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Attorneys say evidence tampering in murder of Michael Jordan’s father

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Attorneys for a man serving life in prison for the murder of Michael Jordan’s father are asking for a new trial, saying someone tampered with the dead man’s shirt after his autopsy.

The autopsy found no hole in James Jordan’s shirt that corresponded with the bullet wound in his upper right chest area, but an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation later contradicted that on the witness stand, according to the lawyers’ filing in North Carolina’s Robeson County Superior Court.

“This newly discovered evidence of tampering adds to the growing list of legal concerns and factual evidence which add weight to the conclusion that not only does Daniel Green deserve a new trial but that he is innocent of the murder of James Jordan,” said Chris Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, which recently joined Green’s defense.

The state attorney general’s office is reviewing Wednesday’s filing , a spokeswoman said Thursday.

The basketball great’s father was killed on July 23, 1993, in North Carolina. His body was found in a South Carolina swamp.

Green and Larry Demery were convicted after Demery testified at their trial in 1996 that Green shot Jordan as he slept in his luxury car in Robeson County. Green has long claimed his innocence, telling WRAL-TV in 1998 that he was wrongly convicted of pulling the trigger. Attorneys have filed previous motions over the years for a new trial.

Green admitted in the interview that he drove James Jordan’s Lexus and wore his watch as well as an NBA championship ring he was given by his son. He also admitted he helped dump Jordan’s body in the South Carolina swamp.

Michael Jordan, now the owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, is one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time. He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships, and in 1982, his game-winning shot led the North Carolina Tar Heels to the NCAA championship over Georgetown.

He and his father were close, evidenced in the photo of the two hugging after the Bulls won the 1992 championship.

In Green’s 1998 interview, he said he wrote a letter to Jordan’s family to explain his version of what happened and apologize.

This week’s court filing says the absence of a hole in the right chest area contradicts the prosecutors’ theory that Jordan was lying in his car when he was shot. “It also gave strength to the defense theory that there was an altercation between Demery and Mr. Jordan, which was kept from the jury,” the court filing says.

The filing describes an unusual chain of custody for the shirt. It says Dr. Joel Sexton of Newberry, South Carolina, who performed the autopsy, gave it to a law enforcement officer who gave it to a civilian employee of a company that provided services for funeral homes. That employee gave the shirt to his boss, who said he buried it in his backyard because of the smell.

When law enforcement later determined that the shirt was evidence, the SBI worked with South Carolina law enforcement officials to exhume the shirt and transport it to Raleigh. And it was then that an SBI agent reported the presence of a bullet hole in the upper right chest area of the shirt, the filing says.

Sexton had written in the autopsy report that he looked for and didn’t find a corresponding hole in the right chest area of the shirt that corresponded with James Jordan’s fatal wound. Instead, he found three holes near the shirt tail, he wrote. Those holes would line up with the fatal wound if the shirt were pulled up about one foot, he wrote – “as one might do if pulling a gun from their waist,” the court filing adds.

SBI Agent R.N. Mars testified that the hole he found in the shirt “marked the location where the single, fatal bullet transversed the victim’s clothing and entered his body,” the filing says. “But Agent Mars offered no explanation for the three holes in the lower section of Mr. Jordan’s shirt that Dr. Sexton’s autopsy suggested were caused by the bullet. The district attorney, who had once highlighted Dr. Sexton’s notes about the absence of a bullet hole in the chest area of the shirt, did not ask about the three holes in the lower section of the shirt, and – critically for Mr. Green – neither did his defense attorneys.”

Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

How Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza complicate Rockets’ pursuit of third star

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After pairing Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets are reportedly chasing a third starPaul George, Carmelo Anthony or someone else.

But Houston parted with significant assets to land Paul from the Clippers. And the Rockets will have a tricky time dealing two remaining players, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Unloading Ryan Anderson to sign Paul outright would have helped Houston keep one of their outgoing guards, but the market for the three years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal was frigid. Not even the Kings wanted him for free. At least two teams would have demanded two Houston first-round picks in exchange for absorbing Anderson, according to several league sources.

The salary filler probably can’t be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul’s decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say. Ariza is also still good at a coveted position, and his Bird Rights will be valuable to a capped-out Rockets team next summer.

Anderson would be dangerous as a stretch four in pick-and-pops with Paul and Harden. Even if he’s overpaid, might be better to keep him than surrender more assets to dump him.

Likewise, Ariza is a nice two-way player and can play small-ball four. There’s a use for him on this team.

But beyond them, Houston is left with Eric Gordon and Clint Capela as movable players. Gordon, with a higher salary and less obvious fit with Paul and Harden, would almost certainly be a key cog in a trade for another star. Capela is younger and more valuable, though the Rockets would probably want to keep him as a defensive anchor.

That might not be possible while trading for a third star, though. Houston can’t even guarantee sending out another first-round pick in a trade after sending a protected first-rounder to the Clippers. (The Rockets could agree to convey a first-rounder two years after sending one to L.A., which would is highly likely to convey next year.) Including Capela in a trade might be the only way to assemble a suitable package.

Even then, Houston would be hard-pressed to surpass an offer from the Lakers or Celtics for George. Plus, if Indiana is rebuilding around Myles Turner, Capela is an awkward fit. That trade might require a third team – causing further complications.

Hoping Anthony gets bought out by the Knicks then signs for the mid-level exception is much simpler – though that route returns the lesser third star.

But Daryl Morey just brought Chris Paul to Houston before free agency even began. Now is not the time to underestimate the Rockets general manager.

Report: Knicks won’t consider Isiah Thomas to run front office

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A couple years ago, Knicks owner James Dolan said there was no scenario Isiah Thomas would return to the Knicks.

But Dolan also said a few months ago he’d keep Phil Jackson for the duration of Jackson’s five-year contract.

With Dolan effectively firing Jackson today, could Thomas become the Knicks’ next president?

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The Post also learned Liberty president Isiah Thomas would not be considered for Jackson’s successor.

It’s sad that this needs to be reported. It’s even sadder that, even if this the Knicks’ plans right now, there are no assurances Dolan holds steady.

Dumping Jackson is a reason to celebrate. But as long as Dolan owns the team, it must be a reserved celebration.

At least the Knicks’ next step won’t include Thomas. Probably.

Raptors promote Bobby Webster to general manager

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TORONTO (AP) — With rumors swirling about the Knicks chasing Raptors president Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have promoted Bobby Webster to general manager.

Webster, 32 years old assistant the youngest GM in the NBA, replaces Jeff Weltman, who left Toronto in May to become president of the Orlando Magic.

A former staffer at the NBA league office in New York, Webster joined the Raptors in 2013 and was named assistant GM in 2016.

He’ll help decide what to offer All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who opted out of the final year of his contract last month after Cleveland swept Toronto in the second round of the playoffs.

Forwards Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are all unrestricted free agents.

Also Wednesday, Toronto promoted Dan Tolzman to assistant general manager.

The Raptors have posted consecutive 50-win seasons and made four straight playoff appearances.

Jason Williams out 6-8 months after injury in Big3 debut

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NEW YORK (AP) — Former NBA point guard Jason Williams will miss six to eight months after suffering a knee injury in the opening game of the Big3.

Corey Maggette, also injured in the opening week of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league of former NBA players, had surgery for a leg injury. There is no timetable for his return.

The injuries were announced Wednesday during a conference call with Cube and Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz, who also detailed a couple rules changes starting with this weekend’s game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Games will be played to 50 points, instead of 60, with halftime coming when the first team reaches 25 points. Cube said that would help the four games per day move more quickly.