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THE SECOND HALF | by Mark Heisler

QUOTAGE

THAT’S NOT HOW WE

REMEMBER IT

Former Laker Kwame Brown, above, on joining the Memphis Grizzlies:

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“This could be a fortunate situation for me. I didn’t get to play much out in L.A.”

THANKS, MEMPHIS

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich on the Pau Gasol trade:

“What they were thinking in Memphis is beyond comprehension. There should be a law, a trade committee that can scratch off trades that make no sense. . . . I’d like to elect myself to that committee. And I would have voted ‘nay’ on the L.A. trade.”

PROBLEMS MATCHING UP

Toronto Coach Sam Mitchell, on the Suns’ acquisition of Shaquille O’Neal:

“Let me see, they couldn’t beat San Antonio with San Antonio’s size, they couldn’t beat New Orleans this year, they struggle with Dallas and they couldn’t beat the Lakers with [Andrew] Bynum and now they’ve got Bynum and [Pau] Gasol.”

YOU HAVE TO START SOMEWHERE

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Phoenix Coach Mike D’Antoni, on O’Neal’s announcement that his resume needs five or six titles:

“Mine needs one.”

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LOOKING AHEAD

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With Shaquille O’Neal saying he hopes to make his Phoenix debut before the All-Star break, he’ll have three chances, with the likeliest being Thursday’s home game against Dallas.

If he winds up coming back after the break, the Suns’ first game will be at home Feb. 20 -- against the Lakers.

Not that we anticipate much interest in that game but we may hold a staff meeting in the press lounge beforehand.

Whenever O’Neal returns, his ability to stay up with the fast-moving Suns will be closely scrutinized.

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Everything else looms as a positive. Slowed as O’Neal is, his massive presence should help their defense since Amare Stoudemire was not only small to play opposing centers but upset that he was asked to.

O’Neal will be a major plus in their heretofore whiny dressing room, which will mean a lot, if he can still play.

--

THE TIMES’ RANKINGS

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RANKINGS, COMMENTS (WITH LAST WEEK’S RANK)

RESHUFFLING CANDIDATES HOURLY

1. DETROIT (36-13)

Legends in their own minds take it on the floor, winning 28 of 36. (2)

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2. BOSTON (38-9)

First Patriots, now KG Garnett! How much can Bill Simmons take? (1)

3. (tie) SAN ANTONIO (32-16)

Darned if they aren’t 4-0 without Parker since starting Rodeo Trip 0-2. (6)

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3. (tie) PHOENIX (35-15)

Song without end: Shaq and Kobe, Shaq vs. Kobe. (3)

3. (tie) LAKERS (32-17)

Who else could go from summer’s days of rage to MVP candidate? (8)

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3. (tie) DALLAS (34-15)

Will Mark Cuban sit there and watch everyone else make deals? (5)

3. (tie) UTAH (33-19)

What, him upset? Non-All-Star Williams greases rival Chris Paul, 29-6. (7)

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8. NEW ORLEANS (34-15)

Reality check: After eye-popping 17-2 run, lost three of five. (4)

SOME ON WAY UP, SOME ON WAY DOWN

9. HOUSTON (30-20)

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On 15-3 run as other three teams seeking last two playoff slots tread water. (11)

10. CLEVELAND (28-21)

Still have LeBron though: Just won 14th of 18 without four rotation players.(12)

11. ORLANDO (32-20)

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Best team that still isn’t decided on starter at either guard spot. (9)

12. DENVER (30-19)

Karl calls game on their floor vs. Utah season’s biggest. Jazz wins it. (13)

13. GOLDEN STATE (30-20)

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Is this some movie project about old guy playing in NBA we don’t know about? (10)

14. TORONTO (26-21)

Bargnani averaged 5.3 in December, 21 over his last four games. (16)

15. PORTLAND (28-22)

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Kids officially up past their bedtime, 6-9 since end of their 17-1 run. (14)

16. SACRAMENTO (21-25)

Just went 8-3 as Theus continues to impress toughest critics, his peers.(19)

17. WASHINGTON (24-25)

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East down to five teams over .500 as they go 0-6 with Butler out again. (15)

STILL IN (GAG ME) EAST RACE

18. NEW JERSEY (21-29)

Who else could get 12 triple-doubles while trying to get out of there? (18)

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19. ATLANTA (21-26)

They’ve lost 14 of 21 with six of next seven on road where they’re 6-16. (17

20. INDIANA (21-30)

Kareem Rush finds a home, scoring 19 or more five times since Jan. 1. (20)

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21. CHICAGO (20-30)

Free Agents R Us: Deng, Gordon played total of two games since Jan. 21. (22)

22. PHILADELPHIA (21-30)

Nobodies: No all-star, in any of the contests or even rookie-sophomore game. (23)

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23. MILWAUKEE (19-32)

Who put that wall there? Yi Jianlian averaged 12 in December, 7.1 since. (21)

FOULED UP BEYOND ALL RECOGNITION

24. CHARLOTTE (18-32)

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Wheels fall off: Playoff contenders in their own mind go 0-5. (24)

25. CLIPPERS (16-32)

Wavy Gravy’s little bit of heaven in a disaster area: Thornton happening. (27)

26. NEW YORK (15-36)

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Tied for worst start after 50 games in their history -- with Larry Brown team.(26)

27. MINNESOTA (10-38)

Miked-up Wittman fumes through Celtics loss, sounds like coach in trouble. (25)

28. MEMPHIS (13-37)

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Headline in Memphis Commercial Appeal: ‘Gasol for what?’ (28)

29. SEATTLE (13-37)

Will Clay Bennett just sit there and watch everyone else dump players? (29)

BLACK HOLE OF MIAMI

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30. MIAMI (9-39)

Happy days there again: Riley compares Wade-Marion to Jordan-Pippen. (30)


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