SH Blog: Warriors acquire Steve Blake, Nets trade for Thornton, Clippers no longer looking for Shumpert deal

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With the trade deadline rapidly approaching, rumors have been rampant around the league throughout the day.

Can Cleveland find a taker for Luol Deng? How serious is Sacramento about moving MIP candidate Isaiah Thomas? Will the New York Knicks finally trade Iman Shumpert? Those are some of the many burning questions as general managers try to determine what will be the best course of action for their respective franchises. Some minor deals have already gone down on Wednesday, and plenty more juicy conversations are being had as you will find below:

BROOKLYN NETS ACQUIRE THORNTON AND LOOKING FOR MORE:

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Gambling on the Eastern Conference: Long odds on everyone not named Pacers or Heat

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jameswade

Brain-twister for you today, folks.

Go back to the start of the 2005-06 regular season, and try to name a superstar player who has represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. Your answer cannot include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen.

It’s OK. Keep thinking … 

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SH Blog: Bryant has full medical clearance to play, Howard and Parsons says Asik has to be professional

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The Los Angeles Lakers and fans in general have adjusted to life without Kobe Bryant in the NBA this season. The superstar guard has yet to suit up for his struggling team, as he continues to rehab from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered last season. He did raise some eyebrows last week, telling Rick Fox in an interview that if the playoffs began today, he would play. He further encouraged us all by taking part in the team’s workouts over the weekend. Is his return back to the court imminent? The answer to that and plenty more can be found below:

STORY OF THE DAY:

KobeBryant will now be able to hit the floor without any restrictions. It doesn’t necessarily mean he will jump right into game action, but the guard is finally ready to test his ankle joints to the fullest extent. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report has details:

Bryant has full medical clearance, I was told Sunday by someone in a position to have such knowledge—meaning he can do anything and everything without restriction as the recovery from his ruptured left Achilles tendon nears its conclusion.

Lakers coaches and basketball operations staff are all content to wait for Bryant to decide in his own mind when he’s ready to resume one of the greatest careers in basketball history after one of the worst injuries that can befall any basketball player.

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GMs say Harden is League’s Best Shooting Guard

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James HardenKobe BryantThe general managers have spoken, and boy — they’ve said a mouthful.

For the first time in the 12-year history of the NBA.com survey, the Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (20%) was not selected by GMs as the best player at his position, as the Houston Rockets’ James Harden (56.7%) was selected as the best shooting guard in the NBA.

NBA.com once again surveyed the general managers of all 30 teams on the upcoming 2013-14 NBA season, gathering their responses on the best teams, players, coaches, fans, offseason moves and more.

Other top honors included Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (80%) as the top vote-getter for the NBA Rookie of the Year, the Chicago Bulls (43.3%) as the top defensive team, and San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (53.3%) as the league’s best international player.

This year, 75.9 percent of GMs believe Miami will win the title.

GMs have correctly picked The Finals winner six out of the previous 11 years, including last year’s prediction of the Heat winning it all. This year, the other top votegetters for NBA champion were the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, both tied for second with 6.9 percent of votes.

The complete results of the survey are available at NBA.com. The general managers were not allowed to vote for their own team or personnel.

Noteworthy 2013-14 NBA.com GM Survey results include:

· Miami Heat – NBA Champion (75.9% of the vote)

· LeBron James, Miami – Kia NBA Most Valuable Player (69%)

· Victor Oladipo, Orlando – Kia NBA Rookie of the Year (80%)

· Detroit Pistons – Most Improved Team (16.7%)

· Chicago – Best Defensive Team (43.3%)

· Nets-Celtics trade / Andre Iguodala to Golden State – Most Surprising Offseason Move (21.4%)

· Tony Parker, San Antonio – Best International Player (53.3%)

· Chauncey Billups, Detroit – Active player who would make the best head coach (32.1%)

Preseason Playoff Picture: Eastern Conference

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Kyrie Irving 2Who is crashing the playoff party in the East this season?

Conventional wisdom says the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and – barring a disaster – will secure the top five spots.

At the other end of the conference, you can probably toss out the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers, who could pool their rosters to come up with the 15 best players and still not make the playoffs.

That leaves three spots for the remaining seven teams. Last season, those spots went to the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. Some would argue that each of those teams took backward steps in the offseason and could wind up in the lottery.

The postseason door could be open for teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, who clearly upgraded their rosters this summer in an effort to play in May. But have they done enough?

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