- The Season's Over -

Why Kevin McHale Still Doesn’t Get it and Kevin Love Won’t Fit in Minnesota

June 29, 2008

Kevin McHale: Inexplicable

The Inexplicable Kevin McHale
Photo Credit: Icon SMI

As a Minnesotan I was extremely apprehensive heading into this draft. Anybody who roots for the Timberwolves should be nervous about every draft headed by Kevin McHale. He has a history of botching these things and a stubborn refusal to simply take the best player available. It started back in 1996 when McHale swapped Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury and continued without fail into recent years with draft-night decisions like trading the rights to Brandon Roy for Randy Foye and selecting Rashad McCants over Danny Granger. Let’s not even get into the Joe Smith fiasco that cost them five first-round draft picks (even if two of the picks were ultimately returned).

In between those more publicized gaffes McFail has compiled a first-round resume that includes first-round busts Ndudi Ebi, William Avery, Radoslav Nesterovic and Paul Grant. In his inexplicably long tenure in the Wolves’ front office the former Celtic star has only made two great moves: drafting Kevin Garnett and trading Kevin Garnett.

The primary reason last summer’s trade of Garnett was a success is that Minnesota netted future All Star Al Jefferson. He will be the second superstar power forward in Timberwolves history, but it appears McHale is intent on misusing his talents as well by forcing Big Al to center and refusing to surround him with complementary talent.

There was little secret that Kevin Love was the apple of McHale’s eye heading into the draft, so I was shocked when Minnesota went ahead and passed on the big man out of UCLA. I was surprised that McHale actually did was he was supposed to do and didn’t try to get cute. I was relieved, to be honest. O.J. Mayo was the consensus third-best prospect in this draft and he fit a team need as a wing scorer.

Then just hours later McHale did get cute and traded for Kevin Love, a player who is by all accounts completely redundant with Al Jefferson. For those few hundred people out there who actually watched Wolves games religiously last year it was painfully obvious that Al Jefferson thrived as a power forward and struggled as a center.

This move will force Big Al into the middle, a position where he is both uncomfortable and significantly less effective.

After the jump: Why moving Al Jefferson to center is a crying shame…

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38 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 29, 2008 at 11:59pm in ETB Articles, NBA

Updates from the 2008 NBA Draft

June 26, 2008

Stern and HakeemNBA free agency kicks off July 1, but tonight’s 2008 NBA Draft is the last big one-night NBA event until the fall. As such, we’re pretty fired up ’round here and have basically been frothing at the mouth all day waiting for 7:30pm to roll around. Oh, the drama! The suspense! The David Sterns! The trades! SOMEBODY STOP ME!!

In all seriousness, it’s already been quite an eventful afternoon: the Nets have agreed to trade Richard “Peanut” Jefferson to the Milwaukee Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, while the Sonics and Clippers have agreed to swap picks provided the T-Wolves draft O.J. Mayo third overall (not a given with McHale making the decisions). You can bet more moves are on the way.

Please check back at ETB throughout the draft for updates on some of the most significant moves, shocking picks, etc. We won’t be live-blogging the entire draft, or listing every pick, but we’ll hit the highlights and give you plenty of our patented, indispensible insight.

We’ll also be participating in a live chat hosted by Matt Moore over at Ridiculous Upside. Check it out here.

The 2008 NBA Draft starts at 7:30pm and will be aired on ESPN. See you then!

- Though the Miami Heat are looking more and more likely to trade the #2 pick, right now a lot of people are saying the draft begins with the third pick and the Minnesota Timberwolves. On that note, I’d be very concerned if I were a Timberwolves fan. GM Kevin McHale has a history of being “too cute” on draft day, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he botched this golden opportunity to line up either Michael Beasley or O.J. Mayo alongside Al Jefferson (beast!), Randy Foye, and Ryan Gomes.

If rumors are true that he McHale is in love with Kevin Love, and trades down to get him, it could shape up to be another cringe-worthy draft for the T-Wolves.

- This is pretty weird (per Chad Ford on ESPN): “The San Antonio Spurs sent an e-mail to every team in the league at 3:30 p.m. saying that they were willing to move the 26th pick. The e-mail asked league executives to ‘E-mail us your interest and your offers to 26.’”

- Waiting for Next Year says that last night’s Pacers/Raps trade will likely wind up screwing Danny Ferry and the Cavaliers with the 19th pick.

- I admittedly don’t know much about him, but I don’t like the cut of Italian forward Danilo Gallinari’s jib. Maybe it’s his poor taste in suits, maybe it’s the floppy, boyish haircut; whatever it is, there’s no way I’d spend a top-10 pick on him.

- Booth Newspapers’ A. Sherrod Blakely says that if the Detroit Pistons trade up in the first round, watch out for a bigger deal involving one of the core players later this week. More specifically, I’d expect a deal to come sometime after July 1… when PG Chauncey Billups is eligible to be dealt.

- ESPN says that Gallinari “is one of the most skilled players in this draft and that he put the ball on the floor at 6-9.” Uh huh. I still wouldn’t draft him. If the New York Knicks, as suspected, end up taking him sixth overall this crowd is going to riot.

- The Chicago Bulls franchise now belongs to Memphis PG Derrick Rose, whose arrival means that either Kirk Hinrich or Ben Gordon will be wearing a new uniform next season–maybe both will. This kid is a winner and is going to make an impact immediately. Already he’s said his goal is to only be an All Star but to be a superstar on par with Chris Paul, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, et al. Lofty personal expectations, but you have to love his confidence.

Now the draft gets interesting.

More from 2008 NBA Draft night after the jump…

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2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jun. 26, 2008 at 4:17pm in NBA

Jermaine O’Neal and T.J. Ford to be Smuggled Across the Border

June 26, 2008

Jermaine O’Neal and Rasho Nesterovic

According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “The Indiana Pacers have agreed in principle to send six-time All-Star Jermaine O’Neal to the Toronto Raptors for point guard T.J. Ford and the 17th pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.” The story has been backed up by the Toronto Star and Indianapolis Star, so it’s as done as a deal can be before league approval. The trade is still pending all players involved passing their physicals (no easy task with Ford and O’Neal recently), but word is that it’s gotten to this point after recent medical information allayed the concerns of both teams.

I’m usually one to look for what will go wrong with a trade, but frankly this one just makes a lot of sense. It allows both teams to unload a player they didn’t have in their long-term plans and one injury risk is swapped for another. It also gives both teams a degree of financial flexibility when they would prefer to have it while filling a serious need for each. Basically, it’s what an NBA trade should be: a calculated gamble that makes financial and basketball sense. And because it pushes each team in the right direction for this season and beyond, even the casual fan can get behind it.

Jermaine O’Neal and Rasho Nesterovic Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Toronto figures to be a contender in the East in 2008-09 and Indiana doesn’t, so we’ll start with what this deal does for the Raptors. After a decent start to the season they faded in the second half amid a point guard controversy. As they started to fall in the standings Chris Bosh, the face of the franchise, publicly opined that the Raptors were “too soft.” He was right, and Bosh playing center was part of the problem. GM Bryan Colangelo has built a decidedly Euro team around shooters finesse players. They had no interior presence on the defensive end of the floor and undrafted 27-year-old rookie SF Jamario Moon was their best shot blocker.

After compiling a 41-41 record in the regular season Toronto was quickly dispatched by the Orlando Magic in the first round because they simply had no answer for the overpowering Dwight Howard. That will happen when you have starting center and power forward duo of Chris Bosh and Radoslav Nesterovich.

When the hot rumors had Jermaine O’Neal going to the Cleveland Cavaliers we talked about what a healthy Jermaine can bring. When healthy he brings an inside presence on both ends that nobody on the Toronto roster provides. This is a three-time All-NBA player and six-time NBA All-Star who finished third in the MVP voting for 2003-04. He can be a dynamic low-post defensive presence and interior scorer. A front line of Moon, Bosh and O’Neal should be considerably less soft and give Toronto an answer for NBA centers like Howard.

Why this deal works for the Pacers after the jump…

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3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 26, 2008 at 12:07am in ETB Articles, NBA

NBA Offseason Trade Rumors – Detroit Pistons Interested in Baron Davis?

June 25, 2008

Baron Davis is not so happy in Golden StateRumor: The Golden State Warriors have had trade discussions with the Detroit Pistons about a deal that could include Baron Davis, Al Harrington, Chauncey Billups, and Rasheed Wallace.

Source: Contra Costa Times

Analysis:

Just a few days after seeing his name bandied about in trade rumors involving the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons All-Star PG Chauncey Billups has again found himself the subject of speculation.

This time it’s with the Golden State Warriors and a swap with Baron Davis, whose relationship with head coach Don Nelson seems to have soured. Tack on the hefty $17 million he’ll make in the final year of his contract next season—and the fact that GM Chris Mullin is getting ready to pony up big bucks to keep restricted free agents Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis this summer—and it’s not surprising to see Davis mentioned in NBA trade rumors.

According to the report in the Contra Costa Times, the Pistons initiated the conversation and talked about a deal that would also include a swap of versatile big men Al Harrington and Rasheed Wallace. Though Chris McCoskey of the Detroit News claims this rumor is a complete fabrication, it doesn’t seem completely unfathomable to me.

Baron Davis Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Wallace would give the Warriors the strong overall defensive presence in the post they’ve lacked for what feels like forever (Biedrins is a great shot-blocker but can be pushed around and beaten with ease by bigger centers/forwards), and ‘Sheed’s penchant for drifting out to the three-point line is exactly in line with the Warriors’ current offensive philosophy of chucking at will from anywhere and everywhere past the half-court line.

Though a few years older, Billups shares many of the same qualities with Davis—big, excellent long-range shooter, takes and makes big shots—but is less of a health risk and is locked up for years to come. Davis will almost certainly test the free-agent waters next summer and at the moment looks like he’d prefer to leave. Billups’ contract is actually relatively reasonable at about $50 million over the next 4 years (team option the last year)… reasonable assuming that he stays healthy and keeps his conditioning up.

The Pistons would get significantly younger and more athletic in welcoming Davis and Harrington, though Davis would almost certainly need to agree to opt out of his current deal and renegotiate a new one with the Pistons. That is, of course, unless Dumars is ready and willing to rent him for one season, then see his contract come off the books. The versatile, 6-9 Harrington is an interesting player: very talented, can play any frontcourt position, a bit weak on defense, and has bounced around some since the Pacers traded him to Atlanta following the 2004 season. Davis is one of my favorite players in today’s NBA, and though there are injury concerns he’s a dynamic, charismatic dude who’d fit in well with the Pistons. I’d personally love to see him land in Detroit.

That said, I think there’s a very slim chance of this happening. With Rodney Stuckey waiting in the wings at point guard, trading for Davis or another PG like him doesn’t fit with Dumars’ outlook of the team and where he wants to improve it… again, unless he is looking for a one-year renter.

One thing is for certain: Chauncey Billups will continue to be the subject of trade rumors all summer long until something happens one way or the other.

Related: Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Al Harrington, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jun. 25, 2008 at 4:39pm in NBA

NBA Offseason Trade Rumors – Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson on the Trading Block?

June 24, 2008

Denver's two superstars find themselves being talked about in trades

Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Rumor: Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, and/or Allen Iverson have been mentioned in possible trade discussions with the Detroit Pistons.

Source: ESPN

Analysis:

After being eliminated in the first round yet again despite employing one defensive and two offensive superstars—all three of which are being paid rather handsomely—the Denver Nuggets are understandably looking to shake things up.

The Detroit Pistons advanced to their sixth straight Eastern Conference Finals only to lose for the fifth time and fail to return to the NBA Finals for the first time since they won it in 2004. Their head coach has already been fired, and GM Joe Dumars has made it very clear that he thinks his core group has grown too complacent playing with each other. Changes, possibly big ones, could be on the way.

It would make sense that these two teams be linked in early offseason trade rumors. The Pistons could use a young, up-and-coming superstar who can score with the best of ‘em most nights (Anthony), while Iverson is one of the most intense All-Stars not only of his generation, but in NBA history. He’d give the Pistons—or any team for that matter—a dynamic, scrappy scorer who’s somewhat of a man-to-man defensive liability but who plays the passing lanes as well as anybody. And while some question his leadership skills, nobody can say that he doesn’t leave it all out on the court every night. The man is hungry for a championship ring, and he’d no doubt endear himself to Pistons fans immediately.

The Nuggets, on the other hand, need some backbone. They’re sure as hell fun to watch, but their style of all-offense, no-defense basketball hasn’t translated well to the postseason. Most successful NBA teams need a solid, steadying presence at the point who can not only play at a high level but also help put his teammates in a position to succeed and help get them where they need to be; that’s Denver native Chauncey Billups. And Pistons’ do-it-all starting small forward Tayshaun Prince would be a fine replacement for Anthony should the 24-year-old be involved in a trade. Prince is capable of averaging 16+ points in an uptempo offense and is usually up to the challenge of playing tough defense on the opposing teams’ top wing scorer.

Conflicting reports have been flying these past few weeks. First it was Dumars inquiring about Anthony. Then it was the Nuggets inquiring about Billups and Dumars countering with Billups and Prince for Anthony and change. Then it was Denver counter-countering with packages centered around Iverson and/or Marcus Camby for Prince and Billups and Dumars passing. The latest is that Denver has assured Anthony and his agent that he will not be traded.

Could these two teams still swing a blockbuster deal this summer?

More on the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors after the break…

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10 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jun. 24, 2008 at 12:23am in ETB Articles, NBA

Shaquille O’ Neal Still Keeping It Classy

June 23, 2008

Shaquille O'Neal is a pratI’ve met third-graders with more maturity and self-esteem than Shaquille O’Neal has.

O’Neal, whose game has been in steady decline for the past half decade and who saw his Phoenix Suns eliminated in the first round of the 2008 NBA playoffs, has proven yet again what a classy ambassador for the Association he truly is by getting onstage at an NYC club Sunday night and freestyling childish rhymes about Kobe Bryant:

Shaquille O’Neal took the mic at a NYC club last night, unleashing a freestyle verbal assault directed at his arch-enemy Kobe Bryant. After spending several verses shredding Kobe apart for losing in the NBA playoffs, Shaq drops the line, “I’m a horse, Kobe ratted me out, that’s why I’m getting divorced.”

Apparently unaware that his “rap career” has been dead and gone for over a decade after never really taking off in the first place, the modern-day Stay Puft Marshmallow Man exhibited zero flow and even less vocabulary in dropping such brilliant rhymes like “that’s like a white boy trying to be more n**ger than me,” “it’s like Kareem saying to himself he’s better than me,” and of course “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.”

Shaquille O’Neal Photo Credit: Icon SMI

I’m sure a few of you live in constant amusement of Shaquille O’Neal; that’s fine, different strokes for different folks. You already know, however, that we here at ETB think Shaquille O’Neal is probably the most petulent player in the history of the NBA. Like the spat earlier this year with Pat Riley, what does O’Neal stand to gain from this? What does he have to prove to anybody after winning all those rings, being named to all those All-Star games, and being a shoo-in for induction into the NBA Hall of Fame?

And don’t tell us we don’t have any sense of humor. Please. We simply don’t understand his appeal on any level, don’t understand why he gets a free pass for all of his assinine and at times downright offensive behavior, and we certainly don’t think his tired quips and jokes are the least bit funny.

We’re no Kobe Bryant apologists. The league’s reigning MVP has more than his fair share of problems, and we wouldn’t doubt if he lashes back out at Shaq in an equally juvenile act of he said she said. The fact remains, however, that O’Neal’s egotistical posturing and megalomaniac complex has worn beyond thin, and we’re counting down the days until he walks off a NBA court for the very last time. It can’t come soon enough.

Related: Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant

3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jun. 23, 2008 at 8:11pm in NBA

Postcards From LA, Vol. 19: One Lakers Fan Tracks His Team Through the NBA Playoffs

June 19, 2008

The Last Postcard From LA

As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers’ postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition: the devastating loss sinks in.

“Gasol was great (36 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 blocks), Kobe superb when he needed to be in the fourth (scoring 18 of his 32 in the last eight minutes), and Odom extremely solid (17 points, 14 rebounds).”

That’s what I wrote in Volume 1 of this adventure after the Lakers polished off the Denver Nuggets 128-114 in Game 1 of their first round series almost two months ago. I had no idea how far The Lake Show would go in the playoffs then – anything seemed possible with this team; an ugly first round exit or a rousing run to a title.

That Sunday afternoon in late April, after playing a splendid offensive game (but little defense – a sign of things to come), everything seemed possible, and it looked like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were finally going to shed their soft, not-clutch-player labels and take their place next to Kobe as consistent stars – Kobe, of course, always doing the heavy lifting, closing out games and such.

Sadly, as beautiful as it started, the Lakers postseason journey came to an equally ugly end, a 131-92 drubbing that was truly fucking awful to behold.

There’s simply no way to sugarcoat it – profanity is required. Even a day removed from the embarrassment it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The Lakers simply did not show up in the first half and looked like they wanted to be anywhere but on the court. Their dispirited and tentative play was truly painful to witness.

LA shot just 30% from the field in the first half and coughed up 11 turnovers which led to 19 Celtics points and Boston, behind 17 points from an energetic KG and 10 points and 9 assists from Paul Pierce, closed the first half on a 26-6 run for a 58-35 halftime advantage.

Game and series over.

Diminished expectations for the franchise after the jump…

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6 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Jun. 19, 2008 at 1:47pm in NBA

Super Dave Osboune is No Reggie Miller

June 19, 2008

We’re still trying to decide which is worse: Reggie’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” haircut or Super Dave’s spleen joke. Tough call.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell and Brian Spencer on Jun. 19, 2008 at 12:13pm in NBA

Reading is Great! Wednesday’s NBA Rumors, Breaking News, and Blog Links

June 18, 2008

Doc Rivers thinks reading is GREAT!

- Talk Hoops – KG won a title his way, without becoming another selfish superstar.
- Sporcle – The Celtics are your 2007-08 NBA Champs. Can you name the rest?
- Celtics Blog – A sneak peak at the 2008-09 Boston Celtics Calendar cover model.
- The Boston Globe – “131-92. Embrace it. Ogle it. Relish it. But, above all, believe it.”
- 20 Second Timeout – Boston dominated Los Angeles in every conceivable way.
- Sporting Blog – Collect picks, swindle lottery teams, add a dash of defense and serve.
- Ball Don’t Lie – Boston’s victory provided reassurances in all that we believe about hoop.
- Rajon Rondo Blog – “Now we celebrate and I get to share this with all the great players….”
- Fanhouse – The 2007-08 NBA season has been utterly absurd. In a good way.
- Awful Announcing – Brian Scalabrine made the most of his interview opportunity.
- MSNBC – Kevin Garnett, not Finals MVP Paul Pierce, to be featured on a Wheaties box.
- Free Press – The Pistons will most likely either trade for Melo or T-Mac or do nothing.
- ESPN – Now Ron Ron is “99% sure” he won’t opt out of his Kings contract.
- Charlotte Observer – Prospects don’t even want to work out for the Bobcats.
- Dallas News – Let’s not kid ourselves, the Olympics are about money, not sport.

And finally, Boston Celtics fans in calm contemplation over the victory:

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 18, 2008 at 12:18pm in NBA

Our Congratulations, Kudos and Hats Off to the Boston Celtics (and Kevin Garnett)

June 18, 2008

The Boston Celtics Win the NBA Championship

Paul Pierce Photo Credit: Icon SMI


“I can be better. I will be better.”
- Kevin Garnett

Congratulations are in order for everyone in the Celtics organization. Everyone in the rotation, coaching staff and front office. We knew you had it in you.

Without question, the Boston Celtics were the most complete team in the NBA this season.

There’s no way Boston wins this title without contributions from key free-agent acquisitions like James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House and Sam Cassell. There’s no way they win this without the strong play from homegrown Celtics like Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins. And there’s certainly no way they win this NBA Championship without the brilliant trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The stars and the role players have earned this title.

Kudos to all of those players, and kudos to Danny Ainge and the front office for assembling these players. Kudos to Doc Rivers for assimilating all of the talent and managing the minutes and egos with aplomb. Kudos to Tom Thibodeau for spearheading the defensive strategy from the bench for one of the best team defenses in NBA history, and kudos to the rest of the assistant coaches. They all deserve this title as well.

But the person Empty the Bench is most pleased to see win the 2008 Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy is one Kevin Maurice Garnett. The Big Ticket. Da Kid. The Franchise. KG. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year and, in the interest of full disclosure, my favorite professional athlete in all of sport. After futilely working his ass of night in and night out, season after season for 12 years for an inert, inept and incompetent franchise Mr. Garnett finally won the ring and recognition he so richly deserves.

Sure, Paul Pierce is the better scorer, Ray Allen is the better outside shooter and Rajon Rondo is the better passer. But Garnett has been the proverbial fire under the Celtics collective asses since the moment he arrived in Boston. He’s been their soul. Kevin put together a stellar, efficient season as the unquestioned emotional and defensive leader of this squad. And after a mediocre series KG finally came up huge in this decisive Game 6.

Setting aside the dramatic comebacks that we’ve seen in the last week, this game and this series was over at halftime as the Celtics went into the locker room with a 58-35 advantage. Boston never looked back after taking that commanding lead into the half, a lead that was largely built by the strong play of Garnett. In nearly 19 minutes of first-half action KG was 8-12 from the field for 17 points, 6 boards and 3 assists. The Los Angeles Lakers managed just 8 field goals as a team in the first half while Garnett put in that many himself — including a dramatic three-point play in which he seemed to hover in the air, waiting as gravity and the temptation to foul took hold of lesser men, before kissing it off the glass.

Hell, he only had 1 offensive rebound at the half and that was more than the overmatched Lakers front line could muster. Garnett has never been and will never be an elite scorer, but his defense and hustle are legendary. It was that defense that held Lakers big men Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to just 10 points on 2-9 shooting with 5 TOs in the first half.

Kevin Garnett finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 0 turnovers on 10-18 FGs and 6-7 FTs.

Oh, and add one ring and one Larry O’Brien Trophy to those stats.

As confetti fell from the rafters and Queen blasted over the PA system the insipid Michelle Tafoya tried to interview the biggest little kid in the world. But NBA’s resident bundle of energy and most compelling psychology wasn’t exactly ready to put himself into words as he spewed a stream of incoherent nonsense and profanity. It was just sinking in that he had really earned an NBA title after a sisyphusian career of hard work and futility. The most conscientious and emotional athlete I have ever had the pleasure of following had finally proven to the world he wasn’t a loser.


“This is for everybody in ‘Sota [Minnesota], this is for everybody in Chicago… and my Momma. I made it Ma, top ‘o the world!”

(Thanks Odenized)

Related: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins

4 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 18, 2008 at 12:17am in ETB Articles, NBA

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