Suns sign Morris twins to 4-year deals (Yahoo Sports)

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 16: Markieff Morris #11 and Marcus Morris #15 of the Phoenix Suns prior to the game against the Sacramento Kings on April16, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns have signed twin forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris to four-year contract extensions after both had career years in 2013-14.

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Beck/Bucher Debate: Which Players Will Live Up to Their Big-Money Deals?

There was no shortage of big-name free agents on the move this offseason, with the landscape of the NBA transformed by some big-money deals. Which teams will ultimately regret giving out such large contracts?

Find out which players Howard Beck and Ric Bucher believe will earn their money as they debate the topic in the video above. 

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NCAA head-injury deal’s backers press for court OK (Yahoo Sports)

FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2014, file photo, Arkansas guard Brey Cook (74) wears a Riddell SpeedFlex helmet during a preseason NCAA college football practice in Fayetteville, Ark. With lawsuits and concern regarding concussions hanging over every level of football, the race to develop safer helmets and other equipment has never been more intense. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson, File)

Attorneys pushing for a judge to give preliminary approval to a proposed $75 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA said Friday that claims it unfairly forces athletes affected by head injuries to forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars are untrue. In a court filing that’s part of what’s likely to be a long approval process about the deal, the attorneys countered opposition lodged last month on behalf of Anthony Nichols, who says he sustained concussions while an offensive lineman for San Diego State from 1989 to 1992. Nichols, who would be among tens of thousands of male and female athletes covered by the sweeping deal, has argued in court documents that the proposal’s benefits to athletes would be paltry compared to what the NCAA gains: legal protection from having to pay out what the filing argues could have been a billion dollars or more in damages. ”Nichols’ claim that hardly anyone will benefit from the program has no basis in fact.” Under the deal, the NCAA would create a $70 million fund to test thousands of current and former athletes for brain trauma and sets aside $5 million for research.

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Pistons announce deals with Martin, Gray (Yahoo Sports)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Pistons have formally announced contract agreements with forward Cartier Martin and center Aaron Gray.

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NBA Free Agent Signings 2014: Tracking the Latest Deals and News

Let the NBA‘s offseason officially commence. Beginning at 12:01 a.m ET on Tuesday, teams and perspective free agent targets could officially begin negotiations on a series of contracts that could reshape the Association’s hierarchy.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony lead a group of players that ranks among the best free-agent classes in history—though there is speculation on how “free” a certain Big Three actually is. James, Wade and Bosh exercised their early termination options with the Heat over the past week, seemingly calculated moves to allow Pat Riley to retool the roster around them. Not to break up.

Still, as James proved the last time he hit the free agent waters, anything is possible. And even if the Miami threesome is planning a quick reunion, Anthony’s wide-open outlook on free agency promises to mirror James’ and Dwight Howard‘s that came before him.

The Knicks forward, having already made seven All-Star teams and been selected to six All-NBA teams, is ready for championship contention. With New York’s roster undergoing a complete retooling under Phil Jackson, Anthony will have to wait at least one more season before having a winner in the Big Apple. That has him courting offers from the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and a couple other suitors more equipped to win now.

Besides Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson and Luol Deng highlight a second tier of free agents who could make an impact in new cities. Stephenson might be the most interesting, given his high talent level, young age (23) and proclivity for antics on and off the floor that frustrate teammates.

The restricted free agent pool is also unusually deep and not necessarily guaranteed to return to their current stomping grounds. Eric Bledsoe, Chandler Parsons, Greg Monroe, Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward lead the pack, each possessing a dichotomy of potential and flaws that makes each player’s contract level something to watch.

With roughly half the league boating $10 million or more, the high-salaried offers are going to be flying off the shelves like an auction house. When folks call this the silly season, it’s about these next few days—a never-ending flurry of rumors, innuendo and negotiations that leave even the most strident NBA fan unable to keep up.

Be sure to check back here as we highlight every deal that goes down over the next few weeks and days. (Note: No contract signed is deemed official until July 10, the date the NBA’s moratorium on transactions ends.) 

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UK president deals blow to Rupp Arena renovations

Kentucky president Eli Capilouto sent a scalding letter to the head of the project.



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College Basketball Recruiting: Dream Package Deals from the 2015 Class

On the heels of Duke’s success in landing both Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, package deals have become a major storyline in college basketball recruiting.

Although few high school stars will actually wind up tying their college selection to that of a friend as Okafor and Jones did, the chance to get two elite prospects for the price of one is tough to pass up for a coach—and tough to ignore for fans speculating on how to secure the best class.

One such hypothetical pairing could see two of the nation’s most celebrated big men arrive on the same campus, with Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter forming a potential package. The two high-powered centers have already shown that they can play together effectively for Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High, so continuing their partnership at the next level wouldn’t be too much of a reach.

Read on for more on the twin-towers possibilities for Zimmerman and Jeter, along with a half-dozen more package deals (announced or imagined) that might come out of the class of 2015. Note that only uncommitted players were considered for these packages, and that (in the interest of variety) only one suggested package is discussed for any given player, though other possibilities often exist.

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Miami Heat’s Loss to Pacers Leaves Them Lamenting Rough Plays and Raw Deals

INDIANAPOLIS — The fourth quarter was about to begin Wednesday night and, if not for the already overwhelming din in Bankers Fieldhouse, you might have made out a ringing bell. 

LeBron James was more than ready for this final round.

The four-time MVP broke the Miami Heat huddle early, bounced along the baseline toward the Heat’s defensive basket, turned to the crowd, shrugged his shoulders and blew into his fists. 

“Come on, let’s go! Let’s go!” 

It looked as if the Heat were going to do some serious damage to the Pacers‘ collective psyche: Miami led by five, with a chance to pull into a tie in the loss column for the Eastern Conference lead. Nor was James going to allow Erik Spoelstra to pull him now.

He had already scored 31 points—nearly half of Miami’s output to that point—and he had done so on just 14 field goals, stashing his previous strategy of trying to go over and around the pugnacious Pacers.

Instead, he kept going at, and through, them.

Yes, even Roy Hibbert.

And so it was, just over three minutes into that quarter, that the men would meet again, an encounter that—if not definitively altering the outcome—will still hover over these teams until they scrap in Miami on April 10, and four to seven times in late May.

It will serve as the defining image of Indiana’s rugged, razor-thin 84-83 victory, a victory that likely means the Pacers, even after their late winter stumble, will fulfill their season-long goal: ensuring that if there is a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, that game will be played in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Heat did this largely to themselves, with a recent stretch of squandered chances to make up ground on Indiana, and make Wednesday’s game a bit less meaningful. 

Instead, every decision was magnified, and every possession was pressurized. Hibbert had controlled the game early, scoring more points in the first seven minutes than in most of his full games in March, but Udonis Haslem had largely handled him thereafter.

He still loomed as a defensive presence, and was planted in the paint when James caught a looping pass from a trapped Dwyane Wade in full sprint, bounced low with two hands, gathered, propelled himself forward and upward, shifted the ball high to his left hand, and knocked Hibbert’s chin with his right elbow.

Hibbert sprawled backward, holding his head as he hit the floor, rocking back and forth, and then wobbling as his teammates yanked him up.

Initially called a common foul, it was changed to a flagrant. Hibbert missed a free throw, but then made a free throw, starting a streak of seven straight Pacer points, broken only when Lance Stephenson was ejected and Wade made a technical. 

About 30 minutes later, after the Heat had surged back to a four-point lead, after James and Mario Chalmers had committed costly turnovers, after Evan Turner’s nifty spin for a Pacers layup, after Wade’s hamstring spasm rendered him a spectator, after David West made his fourth three-pointer of the season, after George Hill missed two free throws and after Spoelstra’s self-described “gunslinger” choice of a Chris Bosh buzzer-beater backfired, James seethed deep in his locker, sore-nosed and sour, offering a series of short answers.

“It is what it is,” he kept saying.

But, eventually, the restraint receded. He revealed plenty with limited language, whether his feelings about the play of Udonis Haslem and the long-shelved Rashard Lewis (“they need to be in the rotation”) or his role as a passer in the final possession (“we just ran the play”).

Then, when asked if he felt targeted when driving the lane, he paused for four seconds.

“I don’t want to fall into the pit of what’s going on,” he said, before plunging. “Um, between me and Blake Griffin, we take some hard hits. And, you know, they call it how they call it. It’s very frustrating, though. It’s very frustrating. As a player, you play the game the right way and, uh, you know, sometimes…” 

It was hard to make out what he said next. It wasn’t hard, however, to hear his animated response when asked if the elbow to Hibbert was retaliation for two earlier fouls that he felt should have been flagrants—one by Ian Mahinmi in transition and one by Luis Scola that had bloodied his recently broken nose. 

“Nah,” James said. “I made a basketball jump. If I could jump in the air, elbow somebody in the face in the air and still try to finish the play, I’m gonna be a Kung Fu master or something. I mean, his face happened to hit my elbow.” 

Wrong place, wrong time? Intentional or inadvertent?

The league will likely review, and rule on, that.

And it will likely take note of Bosh’s postgame comments, with the Heat center/forward declaring that “our guys are getting get in the face, man. You know what I’m saying? They’re getting punched in the face and clotheslined. And we get (just) two shots. And then we get an offensive foul and it’s a flagrant.

I guess we need to really decipher what flagrant means, because I don’t feel they were going for the ball. Especially in those two situations. If you come down and clothesline somebody, it’s open season. People are going to get hurt.” 

Bosh said it he could accept the flagrants if they were called evenly. 

“But they had one, and we had none,” Bosh said. “LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined. I guess it was a play on the ball.” 

As Bosh sarcastically spit those words, there was no other noise in the losing locker room. Silence, stewing. Only later, after some of the media shuffled out, did Heat players start loudly spewing their anger, about the Wade three-pointer the officials wiped out, about Stephenson’s ongoing antics, about repeated rough plays and perceived raw deals.

Other teams will take the Heat’s place in that room over the next several weeks, but none will mutter quite like Miami. Few, if any, will have had as much at stake. 

No matter now. It is what it is, as James so succinctly said. And, as far as the race for the East’s top seed goes, it was what it was. 

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Knicks sign Earl Clark, Shannon Brown to 10-day deals

Knicks had roster spots after releasing Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih

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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest News on Potential Deadline Deals

The NBA trade deadline is mere hours away. This is the time when teams that are desperate to move unwanted players may take less in return to dump their baggage or non-retainable pending free agents.

Who’s going to get moved, and who’s going to stay put? We’ll know soon enough. That said, here’s a look at some of the hottest information circulating.


The Price for Iman Shumpert

Apparently, New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert is very available, but the team has an ultimatum for potential suitors, per Marc Stein and Ian Begley of ESPN:

Given the Knicks’ current cap-strapped situation and major underachiever status, it seems odd that the team would be in position to make demands.

That said, Felton’s contract really isn’t that bad.

After this season is over, he has one more year left on his deal. He’ll make $3,793,693 in the 2014-15 season, per Spotrac. He can be a free agent after that, but he does have a player option for the 2015-16 season at $3,950,313.

Either way, it’s not a horrible pill to swallow. He’s averaging 10 points and 5.8 assists per game this year. A team looking for backcourt depth could do worse than adding Felton and Shumpert.


Jordan Hill is Becoming a Hot Commodity

At this point, it’ll be a shock if Jordan Hill isn’t traded from the Los Angeles Lakers. Per Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Brooklyn Nets are interested, but the Phoenix Suns could intervene and grab him:

The Suns have a need for depth in the frontcourt. While Hill wouldn’t be the big splash the team may be looking to make, he would bring length, youth and athleticism.

The Lakers are obviously building for the future, so clearing cap space and potentially acquiring draft picks is paramount for them.

Hill seems to be taking the trade talks in stride. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register quotes Hill discussing the business side of the NBA:


Could Luol Deng Be Traded Again?

Deng has only been with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a little over a month, but his name is already popping up in trade rumors again.

Per ProBasketballDraft on Twitter, the Cavs aren’t positive about their abilities to re-sign Deng when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Because of this uncertainty, the team is apparently making him available:

Without a question Deng could make an impact for a contending team, but what general manager or owner is willing to gamble on whether they can re-sign him, or be OK with renting his services for the rest of the season?

If no deal is done, the answer will be pretty plain.


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