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Ball Don't Lie
  • Luol Deng and Joakim Noah attempt to stay warm. (Getty Images)

    On Sunday, the Brooklyn Nets will travel to Boston to play the Boston Celtics, in a return to the former home of current Nets Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, with the latter (who spent his entire 15-year career with the Celtics prior to this season) expected to receive a rousing and pointed re-introduction to the city, possibly peppered by emotion and tears. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN, with Pierce actually sitting out a exhibition contest in Boston last October so as to save the real return for a more proper setting. For Boston fans, the shock of seeing Pierce in another team’s uniform will be cushioned by the fact that the team is set to receive what should be a series of good-to-great draft picks because of the deal.

    On Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls will travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers, a squad that features former longtime Bull forward Luol Deng, who was traded to Cleveland earlier in January. The contest will be a locally televised affair pitched early in a massive League Pass scheduling night, and because of the Cleveland setting, there will be no standing ovation for the former Bull. And because the picks Chicago received for Deng aren’t likely to worm their way out of their various protections, it’s possible that all Chicago traded their All-Star for is a pair of second round picks, and luxury and payroll relief for a team that was recently valued at $1 billion dollars.

    Read More »from Luol Deng ‘can’t wait to beat’ the Chicago Bulls, while Joakim Noah definitely wants ‘to kick his ass’
  • Shawn Livingston and his recovered knee speak to the media (Getty Images)

    Shaun Livingston has started nine games in a row, and his Brooklyn Nets have won eight of those contests. The team’s defense has improved, something it probably couldn’t help but do, and Livingston has helped steady the offense as the Nets rang up impressive wins over the Heat, Thunder, Golden State, and two different victories over the Hawks. Tuesday night’s 11-point win over the lowly Orlando Magic was probably to be expected, but the way in which the Nets went about keeping the Magic at arm’s length on both sides was performed with an alacrity that you just aren’t used to seeing from a team that started the year losing 21 of its first 31 games.

    Perhaps the most surprising excerpt from the preceding paragraph is the idea that the Shaun Livingston’s Brooklyn Nets are, in a way, “his Brooklyn Nets.”

    Kevin Garnett will always have the loudest voice in the locker room, Joe Johnson will remain the team’s highest-paid player and go-to scorer, while point man Deron Williams remains the ostensible face of the franchise, but for various reasons this much-needed turnaround came with Livingston at the helm. Shaun is no panacea, the team went 3-6 with him as a starter at various points through Williams’ injury-riddled season previous to this nine game span, but he is part of the reason the team has emerged as a consistent force offensively, and improved and fluid and finally capable team on the other end.

    Read More »from Seven years after frightening knee injury, Shaun Livingston is leading the re-born Brooklyn Nets
  • Vince Carter in his final game with Toronto, he contributed five points on 2-8 shooting (Getty Images)

    Vince Carter will play in Toronto on Wednesday, for the 22nd (including playoffs) time as a member of a visiting team. The Dallas Mavericks swingman suited up as a Raptor 418 times between 1999 and 2004, in a wildly divisive turn that will inspire both boo-birds and adoring hoots of approval during Wednesday’s otherwise anonymous January NBA game between two teams with above average records.

    This is why, in a move that was curious to some, SportsNet has put together a documentary breaking down Carter’s time in Toronto, and the ever-evolving legacy. This isn’t even an anniversary or last-ditch tribute – Carter told reporters on Wednesday morning that he had no intentions of retiring once his contract with the Mavericks expires last year, and the 10-year mark for his trade to the then-New Jersey Nets doesn’t hit until this December. It’s just a look at Carter as a Toronto Raptor, an idea that remains endlessly fascinating to many NBA fans both in and out of Canada.

    In talking with reporters from Dallas, VC looked back on his up and down turn:

    Read More »from Vince Carter looks back on his complicated legacy in Toronto. Part of it, at least.
  • Kevin Durant is on another level right now (Layne Murdoch/ Getty).

    Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is widely acknowledged as one of the two best players in the NBA, a uniquely versatile and talented scorer with the ability to change a game with his mere presence. Yet, in the past several weeks, Durant has elevated his game to a new level of greatness. He's carrying the Thunder through a rough period without Russell Westbrook, scoring in a way no others can match, and is now the favorite to win his first Most Valuable Player award.

    On Tuesday night, Durant dismantled the visiting Portland Trail Blazers in a notable battle of two of the West's top three teams. Durant's final line was incredible: 46 points on 16-of-24 shooting and 6-of-7 from three-point range, plus five rebounds and four assists. But the truly awesome stretch took place from 3:23 to 0:26 in the fourth quarter, when the Thunder went on a 15-0 run that included 11 points from Durant on a trio of three-pointers and one tough driving lay-up. That turned a 95-90 deficit into a

    Read More »from Kevin Durant goes off in final minutes to lift Thunder over Blazers, continuing a torrid scoring stretch
  • Passing drills. (Screencap via ROOT Sports)

    Good news, everybody: I think Ricky Rubio is having fun again.

    With just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter on Tuesday night, Rubio's Minnesota Timberwolves held a 23-point lead over the Utah Jazz. Play had to be stopped momentarily to clean up a slick spot on the court resulting from Wolves guard Kevin Martin bleeding hard after cutting his hand on what appeared to be one of Jazz guard Alec Burks' teeth. That, clearly, is not cute. What came about afterward, though, was very, very much so:

    Utah mascot Jazz Bear — who, as you might recall, enjoys tweaking referees a bit — brought a young girl attending the game out onto the court while the clean-up crew did its work. After goosing a referee and attempting to blame it on the girl, Jazz Bear brought his young charge over to the referee holding the basketball while waiting to resume play, took it away, and gave it to her. (Such a troublemaker, that Jazz bear.)

    So there she was, just standin' there and holding a ball half

    Read More »from Adorable alert: Wolves’ Ricky Rubio plays catch with little girl during stoppage in play (Video)

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