Blackhawks

Linsanity will continue in Houston, Texas

673266.jpg

Linsanity will continue in Houston, Texas

From Comcast SportsNet
HOUSTON (AP) -- The New York Knicks decided that Linsanity would have only a one-season run on Broadway. Lin is headed back to Houston after the Knicks decided on Tuesday that they wouldn't match the Rockets' three-year, 25 million offer for the restricted free agent. The 23-year-old point guard, who went undrafted out of Harvard, became an international phenomenon and the biggest story in sports during one dazzling month in the Big Apple. But the Knicks decided keeping the show in town was too costly. "Extremely excited and honored to be a Houston Rocket again!!" Lin posted on his Twitter account. "Much love and thankfulness to the Knicks and New York for your support the past year...easily the best year of my life." Lin will return to Houston, where he spent two weeks in training camp in December, before the Rockets waived him. General manager Daryl Morey later regretted the move and alluded to the mistake as he celebrated the re-acquisition of Lin on Twitter late Tuesday: "Welcome to Houston (at)JLin7. We plan to hang on this time. You will love (hash)RedNation." The Knicks said they would match any offer to retain Lin, but the Rockets made it tough for New York to keep him by backloading their offer sheet with a 15 million salary in the third season of the deal. If the Knicks agreed to match, they would have faced a hefty luxury tax in the 2014-15 season because of other big contracts on their books -- between 30-40 million. One sports consultant said the adjustment to the offer sheet was a stroke of genius by Morey. "The Rockets deserve a lot of credit for the way they've gone about this," said Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp. "It was extremely intelligent -- with an assassin's touch." Houston initially released Lin because it already had Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry on the roster. The Knicks picked him up, and coach Mike D'Antoni put him in the lineup out of desperation, with the Knicks floundering at 8-15. Lin scored a career-high 25 points in a 99-92 win over the New Jersey Nets, and "Linsanity" was born in the bright lights of New York. The stock price for Madison Square Garden Inc. surged as Lin proved to be more than a one-game wonder. He made the Sports Illustrated cover in consecutive weeks, only the 12th athlete to hold that distinction since 1990. On Tuesday, Lin had more than 829,000 followers on Twitter. The more opponents saw Lin, though, the more they seemed to figure him out as the season wore on. He went 1 for 11 with eight turnovers in a humbling, nationally televised loss in Miami, and the Knicks dropped their first six games in March. D'Antoni resigned in mid-March and Lin hurt his left knee less than two weeks later. The Knicks revealed on April 1 that Lin needed surgery to repair a meniscus tear and would miss six weeks. The Knicks made the playoffs behind surging Carmelo Anthony, but bowed out to Miami in the first round. The Rockets, meanwhile, missed the postseason for the third straight year and have spent the offseason completely rebuilding their roster. Houston has been trying to put together a package of assets and draft picks to offer Orlando in exchange for disgruntled All-Star center Dwight Howard. In the process, the Rockets lost the unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, then traded Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick with lottery protection. With no true point guard left, the Rockets turned back to Lin. The Knicks showed their hand when they brought back Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade deal with Portland -- after signing Jason Kidd as a free agent. Houston, meanwhile, jumped at the chance to reacquire their popularity in China, where Yao Ming became a larger-than-life figure. Many Rockets landed lucrative shoe contracts with Chinese companies on Yao's coattails, and Rockets' games drew massive television ratings there. David Schwab, who specializes in matching brands with celebrities as managing director at Octagon First Call, said that while Lin is an American success story, he will reopen marketing in-roads for Houston during Yao's eight seasons (2002-11). "Teams base their decisions on wins and losses, because wins and losses ultimately affect ticket sales, sponsorships," Schwab said. "I still think it's a win-loss decision, but I think, in their case, it's weighed more as a marketing decision. They've got more to gain right now, with a decade of Yao and companies they've done business with. They've got kind of the next frontier there."

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

2-17_toews_blackhawks_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

2-18_markkanen_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”