Wizards happy to return to NBA playoffs

Sure, it was easy for the Washington Wizards to say they were going to rebuild their team the “right way,” using the draft to restock the roster and doing a lot of losing before, hopefully, getting back to at least a little bit of winning.

Try living through it.

“Let me tell you, it feels like I’ve been here 20 years,” said coach Randy Wittman, who actually arrived as an assistant in 2009. “But it makes it worth the while, too. I wouldn’t wish some of the struggles that we went through on anybody, but it also makes it nicer then to see the other end of it.”

No one is proclaiming that the Wizards are the NBA dynasty, but the long-suffering franchise is back in the playoffs, having booked their spot Wednesday night with a 26-point thrashing of the Boston Celtics.

– Associated Press

Chicago Bulls waive Erik Murphy

Chicago Bulls waive Erik Murphy

The Chicago Bulls announced today that the team has requested waivers on Erik Murphy.

Murphy (6-10, 230) appeared in 24 games with Chicago, and averaged 0.3 ppg in 2.6 mpg. He was selected by Chicago in the second round (49th overall) of the 2013 NBA Draft.

Chicago’s roster now stands at just 12 players, for the moment at least.

Spurs sign Damion James to 10-day contract

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have signed forward Damion James to a 10-day contract.

James, 6-7/225, most recently played in the NBA D-League in 2013-14 for the Texas Legends and the Bakersfield Jam. In 85 career D-League games, the University of Texas product has averaged 16.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.04 blocks in 31.8 minutes.

Drafted 24th overall in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks, James was sent to the Brooklyn Nets in a draft-night trade. In three seasons with the Nets (2010-13), he appeared in 34 total games and averaged 4.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in 16.9 minutes.

James will wear No. 7 for the Silver and Black and will be in uniform tonight when the Spurs take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City.

Guard A.J. Price waived by Timberwolves

AJ Price

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that the team has waived guard A.J. Price. The Wolves roster stands at 14.

During the 2013-14 NBA season, Price appeared in 28 games with the Timberwolves and averaged 1.6 points, 0.5 assists and 0.4 rebounds in 3.5 minutes per game. Playing in his fifth season out of Connecticut, Price has averaged 5.9 points and 2.2 assists in 15.3 minutes over a 235 game career.

Video: Top 10 NBA dunks from March

Enjoy this video of the top 10 NBA dunks from March, 2014, featuring Blake Griffin, Gerald Green and more:

Grizzlies recall Jamaal Franklin from D-League

The Memphis Grizzlies have recalled guard Jamaal Franklin from their NBA Development League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team announced today.

Franklin (6-5, 191) recorded 17.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.69 steals on .475 shooting (.418 3FG shooting) in 29.0 minutes in 13 games after he was re-assigned to Fort Wayne on Feb. 26.

The 22-year-old played an integral role for the Mad Ants, helping the team to an 11-2 record during his third assignment. He scored 10-plus points 12 times, 20-plus points four times and 30-plus points twice, including a D-League career-high 32 points on March 6 at Maine.

Franklin tallied three double-doubles in his latest stint with Fort Wayne, posting 31 points and a D-League career-high 11 assists on March 1 vs. Iowa, 19 points and 10 assists on March 9 at Maine, and 23 points and a D-League career-best 15 rebounds on March 14 at Delaware.

The Hawthorne, Calif. native has averaged 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.75 steals on .433 shooting in 28.1 minutes in 16 games through three assignments with Fort Wayne this season.

Drafted by Memphis in the second round (41st overall) of the 2013 NBA Draft after three collegiate seasons at San Diego State, Franklin has averaged 1.5 points and 1.1 rebounds in 7.9 minutes in 19 appearances as a rookie for the Grizzlies.

Minnesota Timberwolves owner and printing company billionaire Glen Taylor has signed a letter of intent to buy the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the newspaper announced Tuesday.

Details of the cash offer weren’t announced, and Taylor wouldn’t elaborate in an interview with The Associated Press. He said he expected the deal to close in May following due diligence.

“I think it’s going to be a good business decision and also because it’s a Minnesota type of asset,” Taylor said. “I just think it’s something we can do very well in the state and get it back to private ownership and I think the challenge of it is something that just excites me.”

The sale would put Minnesota’s largest newspaper in the hands of one of the state’s richest men.

– Associated Press

Here’s ESPN.com reporting on the Miami Heat, who for now still have a championship-contending roster:

Miami Heat teammates Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh all have opt-outs in their contracts at the end of this season, but no collective decision has been made as to whether they will all choose to test the free agent waters.

The three met before they made their free agent decision in 2010 and could have another such meeting before their June 30 opt-out deadlines, which allows them to leave in 2014, 2015 or 2016.

Wade revealed on Tuesday as part of an interview for the cover story of an upcoming issue of ESPN The Magazine that the three, who have gone to three straight Finals and won the last two, plan to have that conversation at some point.

“I’m at a position where I don’t really have to worry about it,” said Wade, who also won a title for the Heat in 2006. “I’ve been with the same organization for now 11 years. We’ve won multiple championships, so it’s no reason where I need to think about that yet. I’m not at a point where we are a bad team and I need to think about the future so right now I’m really focused on just enjoying this team, enjoying our quest to try to ‘Three-peat.’ And when the season is over, and whatever happens, then I will sit down and I will sit down with Chris and I will sit down with Bron and I will sit down and make the best decision for myself and my family.”

Here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting on the 16-58 Sixers, and Thaddeus Young, who is averaging 18.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season:

Thaddeus Young still playing hard in lost 76ers season

It hasn’t been an easy season for Thaddeus Young - the only player remaining on the 76ers roster from the team that came within one victory of advancing to the NBA Eastern Conference finals two years ago.

But given the Sixers’ record-tying losing streak and the fact that Young’s last three longtime teammates were shipped out at the Feb. 20 trading deadline, the 6-foot-8 forward has been an exemplary presence in his seventh season with the club.

“I just can’t speak highly enough of him as a person,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said Tuesday after the team’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“I’ve seen him endure this type of rebuilding, lose three friends, and go on such a long losing streak. But he’s still in the gym after he played 35 minutes [Monday] night in the little bit that’s remaining of the season. He still leads us, and he still competes. . . . I just have a lot of respect for the way he’s trying to close this season out, given where we’re at.”

Video: Top 10 NBA crossovers from March

Watch this NBA video of the top 10 crossovers from March, 2014, featuring Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson and others:

Tuesday in Brooklyn, the Nets beat the Houston Rockets 105-96. Joe Johnson shot 13-of-21 for 32 points in the win. Watch some video highlights of Johnson doing his thing:

Lakers buy land for new training center

The Los Angeles Lakers announced today that they have entered into an agreement with CDC Mar Campus, LLC for the purchase of an approximately five acre undeveloped portion of the development known as Elevon at Campus El Segundo located in El Segundo, CA.

The site is at the northwest corner of Mariposa Avenue and Douglas Street.

The site is intended to be the future home of a brand new training center for the Lakers and its Development League team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.

The facility will also house the business operations offices for both teams.

The completion of the purchase is subject to various conditions, including the approval by the City of El Segundo of the proposed use of the property by the Lakers.

Brandon Jennings

Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings has been fined $5,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules for the second time this season.

The incident occurred with 3:01 remaining in the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 116-111 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, March 31 at Palace of Auburn Hills.

To view the play, click on this link.

Watch this video clip of the top 10 NBA circus shots of March, 2014:

Ike Diogu won D-League Player of Month award

Bakersfield Jam forward Ike Diogu was today named NBA Development League Player of the Month for games played in March. The award is the first of Diogu’s career.

Diogu (6-8, 255, Arizona State) led Bakersfield to a 10-3 record in March, including a 7-2 road record and a seven-game winning streak between March 12 and March 26. For the month, Diogu averaged 21.4 points, shooting 59 percent from the field, to go with 12.3 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. He recorded a double-double in 12 of his 13 games in March, notching two 30-plus point outings.

On March 19, Diogu recorded a season-high 19 rebounds to go with 30 points in a 114-106 road win over the Texas Legends. The following week, on March 30, he tied his season high with 32 points in a 115-109 win at the Santa Cruz Warriors.

For the season, Diogu is averaging 18.0 points on 55 percent shooting, to go with 9.4 rebounds, good for sixth-best in the NBA D-League.

Additional players considered for the award included Austin’s Flip Murray, Canton’s Shane Edwards, Erie’s Lewis Jackson, Fort Wayne’s Tony Mitchell, Iowa’s Moses Ehambe, Othyus Jeffers and Curtis Stinson, Los Angeles’ Shawne Williams, Maine’s Frank Gaines, Santa Cruz’s Cameron Jones, Sioux Fall’s Henry Walker, Springfield’s Jeff Foote and Texas’ Damion James.

The Brooklyn Nets’ Jason Kidd and the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich today were named the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Coaches of the Month, respectively, for games played in March.

Kidd guided the Nets to a 12-4 record in March, and the highest winning percentage (.750) in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn posted a 9-0 record at Barclays Center and was the only Eastern Conference team to go undefeated at home. On March 12, the Nets defeated the Miami Heat 96-95, which improved Brooklyn’s mark to 3-0 this season against the defending champions. This is the second Coach of the Month award for Kidd this season (January).

Popovich led the Spurs to an NBA-best 16-0 record in March, propelling them to a 58-16 record, tops in the NBA. Eleven of San Antonio’s 16 wins in March were by 10-or-more points, and the Spurs scored 100-or-more points in 13-of-16 games. The Spurs closed the month with a 103-77 road victory over the Indiana Pacers on March 31, and enter April riding a franchise-record 18-game winning streak.

Other nominees for Coach of the Month were Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, Houston’s Kevin McHale, Los Angeles Clippers’ Doc Rivers, New York’s Mike Woodson, Oklahoma City’s Scott Brooks, Phoenix’s Jeff Hornacek and Toronto’s Dwane Casey.

Here’s the Sacramento Bee reporting on Kings center DeMarcus Cousins and an early April 1 joke:

DeMarcus Cousins created a stir on the Internet on Sunday night.

And he had fun doing so.

Pictures surfaced of Cousins’ first “album” under the name Boogie Smooth titled “Misunderstood,” with the first single being a rhythm and blues groove titled “Emotional” featuring Chance The Rapper.

Cousins even asked via Twitter on Monday if he could be any worse than Shaquille O’Neal or Chris Webber, who also dabbled in music during their careers.

But Boogie Smooth’s career is all in fun. Cousins, who is friends with rap stars Drake and Rick Ross, is not about to become a part-time R&B crooner.

Cousins laughed when asked about the musical project, as did his teammates. Coach Michael Malone even found the musical venture comical.

Here’s the Indianapolis Star with a look at the Pacers, who have been less than spectacular for a while now:

A slump? A hiccup? No, it’s a whole lot more than that. After Monday night’s 103-77 blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers have lost 10 of their last 16 games and six of their last eight. After that 33-7 start, when they were the toast of the NBA and had everybody lauding their selflessness, the Pacers have now gone 19-16. That’s not a slump. That’s a month-and-a-half, two months’ worth of mediocrity. That’s who they are now.

This is just like the 2002-03 Isiah Thomas-coached Pacers, who ran out to the league’s best record the first half of the season, then sleep-walked the rest of the season before getting eliminated in the first round by the Boston Celtics.

For too long, they’ve been acting like they actually accomplished something, like they should be entitled to officials’ calls and special treatment. Paul George’s play and his whining have been especially galling. Remember when we talked about him in the same sentence with MVP front runners LeBron James and Kevin Durant? That seems like a million years ago.

George has been ordinary, or worse, since the All-Star break. Hibbert has disappeared for long stretches of time. David West, the nominal leader of this team, has been inconsistent. Evan Turner, the late-season acquisition, has been miserable, especially on defense.

Monday night, Lance Stephenson was the only Pacer who played with urgency and energy.

Here’s NBA.com reporting on the Sacramento Kings and Rudy Gay:

He says he has not made a decision on the $19.3 million on the table or whether he wants to remain with the Kings at any price. He has so not made a decision, Rudy Gay insists, that he is asked to list a couple factors that will go into the final call and responds, “I don’t know.”

It is long after another loss at Sleep Train Arena, this time to the Knicks, in a near-empty locker room after most teammates have left. Gay is sitting in front of his stall, showered and changed and contemplating the unexpected search for career stability.

Memphis for 6 ½ seasons, and then suddenly Toronto and Sacramento in a little more than 10 months, and the career intersection over whether to stay in the current contract with $19.3 million on the books for 2014-15 or declare himself a free agent is approaching. In that setting, feeling so undefined about the future is actually understandable.

“What does my gut tell me?” Gay says of the looming decision and possibly decisions, plural. “I don’t know. My gut tells me different things every day.”

Video highlights of the NBA plays of the week, through March 30, 2014:

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