Clippers-Celtics Blockbuster Trade (Step 1)

23 06 2013

Before the NBA Finals even had a chance to make its way onto NBATV, the first blockbuster trade of the 2013 NBA summer is upon us. Lob City just became Destination City.

It seemed to be an impossible dream of swapping pieces. Then it suddenly became something actually happening that was only a few pieces from successfully occurring. Then it all died away due to a mutual interest for a certain backup point guard. Then we seemed to be on the doorsteps. Then the Clippers backed off because they felt like they were giving up too much. Then Los Angeles’ star point guard stepped in, said to continue the trades talks and scared his organization half to death. Then the league had questions about the proposed deals and the connections between the two since there can’t be trades with contingencies or side deals. But now, we have a deal. Partially.

The Boston Celtics have begun the destruction of their “Big 3+Coach” core and traded head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2015 unprotected first-round pick, according ESPNBoston’s Jackie MacMullan.

Coach Rivers isn’t technically a part of a trade since teams can’t trade coaches involving players. These two organizations came to an agreement that will give L.A. the coaching rights to Doc after Boston has released their coach and then give Boston draft pick compensation. MacMullan says the length of the deal is still being worked out.

The original deal was for the Celtics to trade Rivers and power forward Kevin Garnett to the Clippers for center DeAnde Jordan and two first-round draft picks. The league intervened, though, because certain contingencies and side deals (which is what Rivers, a coach, would have been) can’t be accounted for under the league’s cap rules, making the trade illegitimate. For the deals to take place, the NBA would have to be convinced that the Rivers deal is completely separate from any player discussions. Well, they were sold.

So that’s where we stand. We’re halfway there…or so we’re not supposed to think. But since the Rivers deal has been completed, we must play dumb and play the waiting game for Garnett to be traded to L.A. If a third team has to join in on the trade, it will happen. The Clippers will do what they must to snatch KG. Trust me—it’s inevitable.

Doc-Garnett L.A.

(With Doc leaving Boston, other than Gregg Popovich, the NBA now has no coach that has been with his team for more than five years. Erik Spoelstra and Rick Carlisle were each hired in 2008. The NFL has nine coaches and the MLB has ten managers that have been with their team more than five years. In terms of security of a job, I would not want to be a coach in the NBA at the moment.)

The Clippers first didn’t want to give up rising guard Eric Bledsoe, and then once he was taken out of the picture, they didn’t want to give up two first-round draft picks. So talks were supposedly “dead.” But once unrestricted free agent (emphasis on unrestricted) Chris Paul twisted his team’s arm to make this idea a reality, the organization started talking to the Celtics again and made the trade discussions start to move forward. And they’ll probably still get to keep Bledsoe.

My initial reaction to all of this is “how long before Garnett is traded and Paul Pierce is bought out by the Celtics and joins his buddies?” (Answer: very soon.) My second is realizing the impact this will have on two All-Star point guards.

Lucky Paul. Poor Rajon Rondo.

This most assuredly guarantees that CP3 will re-sign with the Clippers as he now got his way and his superstar coach of choice. Once the next step of this trade goes through (Garnett), Paul will have a supporting cast ready to seriously compete for a championship right away. (Just look at how quickly the C’s core meshed in 2008 in order to win a championship during their first season together.) Sorry Dallas and Atlanta, looks like CP3 is staying home.

It will also be interesting to see the impact Garnett can have on Blake Griffin once the nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team player heads on over. Will the highlight of all highlight reel dunkers find a way to finally become a defensive force due to the guidance of one of the best team defenders in the league? Or will he shut out Garnett’s serious influence due to his desire to have fun and make KIA commercials?

And on the other end of this trade, you have to feel somewhat bad for Rondo. Not only has he been given the raw end of this deal since he will soon be the sole leader of a team in full rebuilding mode (LaMarcus Aldridge feels his pain), he will likely have one of his worst NBA seasons since his play—and assists per game—is bettered with a strong cast around him. No. 9 isn’t the type of player that can take over a game, team and season without quality help from his teammates.

It is mind-blowing what one free agent signing—CP3—has done for this Clippers’ franchise. Once a place that every budding star wanted out of has transformed into the landing spot for players/coaches who want one last shot at a title. (Well, the city hasn’t changed. The franchise has.)

Doc, Garnett and Pierce will soon get that shot in L.A.

And the Lakers will just have to watch.

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Budinger to Wolves; Howard to Rockets? Orlando Should Say Yes

26 06 2012

And before we even get a chance to take in that one big-time, self-important superstar got his ring, another one might soon be on the move.

After both teams started their 2011-2012 season blazing hot only to cool off down the stretch, the Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed to send their 18th pick in this year’s draft to the Houston Rockets for 3-point specialist Chase Budinger and the draft rights to Isralian professional basketball player Lior Eliyahu, according to two league sources.

Budinger finished his second year with the Rockets averaging 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range. These numbers don’t provide a just representation of his potential or lack there of; the former Arizona Wildcat had moments throughout the season when he looked to be on the verge of breaking out of his NBA shell and others when he needed to sit right back down on the bench. His last two games provide an appropriate representation. After putting up five points in the second to last game of the year, he followed that up with 27 points to finish the season. Changing scenarios could push him in either direction, but one thing is certain: Kevin Love will no longer be the Timberwolves’ leader in 3-point attempts.

It is clear what the Rockets want: Dwight Howard.

Currently in possession of the No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 picks in the draft and also pushing to trade Kyle Lowry and everyone else on the team (literally everyone) for even more draft picks, they are attempting to put together an offer that the Magic just can’t pass up. General Manager Daryl Morey has quickly become aggressive and determined to bring the big man to the franchise.

However, the big man would be a part of the franchise as long as Tyson Chandler lasted with the Dallas Mavericks, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com.

“A source with knowledge of Howard’s thinking said Monday that there was ‘not a chance’ Howard would be persuaded to remain in Houston if traded there, and would leave next summer to sign elsewhere,” Aldridge reported.

Will any of these players be back in a Rockets uniform next season?

The Rockets shouldn’t be surprised since Howard wants to go where he will receive a great deal of attention and where his name will be plastered all over the news media. Houston is not the place to go for that.

But Houston doesn’t care. Why?

9th place and 14th pick. 9th place and 14th pick. 9th place and 14th pick.

The Rockets have driven themselves into basketball irrelevancy, finishing each of the past three seasons literally in the middle of the pack in the exact same spot with the exact same draft pick. As management, this is the point where you must make the conscious decision to “shake things up” no matter the cost or risk.

Bringing in Howard has it’s cost. It has it’s risk. But it puts them right back on the NBA map as they will undoubtedly become somewhat important, increase revenue by simply winning and make the playoffs – finally.

The biggest consequence this could have on the league is it could change Deron Williams’s statement that he will only be going to either the Dallas Mavericks or staying with the Brooklyn Nets.

As he has made clear in one way or another the past few years, the enticing idea of playing with Howard is high on his bucket list. Why shouldn’t it be? These two All-Stars have become good friends through Olympic play and would both love to play with each other. With barely any roster spots currently guaranteed and with enough cap space to sign two max-contract players, the Rockets could do the unthinkable and bring in two game-changing players that play the two most important positions on the floor – if Williams doesn’t mind rooting for the Texas Rangers a few hours outside of Arlington.

Whenever a blockbuster trade is on the verge of taking place, people can’t help but analyze the situation from the perspective of the team that will be getting the main blockbuster piece. Orlando shouldn’t be forgotten since they couldn’t be asking for a better situation.

Obviously, the Rockets are planning something big. They want Howard badly and will gift-wrap just about every single piece that relates to the “future” in their organization. By the time Thursday’s draft arrives, they will most likely have attained a top 10 pick that they have been eyeing – in order to hook Howard, of course. In a draft so deep that Draymond Green and Royce White are projected to go in the 20s, this is the perfect year to stockpile as many picks as possible. They can get just that by working with Houston.

D12 does not know what he wants. In fact, he doesn’t know how to handle not knowing what he wants. As he has shown countless times throughout last season with his wavering attitude literally from day to day and his reliance on others telling him what to do, he is a detriment to a team’s atmosphere. If he wasn’t the best center in the league and didn’t have an larger impact than every other player in the league not named LeBron James or Rajon Rondo, he would already be out of Florida. Orlando should rid themselves of this interminable problem as soon as possible.

The biggest problem in getting this deal done is Rob Hennigan. Since he has been the Magic general manager for less than a week, he wants to do what he wants do. (Clear enough?) He hasn’t even been given the chance to be stressed out with his Howard problem and figure out what type of offers are out there.

But the stress doesn’t need to be there. Sometimes, the first offer is the best offer. Making a trade with the Rockets as soon as possible and getting this monkey off their back couldn’t be better for their organization. After the Seattle Supersonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) traded away Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, who averaged a combined 48.8 of the team’s points during the 2006-2007 season, following yet another disappointing year, they brought in an abundance of youthful pieces. I would say that has somewhat worked out for them…

Unless the Magic enjoy killing their locker room atmosphere, hope that their current All-Star will walk this next offseason or don’t want start anew with some fresh, young talent, they should send Dwight Howard to the Houston Rockets.

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Win or Go Home… Literally

9 06 2012

 

 

 

In honor of this climacteric game, here is Rajon Rondo at his “best.”

 

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Heat and Celtics Fit Stereotype in Game 5

6 06 2012

Sometimes teams receive labels that they can’t seem to shrug off no matter what they do on the actual basketball court. Fans have a tendency to categorize certain players and teams into groupings based on what the media feeds them.

The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics bolstered their preconceived images during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the Men in Green took down the Men from South Beach, 94-90, to take a huge 3-2 series lead.

Even though Boston could not seem to buy a bucket during the first half of the game as they shot only 33 percent from the field, their overall grit that has been necessary for this entire season kept them in the game. However, after Rajon Rondo had an odd mental lapse by nonchalantly passing the ball to Ray Allen from the frontcourt to the backcourt and then Shane Battier hit a corner 3-pointer to take a 57-50 lead, the Heat looked to be in total control of the momentum as there was only 18 minutes left in the crucial Game 5.

It was at this point that the supposed “basketball gods” decided to force these teams to go in different directions – to each have their respective superstars play in a way that they might never be able forget.

With Rondo at the helm orchestrating the offense, the Celtics finished off the last 5:09 of the third quarter on a 15-1 blitz. Think about that – for half of a quarter, a team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing together were unable to put together more points than Greg Stiemsma had during that stint. This should fall on Erik Spoelstra shoulders since the ball and off-the-ball movement seemed to be on holiday as James and Wade were forced to do it all on their own (sounds familiar). Even though Spoelstra has a team with two of the best basketball players in the world that have the power to make plays out of nothing, that doesn’t excuse his team’s lack of execution because of their coach’s lack of effective play calling. Oh, his players also need to make shots. That’s kind of an important part to the game, too.

The Heat started off the fourth quarter with a 65-60 deficit with multiple reputations and contracts on the line. If they failed to lose this game followed by an inability to win the series, changes would be inevitable. Big changes.

After a back-and-forth, fiery first 10 1/2 minutes to this quarter, the score was knotted up at 85 a piece. This epitomized crunch time. This would decide who had the extra “oomf” to put their team over the edge. This would decide who would take the decisive lead in the East Showdown.

What the C’s “lovers” would tell you is that their team has the maturity and poise to take this series by the throat. With their blossoming point guard, three experienced future Hall of Famers and a passionate, wise head coach, crunch time is their time.

What the Heat “haters” would tell you is that this team has the inability to close out games with a King that can’t seem to find his throne when intensifying pressure appears. Since the role players don’t have the capability to make a shot when their number is called, all the stress is on two celebrities that seem to have that clutch gene absent in their array of basketball skills. (Even though many focus on James and his failures late in games, don’t forget that Wade has had plenty of his own abysmal moments when the clock is winding down.)

What the C’s “lovers” and Heat “haters” irrationally and emotionally believe became reality. The conventional image became the authentic image.

After two Paul Pierce free throws and one Udonis Haslem free throw, Paul Pierce knew the Truth of his team and what they were Truly made of sat on his shoulders. There was no need for Rondo to make a dazzling pass or Kevin Garnett to put in a fadeaway jumper. The 14-year Celtic needed to lift his team above the destined champions.

With a LeBron hand right in his face, Pierce hit a phenomenal shot that could only be described as clutch. Even though Pierce will be the focal point of discussion due to this one shot, the four other Celtics that scored in double figures can’t be pushed to the side. Each of the eight Celtics players that have made it into the rotation have their flaws and they all rank behind two other Heat players in regard to expertise of the game. But what makes this team a team is the fact that they play off each others strengths and weaknesses, and they do so with all the effort they can possibly provide. It isn’t a coincidence that the Celtics Big 3 plus Rondo are 9-0 during Game 5 situations in the playoffs. They remained poised and balanced in their biggest game of the year (so far) in the enemy’s territory – even though that territory seemed to lack any sort of enthusiasm.

With this Pierce dagger separating the teams by two possessions, the free throw game was right on the Celtics doorstep. As long as they made their free shots, they would get the win. Well, since Pierce had his moment to shine, it was only fitting that Allen and Garnett received the next two chances to put this game out of reach. After each making two free throws, they succeeded.

They succeeded where the Heat could not. Other than a James layup with nine seconds that the Celtics gave him since they only wanted to avoid giving up the 3-pointer, these were the last three Heat shots – LeBron James 24-foot missed 3-point jumper, Mario Chalmers 25-foot missed 3-point jumper and Dwyane Wade 26-foot missed 3-point jumper. Again, with lack of quality coaching and lack of quality shots, the Heat had no chance to take down a team seemingly born for these moments.

A line of 57 points and 19 rebounds from James and Wade seems statistically solid enough to win a basketball game. Right? With the combination of not one other Heat player in doubles digits and the dynamic duo struggling to close out such a heavy game, their team wilted. Epitomizing their entire season, the Heat started off this game with big-time alley-oops, flashy dunks and animalistic reactions to made buckets only to fall short right before the finish line. Miami played to their stereotype of not being a “true team.” They couldn’t defeat an experienced team that had every player buy into a system during last year’s NBA Finals, and the exact same fiasco is happening right before our very own eyes.

After the game, LeBron and Wade decided to skip out on the interview room session for the second straight game. Their actions make it seem as though they have a group of guys that simply enjoy make money by playing a sport with a coach that should still be analyzing video in the back office instead of a team striving for not five, not six, but one championship.

If the Heat can not come together in a way that they have not been able to do since their top-heavy era began, this series will be over in Boston Thursday night. And I believe it will be.

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In Case You Missed It… (Weekend Edition)

4 06 2012

Here is the Top 5 sports stories from this past weekend…

 

 

 

1. No More No No-Nos

New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana pulled off something that Mets fans have been craving for a while. A long while. Effectively using the inside the the plate against right-handed batters and hitting all his spots, the 33-year-old put together a spectacular game as he threw a no-hitter in an 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. The reason this holds even more significance than any normal abnormal no-no pertains to the fact that this was first in the Mets 50-year franchise history. Even though there was a controversial call on a Carlos Beltran foul ball, this should not take away from Santana and his monumental accomplishment. The way in which this no-hitter came about does not matter; what does hold significance is the achievement, and Santana brought the Mets one, tremendous achievement.

 

 

2. Kings of the Road

Just like that, the Los Angeles Kings have come out on top of two straight overtime games against the New Jersey Devils that ended with the exact same score, following suit with their road superiority during this year’s playoffs. Jeff Carter’s Game 2 overtime goal gave the Kings a 2-1 win that puts them two games away from taking home the prestigious Stanley Cup. At this point, no one should be surprised that the No. 8 seeded Kings are blitzing their way through the Stanley Cup Final so far. Goalie Jonathan Quick has provided the backbone for the defense while Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. The Kings have only lost two postseason matches so far this year and are currently tied for the professional sports record for consecutive road playoff games won (12) dating back to last season. The word “momentum” has been taken to a new level by this group of men that won’t settle for anything short of winning it all. If Darryl Sutter can tell his team to drown out the cheering these next two games and convince them it’s another team’s road arena, this series could be wrapped up very quickly.

 

 

3. Wild Djoker

It can be assumed 75-percent of the time that Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer can be seen in the semifinals of any Grand Slam tournament (don’t ask me how I came up with that number). Well, the world almost saw this prediction fall short when Djokovic had a daunting obstacle to overcome Sunday morning. After looking very sluggish and losing the first two sets against Andreas Seppi, the No. 1 ranked player in the world realized he was the No. 1 ranked player in the world and finally began playing like it. He successfully completed the 0-2 set comeback by stealing a 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 4 victory that took 4 hours, 18 minutes and moved onto the quarterfinals of the French Open. The inability to make up for lost ground is something unique to tennis compared to other mainstream sports. If a basketball team gets down by 20 points or a baseball team can’t seem to put up a run for eight straight innings, there is still an opportunity to change the outcome of the game as a whole. When Djokovic lost those first two sets, he lost those first two sets. Point Blank. That’s why elite tennis players must have excellent psychological strength and have the ability to completely forget about a big lead or big deficit going into a clean slate at a new set. Instead of looking upon this as a negative and the fact that he struggled against a player ranked 24 spots below him, I see this as Djokovic proving his mental toughness in a sport that requires just that. If he continues to push through and win games in which he has 81 unforced errors, the Djoker might find a way to win his fourth straight Grand Slam tournament.

 

 

4. Back in the Woods?

After rallying from four back and birdying three of the final four holes to take home the Memorial for the fifth time in his career, Tiger Woods received the question he has dreaded for the past too-many years – is the old Tiger Woods back? He sarcastically remarked that “I feel like an older Tiger Woods.” However, even though Woods must be politically correct and avoid making a bold statement about the athlete that took golf to a level it has never been to before, this golf player might actually be somewhere in the vicinity of his former self. Why? A fist pump. After making one of the best chip shots ever, Woods showed a level of emotion he has not reached since his downfall. Woods showed a level of passion that has seemed benign to the viewer’s eye. Woods showed he might just be back. He looks to be in outstanding control of his swing, and the way in which he came back Sunday was nothing short of “Tiger-esque.” With this win, Woods now sits right along side Jack Nicklaus – who was at the Memorial as a spectator – for career PGA Tour victories. When the U.S. Open begins next week, don’t be surprised if somebody that you used to know shows up with clear intent to win his 15th major championship.

 

 

5. Rondo the maestro

When will this guy stop growing as a basketball player? Seriously? Even though Rajon Rondo has failed to complete a triple-double as he did three times in his first two playoff series, he has been the most influential basketball player on the court in the Eastern Conference Finals. As the Boston Celtics took down the Miami Heat in overtime, 93-91, to tie up a series with as many foul-outs as weird Russell Westbrook shirts (well, maybe not that many…), a shocking revelation about this series became apparent: for the first time since the Heat’s Big 3 came together, one of their playoff series is not about them. This is about the man that finds a way to put his fingerprints on every single NBA game he plays in, no matter the defense his opponent throws at him. This is about the player that did something no NBA player has ever done in the playoffs when he had 44 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds in Game 2. This is about the 26-year-old that has already tied Bob Cousy for most 10+ assist games in Celtics postseason history. This is about Rajon Pierre Rondo. Even though the Celtics have their preset Big 3 that will be the image of their 2008 championship year, they have a new Big 1 that has seemed to mature right before our very own eyes. What will he do next in Game 5? That is the question people can’t wait to see answered. Rondo has created a reason for the nation to watch a Miami Heat basketball game unrelated to the Miami Heat. Wow.

 

 

Honorable Mention: Durant the Closer and Serge the Perfectionist

 

 

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Heat Smack Their Way To Victory

31 05 2012

Yes, the better team finds a way to pull out a win no matter the obstacles they face. No, calls made throughout a game, no matter the situation, should never be considered an acceptable excuse for a loss. Yes, the referees are simply a part of the game.

These are all positions that I have consistently taken when controversial issues arise because of an NBA game.

This was no controversial issue and this was no common context.

As the score remained knotted up at 105 a piece with 1:35 to go in overtime during a monumental Game 2 dogfight that would take this Eastern Conference Finals series in one of two differing directions, the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat both had a chance to win this 53-minute war. They both looked like they had it in them to take all the momentum into the Garden.

After a solid pick from Kevin Garnett, the man – emphasis on man – of the night had a mismatch on a much slower Udonis Haslem. So, Rajon Rondo easily took the ball into the paint to attempt a layup.

Then, the inexcusable happened.

Does this look like marginal contact?

Rondo was whacked by Dwayne Wade. (It might sound like whining, but it is extremely hard not to imagine how obnoxiously loud the referees would have blown their whistles had Rondo hit Mr. Wade like that in his pretty, modeling face.) After this unacceptable no-call from the baseline referee that should have been ready to make a call once Rondo drove into the lane, the 26-year-old grabbed his face in pain. The Heat went on a 5-on-4 fastbreak, leading to a Haslem dunk. So, instead of two Rondo free throws (he was 10-12 from the line on the night), the Heat got a dunk.

Four point swing.

This situation is not about any “conspiracy” that the referees or league are “rooting” for the Miami Heat to win it all. Don’t give me that. However, this is about an unacceptable call that consequently led to the Celtics falling short in a game that has put them in an 0-2 they will be unable to fight out of in the next week. I’ve never mustered up the courage to place blame on the three-man team playing in every NBA game, but I’ve also never seen a point guard play an entire game with overtime and almost have as many points as minutes. The refs played a significant role in the Heat winning this game.

There are clearly situations that can be brought up where the C’s could have exploited a certain situation or made a smarter decision. Yet, none stood out more or had as significant of an impact as Wade’s no-call to Rondo’s face. Not one.

The Heat play wonderfully in the fast break while the Celtics excel in their half-court defense. If Rondo had received two free throws, make or miss on the second one, the Celtics would have been able to set up five men on defense to take on the Heat’s two five men on offense. Again, this could have completely changed the last 95 seconds of the game, especially since Boston would have been awarded at least one made free throw from their blossoming point guard with the way he was shooting the ball.

“These things happens” can be applied in this situation since the Celtics had a call go their way just thirty seconds before this oversight. Can it, though? A jump ball was called on the previous play in which Rondo became too aggressive with LeBron James and most likely should have been called for a foul. However, this was a much different type of “bad call” since this came in the context of tough, playoff-basketball defense where physicality is usually deemed acceptable. Wade simply hit his opponent in the face.

 

Since the referees missed this foul on Wade, the man that scored all 12 of Boston’s overtime points will have to settle with his staggering spectacle being labeled as one of the best professional sports performances in a defeat – a crushing defeat at that.

 

MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL TO PTS
53 16-24 2-2 10-12 8 10 3 3 44

 

Only six other players in NBA history have put up 40+ points, 10 assists and eight assists in a playoff game. Oh yeah, and none of those players put up as many points as Rondo did Wednesday night. He was literally unbelievable as he outdid the stunning show he performed during Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

It can only be considered as a moral milestone, however, since Rondo did not get what he wanted and what his team needed. He did get what every possible NBA 2K12 video gamer could have dreamed of with that stat line, but that didn’t matter to him. He played zero minutes on the bench for one reason and one reason alone: to secure the sweet taste of victory. He was tired of the constant Heat praise and wanted to bring his franchise a necessary Game 2 win.

But it just wasn’t in the cards. It wasn’t in the referees’ cards as they decided to miss a foul that forces the Celtics to miss a chance at possibly winning this series.

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Rondo Tossed in Defeat

29 04 2012

This is now the second time this season Rajon Rondo has been ejected due to an altercation with a referee. Since this looks to possibly be a recurring issue, he needs to get a handle on his emotions when a call doesn’t go his way.

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