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Thursday And-1 links: Want to see Shaq in his underwear?


Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like Katy Perry likes being in the spotlight.

That would be Shaquille O’Neal walking into traffic in his underwear to promote his comedy tour and show. I present it without further comment, other than to say I’m sorry. Hat tip to

• Derrick Rose has inked a sponsorship deal with my second favorite Chicago pizza company, Giordano’s. I love this move because I LOVE Chicago-style pizza and have eaten at one of their spaces, well, let’s just say more than once. If you’re in the Windy City for a few days, Giordano’s is a great spot to eat (if you are not near this place).

• A fantastic look at soon to be basketball Hall of Fame journalist Sam Smith over at Ball Don’t Lie.

• Dwight Howard got in a twitter roast Wednesday night. Who advises him on PR again?

• I am with Zach Lowe here — Andray Blatche is a good gamble on a minimum contract.

• Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold has done a countdown of the greatest Lakers championship teams, and they finally got to No. 1. Can’t really argue with that choice.

• New Celtics Jason Terry has taken Dionte Christmas under his wing. Got to like that if you are a Celtics fan.

Here’s your chance to watch Stephen Jackson coach. And he’s not bad.

• From the “everybody feels like Superman until training camp opens” file, here is the report that Minnesota’s Greg Stiemsma is feeling great right now.

• Steve Novak says he is working on his defense and rounding out his offensive game. Again, everyone says that in the offseason, when games start he will be parked at the arc.

• Who are the likely breakout candidates for the NBA next season? I think Klay Thompson is a perfect fit on that list.

• The Spurs are working out three-point specialist Jason Kapono, but don’t read too much into it.

• The NBA Trades tumblr is just a lot of fun, like this breakdown of the 1993 Derrick McKey/Detlef Schrempf trade.

• Rockets rookie Jeremy Lamb admitted he needs to improve his defense. Of course he does, he’s a rookie.

• The Nuggets have extended a make-good contract offer to second-round pick Quincy Miller.

• Anthony Mason Jr. has left his French team, Cholet.

• If you were impressed with Sergio Llull during the Olympics (he played for Spain), know that he agreed to a contract extension with Real Marid through 2018.

• The Warriors have extended their radio deal with KNBR.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.