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Report: NBA, union near deal to allow HGH testing

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The NBA needs to be testing for human growth hormone. Ask around the league and the first response of most people is that performance-enhancing drugs are not an issue in the NBA. I tend to be skeptical the league is that clean. But if it is or isn’t, there has to be testing.

And there will be soon, reports Henry Abbot at ESPN.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are close to an agreement to test players’ blood for human growth hormone (HGH), according to sources with direct knowledge of the talks. Testing could begin as soon as the 2013-14 season.

David Stern has said before he expected HGH blood testing of players to happen within the next year.

Of course, the NBA has banned HGH for years, the problem has been it’s a blood test (nobody likes having blood drawn) and there were questions of the test’s reliability. But that is changing and putting pressure on the league to change, Abbott said.

But those concerns have eroded lately, sources say, with a frenzy of progress in talks between the league and union. A decisive factor: Major League Baseball and its respected union have agreed to blood tests for HGH, weakening the basketball union’s claims that the test was unreliable or that blood testing is too invasive.

Part of the challenge in getting this put together is former players union head Billy Hunter has been suspended, is expected to sue the league, and no replacement has been found. The union is a bit of a mess right now.

There are details to be worked out — is this blood test in addition to or replacing one of the six random urine tests players take a year? Will the test look just for HGH or other things as well?

The conventional wisdom has long been that steroids and PEDs are not prevalent in the NBA because being muscle-bound is not a real advantage. I don’t buy it — what HGH or designer steroids can do is help with recovery, and that is something NBA players could use. To bounce back quicker after a workout, or during the long seasons with four games in five nights at times, speeding recovery would be huge.

And frankly, there are people that will break the rules to get a shot at the money, fame and perks of an NBA lifestyle. To think some wouldn’t cross that line seems naïve to me.

Hopefully the testing will show I’m wrong, or at least expose the wrongdoers.

Spurs demolish Thunder to take Game 1 of second-round series

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs scores over Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.

Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?

Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.

It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.

Hawks get another playoff shot at King James and Cavaliers

at Philips Arena on April 1, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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.
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ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.

Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.

Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.

The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.

Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.

Report: Warriors to replace Luke Walton from outside the organization

MILWAUKEE, WI - DECEMBER 12: Interim Coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors talks on the sideline during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at BMO Harris Bradley Center on December 12, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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 Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.

Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.

Report: Luke Walton’s Lakers contract is for 5 years, $25 million

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 13:  Interim head coach Luke Walton of the Golden State Warriors leads the team against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on January 13, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Warriors 112-110. 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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In the last few years, NBA head coaching salaries have skyrocketed, and new Lakers coach Luke Walton is no exception. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Mike Bresnahan, Walton is getting $25 million over five years, which is the same as Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors, now-former Knicks coach Derek Fisher’s deal in New York, and Fred Hoiberg’s deal with the Bulls.

This kind of money has become standard for head coaches who don’t also have front-office power. Tom Thibodeau and Stan Van Gundy both get between $7 and $8 million annually to do both jobs. Given how good Walton’s current situation with the Warriors is, the Lakers probably had to be on the high end of the coaching spectrum to get him to leave.