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Miami & OKC Gear Up For Game 5; 28 Other Teams Try Catching Up

Interesting. It says here that this “National Basketball Association” has other teams besides the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder. Who knew? With Wednesday being a day off from the Finals — albeit not a day off from everybody overreacting to the Finals — some of those other teams were able to borrow the spotlight while figuring out how they can get where the Heat and Thunder are right now … The lowly Hornets and even lowlier Wizards pulled off a trade: Rashard Lewis and a 2nd-round pick to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. While reports say the Hornets are going to waive Rashard and use the extra money to re-sign Eric Gordon, the Wizards apparently see Okafor and Ariza as important pieces to their ballclub moving forward. For a team that approaches defense like it’s court-ordered community service, the Wizards are now getting two guys who have made their careers by playing tough D … How should we categorize the careers of Rashard and Okafor? Both aren’t too far removed from being quality starters on playoff teams, but both are also now clearly in decline. Okafor may not have lived up to the expectations of a No. 2 draft pick, but for a good while he was a solid double-double guy who blocked a couple shots a night. And Lewis may never have lived up to the expectations of a $100 million contract, but he had a couple All-Star years and was one of the league’s best shooters at his position … The Bobcats introduced their new head coach (Mike Dunlap) on the same time they introduced their new uniforms (more Caroline blue, less orange). You know the ‘Cats are struggling when the three players picked to model the new unis are Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo and Gerald Henderson. Of those three, how many would pull sixth-man minutes on a playoff team? Maybe Kemba? … Deciding against the idea of simply letting Dwight Howard choose (and coach) his own adventure, the Magic hired Thunder assistant GM Rob Hennigan as their new GM. Side note: As the Xbox/PS2 generation grows older, how long before an NBA front-office job candidate lists their NBA 2K franchise-mode achievements on their resume? … Orlando’s new GM should make a play for Steve Nash in free agency. It might not seem like a natural fit, but Orlando has traditionally been one of those destination cities that ballplayers gravitate to even if it means taking a little bit less money. (Florida tax laws, Florida weather, Florida women.) And if the Magic had a point guard who could help maximize Dwight’s offensive skills, aren’t they an automatic contender in the East? … Nash seems almost destined for the Knicks, however. If you thought Sanchez/Tebow is a polarizing QB battle, imagine Knicks fans arguing over Nash and Jeremy Lin … Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals felt like the end of an era, but at the time no one really knew what would happen to the Celtics. And we still don’t. The two key figures here are Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, who are both going to be free agents. Ray has already been tied to a few different teams on the rumor mill, but with KG it seems his two options are staying in Boston or retiring. At least that’s what Danny Ainge has been saying. We wouldn’t bet a cent on KG having played his last NBA game … But as much as some people want to make it about loyalty, Garnett staying in Boston could be as good a basketball move as any for him. Who else is going to get KG the ball where he likes it like Rajon Rondo? Those guys have better chemistry than almost every other point guard/big man tandem in the league; for KG to go anywhere else would mean beginning a whole get-to-know-you process that he doesn’t have time for at this stage … On the heels of LaDainian Tomlinson and Marcus Stroud retiring from the NFL this week, it got us thinking: How come NBA players never do that thing where they sign with a team for one day so they can retire as a member of that team? Maybe it’s something to do with NBA contracts being guaranteed and being no shorter than 10 days. Even if, say, Garnett wanted to retire with the Timberwolves, maybe they don’t want to pay him 10 days’ worth of salary for a simple gesture … But let’s get back to the Finals. Obviously it’s do-or-die for the Thunder in Game 5 tonight, but having lost three in a row — including a Game 4 in which Russell Westbrook played out of his mind and Miami spotted them a 17-point lead — it seems like the Thunder have lost all the confidence that carried them past the Mavs, Lakers and Spurs. Kevin Durant has been consistently incredible throughout these playoffs, and if he were due for a monster 40-point explosion, tonight is the night. Maybe if Durant is good enough and Westbrook is even half as good as he was in Game 4, it won’t matter that James Harden has been playing like James Cleveland all series long … We’re out like Rashard …

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