Wizards

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Kevin Durant scored 18 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder opened a 40-point halftime lead in one of the most lopsided first halves in NBA history on their way to a 114-69 blowout of the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night.

Russell Westbrook had 12 points and 11 assists before he and the rest of Oklahoma City's starters were pulled less than 5 minutes into the second half with the Thunder leading 79-25.

Westbrook powered home a right-handed slam to put an exclamation point on the first half and put Oklahoma City up 64-24. It was the fifth-biggest halftime lead in NBA's shot clock era and the largest since Golden State set the record with an 88-41 edge on Sacramento on Nov. 2, 1991, according to STATS.

It was the largest blowout ever for Charlotte, which had shown promise with seven early wins - the same number it had last season while setting an NBA record for futility.

NETS 96, KNICKS 89, OT

NEW YORK (AP) - The Nets worked overtime to pull out the opener of their new-look rivalry with the Knicks, winning to tie their city rivals for first place.

Jerry Stackhouse, wearing the No. 42 Jackie Robinson made famous in Brooklyn, made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:31 left in overtime as the Nets controlled the extra period of a playoff-like game that neither team led by more than seven.

Brook Lopez had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Deron Williams added 16 points and 14 assists as the Nets improved to 7-1 in their new home and tied the Knicks atop the Atlantic Division at 9-4.

Carmelo Anthony had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but was only 10 of 16 at the free throw line. Tyson Chandler finished with 28 points and 10 boards, but no other Knicks player was in double figures.

PISTONS 108, TRAIL BLAZERS 101

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Brandon Knight scored 16 of his 26 points in the first half, outplaying Damian Lillard in a matchup of young guards and leading the Pistons to a victory over the Trail Blazers.

Lillard entered the day as the NBA's top rookie scorer, averaging 19.6 points per game. He missed his first 12 shots from the field against the Pistons.

Detroit is 4-3 since dropping its first eight games. The Pistons won for the first time when allowing more than 90 points.

LaMarcus Aldridge was back in the lineup for Portland after missing a game with back spasms. He scored 32 points but didn't have enough help with Lillard struggling.

SPURS 118, WIZARDS 92

WASHINGTON (AP) - Boris Diaw scored 16 points, Tiago Splitter had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Tony Parker added 15 to help the Spurs win their fourth straight over the still-winless Washington Wizards.

The Wizards are the 12th team in NBA history to start the season 0-12 according to STATS and are six away from equaling the New Jersey Nets' record 0-18 start in 2009-10. In their first 11 games, Washington lost by a total of just 72 points and never by more than 16.

The Spurs had seven players in double figures as they continued their successful road trip. Tim Duncan had 14, Gary Neal 13, Manu Ginobili 12 and Matt Bonner had 11. After winning the first four games of the six-game trip, they're now 8-1 on the road and 12-3 overall.

GRIZZLIES 84, CAVALIERS 78

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies overcame a lethargic performance to escape with a victory over the Cavaliers.

Rudy Gay scored 15 points, and Quincy Pondexter had 10 points, including 2 of 3 from outside the arc as Memphis won its second straight and maintained its position with the best record in the NBA.

Anderson Varejao and Dion Waiters scored 15 each to lead Cleveland, Varejao grabbing 22 rebounds, including eight offensive board. Daniel Gibson scored 11 for the Cavs, who lost their third straight and ninth in the last 10.

The Cavaliers still held the lead with 8:28 left, but Memphis closed the game on a 13-4 run, part of the Grizzlies outscoring Cleveland 22-9.

BUCKS 93, BULLS 92

CHICAGO (AP) - Ersan Ilyasova scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and the Bucks overcame a 27-point deficit in a stunning win over the Bulls.

Richard Hamilton scored a season-high 30 points for the Bulls but missed a shot at the buzzer that could have won it.

Ilyasova led a 31-4 second half-run as the Bucks snapped a nine-game losing streak to Chicago and prevented the Bulls from moving past Milwaukee into first place in the Central Division.

Ilyasova scored 12 points in the fourth quarter when Milwaukee outscored Chicago 30-12. Milwaukee played the entire fourth quarter with five reserves: Ilyasova, Epke Udoh, Beno Udrih, Mike Dunleavy and Doron Lamb.

John Henson, Udrih and Udoh all scored 11 points while Monta Ellis added 10. The Bucks hadn't beaten Chicago since April 6, 2010.

JAZZ 105, NUGGETS 103

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Al Jefferson scored a season-high 28 points and Derrick Favors made three free throws down the stretch, helping the Jazz remain unbeaten at home with a win over the Nuggets.

The Nuggets had a chance to tie it with 3.6 seconds left but Ty Lawson was double-teamed and passed too late for Corey Brewer to get off a final shot.

The Jazz, who improved to 6-0 at home, trailed by as many as 16 in the first half and were down 12 with 7:27 left in the third before going on a 14-2 run to tie it at 77.

The Nuggets played the rest of the way without Andre Iguodala, who was ejected with 3:24 left in the third. He had 10 points, three rebounds and three turnovers.

Favors added a season-high 19 points and seven rebounds, including two in the final minute.

Kenneth Faried led Denver with 21 points.

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Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Owner Ted Leonsis says the Wizards' best course is not to tank this season. Is he right?

Shortly before his team took on the New York Knicks in a global showcase game in London, England on Thursday, Washington Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis addressed reporters and dropped a line that created a swift and strong reaction on social media.

When discussing the state of his team, Leonsis said in no uncertain terms that the goal this season is to make the playoffs. He has no interest in looking towards the draft lottery, despite the desires of some fans who have visions of Zion Williamson throwing down lobs from John Wall.

"We will never, ever tank," Leonsis told reporters.

That quote seems like one that will be revisited periodically in the next several years. But, like all quotes, it requires some context. 

What Leonsis went on to explain is that his franchise is not in a position to lose on purpose. They have too much talent, even with injuries to Wall, Dwight Howard and Markieff Morris, to pack it in and look towards next year. They also have too much money committed with what currently ranks as the seventh-highest payroll in basketball. They already went through a rebuild, he said, and it's not time yet to go through another one.

As Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington in September, there are "no excuses" for falling short this season.

In many ways, what he said in London was not surprising at all. The Wizards have been in win-now mode for several years. Anyone paying attention to their personnel moves should understand that.

Take the trade for Trevor Ariza in December, for instance. Though some speculated that was about trading for a guy who could be dealt elsewhere months later, that was never the Wizards' intention, according to people familiar with their plans. Getting Ariza was about improving the defense and retooling their locker room culture. It was about making the playoffs this spring.

Leonsis' comments should make the Wizards' plans for the Feb. 7 trade deadline a bit easier to ascertain. The goal to make the playoffs doesn't necessarily mean they will be buyers, but it strongly suggests they won't be sellers. They are only two games out of a playoff spot in the still-pedestrian Eastern Conference with 37 games left to play. After winning six of nine, the playoffs are a realistic goal.

That still won't assuage the Wizards fans out there pining for them to make the long-term play, of course. And there is an argument to be made that their future would be better off if they take a step back this season to take two steps forward the next. If they tanked and got a top draft pick, it could help them immensely down the road if that player becomes another franchise cornerstone.

But, as Leonsis argues, gunning for top draft picks can be unpredictable. People often cite the Sixers as a tanking success story, and their future does appear to be bright. 

But the Sixers are an exception to the rule, as tanking is by no means a fool-proof strategy, even in long-term rebuilds. Teams go years and years without luck in the draft. Just look at the Sacramento Kings.

Or, you could look at the Wizards, one of the least successful franchises in the NBA historically. Only five NBA teams have a worse winning percentage all-time than the Wizards, who have been around for 58 years. They haven't won 50 games or reached the conference finals since the 1970s.

If the Wizards were to make the playoffs this season, that would be five times in six years, arguably their best stretch of postseason success since the 70s. Consider the fact they made the playoffs just once from 1988 to 2004.

Sure, the Wizards should set their sights higher than losing in the first or second round, but there is something to be said about stability for a team that hasn't really had it since the Carter administration. And there is also something to be said about trying to build on what they have, rather than tearing it down and starting over.

It's not easy to go from middle of the road to great, but other teams have done it. In fact, most of the top teams in today's NBA didn't get there by tanking. 

The Rockets made trades for James Harden and Chris Paul and drafted Clint Capela 25th overall. The Raptors traded for Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry and took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick.

The Bucks got Giannis Antetokounmpo with the 15th pick, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton in trades and Malcolm Brogdon with a second round selection. The Nuggets drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round and got Gary Harris with a trade for the 19th pick.

The Warriors, though they had some lean years before their meteoric rise, basically built their team without any really high draft picks. They took Stephen Curry seventh, but also got Klay Thompson 11th and Draymond Green in the second round.

What Leonsis hopes to happen is a parallel to his Washington Capitals of the NHL. When it appeared they had hit a wall, some minor changes helped them break through to win a Stanley Cup in 2018.

The NBA is different, and the Wizards aren't a few small tweaks from toppling the Warriors, but perhaps Leonsis' patience will pay off. Maybe the Wizards will get a healthy version of Wall back, and the ascension of Beal and Porter will lead to them winning 50 games or going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1979.

There are fans out there who want dramatic changes. They want more than a first round playoff exit. Leonsis, of course, does as well, but he believes staying the course is the best path forward to getting there. Only time will tell if he's right.

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    Would Ravens fans welcome Steelers WR Antonio Brown?

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    USA Today Sports

    Would Ravens fans welcome Steelers WR Antonio Brown?

    If there’s one Raven who knows just how difficult it is to cover Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, it’s Marlon Humphrey.

    The second-year cornerback out of Alabama rose to the top of the team’s depth chart in the secondary this season and was rewarded with the chance to cover the consensus top pass catcher in football over the last half-decade.

    It’s not newsworthy to tell you that Antonio Brown is an elite receiver. In Week 14 of the 2017 season, with top CB Jimmy Smith on the bench, Brown roasted the Ravens secondary for 213 yards on 11 catches. And in two games this past season with Humphrey following him, Brown combined for 104 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown in each game. 

    What is newsworthy is the Steelers potentially shopping Brown, after numerous reports of locker room struggles and diva qualities from the star. And since he knows just how dangerous Brown can be, it makes sense that Humphrey would prefer to see him in purple and black.

    Fans of every team have imagined what it would be like to see Brown in their colors, scoring touchdowns and racking up big yardage. It’s no surprise that players would imagine it as well.

    He hasn't had fewer than 1,284 yards or 8 touchdowns in any season since 2012, but Brown will be 31 by the start of next season, so there probably aren't too many elite seasons left. For the time being, however, Brown would be a major addition for any team.

    That goes double for the Ravens, who would A) take a playmaker away from their biggest rivals, and B) finally give themselves a star receiver, something they haven’t had on the roster since Anquan Boldin during the Super Bowl run.

    While no team wants to add an alleged diva to their locker room, the Ravens have historically believed in the strength and leadership of their veterans, and therefore haven’t shied away from problematic players.

    With John Harbaugh running things and Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs in the locker room (none of whom are guaranteed for 2019, to be fair), the Ravens will likely trust their infrastructure and focus on talent when adding to the roster this offseason, and Brown certainly is talented.

    Even Humphrey recognizes it’s a longshot, however. Not only would it take a massive haul in draft picks and young talent, but the Ravens would need to create some cap room that’s already needed to fill other holes on the roster.

    Plus, it’s hard to imagine the Steelers allowing their best player to go to their most hated rival if they can help it, so Baltimore would likely be forced to overpay even more than other teams to pry away Brown. Even if they could make it happen, how would fans react to adding a player they've hated for so long?

    When asked about potentially bringing in both Brown and star running back Le’Veon Bell from Pittsburgh to Baltimore, Humphrey could only laugh.

    Some things really would be too good to be true. It’s still fun to speculate, though, and Lamar Jackson throwing up long touchdowns to Brown would be a sight to behold.

    If anything else, it’d just be nice to get Brown out of the black and gold. Just ask Marlon Humphrey.

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