May: The Future of Four Floundering Flagship Franchises

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We are about to witness what may be a first in the long history of the NBA. For the first time, four of the JacksonKnicksleague’s flagship franchises could well be out of the playoffs.

OK, the Knicks aren’t technically out of the race in the Hindenburg Conference, but they have a lot of ground to make up on Atlanta – four games in the loss column with 13 to play. The Celtics, Lakers and 76ers all are making plans for the 2014 draft lottery and the riches it may (or may not) provide.

Twenty years ago, the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers all missed the postseason, but the Pat Riley-coached Knicks made it all the way to the NBA Finals, losing in seven games to the Houston Rockets. That remains the best Knicks’ playoff run since the 1973 championship season (moreso than their surprising appearance in the 1999 Finals, where they were decided underdogs to the Spurs and lost in five.)

But at no time since 1949, when the Lakers entered the NBA in Minneapolis, and the 76ers came in as the Syracuse Nationals, have all four of these marquee teams been on the outside looking in when the playoffs arrived. (The Celtics and Knicks started in 1946.)

Bernucca: Who Is On Your Team’s Mount Rushmore?

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rushmoreThis past week, NBA TV released excerpts of an extended interview with LeBron James (airing in its entirety Monday night) in which Steve Smith asked “The King” to name his Mount Rushmore of basketball.

James offered a quartet of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson. But it’s really an unfair question, because in addition to those four players, there are at least three more – centers Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Russell – who are in the “best ever” conversation. And that group doesn’t include active players who eventually will join the conversation as well, like Kobe Bryant and James himself.

A better exercise might be establishing a Mount Rushmore for each team.

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SH Blog: Raptors might keep Lowry; Nuggets look to trade Andre Miller

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I’m always a little bit disappointed that I’m not a professional basketball player, but air travel takes it to a whole new level.

I originally booked a two-part flight to Halifax on Monday, and ended up having to leave Sunday night and sleep in the Philadelphia airport after my first flight was cancelled. That was fine, until my flight the next afternoon had to turn around and go back to Philadelphia when we were right over Halifax.

Bernucca: Memo to Mitch Kupchak: Stop Haggling and Start Tanking

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Mitch Kupchak shouldn’t be playing hardball. kupchak

In his desire to trade Pau Gasol, the GM of the Los Angeles Lakers should not have insisted on receiving Dion Waiters or a first-round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Nobody has overpaid for a rental since Ernie Grunfeld sent Ray Allen to Seattle for Gary Payton — and that was a long time ago.

Kupchak should have lowered his demands to match the team’s expectations. The Lakers are done for this season and should be singularly committed to one agenda: Making sure this rare down period for one of the NBA’s most storied franchises doesn’t last more than one season.

Kupchak should be tanking.

Some of the telltale signs already are in place. The Lakers have a bloated payroll of aging, overpaid players, almost all of them on expiring contracts. Injuries to their stars have hampered their ability to compete on their customary high level. They already are fading fast in the Western Conference playoff race.

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Tweet of the Night: Bill Simmons Believes Cavs Will Waive Bynum

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BynumAs Sunday night winds down, the desired time that both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers had hoped to complete a deal involving Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol has almost expired.

Bynum’s contract becomes fully guaranteed Tuesday afternoon at 5:00pm EST, so there is still time to complete a deal, but all parties involved would like such a transaction to happen sooner rather than later to allow time for everything to clear. Sometimes that process can take up to 48 hours.