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Chris Webber, Ben Wallace headline Hall of Fame finalists announcement

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CHARLOTTE — Chris Webber — a four-time All-NBA player, five-time All-Star, and part of the Fab Five at Michigan who helped change the game of college basketball — is back on the doorstep of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

This time he is joined by the defensive force that was Ben Wallace, as well as Bucks and UCLA legend Marques Johnson.

The finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame were announced Friday at a ceremony in Charlotte, home of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. Who gets in will be announced in Minneapolis at the NCAA Men’s Final Four.

Here are this year’s list of Finalists with NBA ties:

CHRIS WEBBER — It’s his turn to get in. Webber has the resume: Four-time All-NBA player, five-time NBA All-Star, 1994 NBA Rookie of the Year, he averaged more than 20 points per game for nine seasons, and he led the NBA in rebounds per game in the 1998-1999 season. And that’s just in the NBA — remember this is the “Basketball Hall of Fame” so being a key part of the “Fab Five” at Michigan that went to two Final Fours, and more importantly revolutionized the college game, counts as well. He deserves to make the cut, hopefully, this time the voters put him in.

BEN WALLACE — A rock on the defensive end, he is a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, doing so in a five-year span — and the one year he didn’t win it he helped lead the Pistons to an NBA title (2004). He made the NBA All-Defensive team eight times (five times first team), three times made the All-NBA team, and was a four-time NBA All-Star. He also led the league in rebounding twice. If we’re going to talk about defense being half the game, then Wallas has to be considered.

MARQUES JOHNSON — The Milwaukee Bucks legend is a first-time nominee. He averaged 20.1 points and 7 rebounds per game in his 11-year career and was five-time NBA All-Star plus made the All-NBA team once. In college, he helped legendary coach John Wooden win his final NCAA title at UCLA, and in 1977 was named the National Collegiate Player of the Year.

BOBBY JONES — A legend in Philadelphia who helped the Sixers to their last NBA title back in 1983. Jones was a lock-down defender who was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight straight years, plus he was a four-time All-Star and in 1983 won the Sixth Man of the Year award. Jones started his career in Denver when the Nuggets were in the ABA and he made the ABA All-Star team, All-Rookie Team,  and two times was on the league’s All-Defensive Team. He also has a silver medal from the disputed 1972 Olympics.

SIDNEY MONCRIEF — Playing for the Bucks and Hawks, Moncrief was a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, made an All-NBA team, is a five-time All-Star and four times made the All-Defensive Team.

JACK SIKMA — An icon of the Seattle Supersonics, he helped lead that team to a title in 1979. Sikma is a seven-time All-Star is the only center in NBA history to lead the league in single-season free throw percentage at .922 (1987-88).

PAUL WESTPHAL — Westphal won a ring with the Boston Celtics in 1974, and in his career was a three-time All-NBA player and a five-time All-Star. He is a member of the Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor.

HUGH EVANS — A legendary referee, Evans officiated nearly 2,000 regular season NBA games, 170 NBA Playoff games, 35 NBA Finals games and four NBA All-Star games.

BILL FITCH [Coach] – Fitch coached in the NBA for 25 seasons, twice being named Coach of the Year. He led the Boston Celtics to a title in 1981 and still holds the highest winning percentage of any coach in Celtics history (.738).

Also nominated for the Hall of Fame.

• College coaching legend Eddie Sutton.

• Leta Andrews coached high school basketball for over fifty years and is the all-time winningest high school coach, male or female.

• Barbara Stevens is the fifth coach in NCAA women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 career wins, doing so over a 40-year career at the Division II level.

• Teresa Weatherspoon is a WNBA legend: Five-time WNBA All-Star and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. She was the first player to rack up 1,000 points and 1,000 assists in the WNBA. She also has an Olympic gold medal.

• Longtime NBA reporter Marc Stein and legendary Los Angeles Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler are the 2019 Curt Gowdy Media Award recipients.

• Del Harris, who has spent 50 years coaching and teaching the game, and Harry Glickman — the “father” of professional sports in Oregon — will be honored with lifetime achievement awards.

Report: Ball family has discussed shutting down Big Baller Brand

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I could write a thousand words about what seems to be happening with the Big Baller Brand — the shoe/apparel company that’s the brainchild of LaVar Ball and provides the shoes for the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball — but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Or, in this case, a social media message.

If you haven’t been following the saga — something maybe actually worthy of watching on Facebook Live from the Ball family — over the weekend it was reported Lonzo Ball cut ties with Alan Foster, a co-founder of the Big Baller Brand (BBB) who served as the business manager, over inappropriate use of funds. That was in addition to news the Lakers reached out to Lonzo to ask if his shoes were part of the reason for his ankle injury and slow recovery. This was followed by social media buzz (and some hints) Ball was going to switch over to Nike as a sponsor (since he is shut down for the season because of the ankle, we won’t see what shoes he wears on the court until summer at the earliest, when the inevitable “look how hard I’m working out” Instagram posts come out).

Now the entire thing is so tainted the Ball family may just shot Big Baller Brand down, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

If they did (no sure thing), the company could be re-formed under a new name. This is as much about cutting out Foster as anything.

What role Lonzo would play in any new Ball family business is up for discussion. Lonzo’s next season will be his third, after which the Lakers (or whatever team has his rights) can offer him an extension on his rookie contract, or choose instead to let him go into a fourth season followed by restricted free agency (an extension deal could be reached in the fourth season, too). This coming season is a huge one for Ball: Can he stay healthy (he has missed 65 games over two seasons) and can he prove he’s a key guy that a franchise would want to lock up and pay?

Ball has talked about finally being healthy during the summer and getting to work on his body and game. That would be good, but we’ll if he remains focused.

Report: Lakers not actually interested in Jason Kidd

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The Lakers hiring Jason Kidd as their next coach went from rumor shared by Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report to report by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Stephen A. Smith of ESPN:

I’ve been told there’s no way they’re really considering Jason Kidd. He’s not on their list. Now, that’s what I’m hearing. But I also want to emphasize I’m not covering the NBA like that. As much as I cover these games or what have you, I’m not on the phones with these executives every single day as intimately as the great Adrian Wojnarowski is. So, I’m certainly not trying to cast any aspersions on any of his reporting. Listen to this man, because he’s usually right on the money. He’s my friend. I respect the hell out of him. But in this particular story, the Lakers are saying, no, we’re not interested in Jason Kidd. And they want to make sure that that’s clear. I don’t know why, but they wanted to make sure that that was clear.

If the Lakers are spreading word they’re not interested in Kidd, I have one strong guess why: He’s a bad coach.

The latest Kidd rumors have caused panic among Lakers fans. Kidd really struggled guiding the Bucks, who’ve taken off since firing him.

Kidd is better at getting his name connected to openings – and even potential openings. Remember the Lakers haven’t fired Luke Walton, though that’s expected after the season. Kidd has been linked to the Suns, Pistons, Warriors, Knicks and Lakers. And that’s just since leaving Milwaukee. He also attempted a coup with the Nets then, when that failed, took a soft landing with the Bucks.

Magic Johnson’s decision-making with the Lakers has been suspect at best. Hiring Kidd, an old-school-style coach, would have been right in line with Johnson’s other failures. There are reasons Kidd-to-the-Lakers was at least believable.

There are also potential reasons the Lakers could have leaked interest in Kidd. Not all of this necessarily came from him.

Now, if the Lakers hire Mark Jackson, that will look far better by comparison. Tyronn Lue could look like an absolute steal by comparison.

DeMarcus Cousins: Fans have called me n-word a few times

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The NBA has fined DeMarcus Cousins for swearing at fans four separate times.

Cousins wants to call attention to the other side of interactions like those.

Cousins, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

“Oh, I’ve been called n—–,” he told Yahoo Sports in the latest Posted Up video podcast that will be released this week. “And it’s crazy because this has happened to me on a few occasions. I reported it to the league, and, you know, I may have said whatever I said back and I was still punished for it. But obviously it became a bigger issue when it was Russ [Westbrook], and he was still fined for it. I don’t really understand it. We’re the product. We push this league, so I don’t understand. When does our safety, when does it become important?”

When asked which cities he heard racial slurs, the nine-year veteran and four-time All-Star declined to answer. However, league sources told Yahoo Sports one of the incidents occurred in Sacramento.

“I don’t really want to [name cities or teams], because I’m not really trying to put a label on an entire fan base,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “There are ignorant individuals in every city. I’ll just put it like that. … [The league] tells you to ignore it, or whatever the case may be, but how many times am I supposed to ignore that. Me coming from where I come from [Mobile, Alabama], they lucky all they got was a response.”

Players would ignore out-of-line fans if the players believed teams were properly holding fans accountable. If teams removed fans who made racist and/or personal comments toward players, the players would let arena security handle it.

As is, players often feel they must take matters in their own hands to get a proper resolution.

This conversation is happening now only because Russell Westbrook got videoed vulgarly confronting a Jazz fan. Westbrook got fined for that, but overdue attention is being paid to fan-player interactions. The Jazz banned that fan from their arena, but they didn’t eject him from the game against the Thunder. Could they have investigated more quickly? They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. The Jazz just banned a fan who called Westbrook “boy” last year! The incident received attention now only because of Westbrook’s recent squabble with a Utah fan.

Players too often face racist and personal taunts. There’s no way to eliminate that. But teams must do better at punishing fans who act inappropriately.

The NBA should fine players who swear at fans. That’s bad for business and should be discouraged.

The key difference: The league is already on top of punishing players. Punishing misbehaving fans hasn’t taken enough of a priority.

The NBA should pay more attention to the root of some of these incidents. This isn’t just happening in a vacuum.

Report: Spurs signing Donatas Motiejunas

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In 2016, both the Pistons (who agreed to trade for him) and the Rockets (who agreed to match his offer sheet from the Nets) failed Donatas Motiejunas on physicals. He finally signed a prorated minimum contract with the Pelicans for 2016-17. He has spent the last two seasons in China. It has been rough for him.

Now, Motiejunas is somewhat surprisingly returning to the NBA.

ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a deal with veteran Donatas Motiejunas, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

San Antonio needed another big man after buying out Pau Gasol, who signed with the Bucks. Motiejunas provides depth behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl.

The 7-foot Motiejunas is capable inside and out. But NBA centers have gotten so good at 3-point shooting so quickly. I’m not sure Motiejunas remains ahead of the curve on the perimeter.

Whatever his current ability, he should at least fit well with the Spurs. They maximize skilled bigs.