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King’s successor, Sean Marks, has done a nice job turning the franchise around, and their long-term prospects look good. But after disintegration of the Garnett-Pierce team, the Nets spent several seasons among the worst teams in the league, without any high lottery picks to show for it, while Boston built what looks to be a contender for a long time. As a result, the Nets have been the most irrelevant franchise in the league for the past half-decade, and it’s tough to see that changing anytime soon.

As crippling as the Garnett/Pierce trade has been for the Nets, their motivations in trading for two veteran Hall of Famers in an effort to compete in the short term were at least understandable. The Knicks’ decision to give up multiple draft picks for Andrea Bargnani was indefensible and inexplicable the day it happened, and only looked worse as time went on.

That process, however, didn’t take as long as anyone initially expected. Anunoby participated in an intrasquad scrimmage during training camp and went on to play in Toronto’s first game of the regular season. He was then promoted to the starting lineup on Nov. 14, a position he’s held in the 47 games since.

Anunoby’s numbers don’t jump off the page in the same way Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum’s do, but he’s been one of the most impactful rookies in the league this season. To understand why, let’s take a closer look at how he’s contributed on both ends of the floor.

Blake taught me a lot. That’s why yesterday I thanked him for all the stuff he’s taught me, 27-year-old rookie guard C.J. Williams said. He’s a great guy to have in the locker room. He’s very intense, and out of your guy you want that passion and mentality. Blake was a great teacher, a great teammate. He taught me how to be a professional.

This Clippers team will take on a much different look for the rest of this season as they attempt to retool, and possibly rebuild depending on their moves in the next week. If the Clippers stand pat and decide to keep DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams, they will still be competitive in the West and remain in the mix for the final playoff spot.

But without Griffin, the feeling around the Clippers is different. His years will be looked back on fondly, but there will always be the thought of what could have been.

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Ranking this season’s NBA tribute videos: Who deserved them most?

Tribute videos are a natural byproduct of sports that celebrate individual athletic achievement. No league does a better job of focusing on specific players than the NBA, where one player can quickly make or break a franchise.

In an ideal world, tribute videos would be reserved for fan-favorite stars who had to leave teams for reasons beyond the control of both sides. That’s not always the case, however, and over the past couple seasons the bar to recognize players for their time with a team has only gotten lower.

The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, were coming apart at the seams and willing to sell every one of their veterans for parts. The first-round pick the Nets sent Portland in the trade for Wallace was only top-three protected, reportedly because there were only three players New Jersey valued at the top of the draft. The pick landed at No. 6 in 2012, and Portland drafted Damian Lillard, which completely turned around their fortunes as a franchise.

That summer, the Nets compounded their mistake by re-signing Wallace to a four-year, $40 million contract that almost immediately became one of the worst in the league as Wallace’s production fell off a cliff. They also re-signed Williams to a five-year, $100 million max deal as his play started to decline. But as bad as the repercussions were for the Nets’ trade with Portland, it was nothing compared to what they did a year later.

Aside from that, there are also questions about handing over a lucrative contract to a soon-to-be 30-year-old who appears to be entering a decline after a decade in the league. It’s unlikely Jordan and the Clippers will quickly come to an agreement on his value to the team or the terms of a new deal if Jordan is tweeting emojis to dispute the fact that there was an extension on the table in the first place.

What happens next? That’s the big question in LA, and it’s difficult to offer a definitive answer. But as long as Jordan and the Clippers’ front office are living under the same roof, it’s definitely going to be a little bit uncomfortable.

The most straightforward way to deploy that cap space would be on free agents, but one benefit of the Lakers’ new-look books is that there would not be urgency. Numerous franchises, including the Lakers, have gotten into trouble over the last few offseasons because their space burned a hole in their pockets.

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LeBron James was not about to shut up Saturday.

The Cavaliers forward used media day at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles to address social issues, and sarcastically thanked radio host and Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham for her comments about James and Kevin Durant after the All-Star duo criticized President Donald Trump in an Uninterrupted video.

I appreciate her for giving me even more awareness, at the greatest weekend of the NBA, James, who is one of the team captains for Sunday’s game, said Saturday at Staples Center. This is the best weekend of the NBA, when the countries in the whole entire world come watch the greatest players in the world.

The Celtics (40-19) got 33 points from Kyrie Irving, but the Clippers (30-26) led from the start as they jumped out to an 8-2 lead. Jordan, who had the first of three assists 55 seconds into the game, didn’t even score until he dunked with 7:42 remaining in the first quarter.

While Jordan, who also had four steals, led the Clippers to an upset in Boston, Bradley Beal and Ben Simmons lead their respective teams to improbable victories.

The rumors surrounding a Clippers rebuilding campaign had been floated around all season, but Griffin was never included. It seemed as though he was completely unavailable after signing a five-year, $171 million deal in the offseason.

But things can change overnight in the NBA. The Clippers received an offer from the Pistons that they felt could not be turned down, as questions lingered about paying an exorbitant amount of money for an injury-plagued big man. No matter how much the Clippers loved and appreciated what Griffin had done for the franchise, they decided it was time to move on.

Upon being taken No. 1 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, Griffin gave the Clippers a face of the franchise, something the team had been missing over the course of its 34 years in Los Angeles. He almost single-handedly made the Clippers relevant in a city that had all but ignored them since they came to town. He brought an energy and excitement to Staples Center, which was rare in games that didn’t feature the Lakers.

Thon Maker has grabbed only 14.8 percent of opponent misses, putting him on pace for one of the worst defensive rebounding seasons ever for a 7-footer.

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Browns hiring Todd Haley as offensive coordinator

The Cleveland Browns have landed a new offensive coordinator.

NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported Monday that Todd Haley is taking the job, according to sources familiar with negotiations.

Haley spent the past six years as Pittsburgh’s play-caller, but the Steelers decided not to renew his contract following last week’s 45-42 playoff loss to the Jaguars. Not helping matters, the 50-year-old Haley reportedly struggled to get along with star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Haley is likely to be working with a rookie quarterback if (and when) the Browns select one with the first- or fourth-overall pick in the draft. The team also houses DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler under center, but neither have done enough to prevent Cleveland from heat-seeking their choice from the college ranks — or pursuing a veteran in free agency or via trade.

The question here is what sort of scheme we can expect from the Browns. Will it be Haley running Jackson’s offense, his own playbook or a mixture of both? Cleveland went without a coordinator over the past two seasons largely because Jackson — an experienced play-caller — was brought in under the assumption that he alone could rescue the offense.

Brady missed his media availability Wednesday because of a meeting with the medical staff to address the issue. The team listed the future Hall of Fame quarterback as a limited participant in practice.

New England also listed defensive lineman Alan Branch (knee) and running backs Rex Burkhead (knee) and Mike Gillislee (knee) as limited participants.

Other injuries we’re tracking ahead of this weekend’s conference title games:

1. If the Jaguars plan to challenge New England, a big game from Leonard Fournette is critical. After tweaking his ankle against the Steelers last week, the workhorse rookie running back returned to practice in a limited role on Wednesday. Big news for Jacksonville.

Safety Barry Church (shoulder) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (ankle) were also listed as limited participants.

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Breaking down Cardinals, Colts, Giants, Lions coaching searches

It’s been nearly two weeks since the regular season ended, and the coaching carousel remains at a standstill. The Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears filled their coaching vacancies — and neither move initiated a domino effect of creating other jobs to be filled.

Thus, four head coaching jobs remain open, and those openings could stay in place depending on this weekend’s results. Here’s a snapshot of where things stand, based on discussions with several sources involved in each situation.

Indianapolis has narrowed its search to two candidates: Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. The plan is to gather intel this weekend, meet, then proceed Monday with either second interviews or simply by making a choice.

This is the most open and methodical search, with owner Michael Bidwill stating publicly he’s taking his time. Expect full second-round interviews and no fast deadline. Shurmur is expected to be one finalist, and Wilks and Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak are well-regarded in Arizona. They could be finalists, as well.

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher is the top in-house candidate, and Bruce Arians has stumped for him. Based on their deliberate pace, Arizona does face the prospect of losing out on a preferred candidate (possibly Shurmur) if the Vikings lose and they don’t accelerate their search. That said, the last candidate they interviewed during their previous search — Bruce Arians — worked out just fine.

Jones wrote a letter to Goodell Thursday, seeking to have a special owners’ meeting scheduled for Nov. 28 in New York. The meeting, Jones wrote, would be to address the negotiations of Goodell’s contract extension, oversight of the compensation committee and a date for all owners to vote on Goodell’s contract. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Washington Post.

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Gene Steratore of index-card fame will referee the Super Bowl

Gene Steratore, whose use of an index card to measure a first down during a Cowboys-Raiders game in December caused something akin to a stir, has been chosen by the NFL to referee Super Bowl LII. It will be the first Super Bowl assignment for Steratore, who has been an NFL referee since 2006 and has led an officiating crew in 11 playoff games and two conference championship games.

To be chosen for the Super Bowl, NFL officials must be rated in the top tier of their positions and have at least five years of NFL experience (they also must have worked playoff games in the past). Steratore will not be working with his usual officiating crew for the Super Bowl. Instead, Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge) will fill out his crew. Ellison and Paganelli were part of Steratore’s crew this season, however.

Because a certain segment of the football-watching population will be seeking out this information, point-spread favorites went 8-6-2 against the number while the over went 9-7 in the games refereed by Steratore this season. His crew called 13.94 penalties per game this season, slightly above the NFL average of 13.27, but its 113.63 penalty yards assessed per game was slightly below the league average of 115.08.

There’s ways to win games in this league without a franchise quarterback, Vrabel said. We got one, we’re going to develop him. So I don’t think that that’s a critical factor. I think what it is is that it has to be the right fit.

He added: We never want to put him in harm’s way. We don’t want to sit there and run him for the sake of running him. But we want to make sure people know he’s back there.

The above quote should be music to the ears of Titans fans. Far too often the previous coaching staff attempted to shove a round peg into a square hole. Mariota was at his best in an up-tempo offense utilizing his legs when his reads broke down. Sadly, it took trailing in most games for Mularkey to deploy such a game-plan.

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Adam Thielen to play against Eagles despite back injury

Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen will play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles with a chance to reach the Super Bowl in his home state. But he’ll be doing so in plenty of pain.

The standout receiver suffered a couple slight fractures in his back last week against the New Orleans Saints, sources said. He is active for the NFC Championship Game.

The former undrafted free agent-turned-Pro Bowler has emerged as one of the feel-good stories in the NFL, setting new career highs with 91 receptions and 1,276 yards for his hometown team. And with a chance to help take the Vikings to a hometown Super Bowl, he won’t miss it no matter how much pain he’s in.

All you’re doing is advertising all these younger guys for fans to figure out and pick up on and choose as their favorite driver, Busch said during the NASCAR preseason media days at the Charlotte Convention Center. I think it’s stupid. I don’t know, I’m not the marketing genius that’s behind this deal.

So I just do what I can do, and my part of it is what my part is.

NASCAR has a slew of Cup drivers younger than 25: Ryan Blaney (24), Darrell Wallace Jr. (24), Alex Bowman (24) Chase Elliott (22), Erik Jones (21) and William Byron (20). Blaney does a podcast for NASCAR, and NASCAR often uses the young drivers on its social media channels.

The day’s other significant quarterback news was Tyrod Taylor’s restructured deal to remain with the Buffalo Bills. There had been speculation that the Bills, after hiring Sean McDermott as their new head coach, might move on from Taylor. That would have put the Bills in the market for a new starter, and it would have given other quarterback-needy teams a capable candidate.

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From Jeff Triplette’s calls to Al Michaels’s frustration, NFL replay has another bad day

On the first day of the NFL playoffs, the last thing anyone wants to talk about is replay and officiating and yet here we are, back in the same place we’ve been so many times this season.

All of that was enough to pull the conversation away from the game itself after a season in which officials struggled to parse and apply the catch rule. Replay review by suits in New York has brought the game to a halt as its purpose is subverted from simply trying to make calls correctly and fairly. This is no longer officiating, it’s litigating and no one wants that, especially in the NFL’s biggest games of the season.

After a call went against his team two weeks ago, Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula admitted that owners have to fix this problem, which won’t help with the few remaining games. At that time, Pereira went on to note how irritating it is to have people in Park Avenue breaking down calls and undermining officials on location around the country.

Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing [is]more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it, he tweeted. It is more and more obvious that there isn’t a standard for staying with the call on the field.

The Texans have the better offensive line and running game, at least at this point. But they’d have to admit their mistake last offseason in signing quarterback Brock Osweiler in free agency and work around Osweiler’s $18 million-per-season contract. The Broncos would have to put the development of young quarterbacks Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch on hold, although they perhaps could trade Siemian if Romo comes aboard.

Romo’s release changes nothing about the league-wide quarterback dynamic, unless he ends up in Denver and the Broncos trade Siemian. That could be solution to another team’s quarterback woes.

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Dick LeBeau reportedly out as Tennessee Titans DC

The 80-year-old LeBeau was informed Monday that he would not be invited to join the staff of newly minted head coach Mike Vrabel, hired over the weekend to replace the departed Mike Mularkey.

According to Wolf, a second source told the newspaper last week that LeBeau would be comfortable retiring if it [didn’t] work out in Tennessee.

Steve Erban, marketing director with Minnesota-based Creative Charters, offered this to Vikings fans: I would advise you not to be over inebriated because (Eagles fans) will be.

The Eagles’ old home, Veterans Stadium, even had a jail and courtroom that often did a brisk business on game days. Although the team did away with the jail after moving to Lincoln Financial Field in 2003, Philly fans remain among the most feared in football; a 2015 Sports Illustrated poll labeled those fans the Most Hated Fan Base in the NFL.

2. Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham left with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the team’s 19-10 win over the Raiders.

3. Houston Texans running back Jordan Todman suffered a shoulder injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday and didn’t return. Cornerback Kevin Johnson left early with a knee injury and backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke suffered a concussion.

4. Atlanta Falcons tight end Levine Toilolo suffered a sprained MCL, according to Rapoport. His status for Atlanta’s regular-season finale against the Carolina Panthers is in doubt.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (calf), offensive guard Ramon Foster (concussion) and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh (shoulder) did not play against the Houston Texans. Rapoport reported Sunday that Brown is expected to be 100 percent by the time the Steelers take the field in the postseason, whether it’s in the wild card or divisional round.

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In Week 17 last season, it was the Cowboys resting up as the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Now it’s the Eagles’ turn, and they won’t care if it means splitting with their East rivals. The Eagles need to worry about rebooting for the divisional playoff after two tough games.

The Raiders and Chargers can both think about what could have been in the AFC West. Their respective ends and beginnings to the season cost them in the losing race to the Chiefs, who both started and finished well. The city of LA can still get two NFL playoff teams, and the AFC version will do its part. Philip Rivers will rip Oakland’s defense, while Oakland’s offense will be rattled by Joey Bosa.

Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff don’t just share initials �� they are the promising, young quarterbacks who will return the glory to this NFC West rivalry. Keep in mind the first meeting, a shootout between Goff and Brian Hoyer, was close and entertaining. This will be close, too, with the Rams stepping off the gas late thinking about a more important home game in the playoffs next week.

In a sense, teams like Houston have no choice but to try to beat the Warriors by mimicking them. Trying an older style of basketball as a strategy is hopelessly naive. Yet by trying to be like them, teams accept that they will be an inferior version of the Warriors.

That’s because they can only take a part of the Warriors’ essence. Their success doesn’t just come down to three-point shooting, or switching on defense, or ball movement, or chemistry, or even the coaching. It’s all of those qualities at the same time with this specific personnel group. Teams can replicate a few of those traits, but it’s impossible to possess all of them.

It’s not the only time something like this occurs. Almost everyone who is forged in Wolverine’s image �� whether literally like a clone or figuratively like his sons �� eventually loses to him. Wolverine wins because the clones, children, and relatives miss the essential point that he keeps showing them. He’s the best at what he does. They are copies.

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