Wizards

Owner defends Grizzlies' trades, commitment to win

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Owner defends Grizzlies' trades, commitment to win

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Grizzlies' new owner is defending the trade of his team's leading scorer and other moves to dump salary, saying he believes they can do some ``serious damage'' in the playoffs with the changes.

Robert Pera took part in a web chat Friday with Memphis' season ticket holders along with chief executive officer Jason Levien, and Pera's first question was about whether the new ownership group has the financial ability to run the team.

``This team was built for playoff basketball,'' Pera wrote. ``In playoff basketball, getting defensive stops and creating high percentage scoring opportunities under pressure becomes much more important. ... And that is what this team can do best.''

Pera hadn't spoken publicly since taking over the team Nov. 5.

His Grizzlies traded Marreese Speights and two players along with a future first-round draft pick to Cleveland last week for Jon Leuer and a trade exception. On Wednesday, the Grizzlies sent leading scorer Rudy Gay to Toronto in a three-team trade bringing Memphis Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Ed Davis.

The first trade helped Memphis avoid a $4 million luxury tax hit this season. Trading away Gay clears up $37 million in salary committed by previous owner Michael Heisley, while Memphis now has a trade exception of about $7.5 million that can be used by Memphis over the next year to add another player if needed.

``We made the second trade because we feel it allows us to put a more competitive product on the floor this season and in future seasons,'' Levien wrote. ``We got better. We also picked up a valuable draft pick as well as trade exceptions that will allow us to be opportunistic in going on the offensive moving forward.''

Pera wrote that NBA teams have won titles with superstars and without, and he believes the Grizzlies as they are now built potentially can become the next example.

``Between Tayshuan's winning pedigree, the league's best perimeter defense, and Mark/Zbo returning back to the focal point of the offense; I believe we are a far more dangerous playoff team today,'' Pera wrote of Marc Gasol and All-Star forward Zach Randolph.

The Grizzlies lost 106-89 in Oklahoma City on Thursday night as they spent the first half trying to figure out how to play without Gay and with the new additions not having joined the team. They still rank fourth in the Western Conference with a 29-16 record going into Friday night's game against Washington that still is the best in franchise history at this point in a season.

Pera called the deal bringing Davis an added bonus and said he believes Levien and the front office has done an outstanding job to position Memphis for playoff success this year. Memphis has reached the playoffs each of the last two seasons and made its deepest run in 2011 to the seventh game of the Western Conference semifinals against Oklahoma City with Gay injured.

``We can do some serious damage in these playoffs,'' Pera wrote.

A former Apple engineer, Pera founded Ubiquiti Networks, a California communications technology company that makes WiFi networking equipment. He shared the news that new equipment is being added to the FedExForum to improve WiFi during games for fans.

Asked what has surprised him the most about being an NBA owner, Pera called the power of the media an ``eye-opener.''

``In today's world, social networking has enabled information to disseminate quickly, and in a vacuum, even inaccurate information and misunderstandings can spread fast,'' Pera wrote.

Pera said his business style is substance as an engineer and not a salesman or talker. Pera wrote he prefers to let results speak for themselves. But he did try to send a message to season ticket holders about his commitment to the Grizzlies.

``Although I am not one to speak out much or actively seek publicity, I want Memphians to know that what I want more than anything is to position this team to be wildly successful and do well by the city of Memphis both in the short and long term,'' Pera wrote.

Pera knows the Grizzlies have been heavily scrutinized for these moves with the new owner and changes in the front office.

``Although the way we get there might contradict traditional thought, we are both committed to building something great in Memphis that will hopefully set a new standard for how to run an NBA franchise successfully,'' Pera wrote.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Nassir Little

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Nassir Little

School: North Carolina
Position: Forward
Age: 19
Height: 6-6
Weight: 220
Wingspan: 7-1
Max vertical: 38.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 47.8 FG% (3.6/7.6), 26.9 3PT% (0.4/1.4), 77.0 FT%

Player comparison: Jae Crowder, Justise Winslow

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 11th, NBADraft.net 11th, Bleacher Report 16th, Sports Illustrated 11th, Ringer 14th

5 things to know:

*Little came to UNC as their top-ranked recruit and the sixth-ranked player in his class, but didn't live up to those expectations in his one year in Chapel Hill. There is a debate about whether he will be better suited for the NBA, given his athleticism and playing style. The team who drafts him could come away with a steal if the latter proves true.

*He is more known for his defense at this point. Little is an aggressive and physical perimeter defender who could develop into a Marcus Smart-like pest. Though he didn't force a ton of turnovers in college, Little clearly gave opposing teams problems with his energy and length. 

*There are questions about whether Little will ever be more than a dunker on the offensive end. He is excellent in transition and cutting to the rim, but he didn't do much creating off the dribble in college and needs to work on his outside shooting. He shot just 26.9 percent from three at UNC.

*Little had a strong combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and a 38.5-inch vertical leap. Those numbers helped his reputation as one of the most athletic wings in this year's class.

*Both of Little's parents were in the U.S. military. He had a 4.2 GPA in high school and was named Academic All-ACC.

Fit with Wizards: Little fits with the Wizards given he is a small forward and they currently have an opening there. He would also give them something they need in terms of style as a physical wing defender. Little is the type of player who could help them improve their horrid three-point defense.

But Little's raw skillset suggests he may take some time to develop offensively and it brings into question how high his ceiling will ultimately prove to be. The Wizards may be able to find someone with the ninth pick who can both contribute sooner than Little and offer a clearer road to potential stardom.

That said, if Little's game is indeed more designed for the NBA than in college, he could impress in pre-draft workouts and end up rising up the board.

Best highlight video:
https://youtu.be/oGIQDUttG8I

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Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

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