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Grizzlies still trying to contend without Rudy Gay

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Grizzlies still trying to contend without Rudy Gay

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies have shown once before they can be contenders without Rudy Gay.

It's time to prove it again.

The Grizzlies started the process of moving on Thursday after trading their leading scorer to Toronto in a three-team deal that brought Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis to Memphis.

The franchise's best postseason run came with Gay injured two seasons ago, with an upset of top-seeded San Antonio and then a thrilling seven-game Western Conference semifinal series against Oklahoma City. Before that, Memphis had never even won a playoff game.

``I don't think we're too scared. I think we've been here before without him,'' point guard Mike Conley said Thursday at the team's shootaround before a game at Oklahoma City.

``We've been without Zach (Randolph). We've had guys go down and we've had to deal with it. This team is great at playing with adversity,'' he added. ``Hopefully, we can kind of mock what we did when Rudy was out that year and we made the playoff run and play that style of basketball.''

Gay was out with a shoulder injury when Memphis fell a win short of the 2011 West finals - a series that included a triple-overtime loss. That created hope that Gay's return would push the Grizzlies over the top. Instead, they exited in the first round of last year's playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers and have settled into fourth place in the West this season - albeit with the best first half of a season in team history.

``We're still one of the best teams in the league,'' general manager Chris Wallace said at a news conference at the FedExForum. ``I don't believe we have taken a back seat in that regard. There's a tremendous amount of basketball still to be played here this season in Memphis, and hopefully a nice run in the playoffs as well.''

The pressure of luxury tax penalties mounting led to the Gay deal, which also included backup center Hamed Haddadi going to Toronto. The Grizzlies also got a second-round pick in the trade, and point guard Jose Calderon went from the Raptors to Detroit.

It was Memphis' second budget-minded deal in just over a week, after reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby were sent to Cleveland - along with a future first-round draft pick - for Jon Leuer and a trade exception.

Before the season, the Grizzlies opted not to re-sign O.J. Mayo and let him leave as a free agent.

``When you have champagne taste, you can't be on a beer budget,'' coach Lionel Hollins said, before going on to say he understands the challenges Memphis faces as one of the NBA's smaller markets.

Hollins, who advocated keeping the starting five together and is in the final year of his contract, said ``time will tell'' if the Grizzlies are a better team after the trade.

``I think we're still a good team. Other people can cry the blues about this, that and the other,'' Hollins said.

Hollins didn't give a ringing endorsement to any of the Grizzlies' new players, taking instead a show-me-what-you've-got approach. Even with Prince, a 10-year veteran, he said Memphis only faced him at most twice a year and he couldn't provide an assessment yet.

As for the success in 2011, Hollins quickly pointed out that Memphis added Shane Battier after Gay's injury to fill that void.

``He was a big part of why we won, and hopefully Tayshaun Prince can come in and contribute on a level that can help us continue to be competitive and successful in the West,'' Hollins said.

The Grizzlies still have a solid core to build around, with the All-Star tandem of Randolph and Marc Gasol in the frontcourt. Randolph was picked to the All-Star team for the second time in three years this season, and Gasol was picked last season while Randolph was hurt.

Despite leading Memphis in scoring, Gay was never an All-Star.

``I feel like we've still got our All-Star bigs. Tayshaun is a champion, an All-Star as well,'' guard Tony Allen said. ``His resume speaks for itself. He's been proven to this league.

``I think our ambition stays the same. Our motives are still to get as far as we can into the playoffs,'' Allen said. ``Each game that we have coming up, we intend to win.''

The newcomers weren't ready to join the Grizzlies for their game Thursday night at Oklahoma City. At the earliest, they could play in a Friday night home game against Washington but all the players in the trade must first pass physicals.

``We've been a contender. I believe we still are a contender,'' Randolph said. ``A lot of people counted us out, but I think we're still right where we was at. We got good players back, good up-and-coming players. We got a solidified player who has won championships and knows how to play and play defense and shoot pretty good from the field and from the 3-point line in Tayshaun.''

One lingering issue is whether the Grizzlies, under new ownership that has committed to keeping the team in Memphis, are done with their cost-cutting or if more big moves could be ahead.

``We're hopeful that this is the end of the trade scene for us but it's a business and you never know. One day we're here and one day we're not,'' Conley said. ``We've just got to make do with what we've got and go forward.''

Wallace said the new owners are ``in it to win'' and the trade is not an indication that they are selling out because they can't afford to run the franchise.

``That's not my call or anything like that,'' Gasol added. ``We have to play. We have to play and we have to win. It doesn't matter who's on the court and who's not.''

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AP freelance writer Clay Bailey contributed to this report from Memphis, Tenn.

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

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Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

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Warriors will visit D.C. kids instead of White House when they play Wizards

Instead of visiting the White House when they come to Washington this week to play the Wizards, the defending-champion Golden State Warriors plan to hold an event with D.C.-area kids.

Their invitation was rescinded by president Donald Trump following a back-and-forth between the two sides last year. After the Warriors won the title, they openly questioned whether they should follow the tradition given many of the players and coaches disagree with his policies. Trump took the opportunity away before they came to a final decision.

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The Warriors' event will be closed off to the media and held at an undisclosed location. It is set for Tuesday, the day before they play the Wizards at Capital One Arena. The Warriors had the option of holding a ceremony with other politicians in the Democratic party, but decided that would send the wrong message. 

"It's their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it's up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans," coach Steve Kerr said. "I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they're doing."

The Warriors are the first NBA team to make this choice since Trump was elected president. Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers held their celebration with president Barack Obama in November. They did so just days after Trump was elected and LeBron James questioned at the time whether he would visit the White House with Trump in office.

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Sports teams visiting the White House goes back to the mid-1800s. The first World Series title team to visit was the 1924 Washington Senators. By the 1960s, NBA teams were going and by the 1980s NFL and NHL teams made it a tradition.

Entire teams snubbing the White House is unusual, but many players have turned down the opportunity. In the NBA, some famous cases include Larry Bird in 1984 and Michael Jordan in 1991, according to Rolling Stone.

Perhaps the Warriors start a trend, or maybe it will be a one-off thing. Regardless, the alternative they chose is a respectable one. 

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