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Could the Atlantic Division winner have a losing record?

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In a thrilling tussle for first place, the Raptors beat the 76ers on Wednesday to move atop the Atlantic Division. Losers of four straight, the 76ers had valiantly held control of the division until the juggernaut that is the  5-7 Raptors finally overtook them.

So far this season, the NBA’s Atlantic puts NFC East jokes to shame.

Philadelphia (5-8) and Boston (4-9) are supposed to be tanking, and they’ll probably start showing it soon enough, before they fall too far in the lottery. The two preseason favorites, Brooklyn (3-8) and New York (3-8), have been even worse. Toronto might actually win the division simply by valuing winning just a little and not being completely dysfunctional.

But could the division winner actually finish with a losing record?

It’s unprecedented.

Since the NBA expanded to its current six-division format for the 2004-05 season, division winners have won 69 percent of their games, the equivalent of 56 wins in an 82-game season. The worst division winners in that span – the 2005-06 Denver Nuggets and 2006-07 Miami Heat – went 44-38.

I’m pulling for a division winner with a losing record, because how fun would that be? But it’s probably early to get our hopes up.

We’re just 23 days into the season, though the Atlantic Division is guaranteed to be completely full of losing teams through at least day 28. But in 2005, 2006 and 2007 a division – the Atlantic each time if you’re looking for a pattern – had at least one day from day 40 on where all its teams held a losing record.

The deepest into the season a division has featured five losing teams came in 2005, when the Celtics led the Atlantic with a 27-28 record on day 115 of a 170-day season. Unfortunately for those of us hoping the 2013 Atlantic will make history, that season offers a grim reminder of how difficult the feat is to accomplish.

That year – despite all five of the Atlantic’s teams holding losing records on day 115 – a major of them finished with winning records.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.