Shaq tells Robin Lopez to get tough

Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal gave teammate/backup Robin Lopez a severe talking to on Sunday. The Arizona Republic (Paul Coro) reports: “Put somebody on their (expletive) back,” Shaquille O’Neal said he told Robin Lopez. “Don’t let anybody oopsy-doopsy layup on you and be laughing at you. Have you ever seen me get dunked on? No, because I put (expletive) on their backs. Period. “If you’re going to be a big man, be a big man. Don’t be out there (expletive) around. Lay somebody on their (expletive) back. Period. Wilt (Chamberlain) told me that. Bill Russell told me that. Hakeem (Olajuwon) told me that. All the great big men told me that. . . . That’s what I’m trying to teach him, instead of just being out there like a loose tree blowing in the wind. Do something.”

Celtics shut Kevin Garnett down

The NBA champion Boston Celtics aren’t a championship team without star power forward Kevin Garnett. And with KG’s right knee still giving him some issues, they’re playing it safe. The AP reports:

Coach Doc Rivers announced after practice Tuesday that the team would be ‘shutting down’ their star forward after Garnett experienced continued soreness in the knee, first injured on Feb. 19 at Utah.

The Celtics are currently just behind the Orlando Magic in the Eastern conference standings. There is no danger of them falling any lower than their current #3 seed. The Atlanta Hawks are a distant #4 seed and are 12.5 games behind Boston for #3. So, the Celtics could lose every remaining game, and it wouldn’t affect their home court situation in the East playoffs. The Finals homecourt situation is another story. But getting back to the championship round would be infinitely harder without Garnett, so they are correctly making sure he gets healthy for the post-season.

Springfield, Massachusetts gets D-League basketball team

NBA Development League President Dan Reed announced today at a press conference at the Basketball Hall of Fame that HWS Basketball, LLC will be bringing an NBA D-League team to Springfield, Massachusetts for the 2009-10 season.  The team will play at Springfield’s MassMutual Center.

The new team will be owned and operated by Michael Savit who is the managing partner of HWS Basketball, LLC, a group of local investors.  Savit brings with him to Springfield and the NBA D-League a wealth of minor league operational and sports business experience, including time as Senior Vice President at the Cleveland-based International Management Group (IMG) and as the managing partner of minor league baseball teams in the South Atlantic League, Midwest League, Southern League, California League, Coastal Plain League and New York-Penn League.

Savit and his group have been awarded the right to relocate the NBA D-League team currently playing in Anaheim, California to Springfield.  While the local ownership group will have the option to retain rights to current Anaheim Arsenal players, they will announce a new name, colors, and a mascot for the Springfield team later on this spring.

“As the NBA D-League continues to move east, we’re very excited to bring a team to a place that not only has rich basketball history, but also boasts an impressive ownership group, strong civic leadership and community support,” said Reed.  “We’re thrilled to welcome such a well-respected and experienced operator in Mike Savit to our ownership ranks, and look forward to not only bringing our unique brand of affordable, family-friendly, and NBA-caliber basketball to Springfield, but becoming a vital part of the greater Springfield community.”

Today’s announcement featured Reed, Savit, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, James E. Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, University of Massachusetts men’s basketball head coach and Springfield native Derek Kellogg and George Ramirez, the deputy director and general counsel of the Department of Business Development, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development.   Rooney served as a master of ceremonies for the event.

“Today is an exciting day for Springfield!” said Savit.  “I’m thrilled to be a part of the group that brought professional basketball back to the game’s birthplace and I can’t wait to contribute to this city’s great basketball history and become part of the fabric of the community.”

“The National Basketball Association, Springfield and the MassMutual Center are a powerful combination,” said Rooney of the MCCA, which owns the venue. “The entire Pioneer Valley will undoubtedly embrace our new pro team, and we plan to be worthy partners with our top-tier service and state-of-the-art amenities.”

The team in Springfield will be affiliated with two NBA team parent-clubs, which will be able to assign their first and second year players to the club up to three times during a season. Thus far, the 2008-09 NBA D-League season has had 30 NBA players assigned on 39 occasions to NBA D-League affiliates to continue to develop their games. An announcement regarding Springfield’s NBA team affiliations will occur during the offseason.

Nuggets recall Sonny Weems from D-League

The Denver Nuggets have recalled G/F Sonny Weems from the Colorado 14ers of the NBA Development League, team Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark Warkentien announced today.

Weems, who was re-assigned to the 14ers on March 6, has averaged 20.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.9 apg and 1.05 spg in 19 outings during two separate stints for Colorado this season. His second stint with the 14ers was highlighted by several big games, including a 36 point (15-22 FG), nine rebound outburst at Erie on March 27.

Weems was selected by the Chicago Bulls in the second round (39th overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft before being traded to Denver for a 2009 second-round draft pick. In 10 games for the Nuggets this season, Weems has averaged 1.3 ppg in 4.1 mpg.

OKC Thunder sign Shaun Livingston

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed guard Shaun Livingston to a multi-year deal, Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not announced.

Livingston, 23, is being called-up from the NBA Developmental League’s Tulsa 66ers, where he averaged 9.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 29.4 minutes in 11 games (10 starts). At the time of his call-up, the 6’7’’ guard ranked seventh in the D-League in assists (6.0). He scored a season-high 22 points on March 27 at Rio Grande Valley Vipers and dished out a season-best 11 assists against Iowa Energy on March 12.

Originally selected by the L.A. Clippers in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft (#4 overall), he has appeared in 149 NBA games with L.A. Clippers and Miami.  The Peoria, Illinois native owns career averages of 7.3 points, 4.7 assists, 3.1 rebounds in 26.8 minutes per contest.

Livingston, who will wear jersey #14 with the Thunder, becomes the 19th Call-Up of the 2008-09 season and the 137th player since the league began play in 2001.

Thunder recall D.J. White from D-League

Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today that the team has recalled forward D.J. White from the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League.

White was assigned to Tulsa for the second time this season on March 29.  During his most recent stint, White appeared in one game and recorded six points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and a block in 11 minutes.  Overall, he’s seen action in four games D-League contests averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 30.8 minutes.

Huge Mayo game, Grizzlies beat Warriors 114-109

The AP reports: O.J. Mayo scored 24 points and had a career-high 10 assists, Rudy Gay added 21 points and the Grizzlies rallied from nine points down in the fourth quarter to beat the short-handed Warriors 114-109 on Monday night.. Memphis (19-54) did it behind Mayo, Gay and seldom-used reserve Hamed Haddadi, who came off the bench to score all of his career-high 10 points in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies overcame a 90-81 deficit to win going away behind a late 25-5 run… Mike Conley added 21 points and six rebounds for the Grizzlies (19-54), who won for just the fourth time in 22 games. Monta Ellis had 29 points for Golden State, which suited up just eight players for the second straight game and lost its fifth in a row.

Williams, Boozer shine, Jazz beat Knicks 112-104

The AP reports: Utah led by 24 early in the fourth quarter, but for the second game in a row watched a big lead slowly erode into a deficit… Deron Williams had 24 points and 13 assists and Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Jazz, who are becoming consistent in some very bad ways… Al Harrington scored 24 to lead the Knicks before getting ejected with two technicals for arguing a foul call with 22 seconds left… David Lee had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Nate Robinson and Jared Jeffries scored 11 each for the Knicks. Paul Millsap had 12 points and seven rebounds and Ronnie Brewer scored 17 for the Jazz, who survived another defensive collapse.

Jefferson has double-double, Bucks rock Nets

The AP reports: Richard Jefferson had 29 points and 10 rebounds against his former teammates and the Milwaukee Bucks snapped a season-high, five-game losing streak with a 107-78 victory over the reeling New Jersey Nets on Monday night. Charlie Villanueva added 20 points for the Bucks, who kept their slim hopes for a playoff berth alive by snapping a seven-game road losing streak and sending the Nets to their fifth straight loss, matching their season high… Chris Douglas-Roberts had 14 points and Brook Lopez added 10 points and 10 rebounds for New Jersey, which suffered its second embarrassing loss in 24 hours. Minnesota snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating the Nets on Sunday… Nets guards Vince Carter and Devin Harris sat most of the second half, combining for 19 points on 6-of-22 shooting.

Howard leads Magic past Heat, spoiling Zo’s night

The AP reports: On the night Miami retired Alonzo Mourning’s number, Orlando’s big man wrecked the party. Dwight Howard scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, passing Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest NBA player to reach the 5,000-board mark, and the Magic kept their grip on the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference by beating the Heat 101-95 on Monday night. Rashard Lewis scored 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining for Orlando (55-18), which stayed five games behind Cleveland and percentage points ahead of defending champion Boston in the East race… Dwyane Wade scored 13 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat (39-35), whose edge over Philadelphia for the East’s No. 5 seed was trimmed to one game, despite the lift that came from seeing Mourning’s jersey being retired… Backup point guard Luther Head broke his left hand during the game and will miss four to six weeks, meaning there likely will be no way he’s available for Miami’s first-round playoff series.