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Linsanity will continue in Houston, Texas

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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."

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Parting with Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers shows how badly Wizards needed someone like Trevor Ariza

Parting with Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers shows how badly Wizards needed someone like Trevor Ariza

The Washington Wizards this season have lacked plenty of things, but three stand out above all: defense, rebounding and leadership. On Saturday, they made a trade aiming to address all of the above, and they paid a hefty price to do so.

In comes Trevor Ariza, a 33-year-old veteran who needs no introduction in Washington. He returns to the organization four years after leaving in free agency. He already has experience playing alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr.

Out the door are two key members of the Wizards rotation. They shipped Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix, stripping them of their backup shooting guard and small forward and two players averaging over 23 minutes per game this season.

The Wizards are giving up quite a bit. Rivers, though he has struggled this season, was brought in just months ago to solve their problems at backup shooting guard. Now Beal is the only true shooting guard on their roster. That should help Tomas Satoransky earn a more solidified role.

Oubre was a first round pick in 2015 and the Wizards could have made him a restricted free agent this summer. At times over the past two-plus years, he appeared to be one of their most attractive trade assets based on his youth and contract, someone who could net more than an Ariza-type.

But with a desperate need for what Ariza provides, the Wizards had to make a difficult decision. They are banking on him having a similar impact to what he gave them in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons, when the Wizards were at their best defensively in the Wall era.

Whether he can still be the same player, or something close to it, remains to be seen. Back in his first tenure in D.C., he was playing through his age 27 and 28 seasons. The latter was a contract year and happened to include the best numbers of his career.

Now, he's 33 and arriving in Washington with a 37.9 field goal percentage. He is also making $15 million this season and set to be a free agent next summer.

Even though Oubre and Rivers were on expiring deals, this is a play for the short-term. Ariza is much later in his career than they are and isn't under contract beyond this season. Plus, bringing him in saves the Wizards a bit over $2 million when accounting for the luxury tax.

Their hope is that he will help shore up the perimeter. The Wizards are 27th in the NBA in opponents three-point percentage and Ariza has long been good at disrupting outside shooters.

The Wizards want rebounding and, though Ariza is not a big man, he is adept on the glass. Washington ranks 28th in rebounding and 29th in opponent rebounding. Ariza comes in averaging 5.6 per game.

The Wizards may also see a benefit from a team chemistry perspective. Ariza is familiar with the locker room leadership structure having played in Washington before. He is a respected veteran and can help set a more blue-collar tone on defense.

Ariza, when he's at his best, is a very valuable player. Even with his field goal percentage down, Ariza is shooting a respectable 36 percent from three and averaging 1.5 steals per game.

It's clear the Wizards desperately wanted Ariza by the way this trade went down. Not only did they part with two key rotation members, but they took a deal that didn't involve draft picks. When the reports first broke on Friday night, the Wizards were expected to receive more compensation in the way of second round picks.

The biggest impact of this trade as this season plays out may involve the Wizards' depth. Though they got a nice player in Ariza, they parted with two core members of their second unit and left an open roster spot they have to fill. If the Wizards go with an inexpensive option to fill the 14th spot, like they did with Okaro White and Chasson Randle, their roster will be even more top-heavy.

The disappointing start to the Wizards' season clearly has them weighing their long-term options. Oubre wasn't in the plans, and they want to save their season, along with some money. In comes Ariza, hoping to give the Wizards what they have been desperately be lacking.

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A personal best is on the line Saturday against the Sabrs for Alex Ovechkin

A personal best is on the line Saturday against the Sabrs for Alex Ovechkin

There’s no rest for the weary as the Capitals return to action on Saturday just one night after a win over the Carolina Hurricanes. On Saturday, Washington returns home to host the Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington) looking for their fifth straight win.

Here are five things to watch:

Ovechkin’s best season ever?

Ovechkin tied his career-best 13-game point streak on Friday and will look to surpass it on Saturday…at the age of 33.

Ovechkin has been absolutely dominant over the last 13 games with 16 goals and 22 points and he has six goals in his past two games with consecutive hat tricks.

If Ovechkin does make it to 14 games then it’s time to start looking ahead to the franchise record. Yes, there are still some franchise records that Ovechkin has not yet broken. The team record for most consecutive games with at least a point belongs to Mike Gartner who strung together a point streak of 17 games twice over the course of his Caps career.

The Pheonix rises…probably

After Braden Holtby got the start on Friday, Pheonix Copley is expected to get the start for Saturday’s game. It will be his first start since winning on Dec. 6 against the Arizona Coyotes.

Copley has been a pleasant surprise in net. Backup goaltending was thought to be a weakness for the Caps this season with the departure of Philipp Grubauer, but Copley has compiled a record of 6-2-1 over 10 appearances.

In his last start, he saved 27 of 29 shots for a save percentage of .931. He will have his hands full Saturday trying to keep Jeff Skinner off the board. The former Carolina Hurricane has found new life in Buffalo and is third in the league in goals with 22.

Should we be worried about the PK?

After not allowing a power play goal in the last three games, Washington almost saw their win streak come to an end in Carolina as the penalty kill gave up three goals on six power plays to the Hurricanes.

Saturday’s game should be a good chance for the PK to get back on track as Buffalo ranks only 19th on the power play at 18.4-percent. There are certainly weapons the Caps need to account for with Skinner and Jack Eichel out on the ice, but this game should be a good litmus test to see if the penalty kill took a step back or if Friday’s game was just a blip on the radar.

Burakovsky back?

Andre Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch for the last two games, but a back-to-back could give Todd Reirden a chance to get him back in the lineup. Burakovsky has responded well to these scratches in the past and always looks offensively dangerous whenever he returns. There’s more on the line this season than just playing time, however, as he is on the final year of his current contract. If he does get into the lineup Saturday, he needs to perform.

Everybody’s going streaking!

The Caps have gone 11-2-0 over their last 13 games and have scored three goals or more in each of those games, the longest streak for the team since 2010 when they did it for 23 games from January to March.

When the team is finding that much offensive success, it’s no surprise that many of the team’s players are also enjoying hot streaks of their own besides Ovechkin.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is currently enjoying the quietest seven-game point streak you will ever witness as he has tallied one goal and eight assists over that stretch. Travis Boyd is also in the midst of a three-game goal streak with the first three goals of his NHL career. In fact, the entire fourth line of Boyd, Nic Dowd and Dmitrij Jaskin is red-hot with 16 points in the last six games.

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