By Ben Golliver
• Russell Westbrook discusses his unique fashion sense with Lang Whitaker in a GQ interview.
GQ: Now as you've aged and you can buy your own stuff, what's interesting to you?
Russell Westbrook: I look for the different stuff, man. I'm confident in some of the things that I wear, regardless of what other people are wearing. I just try to find what looks good on me. I shop all the time, basically every day, whether it's online or in every city we go to.
GQ: Were you like that in high school and college too? Were you concerned with the way you looked then?
Russell Westbrook: In college I didn't dress up every day, for class or stuff like that, but when it came time to do certain things I'd dress up for sure.
GQ: What did you wear to the prom in high school?
Russell Westbrook: I had an all-white tux with a turquoise vest, and some white-and-turquoise Stacy Adams. I won best dressed at prom.
• Jessica Camerato of CSNNE.com with a jaw-dropping profile of Celtics guard Leandro Barbosa, who opens up about his tough childhood, his mother's kidnapping and his mother-in-law's search for a kidney.
"My mother-in-law, she's in a coma," Barbosa told CSNNE.com. "I have to go and try to help, so it's kind of hard. At the same time, I have a job and I have to be here, so I had to come back. The situation is still going on."
Barbosa's mother-on-law needs a kidney transplant to survive. Last month she was placed in a medically-induced coma while doctors attempt to find a donor. Barbosa has been juggling the NBA schedule with a race against time to help his family. They look to him for a source of strength.
"The doctors were telling me she could have passed away any minute because she needed kidneys," he said. "She's in a line to get the kidneys so we're trying to figure what we can do to have them. I've been talking to some of the people here in America and internationally to see what we can do to fly kidneys over there, but it's a lot of work. It's hard. We know that she's in that situation that she can pass on."
Instead, the Suns should make this a slower rebuild. Their best shot at the talent they need to build around will come through the draft. Phoenix will have at least its own lottery pick and could improbably get a second if the Lakers miss the playoffs, thanks to this past summer's Nash sign-and-trade. Nobody is pulling harder for the Lakers to struggle than Phoenix, because if the Lakers do make the playoffs, their pick will go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Suns will end up with Miami's first-round pick, which surely will fall to late in the round.
But if the Lakers land in the lottery, their pick goes to Phoenix without any protection. Between the two selections, Hollinger's Playoff Odds show the Suns landing the top pick 12.5 percent of the time. They are also likely to get a third first-rounder from the Grizzlies via the Timberwolves in the Wesley Johnson trade.
I played T-Mac. I cooked him. Roasted him. Wasn’t even close. Ask him, he’ll tell you. When I was about 20, we were in Germany doing some promotional stuff for that other sneaker company and we played basketball every day. We were in the gym all the time. We played three games of one-on-one to 11. I won all three games. One game I won 11-2. After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn’t play anymore.
• On Twitter, McGrady disputes that account.
@mheatfan631 LOL Hell no! That's far from the truth. No one in the NBA is playing 1 on 1. Me and KB never went to Germany together either..
— Tracy McGrady (@Real_T_Mac) January 18, 2013
• Bryant only ranks No. 8 in an SI.com video list of the greatest one-on-one players in the NBA right now.
• Professional basketball player Rod Benson writes that he doesn't believe performance-enhancing drugs are a problem in the NBA.
The only time basketball players use the word “steroids” is when making fun of some dude on their team who is just big for no reason. My current teammate, Ira Clark, is pretty jacked, so it’s funny to say things like “lay off the juice, homie!” But I’ve never meant it.
My reason is that I have literally never seen PEDs, seen another guy doing them, or heard of anyone doing anything like that in my entire life. Granted, I’m not in the NBA, but I’m still a part of the hoop fraternity, and it’s never come up. I’ve even recently asked numerous other players if they suspect anyone of having used PEDs, and they all say no. I may get a “well that MF-er Dwight is pretty damn big,” but even that is half-hearted. I’d say that at least guarantees that it’s not a steroid culture like people have claimed baseball to be during the home run record chase.
This good-but-not-good-enough status leaves San Antonio in a predicament. The team could choose to show respect to the old guard and let the Duncan-Ginobili-Parker trio chase Finals glory one more time, or the Spurs could buck nostalgia and seek to make a deal between now and the February 21 trade deadline.
Thanks to a series of shrewd moves by their excellent front office, San Antonio is well-positioned to make a major move in the coming weeks, should they choose to do so. They have a large expiring contract (Stephen Jackson), a good big in his prime (Tiago Splitter), a desirable young player on a cheap deal (Kawhi Leonard), an intriguing young prospect (Nando de Colo), and a full allotment of first-round picks.
• Ken Berger of CBSSports.com details the hot water that NBPA executive director Billy Hunter finds himself in after an independent investigation into "allegations of nepotism, conflicts of interest and the potential misuse of union funds."
Above all, the report called into question the validity of Hunter's employment contract, stating that "no serious question exists" that Hunter's 2011 contract extension –- worth as much as $18 million -- was not approved by the union's player representatives (one per team), in violation of the NBPA's constitution and bylaws. The report recommended that the executive committee and player reps should decide at All-Star meetings next month whether to ratify Hunter's contract retroactively or permit him to continue as executive director and properly approve a new contract.
In a lengthy statement hours after this meticulous indictment of his leadership of the union was released to the public, Hunter stated that he believes his contract is valid since it was approved by the executive committee and signed by Fisher.
"I look forward to continuing my work with the NBPA," Hunter said.
In light of Thursday's report, such an outcome is unfathomable –- provided enough players suddenly decide to care about things hardly any of them questioned for years. There were signs Thursday of an awakening among the union membership, as one player who had reviewed the report told CBSSports.com, "It speaks for itself."
• Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins on the Heat's win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Heat came to Staples Center on Thursday at the end of a nine-day road trip and on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers had won two in a row, which for them constitutes an extended streak, and they had their full complement of stars because Pau Gasol was back from a concussion. In what was once considered a Finals preview, before anyone actually saw Steve Nash or Dwight Howard in a gold uniform, the Lakers did what they failed to do in the first two months. They worked. They scrapped. They defended. Despite 20 turnovers, and a dearth of easy baskets, they somehow clawed their way to a tie score with two-and-a-half minutes left.
The Heat still won, 99-90, for the same reason they are still favorites to repeat. In a way, this game could be emblematic of this season. The Lakers made a bunch of shiny moves. The Clippers built a potent bench. The Knicks got off to a fast start. Kevin Durant became an all-around force. But, in the end, it may not matter because LeBron James remains in Miami. While Kobe Bryant was launching contested fade-aways, and actually hitting some of them, James was charging into the middle of the Lakers squishy defense, finishing with a barrage of lay-ups, reverse lay-ups and ferocious jams reminiscent of last spring. "You've got to marvel at what he did," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.
• Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports writes that there was nothing left for Kobe Bryant to do but compliment James.
"He's one of the best we've ever seen," Bryant said about James. "Metta [World Peace] was up for the challenge. But LeBron made some tough shots."
Bryant is a future Hall of Famer who will end his career as one of the greatest ever. He doesn't give compliments easily. On Thursday, he didn't spare the praise for James.
"Incredible performance," Bryant said. "He does that consistently though." Bryant used the word "phenomenal" to describe what James called just another game.
Bennett should also get a long look here. The power forward spot might be the weakest for the Bobcats right now. Mullens, who's playing out of position, has been solid. Tyrus Thomas and Hakim Warrick just aren't cutting it. Bennett is a bit undersized for the position, but he's long, super athletic and can really score from anywhere on the floor. He also has a NBA-ready game and should be able to come and be an upgrade from Day 1.• SportsRadioInterviews.com has a transcript of former Lakers coach Mike Brown discussing his dismissal on 790 AM in Miami.
I've heard the Bobcats are big Bennett fans. While I currently haven't had a team tell me he's atop its draft board, I could see the Bobcats being a team that leans in that direction. He's a good fit for their needs, can be an immediate impact player. Maybe he can resurrect the legacy of Larry Johnson (who is actually a pretty good comp for Bennett) not only in Vegas, but in Charlotte, too.