Bernucca: Among the Elite, Thunder the Team to Beat

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Kawhi Leonard A look at the overall NBA standings shows four teams at the top – Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami – separated by one game in the loss column. In fact, they were dead even until three of them lost Sunday. 

Just a notch below them are three more teams – Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland – separated by two games in the loss column. They also would have been dead even had the Blazers held on Sunday against the Rockets.

Let’s call these teams the Magnificent Seven, because your NBA champion is somewhere among them. Dismiss any of them at your own peril; these are the only teams who, at the season’s three-quarter pole, have won at least two-third of their games.

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Bernucca: NBA Buyout Season’s Winners and Losers

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I’m kinda high on what the Charlotte Bobcats did with Ben Gordon.220px-Gordon7_20091204

The Bobcats waived Gordon on Sunday, preventing him from appearing in the postseason should he sign with another team. While they may have alienated his agent – not a trifle thing in the business world of the NBA – two things should be pointed out.

1. When teams waive or buy out players at this time of the season, they are essentially establishing a price they are willing to pay to that player to not play for them.

2. In this case, the Bobcats made it impossible for Gordon to come back to haunt them in the playoffs.

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Sprung: LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra preach patience for Miami Heat

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BROOKLYN – LeBron James doesn’t like losing. Not one bit. His Miami Heat just barely put up 60 points against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night in an 86-62 defeat at the Barclays Center. Was he mad? Nope, he was patient.

Untitled 0 00 11-13“We’re just trying to get better and not waste an opportunity to get better,” James said. “We don’t have all our guys playing, but when guys were in the game, they played, worked hard.”

Miami didn’t really work so hard rebounding the basketball – or scoring it, either, for that matter. The Heat were outrebounded on Thursday by a 53-31 margin, and head coach Erik Spoelstra admitted after the game that it was a concern. But with his shirt collar open and his gray suit jacket unbuttoned, Spoelstra didn’t seem worried in the slightest.

Five Things To Watch: Miami Heat

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Chris BoshAs the back-to-back defending NBA champions, one could say that the Miami Heat stand in the best position of any team in the league. That’s probably true, but the 2013-14 campaign also stands as one of the most pivotal seasons in team history.

Why?

After this season, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will all have the option to test the free agent waters.

Although Wade said he wants to stay in Miami, perhaps a disappointing season with an aging core could give James pause about re-upping with the Heat. Already a champion as a supporting player, Bosh may want the spotlight. Regardless of whether the Heat three-peat, it is entirely plausible that key role players such as Ray Allen and Shane Battier will retire after this season.

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SH Blog: Nelson and Lewis blast Howard for negative comment, Rose considered day-to-day

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Dwight HowardDwight Howard sure did open up a can of worms when he called out his former teammates in a recent interview with Kristine Leahy, saying he led a group of guys that no one else wanted on their team.

Didn’t Howard say he has learned his lesson when it comes to discussing matters of this nature with the media? It’s well known around the league that the big man simply wants to be liked by everyone.

Newsflash: no one is going to like you when you’re putting guys that went to battle with you for seven-plus seasons under the bus. Howard probably got off relatively easy for saying what he said, in terms of receiving vitriol from the media. Can you imagine if LeBron James said such a thing about his former teammates on the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Some of Howard’s former teammates, despite choosing not to comment, were naturally not happy with him, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld:

I talked to a few of Dwight Howard's former Orlando Magic teammates last night. They chose not to comment on his quote, but weren't pleased.
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Alex Kennedy

Jameer Nelson, considered one of Howard’s best friends during their tenure as teammates, shared his thoughts on the matter, from Brian K. Schmitz of Orlando Sentinel:

“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.

“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.

“That’s his opinion. If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels.”

Schmitz also detailed what Rashard Lewis had to say:

Rashard Lewis on DHoward: "It's just strange. If anything he should be focused on playing for the Lakers and making the playoffs."
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Brian K. Schmitz
Rashard Lewis on DHoward: "It's disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was" ...
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Brian K. Schmitz
Rashard Lewis on Howard: "They built that team to make him the player he was. Not trying to be rude or disrespectful to Dwight but...."
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Brian K. Schmitz
Lewis on Howard, defending Nelson: "Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people...."
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Brian K. Schmitz
Rashard Lewis (con't): "But I think sometimes you have to focus on what's going on now, not what happen in the past. Very disappointing."
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Brian K. Schmitz
Lewis on Howard: 'We made a good run. Hell, look at those banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them..."
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Brian K. Schmitz

Nelson and Lewis have the right to be upset. They went to battle with Howard and although they could only get so far, they were a strong core that many considered to be contenders in the Eastern Conference. To hear him take credit for what the Magic did as a team by belittling everyone else? It’s unprofessional and embarrassing. Again, you would think he learned from his past mistakes.

Onto other news from around the league:

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