Hedo Turkoglu benched after he and his virus go clubbing

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Hedo Turkoglu has been too sick to play, or even practice this past last week. Stomach virus. We’ve all had those, a nasty bug that just knocks you off your feet and doesn’t let you exercise, work, do anything really…

But you still can go hit clubs up at night.

Well, my stomach viruses were never like that. But apparently Turkoglu’s was. Which is why he was dressed but on the bench Sunday. Well enough to play, finally, but disciplined by the team, according to the Globe and Mail.

The benching came in the wake of reports that Turkoglu was out in Toronto’s trendy Yorkville district after the Raptors’ crushing loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, a game he didn’t play because of a stomach virus that caused him to leave at halftime of the Raptors loss’ to the Utah Jazz last Wednesday.

When pressed, Raptors president (Raptors general manager) Bryan Colangelo said that word of Turkoglu’s night out had reached the team – apparently fans had spotted him and sent e-mails to team officials and some media – and the matter had been dealt with “internally,” the implication being that the Turkish small forward had been fined.

The best part is the apparent disdain Turkoglu later expresses for both the fans and management in Toronto. As if they are the problem.

Turkoglu — and his massive contract — have been at the heart of the problem in Toronto, where the team is coming off the rails at the end of the season. He’s never been a great defender and Toronto is just horrible at that end of the floor. On offense he is supposed to be the outside to Chris Bosh inside, but right now teams are throwing hard doubles at Bosh and daring any other Raptor to beat them. And nobody is stepping up for Toronto. Including the well-paid Turkoglu.

But you know, it’s that stomach virus.

Report: Suns to waive Austin Rivers, who becomes unrestricted free agent

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The Phoenix Suns need a ball handling guard to go next to Devin Booker, so when they picked up Austin Rivers as part of the Trevor Ariza trade with Washington it made some sense. Rivers is a below replacement level NBA player (who has been serviceable the past couple of seasons), but that’s an upgrade over what the Suns had.

Except Rivers didn’t want to be part of the rebuild in Phoenix. In an unusual and unexpected move, the Suns have agreed to waive him, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

It’s an odd move on a few levels. Why didn’t Rivers want to stay in a place the ball would be in his hands more, giving himself a chance to build up his value before free agency next summer? Why didn’t the Suns first try to shop him around and offer to take on another team’s bad/dead contract if they got a pick or other asset? (Rivers can’t be packaged with another player in a trade but he can be moved straight up.)

Finally, how much demand is there among good teams for Rivers, even on a minimum contract?

Rivers, the son of Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers, is in his seventh NBA season. Rivers is averaging 7.2 points per game on 39.2 percent shooting this season.

It’s an odd move. Without Rivers Suns will keep leaning on rookie De'Anthony Melton as a potential future backcourt mate with Booker and hope he develops into something.

Bulls’ Kris Dunn shoves Russell Westbrook, scuffle breaks out (VIDEO)

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Russell Westbrook has a way of getting under an opponent’s skin.

Monday night it was the Bulls’ Kris Dunn‘s turn.

While moving over in position on the strong side, Westbrook and Dunn made contact, and after the whistle blew for a foul (with the ball handler), Westbrook made a grand gesture of pushing Dunn off him. Dunn responded with an outsized shove. And then it was on.

There’s more stuff to break down here than the Zapruder film.

• Jeremi Grant of the Thunder came in and tried to go at Dunn a little, in front of Westbrook (protect the star).

Bobby Portis tried to slide Grant out of the way, but…

Robin Lopez came in and went at Grant getting in his face, so Grant basically throws Lopez into the first row.

• Which just made Lopez even madder, leading to a meme-worthy angry face.

• Bulls’ coach Jim Boylen gets Grant in a headlock and pulls him out of the situation.

Steven Adams calmly makes sure Portis is out of the picture, then walks back over to Lopez and then Adams and Lopez get separated.

• In the end, the officials handed out for technicals: Westbrook, Dunn, Grant, and Lopez.

A few minutes later, Lopez blocked a Grant shot, decided to taunt him, and that got Lopez a second technical and he was tossed (Lopez is a veteran, he has to know the officials are going to call everything tight at that point). Watch Adams pat Lopez on the back as the Bulls’ big man makes the walk to the locker room.

James Harden scores 47, including sinking dagger into Jazz (VIDEO)

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Utah and Houston met in a battle of the disappointing early season Western teams — predicted by most to finish 2/3 in the West, they came into the night 10th and 13th — and in the tight West these kinds of games matter.

So James Harden turned it up a notch.

The reigning MVP looked every bit that guys scoring 47 points and adding six rebounds, five assists, and five steals in what was a Houston win, 102-97. It was Harden that sank the dagger into Utah.

That’s four wins in a row for Houston as they try to climb out of the hole they dug themselves early this season.

Taj Gibson helps defend drive with one shoe on, one shoe in his hand (VIDEO)

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In the first quarter Monday night, Timberwolves veteran Taj Gibson was working in the post on the Kings’ Nemanja Bjelica, Gibson got the bucket but lost his shoe.

He picked it up, ran to the other end with one shoe in hand, and then defended a Bjelica drive well enough that Karl-Anthony Towns would come over and get the block on the play.

Somehow, Tom Thibodeau is going to get credit for this new defensive style.