by Lang Whitaker

Fri-day! Yes!

QUOTES OF THE DAY
“He was probably an inch from screaming or crying regardless of a guy cursing his mother. I don’t think anyone can really understand how a passionate artist like Zidane, how difficult it is to handle the closing of your career and it being the deciding (game) of the World Cup final. That’s a lot to take on. You can’t dismiss what he did and make it OK. It was wrong. At the same time, I forgive him. I can’t relate. That would be so difficult to deal with the emotions of the situation.” — Steve Nash, on Zidane.

This is the best run for an NBA player anywhere on the planet. Look at these guys we’ve got in the gym. Where else can you go and have LeBron [James] and Dwyane [Wade] on one side and Carmelo [Anthony] and Chauncey [Billups] on the other? It doesn’t get any better than this. And you know how much I love to play ball, so this is paradise for me. It’s like [Hawks] Coach [Mike] Woodson always says, ‘We’ve got the best job in America.’ There’s not a question that he’s right about that. This is the best job in America right now, hands down.” — Joe Johnson, on training with Team USA.

THE LINKS…
• Tell me this doesn’t look pretty awesome.

• Team USA continues their basketball boot camp out in Vegas, where everyone reports they’re having a good time and don’t want their parents to come pick them up yet. Greg Oden sounds thrilled just to be there. There’s an interesting note in here about the last Team USA, which used NBA balls during practices then showed up at the Olympics and discovered they had to use a completely different ball with a slicker surface. Hey, that Larry Brown, he’s all about preparation.

• Congrats to Nene, who signed his big extension with the Nuggets yesterday. And on the same day that the MVP shaved his head, Nene unveiled his new look, with the full-on jheri curl, looking alarmingly like Jules from Pulp Fiction

If he keeps this up he’s going to look like Nick Ashford by the All Star break.

• New Sonics owner Clayton Bennett gets a glowing profile from the Seattle Times today. Meanwhile, Art Thiel describes how to keep the Sonics in Seattle.

• The Sixers are apparently upping the stakes in the race for Allen Iverson, which means nothing’s happening for a while, at least. Also, check the note about the Celts sniffing around Richard Jefferson.

• The Kings agreed to an arena deal that in principle will keep them in Sacramento through 2040, if Ron Artest doesn’t rip the city apart before then. Love the picture of the arena negotiations here — looks like some real action was happening in there.

• The Nets found out that Josh Boone will be out up to six months recovering from his shoulder injury, and now they’ll go after a free agent to fill his spot. Good thing they didn’t sign Shareef Abdur-Rahim, whose knees certainly turned out to be…well, not a problem at all.

Hundreds of kids turned out in Canada yesterday to see Shave Nash dedicate a basketball court.

Tyson Chandler met the media in N’awlins yesterday. When the Hornets asked him which number he wanted to wear, he said number 3, which he wore as a Bull. Told that was taken by Chris Paul, he chose 6, because he wants to be “twice the player” he was in Chicago. Too bad they won’t let him wear number 3.2 or something like that to more accurately reflect his probable tenure.

• The Spurs signed Francisco Elson. The Jazz re-upped with Collins The Lesser. The BETcats want to keep the underrated Brevin Knight around to run the point. The Rockets are going to sign John Lucas III to a three-year deal.

• Something’s wrong with the John Salmons to Toronto deal, though nobody will say exactly what the hitch is.