Marc J. Spears

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Marc Spears covers the NBA for Yahoo! Sports. He previously has written for the Boston Globe and Denver Post.

  • Knicks fire coach Derek Fisher

    Derek Fisher went 40-96 as coach of the Knicks. (AP)Derek Fisher went 40-96 as coach of the Knicks. (AP)The New York Knicks fired head coach Derek Fisher on Monday, just days before the NBA All-Star break.

    Fisher had a 40-96 record in his second season with the Knicks. New York currently is 23-31 and out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Knicks promoted Kurt Rambis to interim coach.

    Knicks president Phil Jackson hired Fisher as his first coach as part of his franchise overhaul after Fisher retired from playing in 2014. Fisher played for Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers. New York endured a franchise-worst 17-65 record with Fisher last season. Even with a relatively healthy Carmelo Anthony and prized rookie Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have lost nine of their last 10 games, including a 101-96 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

    Fisher was involved in a physical altercation last October with Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes at the home of Barnes’ estranged wife. Barnes was later suspended two games by the NBA because of the incident.

    Rambis won four

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  • Despite looming free agency, Kevin Durant focused on beating Warriors

    OAKLAND, Calif. – From Kevin Durant’s arrival in San Francisco on Friday, to Saturday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, to his expected attendance at Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, you’d think the Oklahoma City Thunder free agent-to-be would be overwhelmed by pleas from the Bay Area to join the Warriors.

    “I wasn’t listening,” Durant said.

    But when July 1 comes, the Warriors expect Durant to seriously listen to their free-agent sales pitch.

    The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that the Warriors “are the significant frontrunners” to sign Durant as a free agent if he were to leave the Thunder. The 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player certainly validated the reigning NBA champions’ interest Saturday night, scoring a game-high 40 points with 14 rebounds and five assists. Durant and the Thunder overcame a 20-point deficit to give Golden State one of its toughest tests of the season at Oracle Arena, but still fell 116-108.

    “He’s special. He made some tough shots. Kevin kept his foot on

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  • Jimmy Butler all in with Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler was offered a ticket to watch his friend, Demaryius Thomas, and his beloved Denver Broncos play the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The NBA schedule, though, provided a different plan.

    “I can’t go, man. I have to worry about the Bulls winning games,” Butler told Yahoo Sports recently. “I got to do what I have to do to help this team win. I am disappointed. We have the day off, but I’d have a lot of travel to get to the Super Bowl.

    “So we’ll actually be in Charlotte [Sunday for a Monday game against the Hornets] while the Panthers are playing. I think it’s a sign.”

    Butler said he met Thomas at the ESPY Awards a couple years ago. Butler, whose mom abandoned him at age 13, reached out to Thomas on Twitter in November 2014 after reading a story about Thomas’ difficult childhood, which included his mother and grandmother going to prison.

    “I just touched base when I found out a little bit about his background, him being from the country

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  • Hawks’ Al Horford expanding his game as free agency looms

    Al Horford has expanded the range on his jump shot. (NBAE via Getty Images)Al Horford has expanded the range on his jump shot. (NBAE via Getty Images)The NBA’s star-studded free-agent class this summer could include LeBron James and Kevin Durant, yet Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford is confident he won’t get lost in the crowd.

    The nine-year veteran has had a solid career, averaging 14.3 points and nine rebounds per game. Yet he hasn’t stopped expanding his game.

    “The NBA game is changing a lot,” Horford, 29, told Yahoo Sports. “I know everyone always says that, but especially these past three seasons I feel like it changed even more. For me, I’m in the process of re-changing some aspects of my game to fit this new mold. It’s kind of forcing me to do some things that I haven’t done in the past.

    “As you probably have seen, I’m shooting more from 3-point range. I’m making sure I penetrate more to the basket. Little things you need to be able to do in the new NBA.”

    Horford is averaging 15.2 points, seven rebounds and three assists through 49 games this season and is taking a career-high three 3-pointers per game. He’s shooting a

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  • Source: Suns promote Earl Watson to interim head coach

    The Phoenix Suns have promoted assistant coach and former NBA player Earl Watson to interim head coach, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

    Former Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek (L) on the bench with Earl Watson. (Getty Images)Former Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek (L) on the bench with Earl Watson. (Getty Images)The Suns fired Jeff Hornacek late Sunday night night after a 91-78 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Hornacek compiled a 101-112 record in two-plus seasons coaching the Suns, who have lost 19 of 21 games.

    Watson will make his head-coaching debut Tuesday night when the Suns (14-25) host the Toronto Raptors.

    Watson, 36, was hired as an assistant coach under Hornacek on June 4 and was promoted on Dec. 28 after assistant coaches Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi were fired. Watson began coaching professionally last season with the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA Development League affiliate in Austin. The Suns also considered assistant coaches Cory Gaines and Nate Bjorkgren for the interim opening.

    Watson was primarily a reserve point guard for 13 NBA seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics, Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers,

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  • Gary Payton has trash-talk battle with nation's top prep player

    NAPA, Calif. – Hall of Famer Gary Payton may have been the greatest trash talker in NBA history. Now nine years removed from his playing career, Payton showed his mouth is still working as much as ever when he went back and forth with the nation's No.1 high school player, Josh Jackson, while sitting courtside.

    Josh Jackson (No. 11) got an earful from Gary Payton, who was seated courtside. (Marc J. Spears)Josh Jackson (No. 11) got an earful from Gary Payton, who was seated courtside. (Marc J. Spears)"He didn't do his homework," Payton told Yahoo Sports. "That's it. He's a kid and he's having fun. I respect him because he has a lot of dog in him to come back and talk. He has a lot of gall to do that, so that's good.

    "But in these situations, you got to understand if you're going to talk it, you got to back it up. Back it up!"

    Payton might have been the only NBA player who enjoyed and succeeded in trash-talking with Michael Jordan. Payton once told then-Minnesota Timberwolves coach Sidney Lowe to, "Sit down, Smurf." The Glove also once told a heckler during a road game in Sacramento: "You're paying to see me. I'm not paying to see you. So why don't you shut up and watch the

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  • DeMarcus Cousins on how he would change All-Star balloting: 'There definitely wouldn’t be fan voting'

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – It wasn’t a surprise that NBA fans voted retiring superstar Kobe Bryant as a Western Conference All-Star starter despite his struggles this season.

    The oddity is that if Bryant were listed at guard, the position he played for the majority of his career, instead of in the frontcourt, Zaza Pachulia of the Dallas Mavericks would have been voted a West starter.

    That’s one of the reasons Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who scored a career-high 56 points Monday in a 129-128 double-overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets, told Yahoo Sports recently that the All-Star starter balloting system should be changed for the All-Star Game on Feb.14.

    As it stands now, fans are asked to vote for three frontcourt players (regardless of position) and two guards per conference as starters.

    “It’s disrespectful to big men,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s not really fair. But that’s how it is.”

    Cousins was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday and has

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  • Warriors’ confidence sky high after rout of Spurs

    OAKLAND, Calif. – The Golden State Warriors proved they could handle LeBron James and the full-strength Cleveland Cavaliers.

    They continued to roll without head coach Steve Kerr.

    NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry and the reigning NBA champions have pushed back most challenges they’ve encountered and maintained their championship fire.

    The next question was if the mighty Warriors could beat the San Antonio Spurs.

    That answer was definitive as well.

    “We almost got them,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said jokingly.

    The Warriors were up by as many as 33 points Monday night before routing the Spurs 120-90 at Oracle Arena. The previous largest margin of defeat for San Antonio this season was 14. Curry also scored a Spurs opponent season-high of 37 points, made six 3-pointers and had five steals before sitting out the fourth quarter for the 14th time this season.

    Spurs forward Tim Duncan didn’t play because of knee soreness, but it may not have made a difference for the five-time

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  • 50 Most Memorable Super Bowl Moments, No. 9: Marcus Allen runs away from Redskins

    As the NFL approaches its highly anticipated golden anniversary Super Bowl, Yahoo Sports takes a look back at some of the most memorable moments in the game's history.

    In our rankings, the moments go beyond the great scores and plays. We also take a look at entertainment performances, scandals/controversies and other events associated with corresponding Super Bowls.

    Here's a look at moment No. 9:

    Marcus Allen's reverse

    Marcus Allen carries the ball against the Redskins during Super Bowl XVIII. (Getty)Marcus Allen carries the ball against the Redskins during Super Bowl XVIII. (Getty)

    The technical name of the Los Angeles Raiders' renowned Super Bowl rushing play in 1984 was "17-Bob-Trey-O." But in Super Bowl history, it is often regarded as the greatest run ever courtesy of Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen.

    "It wasn't exactly a game-changer, but it really closed the door," former Raiders coach Tom Flores told Yahoo Sports.

    The Raiders, who lost 37-35 to the Washington Redskins during the 1983 regular season, entered Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa, Fla., as the underdogs to the dominant Redskins. The reigning Super Bowl champion Redskins owned an

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  • Steve Kerr welcomed back by Warriors after long absence

    OAKLAND, Calif. – As Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr completed his first pregame media session of the season – prior to a 122-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers – he offered some advice to a reporter suffering from the same problems that had sidelined him for so long.

    "How's your back?" Kerr said. "Keep doing your rehab."

    Kerr returned to the bench for the first time this season Friday night after being sidelined following two offseason back surgeries. He first had surgery to repair a ruptured disc in late July and had follow-up surgery in early September. Kerr decided to take a leave of absence on Oct. 1 and was also hampered by pounding headaches.

    Kerr was briefly on the Oracle Arena floor to receive his NBA championship ring on opening night against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 27. But when he returned to the sideline, it was the first time he coached since Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals when the Warriors won their NBA championship in Cleveland. After failing to

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