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NBA Five Stories: Will the real Pacers please stand up?

April 23, 2014 | 10:23 PM ET Update

With Rockets guard Pat Beverley returning on Wednesday from the sprained right knee he suffered in Game 1, his agent Kevin Bradbury said the injury had no relation to his torn knee cartilage March 27 and that Beverley was in no greater danger of further injury by playing again on Wednesday. Beverley was helped off the court on Sunday after he ran into a screen set by Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge fouled out on the play and Beverley fouled out less than a minute later. “The other night, he hyper-extended that thing and banged it on the ground,” Bradbury said. “That will cause lots of pain, but there was no swelling. It calmed down. If a doctor tells me there is a chance he can do something more to himself, it’s a tough spot to be in, but you have to make the best decision for the kid’s future.” Houston Chronicle

Bradbury said that he had a surgery scheduled for Beverley on March 31 in the days following his cartilage tear, but Dr. James Andrews said after reviewing two sets of MRI results that he would not recommend surgery. Had surgery repaired the cartilage, Beverley would have been out for the season. Had a torn piece of cartilage been removed, Beverley would be just returning now. Instead, he missed eight games and played in the final three of the regular season. “The debris (from the initial injury) is gone,” Bradbury said. “It’s smooth. Dr. Andrews said ‘I would not recommend doing anything on this even if it was the off-season.’ He was cleared medically to play. You are not going to re-tear it. That piece of meniscus is gone. It’s not coming back and getting torn again. It’s gone. “ Usually, a meniscus tear has varying degrees of fraying on the edges. Bradbury, who also represents former Rockets forward Chase Budinger who had the surgery and a subsequent surgery for a meniscus tear, said Beverly’s tear was a clean, straight line. Houston Chronicle

“Tim Duncan making the salary he's making after being part of a dynasty - not a dynasty, I wouldn't call San Antonio a dynasty -- a force, a great force,” Jackson said. “They haven't been able to win consecutive championships but they've always been there. San Antonio has had a wonderful run through Tim's tenure there as a player. He's agreed to take a salary cut so other players can play with him so they can be this good. And that's the beginning of team play.” Newsday

Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford communicates a lot with team owner Michael Jordan via text message. Clifford said he benefits from the feedback. “He’ll text me sometimes just with things that he sees. He knows our team,” Clifford said Wednesday before Game 2 of the playoff series against the Miami Heat. “I appreciate how he treats me – he gives me suggestions, but he always says, ‘You’re the coach; do what you think.’ ” Charlotte Observer

Saying they reaffirm the team's commitment to the city, the Miami Heat announced Wednesday night that they have agreed to extend their partnership with Miami-Dade County another 10 years through 2040. The deal is still subject to approval by the county's commissioners, with a vote possible on May 6. USA Today Sports

Heat managing partner Micky Arison, whose team plays in the county-owned AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, said the team struck the deal with Mayor Carlos Gimenez and that the pact includes an inflation-adjusted operating subsidy of $147 million from the county's Convention Development Tax fund, money he said will be reinvested into the building. "By any measure, the partnership between the Miami Heat and Miami-Dade County has been a hugely successful one," Arison wrote in a statement released by the team shortly before Game 2 of its Eastern Conference first-round series against the Charlotte Bobcats got underway. "Today, we are committing to keep that success going." USA Today Sports

The team also says the deal provides "cost certainty for the franchise, a necessity in this age of punitive NBA luxury taxes." Arison said that will help the team plan future basketball spending. The tentative deal also calls for the Heat to make an annual payment to the county, earmarked for what Arison called "perpetually underfunded" parks and recreation activities for residents. USA Today Sports

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April 23, 2014 | 07:41 PM ET Update

Yahoo Sports first reported that there was "a practice-floor fistfight" involving Turner and Stephenson last Friday. A person familiar with the situation described the story to The Star as "pretty accurate." However on Wednesday, Turner and Stephenson, as well as other Pacers, downplayed the incident as a commonplace tangling up that happens during practices. "We're competitive players," Stephenson said. "We got (into) a little scuffle but it was just practice related. No blows, just playing hard and getting ready for the playoffs. I mean, I've got no problem with him." USA Today Sports

Turner also denied that the fracas escalated to fists. "Honestly, the person who wrote the article asked me if the fight happened, I told him 'No, it wasn't (a fight),' and he just went on and wrote that there were punches thrown and all this and it wasn't. It was just a tangle up and that was it," Turner told The Indianapolis Star while on his way to catch the team plane to Atlanta. "That was it and I don't think there's anything really to speak on in regards to being that big a deal. But the whole thing of everybody reading that punches got thrown and all this nonsense occurred, that never happened. Not one punch (was) thrown. Lance and I are pretty big guys. I think you'd see a sign of a punch thrown, ya know?" USA Today Sports

Stephenson, 23, makes no apologies for his a knack for getting under players' skin with his brashness. "I'm definitely a trash-talker coming from New York, we talk trash all the time," Stephenson said. "That was built in me when I was young. "I just try to get our confidence built up. Sometimes I go, 'Hey let's go,' I get into other guys and it's just ... being competitive and getting each other ready for the playoffs and the physical part of the game, so I just try to be that guy to do that sometimes." USA Today Sports

Do Garnett’s comments bother you? “Hell, nah,” Magloire drawled. “He’s a talker who can’t back it up.” After dropping the mic, he swiveled away. Then he turned back and waved a finger the size of a jumbo hot dog. “And you can print that.” Jamaal Magloire. Canada’s hype man. “It’s going to be a new frontier,” coach Dwane Casey said of the anticipated atmosphere in Brooklyn. Toronto Globe & Mail

BUZZ METER: WHO'S TRENDING IN THE NBA TWITTERSPHERE? USA TODAY Sports Images

Who's the man of the minute in the NBA Twittersphere? Find out here who's getting the most mentions at any given moment.

   

April 23, 2014 | 06:30 PM ET Update

Jeff Green: He was a volume scorer and shooter on a bad team, with two more years at $9.2 million each — the second not guaranteed — left on his contract. He’s eminently available if there’s a contender who believes Green can fit in as a third or fourth guy. Boston Herald

"It grew us closer. Lance and Evan are close now. It's just, throughout the year, there have been plenty of times where I've wanted to take guys out. We're brothers. I'm sure anyone who has siblings has had moments where other siblings got on their nerves and caused them to tip over. Part of the game, part of the system, nothing serious." Indianapolis Star

Not only did Gibson take exception to officials not granting his timeout request when he corraled a loose ball, the Bulls forward also claimed they missed Nene's foul on the subsequent jump ball that Nene won. "We looked at the film. We saw the jump ball. That was crazy," Gibson said. "But the loose ball, I called three timeouts. I had it, nobody else was around me. D.J. (Augustin) called it a couple times. We had a lot of guys in his face. He just didn’t give us the timeout. "(On the jump ball), I felt like it was a lot of activity. (Nene) just pushed me out of the way. I didn’t know you could do that. But you learn something new every day. Can you do that? He took my whole arm and just threw me. So I didn’t know that was legal and you look at the film, he hits Joakim (Noah) in the face while he does it. So I don’t know what to say." Chicago Tribune

Reading between the lines, it was enough to make those at Cleveland Clinic Courts wonder whether Mike Brown 2.0 will turn out any differently than Mike Brown 1.0. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert fired Brown after the 2010 season in a desperate attempt to persuade LeBron James to stay in free agency. Gilbert did not attend Tuesday’s gathering. He was off “trying to make us better,” Griffin said. That probably means Gilbert is contacting candidates for the roles of coach, general manager and/or president, a new layer he’s considering adding. It remains to be seen whether anyone wants to work with the Cavs’ collection of misfits and for an impulsive owner who fired General Manager Chris Grant on Feb. 6 without a long-term plan. Akron Beacon Journal

LeBron James has signed with WME on all entertainment and acting projects, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter. The Miami Heat superstar will be represented by a five-member team at WME. The Hollywood Reporter

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April 23, 2014 | 05:44 PM ET Update

Notre Dame guard Jerian Grant will not follow his brother to the NBA draft and intends to return to South Bend. The 6-foot-4 Grant averaged 19 points in 12 games last season before withdrawing from school for an "academic matter" in late-December. "Jerian is not in the NBA draft," Irish coach Mike Brey told ESPN.com. "He's returning to Notre Dame in June for summer school and we look forward to having him next season." Grant's brother, Syracuse sophomore forward Jerami Grant, declared for the draft earlier in the month. Grant's father is former NBA big man Harvey Grant. ESPN.com

Former NBA star Tracy McGrady has made the opening day roster of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher, manager Gary Gaetti told KRIV-TV in Houston on Wednesday. "Tracy is on the team," Gaetti told KRIV. "He's just done what needed to be done since the idea came about. He showed enough progress. He showed enough ability and we're going to see where this goes." Gaetti told KRIV that he didn't make the decision to keep McGrady on the roster until Wednesday. The Skeeters open the regular season Thursday against Lancaster. ESPN.com

SOCIAL MEDIA PICTURES:
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Just like everybody else, NBA players are spending more and more time on social media sites and photo-sharing services. Check all the pictures they are posting on Instagram, Twitter and more here.

   

April 23, 2014 | 04:19 PM ET Update

Pau Gasol: Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one. If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game. paugasol.com

Pau Gasol: Money isn’t important to me. I have other priorities. A contract lasting several seasons, the make-up of the team that signs me: I’ll need to think long and hard. I won’t just go to the franchise that offers me the biggest salary, I know that. I would have liked to finish the season on the court, but my vertigo problems made that impossible. I just have to accept it. I’m feeling much better, but not enough to play basketball just yet. paugasol.com

He not short of any confidence when it comes to his small forward matchup with Nicolas Batum, who is a more established player. Batum may have the experience, but according to Parsons, he’s the best small forward in this series. “100 percent, I’m the best,” Parsons told CSNNW.com without hesitation. CSNNW.com

You’ll probably never hear Dallas Mavericks point guard Jose Calderon complain about minutes. If Devin Harris continues get the majority of playing time in this first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs, that’s cool with Calderon. “I just want to win games and try to help my teammates,” said Calderon, who played only 16 minutes in the Mavs’ Game 1 loss, the fewest of any game in which he wasn’t injured all season. “Whatever is better for the team, I’ve got no problem with that at all. … “If I’m not good out there, I’m the first one to want to be on the bench because someone is doing better. With that, I’ve got no problem. We are 15 guys for a reason. Coach has got to decide. It is what it is, but we cannot be changing everything after one loss or one game.” ESPN.com

One day after Steve Kerr said he “anticipates” speaking to Phil Jackson about the Knicks head-coaching job, Ron Harper told The Post he believes he will interview for a position with the Knicks, as well. Harper won NBA five titles under Jackson as a combo guard, playing five seasons in Chicago for the new Knicks team president and two seasons with the Lakers. He was also a teammate of Kerr’s in Chicago and Cleveland. New York Post

Harper said he has texted with Jackson a few times since he got the Knicks job. “I would expect so,” Harper said of interviewing for a coaching job. “A few guys are expecting to hear from him. We’re in a wait-and-see mode. Whatever he needs me to do, I will do. He knows that.” New York Post

BUZZ METER: WHO'S TRENDING IN THE NBA TWITTERSPHERE? USA TODAY Sports Images

Who's the man of the minute in the NBA Twittersphere? Find out here who's getting the most mentions at any given moment.

   

April 23, 2014 | 02:55 PM ET Update

Former Louisville forward Chane Behanan has hired an agent and will declare this week for the NBA Draft, a source close to the situation told SNY.tv. “Yeah, sometime this week,” the source said. “He signed, he’s got an agent already.” ZagsBlog.com

The 6-foot-6 Behanan was dismissed from Louisville in December for a violation of team rules. He averaged 7.6 points and 6.3 rebounds last season with the Cardinals. He had been a huge part of Louisville’s NCAA championship run in 2012-13, averaging 12.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the national semifinals and final. After spending some time with John Lucas at his facility in Houston for a reported drug issue, Behanan transferred to Colorado State. Now it looks like he will never suit up there. ZagsBlog.com

REAL ESTATE: WHERE DO PLAYERS OWN HOMES? Getty Images
NBA players spend a lot on real estate. But where and how much exactly? Find out here.

 

April 23, 2014 | 01:17 PM ET Update

Sophomore forward Alex Poythresswill return to the Kentucky men's basketball program for the 2014-15 season, he announced Wednesday. "Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, but I want to make sure that I'm NBA-ready before I make that jump," Poythress said. "By coming back, I'll be so much closer to earning my degree in business and it will give me another year to prepare my game and my body for the next level." University of Kentucky Official Athletic Site

In an interview Wednesday morning with ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike," Minnesota Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders downplayed the idea he might return to the Wolves' bench after this week's retirement of Rick Adelman. "I don't really see that scenario," Saunders said, insisting that his duties running the Wolves' front office were too consuming to make a coaching comeback. "I know it's been brought up a lot, and you never say never, but we have a lot of things going on here," Saunders continued. "I've got a lot on my plate and that's enough right now to deal with." ESPN.com

Persuading any of those college basketball heavyweights to leave the comfort and security of their respective programs is regarded as a major challenge, to say the least, but NBA coaching sources told ESPN.com this week that the Wolves would indeed prefer to fill their opening with a top name from the college game if Saunders is staying put. ESPN.com

Sources also said that the Wolves are already highly pessimistic about their ability to lure Hoiberg -- who played for Saunders in Minnesota and later worked for the Wolves as an executive -- away from Iowa State after he recently received a contract extension. "That's not happening," Saunders told local reporters Monday when referring to the Wolves' ability to land Hoiberg. ESPN.com

BUZZ METER: WHO'S TRENDING IN THE NBA TWITTERSPHERE? USA TODAY Sports Images

Who's the man of the minute in the NBA Twittersphere? Find out here who's getting the most mentions at any given moment.

   

April 23, 2014 | 12:16 PM ET Update

When asked about the status of star forward Carmelo Anthony, who will opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent, Jackson said he hopes Anthony sticks with what he has said in the past about willing to take less money to help give the team more flexibility. "If it's in the cards, man, are we fortunate," Jackson said. "If it's not in the cards, man, are we fortunate and we're going forward anyway." Newsday

Sources said that Stephenson and guard George Hill had to be separated on the bench during a 26-point home loss to San Antonio on March 31. And when Roy Hibbert made his well-chronicled complaints to NBA.com in late March about "some selfish dudes in here," sources say he was essentially referring to Stephenson, who ranks as one of the league's most improved players this season as he approaches free agency in July and is well-known to be a Bird favorite. ESPN.com

Al Jefferson was still in his walking boot when the Charlotte Bobcats arrived for their shootaround hours before facing the Miami Heat in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference first-round series. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford says the team was planning to have Jefferson participate in at least some of Wednesday morning's shootaround, but not in anything involving contact. Jefferson was diagnosed with a plantar fascia strain in his left foot Sunday, when the Bobcats lost the series opener. Boston Herald

Jones was drafted No. 28 and Miller No. 38 in 2012, and it’s unlikely Austin fares much better in 2014, but he’s giving it a shot. Baylor team release: Baylor sophomore center Isaiah Austin will declare for the 2014 NBA Draft and forgo his final two years of collegiate eligibility, head coach Scott Drew announced Tuesday. NBCSports.com

Knicks president Phil Jackson said Wednesday that Steve Kerr is a candidate to replace the recently fired Mike Woodson as the team's head coach. At a news conference Wednesday morning, Jackson said he is "looking for a leader" and that whoever the new coach is be must be "a forward thinker." Jackson said he and Kerr have a strong philosophical connection and that he planned to speak with him later this month to see if he's up to the job of coaching the Knicks. Jackson did not divulge the names of other possible candidates. Newsday

Al Iannazzone: Phil said "it's not a priority" to hire anyone in front office now. Mentioned Clarence Gaines Jr has been working for Knicks for 2 was. Twitter @Al_Iannazzone

NBA Five Stories: Will the real Pacers please stand up?

April 23, 2014 | 11:14 AM ET Update

But the boot is off and he started upper-body work last week. Basketball activities are still far off, he said, but Lopez fully expects to be ready for training camp. With the Nets. “This is where I want to be. I want to be back,” Lopez said. “I wish I could be out there, absolutely. I’m just finally happy to be able to travel again and support the team, be on the bench.” New York Post

On the morning of Game 2 in Toronto, the confident 36-year-old veteran, making his 11th appearance in the postseason, tried to explain how one acquires such late-game poise. His explanation implied he’s motivated to display a lot more of it in this series, especially in the frenzied Air Canada Centre atmosphere where he’s playing the villain role. “It’s just in the DNA,” quipped Pierce to a large group of reporters, trying to shed light on a question he’s been asked numerous times over his 15-year NBA career. “Everybody don’t have it. Everybody isn’t born with it. You can’t buy it at Costco or Walgreens, it’s in the DNA. It’s in there. There’s nothing I can do to let it go. I can’t lose it. I can’t break it. It’s in there.” Toronto Globe & Mail

Clint Capela officially declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. The Swiss forward is averaging 9.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 blocks in Pro A while in Eurocup he scored 11.2 points with 6.5 rebounds per game. Sportando

Mike Hamrick put the full-court press on Mike D’Antoni. The ultimate press breaker: A multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. Hamrick, who is in his sixth year as Marshall’s athletic director, courted D’Antoni, the Los Angeles Lakers head coach, from the moment Tom Herrion resigned as Marshall University’s coach March 14. The courtship, however, is over. Sources told the Charleston Daily Mail on Tuesday afternoon that D’Antoni will remain the head coach of the Lakers and, thus, will not be in position to accept the vacant Herd hoops job. Charleston Daily Mail

Last month, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the “greedy” NFL was “10 years away from an implosion”. Because the league was trying to “take over every night of TV,” Cuban said, people would eventually get sick of the NFL, especially if “they go to Wednesday.” On Wednesday, the NFL will take over TV and the sports news cycle by releasing its 2014 schedule at 8 p.m. ET, which happens to be the same exact time Cuban’s Mavs tip-off in Game 2 of their playoff series with the San Antonio Spurs. Coincidence? Intentional dig? Either way, the overlap, which was first noticed by David Moore of The Dallas Morning News, is delicious. For The Win

Nick Young’s team may not be in the NBA playoffs, but that didn’t stop him from having possibly the greatest night ever at the Kings’ game on Tuesday. He wore his own custom Kings’ jersey. And more importantly, got to sit on the Zamboni. For The Win

Emiliano Carchia: Ex Cantù sports director Arrigoni said to La Gazzetta dello Sport that once Schortsanitis ordered 12 pizzas plus 4 to take away Twitter @sportando

Charges against NBA star Terrence Jones were dropped after he was accused last July of stomping on a sleeping homeless man in Portland. Jones, a Jefferson High School graduate and current NBA forward with the Houston Rockets, was arrested in connection with the incident on Wednesday, July 31. kgw.com

Jones must pay $10,000 to a charitable organization that benefits the homeless, as designated by the alleged victim's lawyer, according to the compromise obtained by The Oregonian Tuesday. "I'm pleased to say that we were able to resolve the underlying dispute to everyone's satisfaction,'' said attorney James E. McCandlish, who represented the victim in the case. Oregonian

April 23, 2014 | 07:24 AM ET Update

On the eve of this Eastern Conference series, the wobbling No. 1 seed punctuated its final playoff preparations in a most self-destructive way: Two Indiana Pacers dragged a cursing, cut Evan Turner out of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court, untangling him from a practice-floor fistfight with teammate Lance Stephenson. Yahoo! Sports

Turner hadn't been the first Pacer to lose his temper with Stephenson these tumultuous several weeks, and Stephenson's relentlessly irritable nature suggests Turner won't be the last. These scrapes aren't uncommon in the NBA, but this confrontation had been weeks in the making and that reflected in the ferocity of the encounter, sources told Yahoo Sports. "This stuff happens, but the timing wasn't ideal," one witness told Yahoo Sports. Yahoo! Sports

These two guards have struggled together since the deadline deal brought Turner from Philadelphia to Indiana. Suddenly, Turner is learning to play without the ball in his hands, and Stephenson is relearning the balance of passing and shooting. Truth be told, there were probably Pacers willing to let Stephenson and Turner beat the dribble out of each other. Still, Luis Scola and David West finally grabbed an enraged Turner and separated Stephenson. Yahoo! Sports

Turner had one shot and just 11 minutes in Game 2, but the Pacers won and that lifted a burden off everyone in the locker room. Turner insisted "nothing happened" with Stephenson in practice on Friday, but he's in a tough spot to cop to the truth. He doesn't want to be a disruption, but rather a solution. Turner's trying to fit into these Pacers, trying to prove he belongs on the court for a championship contender. Yahoo! Sports

Two months later, it's no more plausible after he has attained what he wanted on South Beach, but dreaming is free for a Suns franchise that can create about $20 million of cap space in July and would like to play off Eric Bledsoe's close friendship with James to make the pursuit. "If we can get LeBron, I would like to get him," Suns guard Goran Dragic said when asked about team off-season needs. Arizona Republic

At the least, it is an inspiring sign of what the franchise envisions. James may be a Suns dream, but the franchise will never be able to open new doors without first having the boldness to knock. To that end, the Suns would not be done with signing James. The Suns become a lot more attractive to Kevin Love if James is around and if Love is on the trade market this summer. Dream big. Arizona Republic

Gasol, who will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his 13-year career come July 1, is sure he still has "another good five years" left to play. But with the Lakers currently employing a coach whose style doesn't suit his game and the team in the middle of a rebuild, the big man doesn't know how much he wants to remain a Laker. "I'm going to listen closely to what the Lakers will have to offer and say about the team's situation and position at the time," Gasol said. "We know what it is today, but we don't know what it is going to be July 1. See how the draft is going to play out, who they are going to end up drafting. Things like that that can have an impact or an effect on the structure of the team." ESPN.com

D'Alessandro admitted he has already has a number in his head for how much he's willing to pay Thomas. "Isaiah obviously wants to be here, but the business is the business," D'Alessandro said. "The great part about Isaiah and his agent is that we'll kind of navigate that together as a group. He's got to do what's right for him, and we've got to do what's right for us and hopefully those two things merge and become one. "At the end of the day, we do know it's a business and he had a phenomenal year, so we'll see where that goes." news10.net

Tiny Gallon will play in China for the rest of the season. He's ready to sign a contract in NBL with Heilongjiang Zhaozhou Feng Shen, after having rejected an offer from Chinese Liaoning Hunters in February to close the season in D-League with Delaware 87ers. He averaged 18.9 points and 9.1 rebounds per game with the Sevens. Sportando

"It sucks," Noah said. "I hate losing. Everyone on this team is giving everything that they have. I feel like they hit big shot after big shot. You have to give credit where credit is due. They're playing at a high level. Throughout the year, it hasn't been pretty at times. But we're a team that finds a way." Chicago Tribune

With the series tied at 1-1, the Raptors will take on the Nets in Brooklyn Friday for Game 3 at the Barclays Center which Kevin Garnett said will be a “rowdy environment” in his postgame interview after the Nets’ Game 2 loss Tuesday night. Garnett, referring to the recent incident in which Toronto GM Masai Ujiri yelled “F*ck Brooklyn!!” to a crowd of Raptors fans, said, “I don’t know if you can say f-Brooklyn and then come into Brooklyn, so we’re about to see what it’s like.” beyondthebuzzer.com

Some might argue, pointing to the seven seasons he spent in Atlanta averaging 20.9 points a game, or his Western Conference Finals run with the Phoenix Suns in 2003. But statistics and subjective opinions hardly do justice to Johnson's subtly brilliant season for the Nets. It wasn't until this year, his second in Brooklyn, that Johnson became the primary scorer for a real contender. Since Jan. 2, when his game-winning jumper against the Oklahoma City Thunder began a 34-17 run for the Nets, Johnson has averaged team highs in scoring (15.9 points a game), free-throw accuracy (82.8%) and three-point accuracy (40.1%). Wall Street Journal

According Jason Collins, Johnson's former teammate with the Hawks and now his teammate with the Nets, that change has been the product of Johnson's surroundings more than anything else. "A lot of it is that Joe has trust in our teammates to make the right play," Collins said Tuesday, before the Nets tipped off against the Toronto Raptors for Game 2 of their first-round playoff series. "I'm sure that trust existed in Atlanta, but he doesn't have to do it by himself. Sometimes, when we were in Atlanta, we definitely gave him the ball at the end of the shot clock and said, 'Go make a play.' But the offense here in Brooklyn, we move the ball, we make the extra pass." Wall Street Journal

So Monday through Friday, mornings and sometimes nights, he cleared his schedule and cleared his head during this crucial time. This was the getting-to-know-you period between Griffin and his new coaching staff, the stretch when this high-flyer elevated his game in ways that were impossible to miss in his 35-point outing in Game 2 that evened the Clippers' series with the Golden State Warriors at 1-1 on Monday. The goal, then as it is now, was to keep this drive alive until that mid-June time when champions are made. "It was about patience (for Griffin), to take that new (Doc Rivers-led) coaching staff, let them teach you, and learn from it, and go in every day," Griffin's business manager, Lorne Clark, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. "Get shots up, do those things. A lot of working with those guys, and they'd say, 'These are the positions we're going to put you in. Let's work on that face-up.' It's just having the confidence to go by people and (knowing that) you're unstoppable if you do this." USA Today Sports

In this regular season where his production has jumped from 18.0 points and 8.3 rebounds a game last season to 24.1 and 9.5, he was better than ever during that stretch: 27.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game with the offense often running through him. "Blake was always like the little brother (to Paul)," Crawford said. "And when the big brother is down, the little brother has to step up. And me and Blake looked at each other, because he was like, 'Now we've got to be more aggressive. We've got to go.' He led with his voice. He led by example. He led us every single night when Chris went out. "This guy just wants to be great. He really does. I've said it before — (Kevin) Durant (of the Oklahoma City Thunder) will probably win MVP this year, but with those guys being the same age I could see them going back and forth for years to come. ... Blake's one of the special talents in the world." USA Today Sports

(There’s also a guerrilla scenario haunting GMs around the NBA: Australian point guard Dante Exum, ranked by some as the second best player in the draft, falls to the Lakers at No. 6 or 7 after agent Rob Pelinka–yes, the one who reps Kobe–keeps him from working out for other teams. Exum looks like he’s on board, calling the Lakers his “best option.”) Forbes.com

For those suspicious of one, much less two coincidences, Kobe’s people acknowledge that he is, indeed, “frustrated” with the Lakers, that being the word everyone in sports uses for “angry.” Bryant, who’s pouring his keen powers of observation, not to mention his inclination toward obsession, into the draft, reportedly wondered why the Lakers had to win their last two games, leaving them 27-55 with the No. 6 pick going into the lottery, rather than 26-56 with a coin flip with Utah for No. 5. Of course, the team had yet to win those games when Bryant had his migraine so his “frustration” may stem from the realization that he has just re-upped for two years, through age 38, in a black hole. Forbes.com

A sleeper possibility in New York could be Tyronn Lue, who has been hailed as a future head coach by Alvin Gentry and played for Jackson. For Kerr, the bigger coaching allure has to be the potential of that Golden State job opening, so he could have a more talented team with the young star he once coveted and thought he landed in Phoenix — Stephen Curry. Arizona Republic

Just one month into his role as Knicks president, Jackson has already clashed with Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, over personnel decisions, the Daily News has learned. According to a team source, Jackson is looking to remove several staff members, which is commonplace when a new administration takes over, but Dolan opposes removing certain employees. New York Daily News

A veritable palace with a trophy room, a wine cellar evoking a European monastery, a private theater with your own monogrammed seating, an arcade, an indoor basketball court plastered with press clippings and not one but two garages to store your fleet of luxury automobiles. Such is the splendor of Tony Parker’s custom mansion, recently valued as the fourth-most expensive home in the San Antonio area by a local magazine. The six-time All-Star gave former teammate Fab Oberto a private tour for his television show in Argentina. Oberto also interviewed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and visited Tim Duncan’s auto shop during his trip to San Antonio. But both segments pale in comparison to Parker’s Palais Royal. San Antonio Express-News

NBA superstar Joakim Noah has sued his former shoe sponsor -- claiming Le Coq Sportif makes TERRIBLE SNEAKERS that may have damaged his feet ... TMZ Sports has learned. Noah quietly declared war on the French company in a D.C. court back in November ... claiming LCS signed him to a 6-year $6 million deal back in 2007, only to screw him out of more than $1.65 million. In the suit, Noah says he was pumped about the deal at first -- but shortly after he signed, LCS shut down its U.S. offices, fired the guy who signed Noah, and started looking for ways to back out of the deal. Noah claims things came to a head in 2013 when they suddenly stopped paying him money he believed they were obligated to pay. TMZ.com

NBA Five Stories: Will the real Pacers please stand up?

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