Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard/forward Ron Howard and current Minnesota Timberwolves and former Iowa Energy guard/forward Othyus Jeffers were today named the 2013-14 NBA Development League’s Co-Most Valuable Players, as voted by the NBA D-League’s 17 head coaches.

Howard (6-5, 200, Valparaiso) played in 49 regular season games for the Mad Ants, averaging a team-high and career-best 20.5 points to go with 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Howard spearheaded Fort Wayne’s offense, leading the team in scoring 24 times and serving as the high-assist man in 22 games. A seven-year Mad Ants veteran, Howard became the league’s all-time leading scorer on March 29 when he scored 20 points to pass Renaldo Major’s previous record of 4,252 points.

Selected as an All-Star in 2014 for the third time in his career, Howard led his Mad Ants to a franchise record and NBA D-League best 36-14 record, the East Division Championship and the top-overall seed in the 2014 NBA D-League playoffs. Fort Wayne won 13 of its last 15 regular season games and boast a perfect 4-0 record in the 2014 postseason having swept the Reno Bighorns and Sioux Falls Skyforce en route to the team’s first-ever NBA D-League Finals appearance. In four playoff games, Howard is averaging 17.3 points, 4.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds.

The recipient of back-to-back NBA D-League Jason Collier Sportsmanship awards, Howard and the Mad Ants begin their inaugural trip to the NBA D-League Finals tonight when the team takes on the Santa Cruz Warriors in California. Howard will be presented with his Co-MVP trophy on Saturday when the series moves to Fort Wayne for Game 2.

Jeffers (6-5, 210, Robert Morris) played in 44 of the Energy’s 50 regular season games before earning a GATORADE Call-Up to the Timberwolves on April 8. He averaged a team-high 20.9 points, good for eighth-best in the NBA D-League, to go with 9.9 rebounds (fourth) and 2.2 steals (fifth). He led Iowa in scoring 20 times and was the team’s high-rebounder in an additional 20 contests. Jeffers scored in double figures in 43 of his 44 games with the Energy, scoring 30 or more points twice.

A 2014 NBA D-League All-Star, Jeffers joins Howard as the only NBA D-League players to play in three NBA D-League All-Star Games. He was named NBA D-League Performer of the Week on Dec. 2 and was the season’s first NBA D-League Player of the Month for games played in November and December. During the 2013-14 season, Jeffers appeared in six NBA contests following call-ups to Minnesota and the San Antonio Spurs. A five-time GATORADE Call-Up recipient, Jeffers owns NBA averages of 3.8 points, 1.6 rebounds and 11.9 minutes over 37 games.

Jeffers led the Energy to the Central Division Championship and the third-overall seed in the 2014 NBA D-League playoffs before being signed by Minnesota. A five-year veteran of the Energy, Jeffers was the 2009 NBA D-League’s Rookie of the Year and boasts career averages of 19.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 35.8 minutes in 185 games.

“I’m thrilled that our coaches honored both Othyus and Ron as Co-MVPs in our league this season,” said Chris Alpert, Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA D-League. “Both Ron and Othyus had impressive seasons, leading their teams to Division Championships while putting up the best numbers of their respective careers. I’m proud to honor them both, and congratulate each of them on the tremendous and well-deserved award.”

Mike Conley of the Memphis Grizzlies is the recipient of the Joe Dumars Trophy presented to the 2013-14 NBA Sportsmanship Award winner, the NBA announced today. Conley becomes the first Grizzlies player to receive the honor.

Conley (Southwest) was one of six divisional winners, which included Boston’s Jeff Green (Atlantic), Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy (Central), Phoenix’s Channing Frye (Pacific), Portland’s Damian Lillard (Northwest) and Washington’s Bradley Beal (Southeast).

Conley received 77 first-place votes (of a possible 334) and 2,335 total points overall. The NBA will make a $10,000 donation on behalf of Conley to his charity of choice, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, specifically for research pertaining to sickle cell anemia.

For the 10th consecutive year, NBA players voted on this award, with eleven points given for each first-place vote, nine points for each second-place vote, seven points for third, five points for fourth, three points for fifth and one point for each sixth-place vote received. Each team nominated one of its players for the award. Former NBA players John Crotty, Antonio Davis, Eddie Johnson, Jalen Rose, and Isiah Thomas selected the six divisional winners from a pool of 30 team nominees.

The NBA will make a $5,000 donation to each of the divisional winner’s charities of choice: a split donation between Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington for Beal; Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer for Dunleavy ; the Frye Family Foundation on behalf of Frye; the Cleveland Clinic Foundation on behalf of Green; a split donation between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Oregon/Southwestern Washington affiliates of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure for Lillard.

The annual award reflects the ideals of sportsmanship — ethical behavior, fair play and integrity — in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league’s NBA Cares program efforts. The trophy is named for former Detroit Pistons guard and Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, the award’s first recipient.

Heat edge Bobcats for 2-0 series lead

LeBron James scored 32 points and added eight assists, Chris Bosh scored 20 points and the Miami Heat held on to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 101-97 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the teams’ Eastern Conference first-round series.

Dwyane Wade scored 15 points, plus had a steal in the final seconds to help seal the win for Miami. Mario Chalmers added 11 for the Heat.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 22 points for Charlotte, which got 18 points and 13 rebounds from Al Jefferson, who played through a left plantar fascia strain and shot 9 for 23 from the floor.

– Associated Press

Tuesday in Toronto, the Raptors beat the Brooklyn Nets 100-95 to tie their first round playoff series at one win apiece. In the win, DeMar DeRozan shot 9-of-21, with 12-of-14 free throws, finishing with 30 points. He did commit six turnovers; still, the all-star stepped up and helped his squad squeeze out a much-needed victory. Here are some DeRozan video highlights:

No, Phil Jackson is not going to name himself as new Knicks coach

The coaching search is on in New York, and the best possible candidate has already been eliminated.

Phil Jackson won’t be hiring himself to coach the Knicks.

Two days after firing Mike Woodson, Jackson reiterated Wednesday that he won’t be returning to the bench, despite the fact that even fiancee Jeanie Buss told him he should.

But Jackson, who retired from coaching in 2011 after winning an NBA-record 11 titles, said his body isn’t up to doing the job.

“Jeanie Buss was here with the Board of Governors last week and stayed through the weekend, and tried to encourage me to coach the team. And if there’s anyone that can encourage me to do anything, it’s Jeanie Buss. But I was able to withstand her arguments the whole time,” Jackson said at the Knicks’ training center.

– Associated Press

Tuesday in Chicago, the Washington Wizards beat the Bulls 101-99 in overtime to take a 2-0 series lead. Wizards guard Bradley Beal shot 9-of-20 for 26 points, 7 rebounds and two steals in the win. John Wall is the star guard in the Wizards backcourt, but Beal is on the rise. Here are some video highlights:

Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle with a report on the Warriors and their San Francisco arena plans:

Plan for San Francisco waterfront Warriors arena gets ditched

The Golden State Warriors have abandoned their plan to build an arena on Piers 30-32 just south of the Bay Bridge and instead have purchased a site in San Francisco’s burgeoning Mission Bay to hold a new 18,000-seat venue.

The Warriors bought the 12-acre site from Salesforce.com at an undisclosed price in a deal signed Saturday night, said Rick Welts, the Warriors’ president and chief operating officer. The team plans to have the arena ready for the 2018-19 NBA season.

The shift in location provides the Warriors with predictability and fewer regulatory hurdles. It also eliminates any need for voter approval, which may have become necessary for the Pier 30-32 venue that Mayor Ed Lee once called “my legacy project.”

The change has assuaged some of the project’s most vocal critics, who opposed building a 125-foot-high arena near the Embarcadero amid concerns about traffic, environmental harm during construction and blocked views of the Bay Bridge…

The Warriors will own the site outright, rather than leasing it from the Port of San Francisco, and the team says the arena will be entirely privately financed - a rare instance of a modern sports venue that would use no taxpayer funds or public land.

The new site off Third Street does not, however, have the iconic feel and stunning views of the Bay Bridge. Instead, the view is of a dry dock, an industrial pier and rusting old pilings that dot the water. Visible across the bay are the cranes and skyline of Oakland, the Warriors’ home after the team played in San Francisco from 1962 to 1971.

The Warriors’ planned arena is part of a redevelopment area and growing biotech hub, with a UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital being built diagonally across from the arena site.

Here’s the Washington Post reporting on the Wizards, who have played two NBA playoff games against the Bulls, both in Chicago, and won both. Nice position to be in:

The Washington Wizards had to wait six years to get back to the postseason. But they only needed two games to really get introduced to playoff basketball, with more physical play, short tempers and extreme rallies. In the intense cauldron of United Center — a place that has devoured more seasoned units — the Wizards refused to relent after watching a 17-point lead turn into a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and didn’t crumble when they were betrayed by missed free throws and calls that went against them.

The Wizards have been through several ups and downs during the regular season, and they staged a game against the Chicago Bulls that matched those emotional oscillations. Relying upon the scoring of its youngest player, Bradley Beal, and the guile of Nene, Washington took a two-games-to-none lead in this best of seven series with a 101-99 overtime victory in which it outscrapped and outwilled the Bulls.

“I wanted our guys to be greedy,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “Nothing is guaranteed. We’ve got two wins, you’ve got to get to four. We have to continue to understand how we won these games and the way we went about it.”

Beal scored a game-high 26 points and Nene scored 17, with six coming in overtime, as the Wizards accomplished their mission of returning to Washington for Friday’s Game 3 with two wins. Grasping to a two-point lead in the closing seconds, Nene fouled out while contesting Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich on a driving layup, sending the former Wizard to the free throw line with 2.4 seconds remaining.

Here’s TMZ.com reporting on Eric Williams, who played for the Boston Celtics and other teams in the NBA, and later made some appearances on the TV show “VH1 Basketball Wives.” We have no idea if this report is accurate or not. TMZ tends to be good at knowing when former pro athletes are struggling, though. Anyway, keep in mind that they are usually on point with stuff, but also do make mistakes.

Eric Williams broke homeless

Former NBA player Eric Williams — who spent 12 seasons in league — says he is homeless and broke … this according to legal docs obtained by TMZ Sports.

Williams — who also appeared on “Basketball Wives” — made the shocking statements in a letter he wrote to a Colorado court recently explaining why he could not attend a child support hearing in CO earlier this month.

Among the reasons, Williams says a “court-ordered citation for me to appear was not delivered to my home address as I have no home.”

Phoenix’s Goran Dragic, who helped lead the Suns to a 23-win improvement while establishing career highs in scoring and field goal percentage, is the winner of the 2013-14 NBA Most Improved Player Award, the NBA announced today. The annual award is presented to a player who has made a significant improvement from the previous season.

Dragic received 408 of a possible 1,134 points, including 65 first-place votes, from a panel of 126 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers (158 points, 13 first-place votes) and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans (155 points, 16 first-place votes) finished second and third, respectively. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third place vote received.

Dragic, who entered the 2013-14 campaign with a career scoring average of 9.5 points, averaged a career-best 20.3 points to go with 5.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds, as the Suns finished with a record of 48-34, one game behind the Dallas Mavericks, who claimed the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. He shot a career-best .505 from the field, including a .408 mark from behind the three-point arc. He was the only player in the NBA to shoot at least 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Dragic started 75 of the 76 games he appeared in, and helped keep the Suns in playoff contention, despite the extended absence of teammate Eric Bledsoe, who was limited to 43 games this season.

The title say it all. Enjoy this video of the top 10 poster dunks of the 2013-14 NBA regular season:

Here’s ESPN Los Angeles reporting on the Clippers, who yesterday enjoyed a huge Game 2 blowout win over the Warriors that tied their first round series at one win each:

Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul will be limited in practice over the next two days by an injured right hamstring heading into Thursday’s Game 3 of the team’s first-round playoff series against the Golden State Warriors.

“He won’t do much,” coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday. “He may do a little tomorrow but nothing today. We’re not doing anything today anyway, but I don’t need him doing anything.”

Paul injured his right hamstring late in the first half of the Clippers’ 109-105 Game 1 loss on Saturday and received round-the-clock treatment heading into Game 2, when he played 27 minutes and had 12 points and 10 assists in a 138-98 blowout of the Warriors.

Flip Saunders is a former coach himself, so he knows how coveted a head coaching job in the NBA can be.

The Timberwolves’ president of basketball operations may also soon find out how difficult filling an opening can be as well.

Saunders started the search for a new coach in earnest on Tuesday, one day after Rick Adelman announced his retirement. It’s a move that has been expected for some time, and Saunders has no doubt been kicking around possibilities. As a former coach, and a well-respected basketball mind, Saunders has a vast reservoir of contacts in the coaching fraternity, contacts that he will need to tap during a delicate search for a new leader.

Hanging over the process is Kevin Love’s uncertain future in Minnesota. Love can opt out of his contract after next season. The possibility of losing the face of the franchise, one of the best power forwards in the game and a relentless worker who has improved every summer could give some coaches pause when considering Minnesota.

– Associated Press

Maine Red Claws guard Frank Gaines was today named the 2014 NBA Development League Most Improved Player, as voted on by the 17 NBA D-League head coaches. The award, which was instituted prior to the 2009-10 season, honors the player who demonstrated the most significant improvement through the course of the season.

Gaines (6-3, 195, IPFW) finished his rookie campaign in the NBA D-League having played in 48 of the team’s 50 regular season games, averaging a team-high 22.4 points, good for fourth-best in the NBA D-League. He added 3.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 35.4 minutes.

A 34-game starter, Gaines began his professional career averaging 19.2 points in November, December and January, before finishing the season averaging 25.4 points in February, March and April.

“As a rookie with the Red Claws this season, Frank seized the opportunity to develop all aspects of his game,” said Chris Alpert, Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA D-League. “I’m thrilled that the league’s coaches took note of his marked improvement during the season, and I congratulate Frank on an impressive inaugural campaign.”

Gaines becomes the fifth player, and second member of the Red Claws, to earn Most Improved Player honors, joining Cameron Jones (Santa Cruz, 2012-13), Kenny Hayes (Maine, 2011-12), Dar Tucker (New Mexico, 2010-11), and Mildon Ambres (Idaho, 2009-10) as NBA D-League players to have received the award.

Lakers hire Dan Grigsby as General Counsel

The Los Angeles Lakers have promoted Jim Perzik to Senior Vice President of Legal Affairs/Secretary, and have hired Dan Grigsby as General Counsel, replacing Perzik, it was announced today by team President Jeanie Buss. Grigsby joins the Lakers from the law firm of Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, where he was Partner and Chairman of the National Sports Law Group since 2004. He has worked as outside legal counsel for the Lakers at the firm, as well as when he previously worked at Arnold & Porter (2001-04), Blanc Williams Johnston & Kronstadt (1997-2001), Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott (1991-97) and Fine, Perzik & Friedman (1981-91). Grigsby graduated from UCLA in 1977 with a degree in political science, and received his law degree in 1981, graduating from the Whittier College School of Law. He passed the California State Bar Exam in May of 1981.

Perzik, who represented former Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss for 45 years, was intimately involved in the complicated acquisition of the team by Dr. Buss in 1979 when he purchased the Lakers, the Forum, the Los Angeles Kings hockey team and related properties from previous owner Jack Kent Cooke. In his new position, Perzik will continue to oversee the Lakers’ legal issues, including the development of the team’s new training facility and offices. In January 2015, he will decrease his office workload, but will continue to work with the team in a consulting capacity.

“Having worked with Dan as our outside legal representative for over 30 years, we’re very familiar and comfortable with him, and have the highest regard for him as both an attorney and person,” said Buss. “Jim has been a part of our Lakers family as well as an important member of our organization for many years,” continued Buss. “His contributions to our company and our success have been invaluable and greatly appreciated.”

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is the recipient of the Red Auerbach Trophy as the 2013-14 NBA Coach of the Year, the NBA announced today. Popovich’s Spurs posted the league’s best record at 62-20 (.756), which provides them with homecourt advantage throughout the postseason.

Popovich, who wins his second NBA Coach of the Year award in the past three seasons and third of his career, joins Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches to receive the honor three times. He totaled 380 points, including 59 first-place votes, from a panel of 124 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Coaches were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote. The award voting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP.

The Spurs were the only team to record 30-plus wins both at home (32-9, .780) and on the road (30-11, .732), and their 38-14 record against conference opponents tied for the best mark in the league (Indiana Pacers). San Antonio led the NBA in points per game differential at +7.8, having averaged 105.4 ppg while giving up just 97.6 ppg.

2013-14 marked the 15th consecutive season that Popovich’s Spurs posted 50 or more wins, and the fourth time in that span that the team tallied 60-plus victories. San Antonio recorded a 19-game winning streak – tied for fifth-longest in NBA history – between Feb. 26-April 2.

Popovich presided over a balanced roster which featured no player who averaged 20-plus points, nor 30-plus minutes, with Tony Parker’s 16.7 ppg and 29.4 mpg leading both categories. He ended the 2013-14 campaign with 967 regular season wins, good for ninth on the all-time list.

The Coach of the Year Award is named after legendary coach and Hall of Famer Red Auerbach who guided the Celtics to nine NBA Championships. In 1996, Auerbach was honored as one of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA History as the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Here’s a video of 2013-14 season highlights from Warriors guard Stephon Curry:

Watch this ridiculous, clutch, four-point play that Kevin Durant got for the Thunder against the Grizzlies in their first-round NBA playoff series. Memphis wound up winning the game in overtime, but check the video footage:

The top-seeded Fort Wayne Mad Ants will face the sixth-seeded Santa Cruz Warriors in the 2014 NBA Development League Finals, which tip off on Thursday, April 24, at 9:30 p.m. ET, with the Warriors hosting the Mad Ants in Santa Cruz.

The Mad Ants, who are undefeated in the 2014 NBA D-League postseason, will face off against the Warriors who are making their second consecutive trip to the NBA D-League Finals. The Mad Ants (4-0) swept the Reno Bighorns and the Sioux Falls Skyforce to reach the Finals for the first time in franchise history, after having amassed a league-best 34-16 regular season record. The Warriors (4-1) defeated the Los Angeles D-Fenders in two games before besting the Rio Grande Valley Vipers 2-1 in the second round to advance to the Championship round. Fort Wayne defeated Santa Cruz in the team’s lone regular season meeting.

CBS Sports Network resumes exclusive coverage of the 2014 NBA D-League postseason when it telecasts the first game of the 2014 NBA D-League Finals live from Santa Cruz, before following the series to Fort Wayne, Indiana, when the Mad Ants host Game Two on Saturday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. ET, which will air at 10:30 p.m. ET that night. If the series requires a third game, CBS Sports Network will televise the decisive Championship game live on Monday, April 28, at 7 p.m. ET from Indiana. Brent Stover and Alaa Abdelnaby call the action on CBS Sports Network for all three Finals games.

Kobe Bryant begins new training routine

Here’s ESPN Los Angeles reporting on veteran Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who maintains his competitive fire and is still being paid like a team-carrying superstar:

Kobe Bryant begins new training routine

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant began an intense six-month training program with an early-morning workout Monday, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.

Bryant has been cleared for running and shooting as he returns from a broken bone in his left lateral tibial plateau that caused him to miss all but six games this season. He has been ramping up his activity level the last few weeks and was confident about pushing harder after receiving positive feedback during a consultation last week with the doctors in Germany who previously performed the platelet-rich plasma treatment known as Orthokine on his knees.

Bryant visited the doctors while he was in Europe on a short trip with his family last week, sources said.

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