Just 10 days left in the regular season, get your playoff seedings here

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The slog that can be the NBA regular season is almost over — you can see the playoffs from where you’re standing. Well, not from where the Cavs and Timberwolves are standing, but a majority of teams can.

But things are not settled. So with 10 days left until the playoffs, here is a little breakdown of where the races stand.

Western Conference

San Antonio’s win Sunday over a sad Phoenix team (without Steve Nash), combined with the Lakers loss to the Nuggets, means the Spurs control their own destiny. The Spurs are now 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers for the tops spot, and they are two games up in the loss column (but only one on the Bulls for the best record overall). More importantly, their magic number is four. The Lakers and Spurs play each other April 12, but that game may be moot — if the Spurs win their other four games left they finish ahead of the Lakers regardless of that game (and the Hawks are the only playoff team of the four on that list).

The Lakers, however, have a magic number of one to clinch the two seed over Dallas. So look for the top three spots to be Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks, in that order. And if things get set look for the veteran coaches on those teams to rest guys.

The Thunder are pretty locked into the four seed, Denver basically is the five seed. That sets up what will be the best first round playoff series on either side.

Portland, New Orleans and Memphis are all within one game of each other for the six, seven and eight seeds in the West. Houston is on the outside looking in and has been hot — 8-2 in their last 10 — but nobody has really fallen back to them. They are three games back and need some help. The most likely scenario is a New Orleans Hornets collapse, but they beat the Pacers Sunday.

The Rockets play the Hornets Wednesday and that is now must win for Houston.

The interesting scenarios would have the six-seed Blazers taking on the Mavericks in the first round and the seven-seed Grizzlies taking on the Lakers — both underdogs who play well against that higher seed and could really push them. If not pull off an upset.

Eastern Conference

Seven of the eight spots out East are set.

Charlotte remains two games back of Indiana overall and one back in the loss column for the eighth-and-final playoff spot. The Pacers have four games left: Suddenly hot Washington (3-1 in their last 4), Atlanta, New York and at Atlanta. The Bobcats have six games left but have Orlando, Miami and Atlanta in that group. If Indiana goes just 2-2 over the last four the Bobcats would have to win out to pass them. And they have to pass them — Indiana holds the tiebreaker by sweeping the season series. The Bobcats need wins and the Pacers to stumble to return to the playoffs.

Up at the top, the Bulls are three games clear of Miami and Boston in the loss column, so Chicago should wrap up the top spot. They just need to go 4-2 over the last 6 and they cannot be caught. The Heat and Celtics are in almost a dead heat for the two seed (tied in the loss column) but the Heat are 8-2 in their last 10 compared to the Celtics 5-5. No Shaq again for Boston and Ray Allen’s shot has taken a vacation — look for the Heat two get the two seed.

It’s pretty locked in after that: Orlando is the four seed, the Hawks are the five seed (can Jason Collins make that a close first round series?), the Sixers are the six seed (and could give Boston trouble) and the Knicks are the seven seed.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.