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Court Vision: Scottie Pippen cleared in alleged Malibu restaurant fight

Scottie Pippen (left) will not face charges related to an alleged assault at a bar. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment) Scottie Pippen (left) will not face charges related to an alleged assault at a California restaurant. (Kevin Winter/ Getty Images Entertainment)

• Remember that incident, from back in June, when Scottie Pippen was questioned by police for allegedly punching a fan at a Malibu, Calif., restaurant? The Associated Press reports that Pippen will not be charged, although he still faces a $4 million lawsuit filed by his alleged victim.

Prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence against Pippen, who was dining with his family June 24 when he was approached by Camran Shafighi inside Nobu restaurant, a celebrity hangout on the beach in Malibu. They said Shafighi had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for driving and exaggerated injuries that were deemed minor.

The fight occurred outside the restaurant after Shafighi asked to have his photo taken with Pippen. Authorities said Shafighi followed Pippen outside into the parking lot and asked for another photo and an autograph from Pippen, who said no.

Pippen told investigators that Shafighi was irate, "grabbing at him, cursing him and then spit in his face,'' according to a report by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Pippen admitted he spit at Shafighi and pushed him away, but it's unclear whether Pippen was the aggressor or acting in self-defense, based on witness accounts.

...

"This shakedown artist was drunk, screaming racial slurs, and assaulted my client and his family,'' said Pippen's attorney, Mark Geragos. "Scottie and his family are grateful to the sheriff for their investigation and DA for their decision to reject these unfounded charges. Scottie and his family plan on holding this man accountable for his outrageous actions.''

• Zarar Siddiqi of RaptorsRepublic.com launched a contest to re-brand the Toronto Raptors. He received dozens of fan submissions, and some are really good. Check out this submission, dubbed "Clean Cut Huskies."

A proposed redesign of the Raptors jerseys. (RaptorsRepublic.com)

• Tom Ziller weighs in on Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson, two polarizing, oft-criticized perennial All-Stars who decided to call it a career this month.

Those sleepy eyes always betrayed how hard McGrady worked on the court. (In an incredibly ironic twist, sleep therapy once helped T-Mac get through a bout with his back.) For a spell, McGrady was the NBA's best perimeter player. For an extended stretch -- somewhere between five and eight years -- he was behind only Kobe Bryant and occasionally Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. McGrady had some of the most bombastic scoring performances in history and won a whole lot of games in Houston. Those Rockets weren't very well balanced outside of T-Mac and Yao Ming, and McGrady took the heat. (This is to say nothing of Jeff Van Gundy's insistence toward a slow style that negated some of McGrady's natural gifts.)

No one ever questioned Iverson's will; it was more his intent or motive. He got the selfish knock not because he didn't work hard enough on the court, but because he wouldn't share the ball an amount deemed appropriate for a 6-foot guard.

• Bethlehem Shoals digs into McGrady and Iverson -- while adding Lamar Odom to the mix -- over at GQ.com.

There's obviously a world of difference between retirement and confounding public scandal. Yet the parallel is oddly appropriate, given their respective roles in basketball at the turn of the millennium. AI and T-Mac were major figures; they may have been divisive, but at least everybody knew what the fight was over. Odom, the insider's choice, was an impenetrable code. He came out of Queens as one of NYC's last great basketball hopes, a Frankenstein-like mélange of skill who could keep you from scoffing at the Magic Johnson comparisons. As part of a stacked young Clippers squad, Odom was often the best player on the floor, even if it took a trained eye to notice. To the casual viewer, he was little more than a wraith.

•  Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star sought out McGrady's old coach, Butch Carter, for some reminiscing.

“Tracy convinced me that some guys don’t need to go to college to be pros,” Butch Carter said. “He was totally committed to his craft. ... By the second half of his third (and final) season in Toronto, he was consistently the best player in practice.”

That’d be the best player on the Raptors including Vince Carter.

“T-Mac was just awesome for me,” Butch Carter said. “Considering where Tracy McGrady came from and what he accomplished, it’s miraculous. Because Tracy had none of the support systems guys normally get to give them a chance. He was taken out of a small Florida hometown, shipped off to (a prep school in) North Carolina when he’d never been away from home. And then shipped to a foreign country. Tracy McGrady is the first high school player that had to play in a foreign country.”

• Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com has a thorough Pacific Division preview, which is heavy on thoughts from a Western Conference scout. Some of his thoughts on the Warriors...

-- "I thought something that was interesting this summer was that they lost Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry to free agency. Steph Curry was the best player on the team, but those two guys were like the heart and soul. Every night, game-in and game-out, you would get a really good effort from those two guys especially. Every night off the bench those guys were catalysts. They played hard. Every night they played with consistency and with kind of a passion. I think they’re really going to feel the loss of those two guys."

-- "I like the addition of Toney Douglas. I also like the addition of Jermaine O’Neal. Marreese Speights is a guy who can really shoot the ball from midrange -- the elbows and short corners and maybe out to about college 3 -- he’s a really solid stretch big."

-- "Iguodala will certainly help them with defense. I think they thought that was kind of a weakness last year. Although Harrison Barnes is a tremendous rookie, I think they felt like they needed to upgrade that position. They certainly did."

• John Schuhmann of NBA.com crunched the numbers to conclude that the Heat and Thunder possess the highest percentage of returning minutes from last year. 

• Zach Lowe of Grantland.com explores the Blazers' upcoming season, turning up the heat on Portland's defense.

Even when Portland executed 80 percent of its defense correctly, it still failed. Playing this way required an on-a-string cohesion these guys just didn't have. Inexperience accounted for some of that; NBA defense is hard stuff, and in Lillard, Leonard, Freeland, Will Barton, and others, the Blazers gave minutes to a lot of guys who had played almost none of it.

But some of the failure stems from the lack of a standout defender on the roster. Aldridge has been solid, and often better, but he was not there last season. Matthews might be the team's best defender; he's feisty, smart, and hyper-alert, but he can only do so much with his God-given size and athleticism. Batum looks the part, but even his fans within the organization would admit he's become overrated on that end. He has the speed and length to guard multiple positions, and he has put it all together for occasional stirring stretches of defense and highlight chase-down blocks.

But there's no real evidence Batum is a consistently good NBA defender — yet.

• Jared Dubin runs down the Nets' summer at Hardwood Paroxysm.

The firepower on this team is SERIOUS. The Nets sported a top-10 offense last season even with black holes like Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace soaking up a ton of minutes; they should easily do the same this year, and could vault into the top-5 or even threaten the top spot overall. Williams will run the show, of course, but the low post play of Lopez, the defense-stretching jumper of Garnett, the herky-jerky all-around game of Pierce (and Kirilenko) and Joe Johnson-ness of Joe Johnson should prove too much for even the staunchest defensive units to slow down on most nights.
• The early projections over at Wages of Wins love the Rockets and hate the Lakers.

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