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Maryland leaving ACC to join Big Ten in 2014

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Maryland leaving ACC to join Big Ten in 2014

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Choosing to look toward the future rather than honor the past, Maryland joined the Big Ten on Monday, bolting from the Atlantic Coast Conference in a move driven by the school's budget woes.

Maryland was a charter member of the ACC, which was founded in 1953. Tradition and history, however, were not as important to school President Wallace D. Loh as the opportunity to be linked with the prosperous Big Ten.

``By being a member of the Big Ten Conference, we are able to ensure financially stability for Maryland athletics for decades to come,'' Loh said, speaking at a news conference with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany and Athletic Director Kevin Anderson.

Loh and other school officials involved in the decision decided that the potential money to be made in the Big Ten was more significant than the $50 million exit fee and the tradition associated with belonging to the same conference for 59 years.

``I am very aware that for many of our Terps fans and alumni, their reaction is stunned and disappointed. But we will always cherish the memories, the rivalries, the tradition of the ACC,'' Loh said. ``For those alumni and Terp fans, I will now say this: I made this decision as best as I could ... to do what is best for the University of Maryland for the long haul.''

Maryland eliminated seven sports programs earlier this year, and Loh said the shift to the Big Ten could provide enough of a windfall to restore some of those sports.

Delany said Maryland's entry was approved unanimously by the conference's 12 presidents.

``Quite honestly, they were giddy,'' Delany said. ``Maybe some people Fear the Turtle. We embrace the Turtle.''

Maryland will become the southernmost member of the Big Ten member starting, in July 2014. Rutgers is expected follow suit by Tuesday, splitting from the Big East and making it an even 14 schools in the Big Ten, though Delany would not confirm that.

But he had no problem explaining why the Big Ten would be interested in stretching its boundaries from the Midwest.

``We realize that all of the major conferences are slightly outside of their footprint,'' Delany said. ``We believe that the association is one that will benefit both of us.''

For Maryland, the move was not entirely based on athletics. Maryland will join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of world-class research institutions.

``For me and for the board and for the faculty and for the students, the academic component is very, very important,'' Loh said. ``I would not have made this kind of deal if it was a conference that did not have this consortium.''

But money was really the driving force.

``Somebody has to pay the bills,'' Loh said. ``I want to leave a legacy for decade to come, long after I'm gone, that no president is going to wonder if Maryland athletics as we know it is going to survive.''

Besides, Loh noted, the ACC isn't exactly the cozy little group it was 59 years ago. Notre Dame was recently added to the conference, though it will remain a football independent and play five games against ACC teams.

``The world of the ACC as we have known it has changed, and the job of the president is not just to look at the past and the present, but to look to the future,'' Loh said.

Loh said the discussions between Maryland and the Big Ten gathered steam two weeks ago. On Saturday, it became clear the discussions were serious.

``Space is not the divide that it was once upon a time,'' Delany said.

Maryland gives the Big Ten a presence in the major media market of Washington. D.C. Rutgers, in New Brunswick, N.J., and about 40 miles south of New York City, puts the Big Ten in the country's largest media market, and most heavily populated area.

Delany said demographics were a huge part of this decision. The population is not growing as quickly in the Big Ten's current Midwestern footprint as it is in other areas of the country, and it has hampered the Big Ten's ability to recruit, especially in football, its signature sport. The Big Ten felt it needed to change that.

``We think demographics have fueled our growth the last 100 years,'' Delany told the AP in an interview before the news conference. ``...What we're doing is not creating a new paradigm, we're responding to a new paradigm but for very kind of historic reasons. We understand that success requires a dynamic involvement with rich demographics.''

For both schools, the move should come with long-term financial gain. The Big Ten reportedly paid its members $24.6 million in shared television and media rights revenues this year.

There will be some financial matters to resolve in the short term though. After the ACC added Notre Dame as a member in all sports but football and hockey in September, the league voted to raise the exit fee to $50 million. Maryland was one of two schools that voted against the increased exit fee.

Loh believes the potential financial gain of this deal will more than offset the sum.

``I say we have an arrangement within our membership that will assure the future of Maryland athletics for decades to come,'' he said. ``As we crunched those numbers, we are able to deal with this issue.''

The Big East's exit fee is $10 million, but the league also requires a 27-month notification period for departing members. That means Rutgers will not be able to join the Big Ten until 2015 without working out some kind of deal with the Big East.

Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia have all negotiated early withdrawals from the Big East in the past year.

The ACC could now be in the market for another member and it would not be surprising if it looks to the Big East, yet again. Connecticut would seem a perfect fit after Pitt and Syracuse join next season.

The Big Ten added Nebraska in 2010 to go to 12 members, and Delany had given every indication that the conference was happy to stay at that number. The conference had given no indication it was in the expansion market, and not until the last few days did it come to light, surprising many in intercollegiate athletics.

The question now is whether this sparks more realignment from conferences that weren't even affected.

For now, though, Maryland is the latest school to forsake tradition for a financial windfall. The Terps have mostly been a middling football program for several decades, but Anderson is certain that the additional money will help.

``We believe that with recruiting, and the continued improvement of the team, we will take on the Big Ten and be very competitive,'' Anderson said.

---

AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo in New York contributed to this report.

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LeBron James had his worst ever game against the Wizards in Lakers' loss

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LeBron James had his worst ever game against the Wizards in Lakers' loss

No Wizards fan needs to be reminded of the torment their favorite team has suffered at the hands of LeBron James for the last decade-and-a-half. He has eliminated them from the playoffs three times, scored 57 in their building and hit a variety of game-winning shots.

So, it should be considered no small feat what the Wizards did on Sunday night in their 128-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. They held James, arguably the league's best player, to only 13 points. That's his lowest scoring total ever against the Wizards franchise.

James has played the Wizards 65 times over the years, between the regular season and the playoffs. His previous career low vs. the Wizards was 14, back on Feb. 7 of 2004, when he was a rookie.

While in the Eastern Conference for his first 15 NBA seasons, James played the Wizards four times a year and often had the upper-hand. In his career, even with Sunday's loss, he is 30-19 against them with a 26.9 points per game average.

Usually, James powers his way to the rim against the Wizards and scores at will. Not on Sunday night.

"I have no clue," head coach Scott Brooks said when asked for the secret to shutting him down.

"It seems like every night it's 40 points here. He makes shots. Last year, here I think he averaged [39.9 points, 11.0 assists and 10.0 rebounds]. He's a pretty good player."

James shot just 5-for-16 from the field on Sunday, good for 31.3 percent. He was 0-for-2 from three and had four turnovers with only three assists. He was a -21 in the box score.

Some of James' struggles could be attributed to fatigue, as the Lakers played the night before in Charlotte. And James did have an off-night with some missed shots he would otherwise make.

But the Wizards had a plan and it worked. They deployed Jeff Green to guard him in isolation. Green is not only the Wizards' best match from a physical standpoint, he knows James well having played with him last season with the Cavaliers.

Green did an excellent job matching James' physical style without fouling. He had only one foul on the night despite playing bump-and-run coverage on many of James' drives to the basket.

Green and the Wizards also took away his three-point looks by closing early and making him pass to teammates. James' two three-point attempts were a season-low.

"Give a lot of credit to Jeff. Jeff did a great job," guard John Wall said. "It was one game. We know he is how he is. Just gotta tip your hat for us, making him make tough shots and make plays tonight."

The Wizards wanted others to beat them from long range and James' teammates didn't come through. While James didn't get off many threes, other Lakers did. They just didn't hit them.

Josh Hart went 0-for-5 from long range. Lonzo Ball went 2-for-7 and Kyle Kuzma went 0-for-4. 

“I think we did a good job of making it difficult on [James], showing him a lot of bodies, active hands," guard Bradley Beal said.

With James in check, the Wizards took advantage. They forced 22 total turnovers and that allowed Wall to feast in transition. He scored a season-high 40 points and dished 14 assists.

For one night, the Wizards had James' number. After 16 years of domination, it was about time.

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Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

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Sam Dekker stands out for Wizards without cutting corners

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- Scott Brooks doesn’t know much about Sam Dekker. Four games since the Wizards acquired the energy forward as part of a successful three-team deal, it’s clear the head coach is enjoying the homework.

John Wall’s passionate work from the start against the Los Angeles Lakers helped snap the Wizards’ four-game losing streak, but Dekker’s X-factor performance also stood out in Washington’s rousing 128-110 win Sunday night.

Sunday marked the Wizards’ first game since the weekend’s chaotic trade sequence that will ultimately bring Trevor Ariza back to Washington. The deal doesn’t become approved by the league until Monday. With Otto Porter (right knee contusion) sidelined, Washington took the court shorthanded at positions where players would contend with LeBron James.

Brooks admitted pregame he loved the undermanned challenge. Dekker’s constant and perceptive movement helped Washington play at needed levels without cutting corners.

“Sam is a great cutter. That is what I am finding out,” Brooks said. “I didn't really know everything about his game, I still don't.”

Brooks isn’t alone in learning about the fourth-year player. Dekker received regular rotation work the previous two seasons with the Rockets and Clippers, but his NBA career has yet to blast off.

An ankle injury kept him off the court in Cleveland earlier this campaign until the Dec. 7 trade involving Jason Smith landed him in Washington.

The general scouting report played out in real life against the Lakers. High motor player. Athletic 6-foot-9 forward. Scattered shooting from distance.

The two positive traits showed in the open court and on the move. Dekker repeatedly found space when Wall or Tomas Satoransky ran the offense. They frequently found him for dunks and layups. Dekker finished 10 of 15 from the field.

“Whenever I have the ball or attack, penetrate, he’s a great cutter,” said Wall, who finished with a season-high 40 points and 14 assists. “We were just talking about it. He said ‘Whenever you have the opportunity to be aggressive, I’m always a guy that’s cutting and doing the little things. I don’t mind doing the dirty work.’”

The Wizards (12-18) need more grit in their world considering their underachieving start to the season. That’s something Dekker believes he can provide. Considering he doesn’t have full grasp of the team’s playbook terminology, falling on the back of basketball basics is necessary for now.

“They called out a couple of plays tonight and I looked at John, looked at Brad (Beal) and I’m like where (do I go), Dekker said spastically. “(They) would just say go to the corner. OK. That part of it is tough.

“One thing you can control is how hard you play and how smart you play. When you put yourself in a position to do some good things, and help the team. That’s really all I’m trying to do right now.”

Going forward Dekker will try finding a spot in Washington’s rotation. Ariza, who was Dekker’s basketball tutor when the two played in Houston during the 2016-17 season, likely moves into the starting lineup.

Reserve minutes opened when Washington traded Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers to Phoenix for Ariza.  The basics of Dekker’s game compares to the popular Oubre, but with perhaps a steadier baseline.

He has yet to run the court with complete ease. Dekker remains on a minute’s restriction because of the ankle injury. “I was able to do some things tonight that I haven’t been able to in the past couple of games. That was a positive,” he said.

There’s no guarantees for minutes or the 24-year-old being part of Washington’s future. Dekker is one of several restricted free agents on the roster. For now the goal is simple: Play and play hard.

“I’m just trying to prove myself every night. I’m trying to show coach I’m a guy that can help this team,” Dekker said. “I’ve helped teams in the past, but I really want to be part of a playoff run here.”

Color Brooks impressed, with one clear clanking exception.

“I'm assuming that he is going to be able to shoot threes better than he did,” Brooks said after watching Dekker air ball a 3-point attempt and wildly miss on another. “But he cuts to the basket, he moves the ball, he plays hard, he brings energy, he plays with the proper respect for the game. That is what I love about him, he always seems to be prepared. He doesn't have to turn the switch on, it's on.” 

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