Gary Payton, two-thirds of Run TMC lead Hall of Fame finalists

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It’s time for The Glove to be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Gary Payton — one of the greatest point guards of his generation, a defensive force, a nine-time All-Star and the face of Seattle Sonics basketball (with all due respect to Jack Sikma) — is the leader of the finalists for the Hall of Fame class of 2013.

Payton told ProBasketballTalk that this was not something he expected growing up in Oakland.

“It’s showing a lot of people have respected the things I’ve done in basketball and it’s showing I’ve done a lot in basketball,” Payton said. “And I’m really happy for it. Not a lot of people can get in the Hall of Fame, it’s a great honor. I hope that I can make it.”

The rest of the finalists include two-thirds of the Warriors Run TMC from the 1990s (and the other guy is already in) plus a Knicks legend who deserves it. There is another round of voting to pare this group down, with the class of 2013 to be announced Final Four weekend in April. The enshrinement happens in September.

In addition to Payton the finalists are:

• Bernard King. The Knicks swingman was one of the greatest pure scorers of all time. He averaged 22.5 points per game during a 15-year career and had some monster playoff runs, like 1984 when he averaged 34.8 points per game. More than that or the four All-Star games or two All-NBA First Teams, it was his influence on a lot of players coming up that matters. Seriously, this guy needs to be in. That he’s not is just wrong.

• Mitch Richmond. He was one third of Golden State’s Run TMC with Chris Mullen (already in the Hall) and fellow nominee Tim Hardaway. Richmond could score averaging 21 points a game for his career, was a six-time All-Star and has a gold medal.

• Tim Hardaway. The standard against which all other crossovers are judged. He won a gold medal and was a five-time All-Star as part of Run TMC in the Bay Area.

• Maurice Cheeks. The great Philadelphia Sixers guard (and current Oklahoma City Thunder assistant) is a four time NBA All-Star, was named to the NBA All-Defensive team four times, and won an NBA ring.

• Spencer Haywood. One of the more graceful big men of all time, he is a four-time All star, plus has both an NBA championship ring and a gold medal.

• Others on the list of finalists include college coaches Jerry Tarkanian, Guy Lewis (University of Houston and Phi Slamma Jamma) and Rick Pitino (don’t tell Celtics fans he was an NBA coach, they’ll deny it). Also Celtics coach Tom Heinsohn, already in as a player, is nominated as a coach because he won two titles as the head man for the Celtics.

The two women nominated are Dawn Staley (three time Gold Medalist and five time WNBA All Star) and Sylvia Hatchell (North Carolina women’s coach).

Also voted in for sure are Roger Brown (a four time ABA All-Star), Richie Guerin (the feisty six-time All-Star guard for the Knicks), Brazilian legend Oscar Schmidt (he should have been in already), Russ Granik (David Stern’s former right hand man), and George Raveling for a lifetime achievement award.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.