In the last two decades, all but three titles have been claimed by teams that had at least the fourth-best overall record in the league. So maybe the two-time defending champion Miami Heat have some reason to worry: They were No. 5 this season.

“For the most part,” Atlanta’s Kyle Korver said Friday, “the best team wins.”

The Hawks, therefore, have no chance. Not with the worst record (38-44) among the playoff qualifiers. Not in this league, which tends to weed out the sort of surprises you see in the one-and-done NCAA tournament — where a No. 7 seed (Connecticut) beats a No. 8 seed (Kentucky) for the championship. Or in the NFL, where a team getting hot at the right time can spring a major surprise on the right day.

Then NBA is best-of-seven through four grueling rounds; but, then again, so is the NHL, which also requires 16 playoff wins to take the championship. Baseball, for that matter, has the same format for its league championship series and World Series. Why, then, do those leagues produce far more surprise champions than the NBA?

– Associated Press

Here’s the New York Post reporting on the Brooklyn Nets, who begin their first-round NBA playoff series against the Toronto Raptors tomorrow:

Nets guard Shaun Livingston tries to heal up for playoffs

As the Nets rotated players in and out of the lineup over the final five games of the season in order to be rested and healthy for the playoffs, only one player sat out all five games.

That player was Shaun Livingston, who sprained his right big toe on a dunk attempt in the Nets’ win over the Heat on April 8 in Miami and needed the week off to be back in the starting lineup for Saturday’s matinee Game 1 against the Raptors.

“I definitely needed the time,” Livingston said after Friday’s practice. “But circumstances, I think I would have been able to play through it. I would have just pushed through it.

“I feel better. I got a chance to get on the court for the first time [Thursday], so I feel better. I’m shaking off the rust, trying to get my wind back. There’s going to be a lot of adrenaline … [so I’ll] just try to stay composed and stay in the moment.”

George Kaiser joins Thunder ownership group

Tulsa businessman George B. Kaiser has been approved by the NBA Board of Governors as a new partner in The Professional Basketball Club, LLC, which owns the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thunder Chairman and CEO Clayton I. Bennett made the announcement today. Kaiser is purchasing the ownership interest of Tom L. Ward.

“We are honored to welcome George Kaiser as a member of the ownership group of the Oklahoma City Thunder,” Bennett said. “George is a well-respected and important Oklahoma business leader, as well as one of the state and nation’s top philanthropists. His commitment to successful business and community leadership is in true alignment with that of the Thunder.

“I also appreciate the commitment and leadership provided by Tom Ward as a member of our ownership group from the beginning,” Bennett added.

“I am pleased to join the Thunder ownership group,” Kaiser said. “I appreciate what Tom, Clay and the other owners have done to make Oklahoma City a big-league city and look forward to joining the continuing effort to gain positive recognition for our state.”

“I am very pleased to have been a part of the group that brought the Thunder to Oklahoma City, ” Ward said. “The team has generated tremendous excitement in our city and state. This transaction allows me to have greater focus on the things that I know and care about the most, which include launching new Oklahoma-based energy companies and supporting charitable organizations that demonstrate compassion to those in need.”

Kaiser is president, CEO and primary owner of GBK Corporation, parent of Kaiser-Francis Oil Company, which he has managed for 40 years. He is chairman of the board and majority shareholder of BOK Financial Corporation and a major shareholder in several energy, oil and gas, mining and technology companies.

Kaiser has been engaged in numerous civic activities, including working with others to establish both the Tulsa Community Foundation and Tulsa Educare. He founded the George Kaiser Family Foundation, dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancements.

In addition, through a transaction approved by the NBA Board of Governors on Friday, Clayton I. Bennett, Chairman and CEO of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chairman of Dorchester Capital; Aubrey K. McClendon, Chairman and CEO of American Energy Partners; William M. Cameron, Chairman and CEO of American Fidelity Assurance Company; and Jay Scaramucci, President of Balon Corporation, have each purchased ownership interests from G. Jeffrey Records, Jr., CEO of MidFirst Bank. Records remains a significant owner of the team and MidFirst remains a major sponsor.

The ownership interests of Everett R. Dobson, Managing Partner of Dobson Partnerships; and Robert E. Howard II, Chairman of Howard Investments, did not change.

Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting on flashy Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio:

Rubio’s representatives and Flip Saunders, the Wolves president of basketball operations, can begin July 1 discussions on a contract extension of the rookie deal he signed in May 2011.

The two sides have until the end of October to reach an agreement, otherwise Rubio will play next season under his current contract and become a restricted free agent in July 2015. That’s the same time teammate Kevin Love will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.

Expect Rubio’s side to push for a contract closer to a maximum salary than the four-year, $44 million extension Golden State’s Stephen Curry received, which the Wolves just might view as beyond their limits.

“No, it’s something I’m not worried about,” Rubio said Wednesday. “It’s something my agent is going to talk with Flip. It’s something I don’t have to be worried. I just worry about playing. I just want to have it being on a team that’s winning and I think this team is growing up and we can do it and I want to play in a playoff, you know?”

Here’s the Denver Post reporting on Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari:

Danilo Gallinari should be ready for Nuggets training camp

Indications are that Gallinari will be ready for training camp. He sat out this season after needing a second ACL surgery in January. But he’s running now. And jumping. And dunking.

“It felt great just to grab that rim,” Gallinari said, smiling.

He’s not doing anything too crazy, but he’s ahead of schedule and said he will be ready when October arrives.

“It’s going very good,” he said. “The guys are trying to keep me calm, because I feel like I can do a lot of stuff. They are holding me back. Finally, I feel like I did the right thing with the right surgery.”

Gallinari was the Nuggets’ second-leading scorer in the 2012-13 season and one of their best 3-point shooters. They could have used him this season.

Quick intro to the 2014 NBA playoffs

Here’s the Philadelphia Daily News with some words on the 2014 NBA playoffs, which begin tomorrow:

This year’s playoffs is a mix between the usual contenders and a few surprises. The Eastern Conference is significantly weaker than the Western Conference, as has been the case all season.

For example, the Washington Wizards, who are the No. 5 seed in the East, won 10 fewer games than the Portland Trail Blazers, the No. 5 seed in the West. The Atlanta Hawks, who snuck in as the eighth seed, are six games below .500.

The Heat and Pacers are the class of the East, and seem to be on a collision course in the conference finals. Any one of the top four seeds in the West thinks it realistically has a shot at getting to the Finals. The combination of the two scenarios will make for an exciting 2 months of basketball.

And now, read this still-growing NBA playoff preview.

The Phoenix Suns are the “best team not to make the playoffs.”

That’s the title first-year coach Jeff Hornacek bestowed on his overachieving squad after it finished a remarkable turnaround season. But despite 48 wins, the Suns are staying home when the real fun begins.

They’ve tied a record of sorts.

In the NBA’s 16-team playoff era, only one other 48-win team didn’t make the postseason — the 2007-08 Golden State Warriors.

It’s a frustrating situation because of the decidedly Western power tilt in the NBA. If Phoenix was in the Eastern Conference, it would be tied for the third-best record with Toronto and Chicago. The Suns won 10 more games than the East’s No. 8 seed, Atlanta.

– Associated Press

Paul Millsap a triple threat for Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks finished 38-44 this regular season and qualified for the NBA playoffs. Here’s a note from the Atlanta Journal Constitution on one of their key players:

Paul Millsap a triple threat for Hawks

Paul Millsap completed his impressive first season with the Hawks - and he has the statistics to prove it. With the completion of the season, we take a look at the NBA’s final regular-season statistics to see how the Hawks fared in the league.

Millsap tied for 28th in scoring at 17.9 points per game. He also tied for 25th in rebounding at 8.5 boards per game. The power forward finished ninth in steals at 1.7 per game.

The Charlotte Bobcats’ Steve Clifford and the Memphis Grizzlies’ Dave Joerger today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.

Clifford guided the Bobcats to the league’s best record in April at 7-1 (.875). Charlotte notched wins over three playoff teams during the month, beating the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls. The Bobcats were a perfect 3-0 in overtime games in April. Clifford’s team, which posted a 43-39 record for the year and garnered the seven seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, enters the postseason on a three-game winning streak.

Joerger led the Grizzlies to a 6-2 (.750) mark in April, including a perfect 4-0 record at home. Memphis topped the Miami Heat on April 9, their first of five consecutive wins to finish the season. Included in that streak was a 97-91 win over the Phoenix Suns on April 14, which sewed up the Grizzlies’ playoff berth, and a 106-105 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on April 16, which vaulted Memphis from the eight seed to the seven seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Other nominees for Coach of the Month were Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, New York’s Mike Woodson, Portland’s Terry Stotts, Toronto’s Dwane Casey and Washington’s Randy Wittman.

Enjoy this NBA video of the top 10 crossovers of the 2013-14 NBA regular season, which ended Wednesday night:

Bucks being sold. Team will stay in Milwaukee

Herb Kohl, Milwaukee Bucks President and Owner, today announced that he has entered into a signed purchase agreement to transfer ownership of the Bucks to Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry.  Mr. Edens and Mr. Lasry are highly regarded investors who are firmly committed to the success of the franchise and its importance to Milwaukee.

Furthermore, consistent with his commitment to the Bucks and Milwaukee, Senator Kohl has pledged a $100 million gift for the development of a new arena for the team.  In addition to honoring Kohl’s requirement that the team be kept in Milwaukee, the new owners have committed to contribute at least an additional $100 million towards the development of a new arena in the city.

“My priority has always been and will continue to be keeping the Bucks in Milwaukee,” said Kohl.  “This announcement reinforces that Milwaukee is and will continue to be the home of the Bucks.  Wes and Marc agree, and they share my commitment to the long-term success of this franchise in Milwaukee.”

Messrs. Edens and Lasry jointly stated:  “We would like to thank Senator Kohl and his team for their support and cooperation throughout the purchase process.  The Senator has provided the Bucks with nearly 30 years of dedicated stewardship, and we are very excited to join Bucks fans, the city of Milwaukee and the NBA to build the long-term success of this franchise.  Having attended various sporting events in Milwaukee and Green Bay over the years, it is easy to see why the greater-Milwaukee area is such a storied sports atmosphere.

“We are lifelong basketball fans who are committed to the success of the Bucks and the identity of the team as a part of the city of Milwaukee.  It is our vision for this franchise to be admired both locally and nationally for its success on the court, the quality of its organization and the loyalty of its fan base.  Having each built competitive teams in the business world, we will apply that same intensity and determination as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks.  We are as passionate and energized as Bucks fans are about bringing home an NBA championship to Milwaukee.”

Under the terms of the agreement Edens and Lasry have agreed to buy the team for a total purchase price of approximately $550 million.

The parties will proceed to closing following review and approval by the NBA Board of Governors.

“Today’s announcement signals the start of a new, exciting era for the Milwaukee Bucks,” said Kohl.  “Now, with a long-term commitment from the new owners and major components of the funding in place for a new arena, we need to come together as a community to develop plans for a new sports and entertainment facility that will host more than 200 events a year, including Bucks games.  I am confident we will do this.”

The incoming Milwaukee Bucks owners, Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, issued the following statement regarding the purchase of the franchise from Senator Kohl:

We would like to thank Senator Kohl and his team for their support and cooperation throughout the purchase process.  The Senator has provided the Bucks with nearly 30 years of dedicated stewardship, and we are very excited to join Bucks fans, the city of Milwaukee and the NBA to build the long-term success of this franchise.  Having attended various sporting events in Milwaukee and Green Bay over the years, it is easy to see why the greater-Milwaukee area is such a storied sports atmosphere.

We are lifelong basketball fans who are committed to the success of the Bucks and the identity of the team as a part of the city of Milwaukee.  It is our vision for this franchise to be admired both locally and nationally for its success on the court, the quality of its organization and the loyalty of its fan base.  Having each built competitive teams in the business world, we will apply that same intensity and determination as owners of the Milwaukee Bucks.  We are as passionate and energized as Bucks fans are about bringing home an NBA championship to Milwaukee.

In addition, our leadership of the Milwaukee Bucks will not be limited to the basketball court.  We are eager to become active contributors to the greater-Milwaukee community, and plan to establish a presence in the city.  Furthermore, we are committed to spending a significant amount of personal resources, including a contribution of at least $100 million, to work alongside the community and Senator Kohl to develop a new state-of-the-art sports venue in Milwaukee.  We want to provide fans with the best sports experience imaginable, and we believe a new arena and the development of the surrounding downtown area will immensely benefit the game-day atmosphere as well as the city of Milwaukee.

We would like to convey our appreciation to Commissioner Adam Silver and the entire NBA organization.  It will be an honor and a privilege to be the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks and a part of the NBA.

We look forward to playing an integral and active role in the future success of the Bucks on and off the court, with the organization’s operations and talent as well as through the development of a new arena in Milwaukee.  Fear the Deer!

The deal is subject to the approval of the National Basketball Association Board of Governors.

Knicks sign Lamar Odom

Knicks sign Lamar Odom

New York Knicks President Phil Jackson announced today that the team has signed forward Lamar Odom for the remainder of the season, which ends tonight. Though multiple reports state that the deal is a two year deal, with the first season ending tonight, and next season nonguaranteed.

Odom has been the subject of very negative drug-related rumors for the better part of a year now. His marriage to Khloe Kardashian fell apart for that reason, according to virtually every gossip news outlet in existence. It makes sense that Odom’s deal is so short. This gives the Knicks a chance to get to know him and see if he’s fit for a contract next season.

Odom, 6-10, 221-pounds, holds career averages of 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 33.4 minutes in 961 games (684 starts) over 14 seasons with the L.A. Clippers, Miami, L.A. Lakers and Dallas. He appeared in two games for Baskonia (Spain) this season and last played in the NBA for the Clippers during the 2012-13 season, averaging 4.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists over 19.7 minutes in 82 games (two starts).

The Queens-native, was originally selected by the Clippers after his sophomore season at the University of Rhode Island in the first round (fourth overall) of 1999 NBA Draft. He is a two-time NBA champion (2009 & 2010) with the Lakers, and was on the Bronze-medal winning team with USA Basketball in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. In addition, Odom was the 2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year and was an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection in 2000.

Here’s the Bay Area News Group, via the San Jose Mercury news, reporting on the Golden State Warriors, who are 50-31 entering tonight, the final day of the NBA regular season. The Warriors qualified for the playoffs, which begin Saturday.

Within hours of the discouraging news about Andrew Bogut, the Warriors got an encouraging report from another corner of the medical department: David Lee was looking like his old self.

Lee scored 25 points and had nine rebounds Monday night against Minnesota, a far cry from what was thought to be possible a week ago. At that time there was doubt that the 6-foot-10 forward would be able to help the Warriors much down the stretch or in the playoffs because of a hamstring pull that was complicated by severe nerve pain. Lee missed seven games after suffering the injury on March 22 against San Antonio, and he didn’t seem to be making much progress.

Even when he returned to action last Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers and then again Sunday in Portland, Lee didn’t look himself. He made only four of 12 shots against L.A. even though he did get 10 rebounds, but appeared to regress against the Trail Blazers. He made just 2 of 9 shots despite playing 33 minutes, had only four rebounds and fouled out while trying to contend with Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

But lo and behold, on the tail end of a back-to-back no less, Lee miraculously found his footing Monday after a rough start defensively against Minnesota’s Kevin Love. He started hitting some of his patented post-ups and mid-range jumpers, and also worked the boards and ran the floor much more effectively than he had during his first two games back.

Lakers have big roster decisions to make

Here’s the Orange County Register reporting on the Lakers, who didn’t even come close to making the NBA playoffs this season, and face a challenging future:

The chants started midway through the fourth quarter, near the end of a rare Lakers blowout victory.

“Keep Gasol!” a motley group of a dozen or so out-of-place Lakers fans repeated rambunctiously Monday at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City.

Twenty rows down from the purple-and-gold revelers on the visitors’ bench, Pau Gasol sat in a trim brown suit. The pending free agent looked up, smiled and offered his Utah-based fan club a thumbs up.

A two-time champion, Gasol will be the face of the Lakers’ tough offseason decisions, but he is only the most high-profile of the Lakers who will find himself on the open market after the season concludes here Wednesday.

It’s likely that a majority of the players on the floor for the Lakers at the AT&T Center will be in their last game. So embrace it now: Nick Young’s celebrations after 3-pointers; Jodie Meeks’ calm and even play; Jordan Hill’s work on the offensive boards.

Only Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre have guaranteed contracts beyond this season.

Here’s the Arizona Republic reporting on Channing Frye, who has enjoyed a terrific season for the Phoenix Suns. The team came close to making the playoffs this season, but just missed out on spots that went to the Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies:

Channing Frye hopes for contract extension from Suns

Frye has a $6.8 million player option for next season. Only Goran Dragic ($7.5 million) and amnestied Josh Childress ($7.32 million) are on the Suns’ books for more next season, although restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe stands to make more.

Frye would like to negotiate a contract extension after averaging 11.2 points and 5.1 rebounds this season on 43.3 percent shooting, including 37.1 percent on 3s.

“I want to talk to the Suns and make sure we’re both on the same page about what I want,” Frye said. “I’d love to stay here. It’s up to them and their future and what they want to do. I love wearing this uniform. I think I take a little more pride in it than everyone else because I’m from here.

“It’s looking for the future and if I could get something longer. I got kids and I want to be somewhere. I’ve been here for five years already so it wouldn’t be bad to kind of not be worried about being traded or buying a house.”

Carmelo Anthony out with shoulder tear

Here’s the New York Daily News reporting on Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks failed to qualify for the NBA playoffs, and Melo’s season has ended slightly early now with an injury:

If Carmelo Anthony indeed has played his final game as a Knick, this is a doubly painful way for his time in New York to end.

The pending free agent was shut down by the going-home Knicks after an MRI on Tuesday revealed he has a small labrum tear in his right shoulder.

Anthony bypassed surgery after he was diagnosed with a torn labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder one year ago. The Knicks said he’s also not expected to require surgery for this injury and will be reevaluated in a month.

“Obviously, he knew it was bothering him when he hurt it a few weeks ago,” Mike Woodson said. “But he hung in there with us and tried to make this last push to get in the playoffs.”

Anthony, who has stated plans to opt out of his contract this summer and test free agency, arrived at Barclays Center just before 7 p.m. But he did not address reporters before the Knicks’ penultimate game of the season against the Nets.

Ekpe Udoh starts online book club

Epke Udoh starts online book club

Ekpe Udoh will leave one positive lasting impression from this dreary season for the Milwaukee Bucks, and it has nothing to do with basketball.

Few, if any, NBA players can say they’ve started a book club over Twitter. Fewer still probably cite entertainment magnate Oprah Winfrey as a role model.

Udoh, a four-year NBA veteran, is thinking big.

“I want to be like Oprah. I want to be like Oprah’s book club,” the Bucks forward said Tuesday. “I’ll get there. It might take me a couple years, but I’ll get some buzz going.”

He’s off to a decent start in a relatively short time.

– Associated Press

Here’s ESPN Los Angeles with an update on the Clippers. Tonight is the final night of the 2013-14 NBA regular season:

Blake Griffin, JJ Redick out tonight for Clippers

Clippers forward Blake Griffin and guard J.J. Redick will not travel with the team for its final regular-season game Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers already had planned on resting Redick, but the decision to give Griffin the night off was essentially taken out of his hands Tuesday night when Griffin picked up his 16th technical foul in the first half against the Denver Nuggets, drawing a league-mandated one-game suspension.

“The worst case is he’s suspended one game, I’m not going to bring him anyway,” Rivers said. “They’ll probably rescind that. I’d be surprised but you never know. I want Blake to stay home and get some rest. He’s so banged up.”

Bucks sign forward Chris Wright

Bucks sign forward Chris Wright

The Milwaukee Bucks have signed forward Chris Wright (6-8, 225) to a multi-year contract, General Manager John Hammond announced today.

Wright had played with the Bucks on two separate 10-day contracts, the last signed on April 5. He appeared in seven games with the Bucks, averaging 6.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.0 steal in 15.4 minutes per game.

Prior to joining the Bucks, Wright played with the D-League’s Maine Red Claws, where he’s appeared in 41 games this season and posted averages of 19.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. He’s notched 14 double-doubles on the year, including seven in his last 11 appearances. Wright also played for the Red Claws during the 2012-13 season, when he average 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and has been named to the D-League All-Star Game in both of his seasons in Maine.

After going undrafted out of Dayton in 2011, Wright was selected by the Red Claws with the third overall pick in the 2011 D-League Draft. He appeared in four games for the Red Claws, averaging 17.0 points and 10.8 rebounds, before signing with the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 24, 2011. Wright appeared in 24 games during his lone NBA season and posted 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per contest. Earning the start in Golden State’s season finale, Wright tallied a career-best 25 points and eight rebounds while shooting 11-of-14 from the field on April 26, 2012, at San Antonio.

Wright wears #15 for the Bucks.

Kings recall Willie Reed from D-League

Kings recall Willie Reed from D-League

The Sacramento Kings today recalled forward Willie Reed from the Kings D-League affiliate Reno Bighorns, according to Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro.

The Bighorns’ season came to a close Sunday night with a 115-93 playoff loss to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Reed averaged 9.5 points (.643 FG%, 1-2 FT), 8.5 rebounds, 2.00 blocks and 25.0 minutes per game in two postseason contests for Reno.

Reed, a 6-10, 220-pound forward, averaged 13.6 points (.649 FG%, .800 FT%), 7.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists 2.4 blocks, and 25.0 minutes per game in five games off the bench for the Bighorns this season. He scored in double-figures in all five appearances and recorded two double-doubles.

Earlier this season, Reed played for the NBA D-League Springfield Armor and averaged 14.8 points (.590 FG%, .612 FT%), 10.1 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 1.6 blocks per game in 31.8 minutes per game in 44 games, of which he started 33.

Reed previously played with Sacramento during the 2012 preseason when he averaged 0.8 points (1-3 FG, 1-2 FT), 1.0 rebounds, and 2.8 minutes per game in four preseason contests before being waived. He went on to play in his first stint for the Springfield Armor, earning Honorable Mention All-Development League Team honors after averaging 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game before joining the Memphis Grizzlies for the remainder of the season.

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