Back pain almost forced World Peace to retire this summer

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What would the NBA be like without World Peace? We almost found out.

Back pain slowed then Lakers forward Ron Artest last season — before his name change and before the lockout. But it was a lot worse than he let on and he told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin he considered retirement because of it last summer.

The back pain, specifically affecting his L4 and L5 vertebrae, was also limiting the range of motion in his legs and feet, severely limiting his jumping ability.

“I just thought my body was maybe messed up,” World Peace said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, 15 years is a lot of years. I got two more years on my contract and I could potentially be done….'”

Also, World Peace had still not given up the notion of retirement, telling ESPNLosAngeles.com that he had contacted the National Basketball Players Association about retirement protocol should he not be able to play because of his back or if the Lakers decided to implement their amnesty provision on the three years and approximately $22 million remaining on his contract.

However, he was directed to a nerve specialist and a program was put in place.

The problem is Artest was not a guy who was thinking about conditioning as the lockout dragged on into December — some guys need the team structure to push them and he is one of those guys. World Peace showed up to Lakers camp heavy. He says is just now getting to his ideal playing weight and feeling like his old self.

World Peace has talked a lot about getting healthy this year — he’s focused on a diet that removes processed foods from the menu and he’s working out more — but that’s only possible because the back pain is gone.

Artest could see himself the victim of the Lakers amnesty clause as the front office looks for ways to bring down its massive tax numbers (it’s the same reason a Pau Gasol trade could still happen in the next year). But he says now that retirement is off the table — if he’s not playing with the Laker he will be playing somewhere.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.