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‘The soul of our team comes from Oakland’

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The Golden State Warriors reside in San Francisco now, but for many of the players and coaches who brought championships to the Bay Area in recent years, the connection to Oakland — the city where the team played for 47 years and recently went to five straight NBA Finals inside Oracle Arena — remains stronger than ever. Those roots were clear as Warriors personnel discussed what it meant to them to be wearing their new “Oakland Forever” jerseys — with Oakland emblazoned across their chest — which will debut during Wednesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.

“That’s fire,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said during a video conference with reporters after Monday night’s win at the Los Angeles Lakers. “You know, I rock with Oakland; that’s my second home. The soul of our team comes from Oakland. That’s just kind of what it is. The soul of this organization is built in Oakland; that’s just the reality.”

The jerseys, which the “We Believe” Warriors made famous during a 2007 playoff run, are blue with Oakland in gold lettering with an orange outline. They are part of the City Edition collection that Nike puts together each year throughout the league.

“I love the jerseys,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think they’re really good-looking, and the fact that they say Oakland on them is just awesome. I will forever have five years of incredible memories of playing at Oracle and practicing in Oakland every day at our facility, living in the East Bay.

“Those guys are right: Oakland will forever be a huge part of our identity and our roots. We’re a Bay Area team. Obviously, the team played in San Francisco before they played [in Oakland], and so we take a lot of pride in representing the entire Bay. But Oakland will always have a special place in our hearts.”

The Warriors moved into their new home, Chase Center in San Francisco, prior to the 2019-20 season. While staff members understood the relocation, given the massive revenue possibilities in the sparkling new building that cost over $1 billion to build, it was tough for many to leave the East Bay because of their affinity for the community they grew to call home.

For Warriors star Stephen Curry, the jerseys are a reminder of his NBA beginning. The Warriors took the Davidson product with the seventh pick in the 2009 NBA draft, making him the last player on the current roster to have worn the ‘We Believe’ jersey during his initial season in the league.

“They were fire,” Curry said Monday night. “But that was the old material; they were heavy as hell. That was the one thing I do remember; you put those on, versus how they make them now, it’s night and day. But the look, it’s just so classic. When you think of old school, you think of this franchise, Oakland, the expression of what we were, those jerseys are front and center, front of mind.”

The Warriors wore the white version of the “We Believe” jerseys during the final regular-season game at Oracle Arena during the 2018-19 season, but this will be the first time the group can wear a jersey that actually says Oakland on it.

“Last time we wore them, the last regular season game in ’19 at Oracle, it was just an amazing moment to bring those back,” Curry said. “Obviously, to have Oakland across the chest now, it’s special. We have a lot of great memories there on that side of the [Bay] Bridge. Pay respect to that era of Warrior basketball. And it’s obviously special for me because my rookie year; I was the only one on this team that wore ’em, so it’s pretty special.”

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The NBA’s savvy moves and the ‘innovators’ that push the limits of the rulebook

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ONE OF TRAE YOUNG‘S favorite moves is simple. He gets the ball, calls for a screen and turns the corner, putting his defender on his hip as the help comes over to corral the drive. Once he feels his defender behind, he brake-checks, pulling up into a quick shot.

A little old thing called Newton’s first law of motion kicks in: A body in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by a force, i.e. the defender runs helplessly into Young’s back.

The whistle blows. The foul is called. Two free throws are given.

Young hit the Brooklyn Nets with the move on Dec. 30. Nets head coach Steve Nash was not a fan.

“That’s not basketball!” Nash yelled at the officials.

Nash’s criticism went viral, and Young and the Hawks defended the star guard’s tactic while others debated and discussed its fairness.

“I learned a lot about drawing fouls from [Nash],” Young told reporters in early January. “If he says it’s not basketball, he must’ve been saying it about himself because he’s done it a couple of times throughout his career and was so successful.”

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Trae Young continually gets to the free throw line against the Nets by stopping short and causing a defender to run into him.

For his part, Nash said he was just sticking up for his team and trying to gain an edge with the refs. It was a heat-of-competition comment, but he has no real issue with Young’s play. Players have constantly been searching for advantages within the game: inventing and reinventing different ways to bend the rules.

“Other guys have pet moves that are there to deceive or to fool not just the defense, but the referees,” Nash said. “That’s where the game continues to evolve.”

Moves like Young’s stop-short jumper are crafted, refined and mastered through years of innovation. And like a cartoon rowboat, the league plugs one hole only to find another.

The prevailing feeling around the league: If you’re not pushing the boundaries, you’re not trying.


MONTY MCCUTCHEN HAD never seen such trickery.

Ben Gordon, an undersized shooting guard that spent time with the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats and Orlando Magic, was dribbling at the top of the key.

Gordon, a right-handed shooter, brought his left hand toward the ball as if he was preparing to gather, rise and take a jumper. But right before the ball hit his left hand, Gordon put the ball back down on the floor as his defender went flying. It was a pump-fake without the pump. (Today, players like Stephen Curry and Kemba Walker have mastered the move, too.)

“I almost blew the whistle,” said McCutchen, a 24-year veteran referee who now works as the NBA’s vice president of referee development and training. “I went up to Ben during the game and said, ‘You almost not only fooled [the defender] but you almost fooled me.’

“He goes, ‘I know, I’ve been working on that move.'”

McCutchen is well aware of the schemes players pull. It was routine before games that players would approach him to pitch a sneaky move they’d been workshopping in the lab and ask whether it was legal.

Referees watch tape. They know what kind of offenses teams run, if they play on the low block or spread the floor. They also pick up on players’ tricks. But there’s balance involved in not predisposing oneself to player tendencies. “You can’t let that knowledge turn into anticipation [that] leads to a quick decision,” McCutchen said.

“They’re not annoying. If you watch enough games every night, you know what to expect. There’s a skill to that. That stuff James [Harden] does where he puts the ball out, that’s a skill. DeMar DeRozan is great at it. That’s a skill.”

Suns guard Chris Paul

Like every front office and coach, referees are well aware of the surging impact of analytics. Efficiency drives the game, and that means plenty of corner 3s, shots at the rim, and, of course, free throws. In the same way coaches design offenses to create the most efficient shots, players try to find ways to the stripe.

If deceiving an official is the best path, so be it.

“There’s all these concepts that are very clinical in the rulebook,” McCutchen said. “Our teams and our players then push that limit of what the rulebook says, until we as the league say we like or don’t like how our game is right now.”

Plays like Young’s brake-check jumper have created a lot of conversation within the league. But there are so many clever maneuvers players use. Some are so subtle to the point of being nearly unnoticeable, like Kyle Lowry setting up to take a charge and gently pulling the offensive player into him to make it look like he got plowed over.

McCutchen has a polite name for these players: innovators. He won’t name names, though NBA fans know who the prime culprits and the strategies they deploy.

“Innovators, such as some of the players you may be imagining,” McCutchen said, “are always going to test the rules.”

A good example: The rulebook is clear about two steps after a gather. But what it doesn’t say is that the steps have to be forward, backward or sideways. Players like James Harden, Jayson Tatum and others have, ahem, innovated to take that step-back to extremes.

McCutchen recalled Boston Celtics great Paul Pierce splitting double teams, jumping from one foot to the same foot, then taking a second step with his other foot. At the time, it technically wasn’t a travel. The league’s competition committee amended the rule: no hopping.

“Referees and the league are always going to be a half-step or step behind our teams and players,” McCutchen said. “Because their job is to find the advantage. That’s how you win, is finding little advantages that over 48 minutes add up to seven points or three points or one point.”

Separating players from their reputations is part of the referee’s job. It might seem that there could be some prejudice for the players that routinely make officials look bad, or lower their grade for getting more calls wrong. But officiating those players is a challenge to embrace.

“That’s the challenge of a referee that you let the outside noise of status run to the side, and you don’t worry about the status, you worry about the actual rule,” McCutchen said. “You start to take on the mentality that it’s about the concept.”

“Now,” McCutchen said with a grin, “some players are better than others at maximizing the concept.”


CHRIS PAUL IS a true basketball genius. He plays in the game in a perpetual state of bullet time, with plays going by in slow motion. Details and intricacies are seamlessly picked up on the fly.

And Paul, who has served as players’ union president since 2013, isn’t bashful about talking about the rules of the game — even bending them. If he sees a defender hanging his leg out, Paul will run into contact and force a whistle.

A cousin to Young’s brake-check pull-up is Paul’s stop-short, where a ball handler will feel a defender on their back, typically in the backcourt, 50 or more feet from the basket, and slam on the brakes to let an unassuming defender run over them for a foul. To some, that’s simply known as “the Chris Paul.”

Once an opposing team puts the Phoenix Suns in the bonus, there isn’t a more dangerous player on the floor.

Another favorite of Paul’s is the rip-through, a tactic seemingly popularized by Kevin Durant in 2009. It’s simple: Your defender is on you with an arm outstretched. You swing the ball in a counterclockwise motion (if you’re right-handed) into the defender’s unassuming arms, catching contact as you begin something resembling a shooting motion.

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Chris Paul uses his patented ‘rip-through move’ to draw a foul.

As a young player, Durant struggled with defenders crowding him and needed something to counter their aggressiveness. He was taught the move by teammate Desmond Mason.

“Desmond warned me that guys were going to get up into me on defense,” Durant said in 2010. “I saw him do it a few times and I kind of stole it from him.”

Coaches and opposing players constantly complained about it before, during and after games. Durant didn’t care. It was free points any time a defender had a mental lapse.

“They’ve said it’s a legal play, so I’m going to keep doing it until they tell me I can’t,” Durant said after a game in March 2011. “That’s when I’ll stop.”

Now, players like Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid are picking up the move from watching Durant. But it’s a technique that goes back decades, used by Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals in 2008 and Tim Duncan before that. Like Young’s pull-up, Paul said he remembers Chauncey Billups doing the rip-through some 20 years ago.

Until 2011, this was a shooting foul, but the league legislated against it, turning it into a foul on the floor. Like he said he’d do, Durant stopped using it nearly as much. (He did hit the Washington Wizards with it in January in a critical spot late in the game.)

Paul, though, as he does, found a gray area to continue to expose the rule: just wait until his team is in the bonus. It’s still a foul, just not a shooting foul. So late in quarters, Paul will deploy the rip-through and get two free throws. You can see the exasperation on the faces of defenders the moment Paul gets them.

“Like, ‘Damn, why does this dude do this stupid s—?'” Suns forward Abdel Nader said when asked what goes through his mind when opponents pull off a successful rip-through. “Other than that, you’ve gotta keep playing, move on.”

In surveying players around the league, the rip-through was by far the most popular answer for biggest pet peeve move.

“That’s what great scorer’s do though, they know the rules and know how the refs call it and they get fouls drawn,” Oklahoma City Thunder forward Mike Muscala said. “It doesn’t seem like a natural basketball play.”

Paul said he hears assistant coaches screaming at defenders to be ready for it, to get their hands back. Milwaukee Bucks guard Donte DiVincenzo was a recent victim, and as coaches yelled at him to be aware, DiVicenzo said, “What?”

“By the time he heard it,” Paul said, “it was too late.”

If there’s a player that seeks those advantages within the rules of the game McCutchen talked about, it’s The Point God.

“They’re not annoying. If you watch enough games every night, you know what to expect. There’s a skill to that,” Paul countered. “That stuff James [Harden] does where he puts the ball out, that’s a skill. DeMar DeRozan is great at it. That’s a skill.”


IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to say who invented the pump fake. Basketball footage as far back as the 1950s will show players pump-faking defenders and driving past them. They use all sorts of dekes and counters and hesitations.

But one innovation started teetering into clever/annoying territory — the pump-and-jump. You pump-fake your defender to get them to leave their feet, then use their groundless situation against them to jump into them for a foul call. Pierce was good at it. Dwyane Wade mastered it. Walt Frazier did it as far back as 1973.

The pump-and-jump is one of the eye-rolliest plays in the game, but to an official, it’s more straightforward than it appears. It’s the more subtle ones, like an offensive player throwing their head back to draw attention to contact, or a big man disguising a moving screen as roll to the basket, or a big man giving a slight nudge to clear space.

“It’s called the Black Tornado,” Shaquille O’Neal said of his savvy veteran and very legal move. “Bump, spin, bump, get you off balance and then dunk in your face. Just to let you know that you ain’t strong enough and you ain’t ready.”

The league gathers feedback every season on player moves and tactics. The competition committee looks at them and will sometimes legislate changes. Because at the core, the league wants to make sure the game stays beautiful, can flow and not get driven down by gray-area maneuvers. Still: It’s almost impossible for the league to stay ahead of the players.

There are plays like Reggie Miller‘s scissorkick, where he’d cleverly leave one leg hanging out on a jumper for a defender to potentially clip. It was irritating, and in 2012, seven years after Miller retired the league implemented, you guessed it, “The Reggie Miller Rule,” that made it an offensive foul to leave a leg out.

By next season, we might be talking about “The Trae Young Rule.” But until the league legislates it out of the game, it’s fair play. And it’s up to the players to discover counters.

There are extreme measures, like in 2018 when LeBron James picked Paul up about 40 feet from the bucket.

LeBron was shading Paul on his right hip, as Paul dragged the ball around near the floor. LeBron, who does his homework, knew Paul was in position to deploy the rip-through. So LeBron put his hands behind his back.

Patty Mills guarded Harden for basically an entire playoff series this way. Because there’s not much you can do to counter these clever plays. A foul is a foul and the referee has to call it. Some are embellished, like when Harden or Paul, or any player takes a bit of awkward-looking contact and falls to the floor, forcing a whistle.

Harden is an offensive craftsman and has perfected the art of drawing fouls. He’ll do little things, like calling for a screen and waiting for the on-ball defender to glance over his shoulder to see where the screen is coming from and then drag his arms into the defender’s outstretched arms.

Is it cheap? Most players and coaches say definitely. Is it a foul? Also yes.

Before a recent matchup with Nikola Jokic, Suns center Deandre Ayton pored over film of Jokic’s favorite moves and foul-drawing tactics. Because as Ayton said, all he can do is be prepared.

“Whatever my matchup is, whoever I’m playing against, I look at their tendencies, what’s their bread and butter. I counter it and I learn from it,” Ayton said. “That’s something I’m good at is watching my matchup and knowing what he loves to do. …

“We want you to make a mistake. I’ll defend you until you make one.”

The other thing to try, Ayton said: Get in front of it. Talk to the ref before the game and tell them to be on the lookout for these cheeky plays.

“In the post, I’ll tell the refs, when I know it’s a center that likes to bang, like Jokic, I’ll tell the ref, ‘Hey, just watch my hands,'” Ayton said. “Showing my hands when I’m taking contact, so don’t call a foul. Just reminding the ref, ‘Yo, we bangin’ but my hands aren’t in there, I’m straight up.'”

With every savvy play, there are two perspectives. If it’s in your favor, it’s a good thing. If not, it’s cheap.

That’s how Nash felt about Young’s savvy move in the heat of the moment. And, like former Thunder center Steven Adams said last season when asked about Paul’s favorite:

“Oh, it’s great. [When] he’s on my team.”

ESPN’s Marc Raimondi contributed to this story.

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LA Clippers’ Paul George calls All-Star nod a milestone amid ‘all the noise,’ but disagrees with game being held

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LOS ANGELES — Paul George has been motivated and fueled by “all the noise” surrounding him all season long, and earning an All-Star spot he says is another “milestone” in his bounce-back season.

The LA Clippers guard was named one of the All-Star reserves selected from the Western Conference on Tuesday, joining teammate Kawhi Leonard, who was previously voted in as a starter in the Western Conference pool.

“With all the noise, everything going on, you find motivation through it,” George said of all the criticism that he’s heard since the Clippers’ collapse in the second round last postseason. “You dig deep. And you’d be amazed what comes out of it. It was honestly just using everything as motivation, fueling all of that toward this year.

“[All-Star] is a good milestone, the start of how my season is going. But definitely [not] where I want it to end. So I got a lot more work to do.”

George, who hit his first five 3-point shots before finishing with 30 points in the Clippers’ 135-116 win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, will be making his seventh All-Star appearance.

George, though, joined a chorus of NBA stars who have voiced reasons and concerns over why there should not be an All-Star Game held this year in the middle of a pandemic.

“I am just not a fan of it with everything going on,” George said. “I think it is just smart [to not hold one] … I get we have an amazing league, I’m not discrediting that. But I don’t think — just in the middle of a pandemic — it is something that needs to be had.”

George also said that he was fined this season over a health and safety protocol precaution.

“Especially, [for] personal reasons, I got fined for spending time with a teammate, or having a teammate over and yet we are having this All-Star Game,” George explained. “So again I got personal reasons why I disagree with the game [being held].”

George said he did not want to further elaborate on the fine. But he says he will play in the All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7.

George entered Tuesday night averaging 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and a career-high 51.1% shooting and 47.1% from behind the 3-point arc.

The shooting guard wasn’t an All-Star last year after he didn’t play in the first 11 games of the season as he was eased back into play following offseason shoulder surgeries. Last postseason, George endured a shooting slump in the first round of the playoffs before going 4-for-16 from the field and scoring 10 points in the Clippers’ Game 7 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the second round after LA blew a 3-1 series lead.

George has said that he has heard more “chirping” this season from opponents “just living in the past.” He has been motivated to prove his doubters wrong.

“He’s always been an All-Star, you know in my eyes,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “He’s one of the top two-way players in our league, you know he has been for a while.”

“He deserves it, and the kind of year he’s having, you know this year, it just shows the hard work he put in over the summer to get back to this point.”

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Draymond Green is learning how to control the fire that drives him … and the Golden State Warriors

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Nobody seems surprised by anything Draymond Green does anymore.

As frustrated as the Golden State Warriors were after Green’s meltdown late in Saturday’s 102-100 loss to the Charlotte Hornets — a game in which Green picked up a pair of late technicals and an ejection in the final seconds that led directly to the Hornets’ stunning win — nobody in the organization seemed shocked to the point they couldn’t believe what had transpired.

They know that fire is what drives him — and their team — most. And they know there’s always a chance that both player and organization can get burned.

But they also understand that there is another side to Green, the one that spoke passionately about his Saturday mistakes during a video conference with reporters on Monday. The player who took the blame for his actions and vowed he would be able to control himself if a similar situation presented itself. That’s the person so many in the Warriors’ organization have grown to love over the last decade.

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Draymond Green shares how disappointed he was in himself after being ejected from the Hornets game.

And that’s why nobody was surprised to see Green respond the way he did during Tuesday’s 114-106 win over the New York Knicks. The veteran forward racked up seven points, 12 assists, nine rebounds, three steals and two blocks in 37 minutes. For all the emotional flaws Green has shown over time, the Warriors maintain buoyed by the belief that when they need him the most, the soon-to-be 31-year-old will be at his best.

“He’s just a winner,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after Tuesday’s win. “He’s so competitive and he’s such a smart basketball player, and he’s so versatile in what he does, that when his mind is right, when he’s locked in, he’s a great basketball player. He still impacts winning as much as almost anybody in the league, save for a select few superstars. What he does out there night in and night out, everybody on our team recognizes that.”

Kerr made it a point to say prior to the game that he felt that Green knew exactly how much he meant to his younger teammates. As much as all the younger players love playing with star guard Stephen Curry, it’s Green — and the journey he’s been on since being selected in the second round of the 2012 draft — that resonates more than anything else in the locker room.

Many of Green’s younger teammates idolize him for the niche he’s been able to create for himself, a fact that has been on display since last season, and was reinforced in recent days as player after player stood behind him in the wake of his latest emotional outburst.

Out of all the adjustments the Warriors have had to make since the breakup two summers ago of the group that went to five straight Western Conference championships, one of the most interesting is the fact that in the blink of an eye, Green and Curry have gone from respected leaders on a team full of veterans, to the two veterans (alongside injured guard Klay Thompson) on a group full of younger players. It’s a change that Curry acknowledged has been a challenging part of the growth of the new-look Warriors.

“We have a lot of energy spent and a lot of focus on playing at a very high level and being consistent every night,” Curry said, “but you still have to be aware of how we’re developing guys, instilling confidence, encouragement, meeting guys where they are depending on the ups and downs of the season. And it requires a huge commitment; I think we understand that, we try to do our best with that, but it’s part of the newness of what this year is and it’s going to be a season-long learning lesson.

“So there’s no way to kind of cheat your way through that, you kind of have to go through it and experience it and everybody has to be just committed to what we’re trying to do. And I think that’s the best part about our team, everybody in the locker room, win or loss, we have that. And we have that respect for each other so we can grow together.”

It’s a part of a new level of growth for Green. He admitted one of the reasons he felt so bad about his actions on Saturday was because he felt like he let his younger teammates down, especially without Curry on the floor.

“It heavily impacts it,” Green said Monday, while discussing the changes in the locker room from being an older player to be younger. “Just not having those older vets per se to kind of give you that perspective. You just have to find it. It’s a completely different situation than I became accustomed to being in, or being a part of, but you just have to find it. It’s all a part of growth. You’re not going to stay the young guy forever.”

Part of the reason Kerr and the Warriors continue to be so patient with Green is because they know the adjustment in leadership that continues to take place.

“David West was the guy who could literally, physically pick Draymond up and bearhug him and wrestle him away from a situation,” Kerr said Monday. “And he had the respect from Draymond to back that up. This team, you’ve got younger guys. They might not feel as comfortable doing something like that, so it’s a different dynamic for sure. I think Draymond understands that, we understand that, but there are going to be times for sure where we’ve got to help him keep from crossing that line, it’s just how he’s built.

“He’s so competitive and fiery he’s going to lose it sometimes and we’ve got to all try to keep him from crossing that line, but that mostly comes from within.”

It’s why Curry, who was not on the floor at the end of Saturday’s game because he was in the locker room battling an illness, is confident that he will be able to get through to Green in the event he has another outburst down the line.

“Absolutely,” Curry said. “We’ve been through a lot of different experiences together and we have the utmost respect for each other, no matter what we’re going through and what the situation is. I can’t give you the transcript, but I know exactly how to connect with him and keep him focused. The same for me, he challenges me, keeps me accountable on the court in different ways so the way that he’s responded in the last two days since says a lot about who he is and holding himself to a high standard and that sense of accountability, and I think it’s very genuine and we rock with him for that, so just keep moving in the right direction.”

Green’s passion is one of the reasons why he continues to be so respected through the years. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached Green as a member of Mike Krzyzewski’s Team USA staff during the 2016 Rio Olympics, believes Green’s energy just needs to be channeled, not muted.

“Steve probably said it best, sometimes an emotional guy, that’s what fuels him, that’s what makes him go,” Thibodeau said prior to Tuesday’s game. “So you don’t want to take that away from them. … Draymond is a special player, you don’t want to take that away, but if sometimes it goes over the edge [and] you got to talk to him. But what he brings to that team is very unique and special, and that’s what makes that team what it is.”

That’s why Kerr continues to support Green. If the Warriors are going to get back to where they feel they belong, Kerr knows that it is Green’s emotions that help get them there.

“All you have to do is look at his track record,” Kerr said. “He was a winner in high school, a winner at Michigan State, and a winner in the NBA. So it’s just who he is. He’s a champion and he’s a competitor and he’s a great basketball player and sometimes he snaps. That’s just the way it is and we’re very happy to have him. We’re always going to deal with his outbursts because at his core, he loves his teammates, he loves the team. He’s got a great heart and he’s always going to fight.”

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