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Discussion Starter #21
Raptors looking to lock up Ford

The Toronto Raptors are close to making sure their point guard of the present remains their point guard in the future.

League sources told Globesports.com that the Raptors are on the verge of reaching a contract extension with T.J. Ford, the diminutive speedster they acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks in an off-season trade involving former Raptor Charlie Villanueva.

"[They're] working on getting something done, I'm optimistic," said one source close to the negotiations who did not want to be identified.

The No. 8 selection in the 2003 draft, Ford is eligible to sign a contract extension with the team until midnight on Oct. 31st. If the two sides can't reach a deal before then, Ford becomes a restricted free agent after the season. The Raptors would be able to match any offer he receives.

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Discussion Starter #22
Bulls: Rookies' minutes may be reduced

Seven players could make their Bulls debuts on Tuesday, although it might be tough to tell with rookies Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha.

After playing heavy minutes early in the preseason, the first-round picks played a combined 11 minutes in the finale against the Raptors as coach Scott Skiles shortened his rotation.

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Discussion Starter #23
Mason's future with Hornets in doubt

With David West signing a five-year, $45-million contract extension with the Hornets on Monday, Desmond Mason's future with the team suddenly appears to be in jeopardy.

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Discussion Starter #24
Buss shines in starring role on Walk of Fame

His is the 2,323rd star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And although his illustrious predecessors all earned their place on the world-famous boulevard with glitz and glamour of their own, none arrived in quite the manner that Lakers owner Jerry Buss did Monday.

He came down the street in a parade, preceded by the USC marching band.

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Discussion Starter #25
Kidd-Carter Show in its final season?

Jason Kidd's legs have led many Nets' fast breaks the past five seasons. Those same legs are the ones people say are slowing down.

Vince Carter's right hand has produced plenty of points for the Nets over the past two seasons. That same hand is the one many predict won't sign an extension with New Jersey.

A scary thought for Nets' fans, and something the organization doesn't even want to consider, is that Wednesday's opener against the Raptors could be the last time Kidd and Carter start a season in the same backcourt.

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Discussion Starter #26
Chauncey Billups: 'I am a leader'

An illustration of leadership:

Chauncey Billups noticed something was odd and maybe a little off with Carlos Delfino early during training camp. His body language and overall demeanor was bad, droopy, like he was either mad about something or just not having any fun.

Billups gave it a couple weeks. Then, not seeing any improvement, he decided to intervene. He and a couple other veterans took Delfino out to dinner one night last week.

Billups got right to the point.

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Discussion Starter #27
Thomas on Center Stage for Wizards

The competition between Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood for the Wizards' starting center position was so tight that Coach Eddie Jordan waited until yesterday afternoon to announce his final decision: Thomas will be in the lineup for tomorrow's regular season opener at Cleveland.

"There were some good things that Etan did and there were some good things Brendan did," Jordan said. "It was close. It wasn't a landslide."

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Discussion Starter #28
Thomas' elevation angers Haywood

Etan Thomas will be the Washington Wizards' starting center, coach Eddie Jordan announced yesterday, a decision that does not sit well with backup Brendan Haywood or his agent.
While Haywood was unavailable for comment shortly after Jordan went public with his decision, agent Andy Miller said his client felt the decision was made along personal lines -- not based on performance -- and indicated Haywood may want out of Washington.

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Discussion Starter #29
Uplifting presence

There are nights, as he stands on the Air Canada Centre court during the national anthems, when Morris Peterson looks up to the rafters for inspiration.

The Flint, Mich., native certainly was not raised on the exploits of George Armstrong, Borje Salming or Darryl Sitter, but he has come to understand what the names hanging from the ceiling mean to the sports fans of Toronto, and the names and numbers now mean something to him.

"You definitely feel something when you see all those great players who played for the Leafs and see all the Stanley Cup banners," Peterson said. "Hopefully before I retire, before I'm done playing basketball, we'll have a championship banner up there."

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Discussion Starter #30
Heat backcourt void could be filled by Rose

The bloom is off Jalen Rose in New York, but that doesn't mean Pat Riley can't envision the veteran swingman blossoming in South Florida.

Unlike most cases when the Heat coach downplays free-agent prospects, Riley sounded intrigued Monday with the possibility of adding the 6-foot-8 veteran.

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Discussion Starter #31
Boykins one big help

Five-foot-5 Earl Boykins is never short of confidence. He needs it to stand tall in the NBA as the league's shortest player.

"No matter if I'm having a good game or bad game, my confidence level never changes," Boykins said. "I always feel like I'm the best player on the court when I step out there."

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Discussion Starter #32
Pistons could pick up Rose

Detroit Southwestern and University of Michigan product Jalen Rose is free to sign with any team he chooses after reaching a buyout agreement (believed to be between $12 million and $15 million) Monday with the Knicks.

"I love Jalen, and I have known him since he was a little kid," Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas said. "I hope he picks a spot where he has a chance to win a championship."

Could that spot be Detroit? It's likely remote but not completely out of the question.

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Discussion Starter #33
How will it end for KG?

Thirty on 30: Kevin Garnett settled into a courtside chair at Target Center one morning last week and, over the next half-hour or so, sounded very much like an old 30-year-old. Which is, after all, what he is, with 11 years on his NBA résumé, nearly 900 games under his belt, more than 34,000 minutes on his clock and, as usual, plenty on his mind.

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Discussion Starter #34
Getting a grip on new ball

The defending two-time most valuable player in the NBA shows you his blistered hands.

"It tears my fingers apart," Steve Nash said last week. "Like, every day. I just lotioned twice since practice. I just grip it, and the friction that comes from it, it tears my fingers apart."

Nash's fingers are getting cracked by the league's new basketball, rolled out with great fanfare in June during the Finals and set to make its official debut tonight when the NBA regular season begins. The reviews from most players during the preseason were, charitably, not good.

Many of the league's top players - from Nash, the Phoenix Suns' star point guard, to Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki to Miami's Shaquille O'Neal - sharply criticized the new ball, which is made of a microfiber composite instead of the traditional leather that has been a staple of the game. Others, like Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, were less disparaging. Still, few gave a ringing endorsement.

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Discussion Starter #35
Embittered Walker fires parting shots

One of the hallmarks of Wally Walker’s 12-year career as the head of the Seattle SuperSonics was his notoriously circumspect nature.

He declined to display a visceral reaction even when banners were flying over the city’s skyline calling for his job.

But on the eve of his departure from an organization with which he has spent a total of 19 years as a player and administrator, Walker let down his guard.

At the team’s tipoff luncheon at the Fairmount Hotel on Monday afternoon, Walker, who announced his resignation on Thursday, climbed to the podium and gave a sometimes-rambling, 12-minute soliloquy that essentially fired back at the politicians he has fought the past two years, the media who criticized him and the detractors who he said tried to make him something of a basketball pariah.

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Discussion Starter #36
Cuban attacks 'hypocrisy'

Tired of dealing with the NBA's "hypocrisy," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban pulled the plug on his league-approved satellite radio show before it ever aired.

Cuban agreed to begin doing a two-hour Sunday talk show, Mark Cuban's Radio Maverick, on SIRIUS as part of the NBA's multimillion dollar broadcast agreement with the satellite network.

Instead, he dropped out of the show citing a difference of opinion with the league and fellow owners on myriad issues, including the recent passage of an owners' code of conduct.

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Discussion Starter #37
Another climb begins tonight for Heat

The day after winning the championship, a giddy Antoine Walker promised to start what he called his ''drinking process'' and said he didn't plan on being sober for a week. Gary Payton admits that just about every Miami Heat player reported to camp a little out of shape. Even indefatigable Dwyane Wade, shirtless on the cover of the current issue of GQ, says he is worn down by an offseason that catapulted him to a higher level of superstardom.

The hangover hasn't worn off -- doesn't have to clear for 82 games, as the Heat proved so formidably last season -- and the party continues tonight with a champion's excess on Halloween. Bloody merry. There will be song and dance and an echoing coronation, Heat owner Micky Arison approving what he called a ''massive'' budget for jewelry befitting kings.

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Discussion Starter #38
Jazz make final decision

Dee Brown and Brian Chase are staying, for the moment. Rafael Araujo might be leaving next summer. Hiram Fuller had to go, reluctantly. And the debate over Deron Williams' option was brief. Actually, nonexistent.
"We never even had a discussion about it. What, are you kidding?" said Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's senior vice president of basketball operations. "There was no decision to make."
With Williams safely under contract for a third season, at a couple dollars above $4 million, O'Connor made the opposite call on Araujo's option for a fourth NBA season. Rather than play the 2007-08 season in Utah for $3 million, the Brazilian center will become an unrestricted free agent next July.

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Discussion Starter #39
Parker suffers ankle sprain

The Spurs had just beaten Dallas on Friday night to close out their exhibition schedule, and coach Gregg Popovich didn't need long to point out the team's biggest accomplishment of the preseason.

"Everybody's healthy," Popovich said. "Hopefully, we can keep it that way next week when we go up to Dallas."

That task became more difficult Monday after Tony Parker sprained his right ankle during practice. X-rays were negative, but the Spurs want to see how Parker responds overnight before determining whether he'll have to miss Thursday's season opener in Dallas.

"He did a decent job on it," Popovich said.

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Discussion Starter #40
Bogut expects to play

Maybe it shouldn't come as any great surprise that Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut will be available to play in the team's regular-season opener against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

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