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Bill Russell to receive NBA’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award

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The NBA is putting on a televised award show that will be highlighted by regular-season awards, like MVP and Rookie of the Year, few people seem to care about after months of playoff basketball. Even fewer will care after the draft.

So, in an effort to drum up interest, the league is implementing fan-voted awards – and a lifetime achievement award.

NBA release:

The NBA and Turner today announced Bill Russell – a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and 11-time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics – will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the first-ever NBA Awards on TNT, airing Monday, June 26, with coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

Among his numerous athletic achievements, Russell was the first player to win an Olympic Gold Medal, an NBA Championship and a college title. While playing at the University of San Francisco, he led his team to back-to-back championships (1955 and 1956). A civil rights pioneer, Russell became the first African American to coach a major professional sports team (1966) and win a championship when he guided the Celtics to back-to-back titles (1968 and 1969).

One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Russell won five NBA MVP Awards, earned 12 NBA All-Star selections and left an indelible mark as a superb shotblocker who revolutionized NBA defensive concepts. The annual NBA Finals MVP Award is named in honor of Russell, an NBA Champion in all but two of his seasons as a player with Boston.

I can’t think of a more deserving winner for this award that I hadn’t heard of until an hour ago.

No matter the agenda behind the award, Russell is a true pioneer and worthy of the recognition. There’s not a wrong time to celebrate him.

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.