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94 Feet: Russell Westbrook can't win NBA title

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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