outburst that led to Thibodeau benching him last Saturday, Noah also added this humorous perspective. "Thanks for dealing with all my (expletive) to Thibs and the whole staff," he wrote. Chicago Tribune

Duncan discovered that a four-day break in mid-February was a tonic for tired legs overworked by a rugged, lockout-shortened schedule. There was no good reason to hope the 2012-13 season would include a spot on the Western Conference roster for the Feb. 17 exhibition in Houston. “I want to play well and want to feel good about what I’m doing on the court,” he said in December, “but I am not going to be unhappy if I don’t make it.” Now that he knows he has been selected as an All-Star for the 14th time in 16 seasons, his Spurs’ teammate, Tony Parker, has given him ample reason to embrace the experience. “It was lonely in Orlando,” said Parker, the lone Spurs participant in the 2012 All-Star Game. “I need my buddy back.” San Antonio Express-News

According to a Celtics official, fans brandishing posters making reference to “Honey Nut Cheerios’’ were confiscated, as were a couple of Cheerios boxes. A security guard told The Post: “Most of them were taken away when they came in.’’ New York Post

Nets guard C.J. Watson was warned by the NBA for flopping Thursday for a play in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s win at Minnesota. The warning comes as no surprise after Watson all but admitted to flopping to draw an offensive foul on serial offender J.J. Barea with nine minutes to go in the fourth of what became a 91-83 Nets win. ”J.J. Barea’s a flopping guy, so I tried to give him a taste of his own medicine,” Watson told the YES Network in a postgame interview. “I hope I don’t get fined, though.” New York Post

Hearing the disappointment in J.J. Redick’s voice from across the Orlando Magic’s locker room, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis yelled out encouragement to his despondent teammate late Thursday night. It wasn’t long after DeMar DeRozan drilled an off-balanced, heave of a shot that sunk the Magic and Redick was talking about how Orlando’s chances at making the playoffs later this season were slipping away. ``Hey, J.J., it’s all right. They are going to be loving us again soon,’’ Davis yelled over to Redick. ``I know, we’re going to go on that 10-game winning streak going into the All-Star break,’’ Redick said, hoping he could somehow will the Magic back on track. NBA.com

All of the losing has been especially tough on veteran players such as Redick and Davis, both of whom have competed in The NBA Finals before. Seeing this Magic team’s promise slip through its fingers hasn’t set well with the veteran players. ``It’s tough for anybody who values winning. The people who have been here and have won the last few years, it’s been tough on everybody,’’ Redick said. ``The reality is that when we lose the responsibility is one the vets. You can’t put any blame on (rookie forward) Mo Harkless for losing 15 out of 17 or whatever it is now. You know, the ownership is on us to be better.’’ NBA.com

The Bulls didn't practice Thursday, but Derrick Rose continued to have no issues from taking contact in participation against teammates, which Thibodeau divulged Tuesday. Rose's personal trainer, Rob McClanaghan, who also trains Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and others, is in town this week for further support. CSNChicago.com first reported Rose is participating in two-on-two, half-court situations, which the Tribune confirmed. The Tribune previously reported Rose has yet to participate in full-court five-on-five scrimmages. There remain few signs Rose will be cleared for game action before the Feb. 17 All-Star break. Chicago Tribune

Howard, who had missed three games about two weeks ago because of his injured shoulder, felt additional pain during the Lakers' 106-93 loss Wednesday to the Memphis Grizzlies while trying to fight through a screen set by Rudy Gay. Howard grabbed his shoulder and asked Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni to remove him with 2:21 left in the second quarter. Howard stayed in the locker room during the second half. "It felt real bad," Howard said as he exited the arena. "I didn't want to try to play through it. I didn't want to hurt it any worse." Los Angeles Daily News

Raymond Felton has been cleared to take full contact in practice on Friday, a significant hurdle in his attempt to return from a fractured right pinky. Felton will participate in a full practice on Friday for the first time since he fractured his right pinky on Dec. 25. He hopes to return to the floor on Saturday against Philadelphia. "It's been feeling good," Felton said of his pinky, which he says was fractured in three places. "The biggest test will be tomorrow." ESPN.com

There’s plenty of heat and speculation — and plenty for Mike D’Antoni to hash out as far as better utilizing his players, including 2013 free agent Dwight Howard — but I was told Thursday the Lakers are not considering a buyout or firing of D’Antoni as head coach. Orange County Register

"First off, it was clear that he was the right guy based on what I was hearing from the support staff, from players, and others," said Blanks, who - like Babby - joined the Suns after Steve Kerr's abrupt resignation as general manager and the Sarver-led free agency period in 2010 in which Phoenix added the likes of Hakim Warrick (now in Charlotte) and Channing Frye on long-term deals and Amar'e Stoudemire signed in New York. "And the thing that I kept hearing is that they wanted to have the level of accountability, structure, leadership, honesty, someone who was willing to tell them the truth to their face. And they were all saying — as I saw it, and as we saw it in the interview process — they were saying 'Lindsey' without saying 'Lindsey.' "He's a 17-year NBA veteran player. He's been around the business, roughly, about 20 years. He's worked in front offices, he worked for us scouting for little to nothing. He's a workaholic. He gets in the office at 6 in the morning, easy. He's up late at night with the guys getting shots up. …There is a precedent for (this sort of hiring). We've seen other teams recently who have hired young guys who have played who can relate to the players well and who are willing to develop them and challenge them and make them as good as they can be. It just made sense." USA Today Sports

Blanks said there was another Western Conference team that wanted Hunter on its coaching staff as well, so the Suns were relieved when he stayed put. Yet because of the widely-held perception that Hunter had been deemed the heir apparent on the bench going into the season, his presence put unwelcome pressure on the coaching staff. That much was clear in the reaction of the assistants to the Hunter hire, as Majerle has since eviscerated his former bosses publicly and Turner made the decision to leave. USA Today Sports

Both men were interviewed for the job, but Majerle would later claim that the two-day process was a charade. Blanks, however, swears the two-day interview process that led to Hunter's hiring was sincere. "At no time have I or did I talk to Lindsey about being the next coach (before Gentry was gone)," Blanks said. "I just think it was a function of what happened to him last summer with that interview process. We sat there, and we were going down parallel tracks — 'what do we do?' And absolutely it was a process where we go, 'Well we can interview this guy or interview that guy. We can call someone possibly from the outside in.' We went through every possible scenario. "Why would I put myself and the organization and our front office under so much scrutiny if it wasn't a pure decision. Why do that? That's stupid. So at the end of the day, I did what I thought — along with Lon and (director player personnel) John (Treloar) — what we thought was the best decision for the organization. Lindsey Hunter had no idea we were going to interview him until four or five hours before we interviewed him. If you ask me this every day for 20 years, I will tell you the exact same story…because I'm speaking from my heart, so I don't have to make up stuff, or spin it, or anything else. USA Today Sports

When the news broke that Gentry was out in Phoenix, I shared my admiration for Gentry and noted how he seemed to be the fall-guy in what was a complicated and dysfunctional situation. Before long, I was being called "salty" by someone who would turn out to be the father of rookie point guard Kendall Marshall. A back-and-forth ensued, but the eventual revelation was that Kendall Marshall was a big fan of Hunter's and there was some hope that his promotion would improve his situation. Marshall, who was taken 13th overall out of North Carolina, played in just 11 games under Gentry and played more than seven minutes in a game just once. "Lindsey has had confidence in Kendall," Dennis Marshall said via direct message. "He worked him out every day, sometimes twice a day. They seem to get along well." USA Today Sports

But third-year Suns general manager Lance Blanks — who found himself dousing more flames this week after he had a heated argument with veteran Jermaine O'Neal — insists there's a plan in place that will pay off so long as there's some patience. "I feel, actually, great (about the big-picture)," Blanks said in a lengthy phone interview with USA TODAY Sports. "In this business, you can't wiggle your nose and manufacture success, or rub rocks together. You've got to roll up your sleeves and do the things that are necessary to be successful." USA Today Sports

A request to interview the Suns' president of basketball relations, Lon Babby, for this story was rerouted in Blanks' direction. Blanks, to his credit, was more than willing to detail the controversial decision to put Hunter at the helm and address a number of perceptions about the hire. USA Today Sports

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