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Erik Spoelstra once tried to follow unwritten rules of garbage time, and Hassan Whiteside got hurt

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MIAMI (AP) — The NBA has seen plenty of Garbage Time drama lately.

Often, Garbage Time – the final minutes of a blowout – is either forgettable, unwatchable or both. But it’s been noteworthy lately, with Phoenix extending a loss at Boston last month with fouls and time-outs so Devin Booker could score 70 points, JaVale McGee‘s late 3-point try earlier this week with Golden State drubbing the Wizards and Lance Stephenson‘s late layup in a Pacers blowout of the Raptors.

 

Shots aren’t always the issue. Miami’s Erik Spoelstra learned that during his first season as Heat coach, and the memory of what occurred on Dec. 26, 2008, has stayed with him.

The Heat were beating Chicago 90-77 with 31 seconds remaining. Spoelstra called a 20-second time-out just to get starters Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem out of the game. And on the other bench, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro, assistant coach Del Harris and some Chicago players were more than a little annoyed.

Spoelstra thought about calling time in a similar situation earlier this season to get center Hassan Whiteside out of the game. He didn’t, and seconds later Whiteside cut his right hand on a freak play and needed 13 stitches.

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Spoelstra said.

The latest episode came Tuesday, with Stephenson making an uncontested layup with 4 seconds left in Indiana’s 108-90 win over Toronto instead of running out the clock. The Raptors, predictably, were not happy and got in Stephenson’s face to let him know. Some on-court arguing ensued.

“Bush league,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.

“Tasteless, classless,” added Toronto’s P.J. Tucker.

Countered Stephenson, who apologized: “I didn’t mean no harm.”

Intent can be in the eye of the beholder.

Just ask Brooks, the Wizards coach knows all about the etiquette of Garbage Time. He will not use that term, for a very simple reason.

“I was in there a lot,” Brooks said.

Brooks, a reserve for all but seven games in his 10-year playing career, got an unwanted refresher course of sorts in Garbage Time when McGee jacked up a 3-pointer in the final seconds of a game that the Warriors were leading the Wizards by 22 points.

McGee took a shove to the chest from an annoyed Brandon Jennings, who felt it wasn’t in accordance with what’s proper in Garbage Time.

“Kind of disrespectful,” Jennings said of McGee’s shot.

If Garbage Time had an official set of rules, atop the list would be something about not disrespecting opponents. These days, not everyone is adhering.

“If you’re ahead in the game, there is no reason to shoot the ball,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “We just sort of hold the ball. No use angering people or trying to show somebody up. … You should do whatever is sportsmanlike and courteous. No reason not to.”

 

Cleveland veteran forward Richard Jefferson was among many players who said everyone knows there’s a code for how to handle Garbage Time. And he’s been on both sides of that code.

There was a game in 2006 against Houston when Jason Kidd, now the Milwaukee coach, was one assist shy of a triple-double in the final moments of a decided game. New Jersey was up by 10, and the shot clock was off.

Jefferson volunteered to help Kidd out. He made a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. Assist No. 10 was delivered, triple double wrapped.

“We’re just kind of standing around and he tosses it to me and I shot it and it goes in and the Houston Rockets were” angry, Jefferson said. “And J. Kidd was like, `Don’t worry, I’ll take the heat for it’ and walked off. It was a low-blow move, but I’ll tell you what, if my point guard asked me to do that, I’ll do it again.”

Heat point guard Goran Dragic has no problem with that.

He was taught to play the game the same way, start to finish.

“Back in Europe, there are different rules,” said Dragic, a native of Slovenia. “If there’s time on the clock, we play, we shoot it. In the States, there’s a different culture.”

The Warriors offered the Wizards apologies for McGee’s 3-point try, with coach Steve Kerr reaching out to Brooks by text. The Suns took a decidedly different tact after Booker’s 70-point outburst, which some players found a bit distasteful.

“So what? Do something about it,” Suns coach Earl Watson said that night in Boston. “Simple as that.”

There’s no perfect answer.

Sometimes, in Garbage Time, the only plays that get noticed are the questionable ones.

“Play the right way,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “If you’re always coaching guys to do that, you can always look at yourself in the mirror and get the respect of your opponents.”

AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno in Washington, Michael Marot in Indianapolis, Tom Withers in Cleveland and Associated Press Writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.