Magic Johnson on Donald Sterling: “He’s a man who’s upset and he’s reaching”

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Now it’s Magic Johnson’s turn.

A night after embattled Clippers owner Donald Sterling sat down with Anderson Cooper in what was a public relations disaster of an interview, Magic Johnson sits down with Cooper for an interview on Tuesday to respond. You kind of know how this is going to end.

Magic gets public relations, he takes the high road.

“My whole life is devoted to urban America. So, you know I just wish he knew the facts when he’s talking. But he’s a man who’s upset and he’s reaching. He’s reaching. He’s trying to find something that he can grab on to help him save his team. And it’s not going to happen….

“I’m going to pray for the man because even if I see him today, I’m going to say hello to Donald and his wife as well. I’m not a guy who holds grudges and all that. Yes, am I upset? Of course! But at the same time, I’m a God fearing man and I’m going to pray for him and hope things work out for him.”

Here is what Sterling said about Magic, one of the lowlights of Sterling’s interview (which is saying something).

“He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business? Did he help anybody in South LA?… What kind of a guy goes to every city and has sex with every girl and he catches it, HIV, is that somebody we want to respect and tell our kids about? I think he should be ashamed of himself. I think he should go into the background. What does he do for the black people? The Jewish people have a company, it’s for people who want to borrow money at no interest. We want to give them a fishing pole. We want to help people. You don’t have any money, we’ll loan it to you, without any interest. One day you’ll pay us back. I’m just telling you he does nothing, he’s all talk.”

The comments caused NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to publicly apologize to Johnson.

Sterling also said in the interview Magic Johnson called him and told him to wait and not doing anything, that Magic said he would help him. Magic’s people told TMZ the opposite happened — Sterling called Magic and wanted to have him next to him in an interview, to show Sterling was not a racist and was friends with Magic. According to that report Magic said no. Decide for yourself who to believe.

Sterling clearly has an issue with Magic Johnson. It likely stems from the fact the Clippers are still “the other team” in Los Angeles while the Lakers are the stars (even despite the recent fortunes on the court, trust me as someone who lives here L.A. is a Lakers town). In the business world Magic is seen as a shining light around Los Angeles, Sterling a slumlord. It’s not that hard to see where jealousy and a vendetta might have come from.

But Magic is going to win the battle of interviews as well.

When the league eventually forces the sale of the Clippers from the Sterlings, don’t be shocked if Magic and his partners (the group that already owns the Dodgers) win the bidding process. Which would be the ultimate insult to Sterling.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.