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Even with Kobe Bryant back, the Los Angeles Lakers seem sure to endure another difficult campaign in the impossibly good Western Conference.

AND IT'S GETTING WORSE.

That's right -- trouble's a-brewing in the Southland, and it has to do with Nick Young. Not his six- to eight-week absence with a torn thumb ligament, but new point guard Jeremy Lin's refusal to call Young by his somewhat self-applied nickname, "Swaggy P."

"He's super-cool," Lin told the media last week. "But I just find it ridiculous that everyone comes in and just calls him 'Swaggy.' You've got to earn it or something, and maybe he has but I just got here, so maybe I'll adopt [it] eventually."

What must he do to earn it, asked a reporter?

"It has to be something that I see," Lin said, "that when I look at him he just glows with Swaggy-ness."

Perhaps sensing the oncoming controversy, Lin walked back on his stance a little, adding: "He's hilarious. He's hilarious. He's really cool. So just out of respect for him being eight years in, if he wants me to call him Swaggy P, I guess I will. But besides that I'll call him Nick Young."

Sorry, Mr. Lin. Damage, done. If the Lakers don't make the playoffs, it won't be because the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans are all probably better.

It'll be because you questioned Nick Young's swaggy-ness.

MORE NICK YOUNG OFFSEASON FUN

Riding a Zamboni with the Los Angeles Kings

Volunteering as Lakers coach; throwing out horrible first pitch at Dodgers game

Playing 3-on-3 with random dudes in NYC

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Kyrie Irving is already doing good things with the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers. But whatever, we knew that was coming.

This Nerf dunk, though?

IMPRESSIVE. I mean, it's Nerf, so who knows how high up that hoop is. Also, while the pass from teammate/fellow New Jerseyan (and Florida Gators guard) Eli Carter was sweet, poor friend/stranded defender Jux Jones had no chance on that 2-on-1.

Still, something tells us we might see something like this a time or two at the Q this year. Not with a Nerf ball, though. That would be illegal.

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We know the images of sports well, through awe-inspiring photographs and embedded-in-our-brains highlights.

This artist, though, is looking at the athletes and coaches we love a little differently. Well, OK, a lot differently. With some of the most minimalist sports portraits you'll find, Instagram user @lessonsinsport allows us to see big stars in quite a different light.

Check out our favorites:


Barry Sanders


Jim Harbaugh


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


Muggsy Bogues


Steve Spurrier

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Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

2014-15 NBA schedule released

The 2014-15 NBA schedule is here, with some pretty sweet matchups highlighting the season's big days. The opening-night slate comprises Dallas Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets-Los Angeles Lakers. On Christmas, the Cleveland Cavaliers make their first trip to Miami since LeBron James left the Heat, while Western Conference titans Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs square off in Texas. It's all part of a regular season that promises to be compelling.

  • Which NBA opening-night game are you most looking forward to?

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  • Which Christmas Day game are you most looking forward to?

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  • Which of these is your favorite day of games during the NBA regular season?

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  • If you were a Heat fan, how would you welcome LeBron James when the Cavaliers play in Miami on Dec. 25?

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  • What do you make of the NBA giving teams a full week off around the All-Star break?

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  • How many regular-season NBA games do you usually attend per year?

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What is Clippers' future?

The future of the Los Angeles Clippers became clearer Tuesday, when the NBA announced that Steve Ballmer's $2 billion bid to purchase the team had been accepted and closed. Gone, pending appeal, is the controversial reign of Donald Sterling. Now the team moves forward, with a popular owner, a title-winning head coach in Doc Rivers and a talented core featuring Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. What do you expect from what long has been L.A.'s distant-second basketball franchise?

  • Will the Clippers ever challenge the Lakers for the title of most popular team in Los Angeles?

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  • How will the Clippers fare in 2014-15?

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  • Will the Clippers reach the NBA Finals with their current core?

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  • When will the Lakers next finish with a better record than the Clippers?

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