Thursday And-1 Links: Your local store will soon have Shaq Soda

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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.

• Shaquille O’Neal is getting into the soda business… and it might not suck. There is a certain “Krusty the ClownI heartily endorse this event or product” thing with Shaq, but he teamed up with the people from Arizona Iced Tea, and they make good stuff, so…. Still, seeing Shaq’s face in the grocery story isle is a little disturbing.

• The Milwaukee Bucks brass met with Larry Drew and Kelvin Sampson and are reportedly split on who to hire.

• Also, the Bucks are not going to go after Lionel Hollins, despite earlier reports.

• Tim Duncan says he lost 20-25 pounds since his peak playing weight.

• Steve Nash is in an odd and ugly court fight with his ex-wife. Remember he signed with the Lakers in part because he said he could be closer to his children who live in Phoenix. Now his ex-wife wants to move to California, officially to be closer to Nash. However, Nash is trying to block the move because he believes the real motive is once his ex-wife is a California resident she can apply to get more child support from him under California law.

TMZ reports that Steve Nash will not retire. Only on TMZ is this actually news.

• What the Heat’s Big Three looked like when Tim Duncan won his first title.

• Kobe Bryant had his walking boot removed on Thursday. I still wouldn’t bet on him being ready for the start of the season.

• Here is a great breakdown of the big men available on the free agent market.

• Here is a good argument for finding a good GM and paying him a lot of money to keep him happy. The Raptors are trying that with Masai Ujiri — five years, $15 million. But a good GM is worth more than that.

• Kevin Durant showed up at powerhouse DeMatha Catholic High School and decided to play a little pickup.

• Mike Woodson’s contract with the Knicks is apparently not guaranteed beyond the end of next season. That just means if the Knicks make a change it doesn’t hit their pocketbook as hard, it doesn’t change much else.

• Trevor Ariza’s knee made him miss games at the end of the season but will not require surgery.

• Anderson Varejao appears well on the road to recovery from the blood clot in his lung and will be ready to go next season for the Cavaliers.

• Mike Budenholzer is excited about landing the Hawks job. That is a great hire.

Steve Clifford is saying the same things about the Charlotte Bobcats coaching job he got. That is a longer road to being a respectable team.

 A close look at free agent Elton Brand.

• Thunder guard Reggie Jackson says he is going to spend his summer working on improving his three point shot.

• His agent said that Jerome Jordan will play in summer league for the Knicks.

•Finally, we want you to know DeAndre Jordan does not have a future as a lacrosse player.

Damian Lillard dismisses playoff expectations as pressure, says it insults regular people

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The Portland Trail Blazers have had a disappointing season thus far. The team is just 34-38 before their game with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and they’re battling it out for the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs with the Denver Nuggets.

This comes as after expectations rose greatly following the 2015-16 campaign which saw the Blazers finish 44-38, good enough for the No. 5 spot in the West.

Portland has looked better after trading Mason Plumlee to Denver in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, but it might be too little too late. Meanwhile, team leader Damian Lillard isn’t bowing to the idea that last season’s good fortune raised the bar so much that it put undue pressure on his team.

Speaking with Sporting News, Lillard said he thinks the idea is really more about pressure vs. challenges.

Via SN:

Pressure, nah. Fam, this is just playing ball. Pressure is the homeless man, who doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. Pressure is the single mom, who is trying to scuffle and pay her rent. We get paid a lot of money to play a game. Don’t get me wrong — there are challenges. But to call it pressure is almost an insult to regular people.

Look at the Wizards, they were kind of on the same wave as us. Didn’t even make the playoffs while we did. Now this year they’re the second-best team in the East. The adversity made them better. It can make us better, too. What I come from and my background made me who I am. As comfortable as I am with the good times, I’m also comfortable in adversity. Yeah, I might feel some type of way when somebody comes for me or says my name. But when it’s all said and done, it ain’t gonna rock me.

This is interesting to hear an NBA player say out loud. One, because I’m not sure I entirely believe it. You can have pressure without it having to be something that threatens your overall wellbeing.

Then again, maybe we’re arguing linguistics here. There’s definitely a different emotion from, say, trying to make sure you make rent and aren’t evicted to the street vs. trying to make the NBA playoffs. If one emotion is being defined as pressure, it makes sense to call the other a challenge.

It’s also interesting to hear an NBA player speak in those kinds of terms. There are a few guys around the league who seem to be relatively grounded and give out quotes like this from time-to-time. The absurdity of the NBA — playing games, making millions, and having folks worship you — would easily bend reality for most of us.

In any case, the challenge of making the playoffs for Portland is not going to be an easy one to overcome. Going into Sunday’s matchup with the Lakers, the Trail Blazers are a game behind Denver for the final spot.

Portland will face Denver on Tuesday, March 28 in perhaps their most important game of the season.

Kobe Bryant’s “Musecage” is like if Sesame Street had an NBA film room (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant’s video “Musecage” aired on ESPN on Sunday, and it’s one of the craziest things I’ve watched on an NBA broadcast. That includes watching Kobe’s own alley-oop to Shaquille O’Neal in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

Someone on Twitter called it a “drug-fueled Muppet nightmare” but that’s selling short how remarkable the video was. In it, Kobe delivered a message about finding motivation as a young basketball player alongside a talking “Lil’ Mamba” puppet.

But here’s where it gets good: this video was made true to Kobe’s own person. Despite the happy, glockenspiel-laden background music with puppet accompaniment, Kobe’s message in “Musecage” was to use the dark part of your psyche as motivation to conquer your enemies.

I’m dead serious.


It doesn’t get any more Kobe than that.

The first video ends with Kobe’s advice to Lil’ Mamba, who goes off to become strong by using the dark musings as his fuel. Meanwhile, the second video talks about — and I’m not kidding — tactics James Harden and Russell Westbrook use to defeat their opponents in the pick-and-roll.

It’s like if Sesame Street was also a film room session.

Needless to say, all 10 minutes of Musecage are incredible. I don’t mean that in any sarcastic way, either. Bryant has been working on his Canvas series for a while, and his message shines true to the person we’ve known for the last two decades.

Use your happy feelings to push yourself? No! Use self-doubt as a motivator to Jawface your way through to six championship rings.

He debuted the original episode on Christmas Day, and it too had a kid-friendly feel.

I literally cannot wait for the next edition in this series.

Mark Cuban on Blake Griffin’s fall vs. JJ Barea: “We sent flowers to his family, condolences”

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The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers got into a bit of a scuffle the other night during their game. Clippers big man Blake Griffn and Mavericks PG JJ Barea tussled, with Barea earning a Flagrant 2 and an ejection for putting his hands on Griffin’s neck and pushing him to the ground.

It really was a sight to see, whether Griffin flopped or not.

Meanwhile, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was asked about the incident and responded with some heavy sarcasm that feels par for the course.

Via Twitter:

Griffin does have a bit of a reputation for acting and flopping, and Barea is hilariously undersized compared to him. Then again, the throat is a vulnerable area. Who knows if the fall was real or fake?

I’m just glad Cuban has a sense of humor about it.

Watch Derrick Rose leave Patty Mills standing still with eurostep, huge dunk

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New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose still has some explosivity left in his legs. Against the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night, the former MVP left Spurs guard Patty Mills standing still on a thunderous dunk.

The play came in the fourth quarter with Rose on the break and Mills the only Spurs player defending the basket. Rose had a full head of steam, and it appeared Mills was going to for the charge call.

Rose then craftily eurostepped his way around Mills, leading to the jam.

San Antonio beat New York, 106-98.