Mark Jackson says Warriors can’t afford to rest players to finish the regular season

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PHOENIX — With only seven games remaining in the regular season, and in light of recent injuries to the likes of Tony Parker and Danilo Gallinari which could materially affect the results of the Western Conference playoffs, it might be tempting for teams to be cautious with their key players, and even consider resting them down the stretch.

The Warriors, however, will not be one of those teams.

While Golden State won’t finish any higher than the sixth seed in terms of playoff positioning, the team is only a game ahead of the Rockets for seventh. Barring something catastrophic taking place, the Warriors are locked into one of those two spots.

But that isn’t the reason they won’t rest players. It’s because Mark Jackson is still building his young team, even as the playoffs approach.

“We can’t afford to rest,” Jackson said, before the Warriors faced the Suns on Friday. “We’re chasing, you know, finishing this thing up the right way. With those teams that you mentioned, they have an organization, they have coaches, they have players that have been there and done that. This is fresh for us, and we’re going to enjoy this ride and finish it the right way.”

Jackson won just 23 games a season ago with the Warriors, and the turnaround has come perhaps more quickly than expected. He credits the success to following the process from day one, which is likely the reason he’s not willing to mess with it at this late stage of the season.

“People look at us now and say we’re a playoff team, or we’ve enjoyed a great season,” Jackson said. “Well, they could have folded the tent last year. What you have to understand is, if you stay true to your process, it’s going to play itself out. The foundation was laid, even though we won 23 games last year, with our approach, with our mentality, with our habits. And if you stay true to it, you’re rewarded.”

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.