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NBA Sunday: 24-second shot clock

NOT FUNNY PRANK: Denver's Kenyon Martin was not in a joking mood after an April Fools' Day prank was pulled on him, according to During Denver's 109-92 win over the Blazers on Thursday, a former Nuggets ball boy, Laquan Johnson, filled Martin's Range Rover with buttered popcorn.

Upon finding the popcorn in his vehicle, Martin, not knowing who had pulled the prank, spewed profanities and threats at teammates and other members of the organization.

"This ain't no (expletive) joke," Martin said. "I'm going to find out who did it. . . put my (expletive) hands on one of y'all."

Martin also threatened to boycott the postseason if he didn't not find out who was responsible.

Later, Martin found out Johnson, the former ball boy, was responsible. Johnson apologized and agreed to pay for the damage to his car.

"It was just an April Fools' joke that went horribly wrong," said a member of the Nuggets organization who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The kid thought it would be funny, and it wasn't." . . .

SHAQ'S ALMOST BACK: Cavaliers center Shaquille O'Neal is getting closer to returning from a thumb injury.

O'Neal took part in some of practice Thursday, although coach Mike Brown isn't counting on him being back before the playoffs.

O'Neal has been sidelined since tearing a ligament in his right thumb Feb. 25. He had surgery and was expected to miss the rest of the regular season. On Wednesday, the 14-time All-Star said he was ahead of schedule. . . .

AMARE WANTS TO PLAY FOR USA: While LeBron James has talked about not playing for the United States in the World Championships because of a busy summer with possible free agency and a movie, Amare Stoudemire remains committed to national-team play despite the same scenario, according to the Arizona Republic.

Stoudemire could become a free agent this summer if he opts out of his final year with the Phoenix Suns. He has also been asked to play roles in two upcoming movies, including "The Dark Fields" starring Robert De Niro. But he said he probably won't be able to do a movie because of his basketball commitments. . . .

CHANDLER TO REMAIN A BOBCAT: Tyson Chandler of the Charlotte Bobcats has an early termination option in his contract, but he says he won't use it.

"I'm sure I'll be here," Chandler told NBA FanHouse. "I'm sure this is going to be where I'm going to be. I'm sure I'll finish out the final year of my contract."

NBA rankings

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Will have home-court advantage in every playoff round.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Hosting Jazz was just what doctor ordered for struggling Lakers.

3. Orlando Magic: Did Jazz & Suns a favor last week with wins over Nuggets and Mavericks.

4. Phoenix Suns: Hottest team in league had won 10 straight entering Sat.s game at Bucks.

5. Utah Jazz: After an ultra-busy March team is enjoying having 3 days between games.

6. Dallas Mavericks: .500 mark in last couple weeks is putting quest for No. 2 seed in jeopardy.

7. Denver Nuggets: Dantley was a great player, but Nuggets need Karl back coaching them.

8. Atlanta Hawks: Have finally passed Celtics in the race for the Easts third seed.

9. Portland Trail Blazers: Andre Miller got off to rough start to year but is now a key player.

10. Miami Heat: Playing their best basketball in the final days of regular season a good sign.

Game of the week

Lakers at Denver

This Thursday night TNT-televised battle is much more important for the Nuggets. But a Lakers win in the Pepsi Center would have fans cheering in Utah, Dallas and Phoenix as the Western Conference teams are still battling for playoff seeding down the stretch.

—Compiled from wire, Internet sources