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How NBA Players Are Spending the Lockout

In a job application for Regency Furniture posted online, free agent guard Delonte West checked the "full-time" box and answered "yes" to the question, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?"

To the followup -- "If yes, describe in full" -- West wrote, "Misunderstanding."

In September 2009 while West was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Prince George (Md.) County police stopped him around 10 p.m. near his home after he cut off a police cruiser in his three-wheeled 2009 Can-Am Spyder motorcycle. West told the cops he was carrying a gun in his waist band. They also found a .357 strapped to his leg and a shotgun inside a guitar case slung across his back.

Apparently, the misunderstanding was that West thought it was OK to travel around as Mad Max.

(He pleaded guilty in July 2010 to traffic and weapons charges.)

Early in the NBA lockout that threatens to kill the 2011-2012 season, West tweeted that he was looking for work at Home Depot. He later told TrueHoop he applied at Sam's Club, saying, "I actually might have work with Sam's (Club), BJ's, selling knives."

I guess because they don't carry guns.

West falls into the category of NBA players who have come off publicly as bored, distracted and only slightly out of touch these past months as owners and players argue details of a new collective bargaining agreement. This is a big improvement over the last NBA lockout in 1998-99, when league NBA players came off as greedy and self-indulgent and from here-to-Mars out of touch. And the improvement is not by accident.

The NBA Players Association issued a 56-page lockout handbook to its constituency in anticipation of a long labor stalemate this time around. According to the New York Times, it covered budgeting, player services and media. And it carried a warning: "Please be sensitive about interviews or other media displays of a luxurious lifestyle."

NBA players -- pro athletes in every sport, really -- have trouble winning the public relations battle when there's a lockout or strike. For one, people think they're grossly overpaid to begin with. For another, the owners are much smaller in number. The commissioner of the sport usually institutes a gag order.

Basically, ownership knows that players can do and say the craziest things given enough time. Some of those things are bound to backfire when the public is already pre-disposed to wishing a pox on both houses of the warring sides.

Tales From Lockouts Past

Compared to the last NBA lockout and other work stoppages in pro sports, though, NBA players have for the most part avoided some of the more egregious pratfalls of the past:

In an October 1998 interview, guard Kenny Anderson admitted he spent $75,000 a year on insurance and maintenance of his eight cars. Said Anderson, "I was thinking of selling one of my cars. I don't need them all. You know just get rid of the Mercedes."

Oh the horrors of having only one car for each day of the week.
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The same year, Patrick Ewing, president of the NBA Players Association, said, "As pro athletes we make a lot of money but we spend a lot of money, too."
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When players gathered to discuss the labor situation, they chose Las Vegas. When they held a charity basketball game, they doubled down and picked Atlantic City as the site. A percentage of the proceeds from that game were designated for "needy" players but the public backlash was so great all proceeds went to charities.
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When the lockout ended, Shawn Kemp became the face of indulgence. Which made sense since he developed two extra chins during the 204-day stalemate. He reported to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a Macy's parade float, weighing well over 300 pounds.

When head coach Mike Fratelo asked him how he could've let himself so, Kemp said, "Coach, I didn't think we were coming back."
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Guard Tim Hardaway, out of touch with polls showing public apathy toward the NBA at the time, said, "People are starving to see pro basketball."

Just not Shawn Kemp.
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The tone set by NBA players during the 1998-99 lockout called to mind running back John Riggins during the 1982 NFL strike.

Somebody came up with the bright idea of staging exhibition games in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. that year. Despite a lack of insurance, Riggins played.

Said Riggins, "I'll do just about anything for money."

This time around, NBA players for the most part haven't aggravated the situation. "For the most part" means almost everyone except Kenyon Martin whose Twitter account carried a message to detractors:

"All Haters should catch full blown Aids and die. Do the world a favor! and rid us of you all!"

Martin's Twitter account was deactivated the next day and he denied sending out the tweet. He is playing in China.

At the very least, no one has pulled a Rashard Mendenhall, the Pittsburgh Steelers running back who tweeted after the death of Osama bin Laden that we'd only heard "one side" of a terrorist's legacy. And said of 9-11, "We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style."

When sporting goods giant Champion dropped him as a client, Mendenhall sued for breach of contract.

So no NBA player has won the Mendenhall Trophy this time despite a dangerous opportunity to speak of behalf of the late Moammar Gaddafi.

Keeping Busy

This time around, most players have filled the void rather harmlessly.

New Orleans point guard Chris Paul appeared on Family Feud with his father and other family members.
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Kris Humphries married a Kardashian.
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Kris Humphries was served divorce papers by a Kardashian 72 days later.
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Kevin Love took up beach volleyball.
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Ron Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace and went on Dancing With The Stars.
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Dwight Howard and Gilbert Arenas posted pictures of themselves "planking."
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Kevin Durant accepted a Twitter fan's request to play flag football at Oklahoma State.
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LeBron James put on the pads and practiced with his old high school football team.
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Blake Griffin interned with the internet humor site Funny or Die.
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Spencer Hawes, a Seattle native, got the Space Needle shaved into the back of his head.
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Amar'e Stoudemire said players might have to consider starting their own league.

According to the latest reports, the 2011-12 season might be canceled. Which will leave players plenty of time to add to this list.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer who has also written for the Philadelphia Daily News, San Diego Union-Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The National. You can read his Plain Dealer columns at Cleveland.com, and read all his mental_floss articles here.

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Yes, You Can Put Your Christmas Decorations Up Now—and Should, According to Psychologists
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We all know at least one of those people who's already placing an angel on top of his or her Christmas tree while everyone else on the block still has paper ghosts stuck to their windows and a rotting pumpkin on the stoop. Maybe it’s your neighbor; maybe it’s you. Jolliness aside, these early decorators tend to get a bad rap. For some people, the holidays provide more stress than splendor, so the sight of that first plastic reindeer on a neighbor's roof isn't exactly a welcome one.

But according to two psychoanalysts, these eager decorators aren’t eccentric—they’re simply happier. Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown told UNILAD:

“Although there could be a number of symptomatic reasons why someone would want to obsessively put up decorations early, most commonly for nostalgic reasons either to relive the magic or to compensate for past neglect.

In a world full of stress and anxiety people like to associate to things that make them happy and Christmas decorations evoke those strong feelings of the childhood.

Decorations are simply an anchor or pathway to those old childhood magical emotions of excitement. So putting up those Christmas decorations early extend the excitement!”

Amy Morin, another psychoanalyst, linked Christmas decorations with the pleasures of childhood, telling the site: “The holiday season stirs up a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia helps link people to their personal past and it helps people understand their identity. For many, putting up Christmas decorations early is a way for them to reconnect with their childhoods.”

She also explained that these nostalgic memories can help remind people of spending the holidays with loved ones who have since passed away. As Morin remarked, “Decorating early may help them feel more connected with that individual.”

And that neighbor of yours who has already been decorated since Halloween? Well, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, homes that have been warmly decorated for the holidays make the residents appear more “friendly and cohesive” compared to non-decorated homes when observed by strangers. Basically, a little wreath can go a long way.

So if you want to hang those stockings before you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead. You might just find yourself happier for it.

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11 Black Friday Purchases That Aren't Always The Best Deal
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Black Friday can bring out some of the best deals of the year (along with the worst in-store behavior), but that doesn't mean every advertised price is worth splurging on. While many shoppers are eager to save a few dollars and kickstart the holiday shopping season, some purchases are better left waiting for at least a few weeks (or longer).

1. FURNITURE

Display of outdoor furniture.
Photo by Isaac Benhesed on Unsplash

Black Friday is often the best time to scope out deals on large purchases—except for furniture. That's because newer furniture models and styles often appear in showrooms in February. According to Kurt Knutsson, a consumer technology expert, the best furniture deals can be found in January, and later on in July and August. If you're aiming for outdoor patio sets, expect to find knockout prices when outdoor furniture is discounted and put on clearance closer to Labor Day.

2. TOOLS

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Unless you're shopping for a specific tool as a Christmas gift, it's often better to wait until warmer weather rolls around to catch great deals. While some big-name brands offer Black Friday discounts, the best tool deals roll around in late spring and early summer, just in time for Memorial Day and Father's Day.

3. BEDDING AND LINENS

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Sheet and bedding sets are often used as doorbuster items for Black Friday sales, but that doesn't mean you should splurge now. Instead, wait for annual linen sales—called white sales—to pop up after New Year's. Back in January of 1878, department store operator John Wanamaker held the first white sale as a way to push bedding inventory out of his stores. Since then, retailers have offered these top-of-the-year sales and January remains the best time to buy sheets, comforters, and other cozy bed linens.

4. HOLIDAY DÉCOR

Rows of holiday gnomes.
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If you are planning to snag a new Christmas tree, lights, or other festive décor, it's likely worth making due with what you have and snapping up new items after December 25. After the holidays, retailers are looking to quickly move out holiday items to make way for spring inventory, so ornaments, trees, yard inflatables, and other items often drastically drop in price, offering better deals than before the holidays. If you truly can't wait, the better option is shopping as close to Christmas as possible, when stores try to reduce their Christmas stock before resorting to clearance prices.

5. TOYS

Child choosing a toy car.
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Unless you're shopping for a very specific gift that's likely to sell out before the holidays, Black Friday toy deals often aren't the best time to fill your cart at toy stores. Stores often begin dropping toy prices two weeks before Christmas, meaning there's nothing wrong with saving all your shopping (and gift wrapping) until the last minute.

6. ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND JEWELRY

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Holiday jewelry commercials can be pretty persuasive when it comes to giving diamonds and gold as gifts. But, savvy shoppers can often get the best deals on baubles come spring and summer—prices tend to be at their highest between Christmas and Valentine's Day thanks to engagements and holiday gift-giving. But come March, prices begin to drop through the end of summer as jewelers see fewer purchases, making it worth passing up Black Friday deals.

7. PLANE TICKETS AND TRAVEL PACKAGES

Searching for flights online.
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While it's worth looking at plane ticket deals on Black Friday, it's not always the best idea to whip out your credit card. Despite some sales, the best time to purchase a flight is still between three weeks and three and a half months out. Some hotel sites will offer big deals after Thanksgiving and on Cyber Monday, but it doesn't mean you should spring for next year's vacation just yet. The best travel and accommodation deals often pop up in January and February when travel numbers are down.

8. FOOD AND SNACK BASKETS

Gift basket against a blue background.
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Fancy fruit, meat and cheese, and snack baskets are easy gifts for friends and family (or yourself, let's be honest), but they shouldn't be snagged on Black Friday. And because baskets are jam-packed full of perishables, you likely won't want to buy them a month away from the big day anyway. But traditionally, you'll spend less cheddar if you wait to make those purchases in December.

9. WINTER CLOTHING

Rack of women's winter clothing.
Photo by Hannah Morgan on Unsplash.

Buying clothing out of season is usually a big money saver, and winter clothes are no exception. Although some brands push big discounts online and in-store, the best savings on coats, gloves, and other winter accessories can still be found right before Black Friday—pre-Thanksgiving apparel markdowns can hit nearly 30 percent off—and after the holidays.

10. SMARTPHONES

Group of hands holding smartphones.
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While blowout tech sales are often reserved for Cyber Monday, retailers will try to pull you in-store with big electronics discounts on Black Friday. But, not all of them are really the best deals. The price for new iPhones, for example, may not budge much (if at all) the day after Thanksgiving. If you're in the market for a new phone, the best option might be waiting at least a few more weeks as prices on older models drop. Or, you can wait for bundle deals that crop up during December, where you pay standard retail price but receive free accessories or gift cards along with your new phone.

11. KITCHEN GADGETS

Row of hanging kitchen knives and utensils.
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Black Friday is a great shopping day for cooking enthusiasts—at least for those who are picky about their kitchen appliances. Name-brand tools and appliances often see good sales, since stores drop prices upwards of 40 to 50 percent to move through more inventory. But that doesn't mean all slow cookers, coffee makers, and utensil prices are the best deals. Many stores advertise no-name kitchen items that are often cheaply made and cheaply priced. Purchasing these lower-grade items can be a waste of money, even on Black Friday, since chances are you may be stuck looking for a replacement next year. And while shoppers love to find deals, the whole point of America's unofficial shopping holiday is to save money on products you truly want (and love).

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