NBA backs Prokhorov in deal with Zimbabwe

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This was never about human rights. This was never about Zimbabwe. This was about New Jersey and political aspirations.

Last Sunday, New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking him to open an investigation into whether Mikhail Prokhorov — the Russian billionaire seeking to buy the New Jersey Nets — violated U.S. economic sanctions by doing business with Zimbabwe and its President Robert Mugabe.

Monday, the NBA itself came out is support of Prokhorov in comments to the Associated Press.

“U.S. companies are not prohibited from doing business in Zimbabwe; rather, they are prohibited from conducting business with specifically-identified individuals or entities in that country,” Bass said. “The NBA is aware of no information that Mr. Prokhorov is engaged in business dealings with any of these individuals or entities.”

Prokhorov is close to buying the Nets, and the Nets are close to breaking ground on a new home arena to be built in Brooklyn. The league owners will vote on Prokhorov’s deal — and almost certainly approve it — once the state of New York finally takes full control of the land where the new arena will be built. It will all happen soon.

We don’t dabble much in politics on this blog, but as a guy who covered a lot of government stories for a lot of years, allow me my cynical point for a second:

Every move in Washington D.C. is about power. Getting more power, maintaining the power you have. Power is treated as a zero-sum game, you have to take it from someone else to get more, you guard your own like a wolverine guarding its den. Policy and legislation — good or bad — is little more than a byproduct of the power struggle. In this case, Pascrell is up for election this fall — one he will likely win, he’s held this seat for 14 years already. But this futile gesture was designed to get his name in the headlines fighting for New Jersey against big, bad New York and the Russian guy taking their team away. Pascrell knew this would go nowhere. However, all he had to do was write a letter and a press release and he gets his name in the paper, shows he cares about New Jersey. The rights of the oppressed in Zimbabwe have nothing to do with this. It’s about an American election.

Now, can we get on with the basketball again? Thanks.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.