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Northwest Notes: Hunt, Neal, Gasol, Tomic

The Trail Blazers have never won a Northwest Division title, but they’re seemingly destined to do so this year, since they’re up nine games in the loss column on the Thunder with less than a month to go in the regular season. The last time Portland won a division title, in 1999, the team was in the Pacific Division. Here’s the latest on the teams looking up at the Blazers in the standings:

  • Nuggets players, and Kenneth Faried in particular, are ecstatic about interim coach Melvin Hunt and would unanimously vote to remove the interim tag from his title, observes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. However, owner Stan Kroenke is still dissatisfied with a team far from playoff contention, Dempsey also notes.
  • Timberwolves guard Gary Neal doesn’t regret chasing the money and leaving the Spurs to sign a two-year, $6.5MM deal in 2013 in part because he saw DeJuan Blair go from a starter to signing a minimum-salary contract in short order, as Neal tells Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Neal will be a free agent again at season’s end.
  • Kevin Durant has posited that Oklahoma City’s lack of “orchestras and plays” dissuaded Pau Gasol from signing with the Thunder this past summer, but Gasol said this weekend that such cultural attractions weren’t a factor, according to The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry. The Bulls big man instead said it was a matter of on-court fit that led him to choose Chicago, as Mayberry relays.
  • Jazz draft-and-stash prospect Ante Tomic believes the offseason ahead is his last legitimate opportunity to join the NBA, and while he acknowledged that he’s in talks about a new deal with his Spanish team, he won’t rule out a jump to Utah. The 7’2″ center made his remarks to Jesús Pérez Ramos of Mundo Deportivo (translation via HoopsHype). FC Barcelona has a team option on the 28-year-old for next season, but the Jazz are reportedly willing to pay to buy Tomic out of his contract.
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