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Former Pistons GM Jack McCloskey, who built Bad Boys title teams, dies at age 91

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When he took over the Pistons’ front office in 1979, Jack McCloskey offered to trade the entire roster to the Lakers for Magic Johnson.

When he identified Dennis Rodman as the top prospect available at No. 11 in the 1986 draft, McCloskey took John Salley and banked on Rodman to fall to the second round – and nabbed Rodman with the third pick of the second round.

When Detroit was coming off a close loss in the 1988 Finals and had the NBA’s second-best record in February 1989, McCloskey traded leading scorer Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre.

McCloskey acted boldly again and again, acquiring every player on the Pistons’ 1989 and 1990 championship teams. He assembled the iconic Bad Boys and, as that era infamously ended with the Pistons walking off the court against the Bulls, he stood in the tunnel to high-fived Bill Laimbeer and hug Isiah Thomas as they left.

Appreciated in Detroit but unfairly overlooked by the Hall of Fame, McCloskey died today at age 91, the Pistons announced.

The basketball lifer played one game for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1953, coached Penn, Wake Forest and the Trail Blazers and ran the Timberwolves for a few years in the 1990s.

But he peaked in Detroit: back-to-back titles, three straight Finals and five straight conference finals. One of the players he drafted and won with, Joe Dumars, served as general manager for the Pistons other championship in 2004.

McCloskey built a tremendous team – and a tremendous legacy.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.