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NBA action continues in the off-season

Though not a lot of action takes place on the basketball court during the NBA off-season, there has already been plenty of behind the scenes maneuvering this summer.

Perhaps the biggest trades so far have come out of Los Angeles. Despite the looming threat of jail time for arguably one of their most popular players, the Lakers have acquired two solid additions in the form of Gary Payton and Karl Malone. Both veterans may be past their prime, but they can still dribble circles around much younger opponents.

It was surprising to many Utah fans that Malone, who has played his entire NBA career with the Jazz, decided to make the switch. His motivation, however, is somewhat obvious. Despite racking up an impressive list of achievements with Utah, his resume lacks one elusive entry – a championship win. Malone seemed pleased about his move to L.A. in a recent interview with ESPN’s Dan Patrick.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I know much has been made about Shaq and Kobe’s team, but I don’t want to leave out the fans and I also don’t want to leave out my other teammates … I’m so excited about playing with those guys as well, and I hope they are just as excited about playing with me and Gary.”

The Lakers decided not to resign forward Robert Horry, so he promptly turned around and joined up with the current World Champion Spurs. San Antonio, though loosing back-up point guard and free agent Speedy Claxton to Golden State and all-around class act David Robinson to retirement, will gain center Rasho Nesterovic, forward Hedo Turkoglu and guard Ron Mercer.

Minnesota General Manager Kevin McHale initiated some big moves this off-season, trading Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler to Milwaukee for guard Sam Cassell. The Timberwolves also acquired free agent Michael Olowokandi and the always controversial Latrell Sprewell in a four-way trade involving Atlanta, New York and Philadelphia.

The huge upheaval caused by such a dramatic reworking of the lineup could be just what the lackluster T’wolves need to jumpstart their game next season. No doubt Minnesota was also interested in giving their star, soon-to-be free agent Kevin Garnett, some incentive for staying with the team.

The Blazers have been relatively quiet this summer, with the exception of the usual run-ins with the law (i.e. Damon Stoudamire) and backstage drama (i.e. corporate layoffs). Steve Patterson has stepped into the presidential shoes vacated by the much-maligned Bob Whitsett.

In a bit of loosely related gossip, it has been widely reported that P. Diddy (aka Puff Daddy or Sean Combs), a staunch New York Knicks fan, has tossed around the idea of buying the team.

“I’m not saying let’s get rid of the (current) owners,” Diddy said during an appearance on the Howard Stern Show. “I’m saying put me down. Put me in the game … Because it’s not going down right now.”

So far, Combs hasn’t been taken up on his offer.