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Stern to retire as NBA Commissioner in 2014

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Stern to retire as NBA Commissioner in 2014

NEW YORK (AP) David Stern spent nearly 30 years growing the NBA, turning a league that couldn't even get its championship series on live prime-time TV into a projected $5 billion a year industry.

Confident the NBA is in good shape and certain he has found someone who can make it even better, Stern is ready to end one of the most successful and impactful careers in sports history.

Stern will retire as commissioner Feb. 1, 2014, 30 years to the day after taking charge of the league, and be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.

``I decided that things are in great shape and there's an organization in place that will ultimately be led by Adam that is totally prepared to take it to the next level,'' Stern said Thursday during a press conference following the league's board of governors meeting.

It's hard to be any better than Stern, perhaps the model sports commissioner.

Name an important policy in the NBA - drug testing, salary cap, even a dress code - and Stern had a hand in it. A lawyer by trade, he was a fearless negotiator against players and referees, but also their biggest defender any time he felt they were unfairly criticized.

``For all the things you've done for the NBA and for sports generally, I think there's no doubt that you'll be remembered as the best of all-time as commissioners go and you've set the standard, I think not even just for sports league commissioners, but for CEOs in any industry,'' Silver told Stern sitting to his left on a podium.

Stern told owners of his plans during their two days of meetings, and the board unanimously decided Silver would be his successor. Owners will begin negotiations with the 50-year-old Silver in hopes of having a contract completed by their next meeting in April.

Stern, who turned 70 last month, became commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984. He has been the NBA's longest-serving commissioner, establishing the league's brand around the world, presiding over team expansion and overseeing the establishment of the WNBA and the NBA Development League.

``There is no debate that David Stern has earned his spot in the pantheon of sports commissioners. Deservedly, his name and reputation will always be synonymous with the phenomenal growth and success of the NBA over the last three decades,'' union executive director Billy Hunter said in a statement. ``His absence will surely be felt by anyone connected to the NBA and the sport of basketball, although clearly the league will be left in very capable hands with the appointment of Adam Silver as the next commissioner.''

Seven franchises have been added under Stern and the league has seen a 30-fold increase in revenues. Stern insisted the NBA have a presence on social media, and the league and players have more than 270 million likes and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

``There are all kinds of other business metrics we could look at that would define David as one of the great business leaders of our time,'' Silver said.

Stern said he decided on his plans about six months ago, having guided the league through a lockout that ended nearly a year ago. He didn't want to leave until the labor deal was completed or until he was confident there was a successor in place, and both are done. Silver has been the league's No. 2 since 2006, and both Stern and league owners praise his abilities.

``I don't know what else to say other than to recite what I told the owners yesterday in executive session,'' Stern said. ``I told them that it's been a great run, it will continue for another 15 months, that the league is in, I think, terrific condition.''

Stern is the one who got it there, taking over what was a second-rate league with little-to-no TV presence - the NBA Finals were on tape delay in the early 1980s - and making basketball one of the world's most popular sports.

``A couple of things that stand out to me is that David has been, in my estimation, the type of commissioner that has set the standard not only for the NBA but for all of the sports,'' said Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the outgoing chairman of the board of governors. ``We have done so many wonderful things in the organization. The marketing, leadership, the brand recognition, going international way before our times, and David has led that.''

Taylor said there's been a ``40-fold'' increase in revenues from the league's national TV contract, and that the average player salary will have had grown from $250,000 when Stern took over to $5 million by the end of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Stern was the league's outside counsel from 1966-78, then its general counsel before becoming executive vice president of business and legal affairs from 1980-84. He replaced Larry O'Brien to become the league's fourth commissioner, getting a boost in taking the game mainstream with the popularity of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and soon Michael Jordan. The league began marketing its stars, and Stern found the desire for them was greatest in some far-away lands.

The real explosion came in 1992, when those three headed the Dream Team that led the U.S. to the Olympic basketball gold medal while winning fans around the world. The NBA has gone on to play games in 17 countries, staging 114 international games.

``He's done a remarkable job,'' Major League Baseball Commission Bud Selig said at the World Series. ``To think of what the NBA was when he came in and what it is today, most people judge him very very highly.''

There were rough patches, particularly the brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans in 2004, and the betting scandal involving former referee Tim Donaghy. Stern had already passed off most of the heavy lifting to Silver by last year, but he was the one absorbing the criticism during the lockout for the second shortened season in his tenure.

He sometimes appeared worn down during the negotiations, even missing one critical bargaining session while sick, but insists he's got plenty of energy to keep working now.

``I feel great,'' Stern said. ``I'm enjoying my job, but I'm looking forward to doing some other things. I'm stepping down, I'm not retiring.''

Stern just recently returned from China, Germany and Italy, and plans another overseas trip next season, and will remain an adviser to the league in retirement on international matters.

``We just think that his leadership will be important to our future,'' Taylor said.

It's meant everything to the league's past.

The league has reported huge increases in ticket and merchandise sales, and TV ratings are at an all-time high. Last season's lockout, the second time the league lost games to a work stoppage, hardly made a dent in the league's business or in fans' interest.

But even for Stern, business has always taken a back seat to basketball. He's sought changes to improve play, such as the elimination of isolation play that bored him, to implementing penalties that go into effect this season for flopping.

``For the most part it's been a series of extraordinary experiences and enormous putting together of pieces of a puzzle and it goes on forever,'' Stern said. ``And there will always be another piece of the puzzle and so the question is at what point do you decide that, let someone else do it? That's the point that I'm at now.''

Taylor and Spurs owner Peter Holt, who is replacing him as board chairman, said the owners will work to have a contract with Silver by April. Silver came to the NBA 20 years ago and served a variety of positions before becoming the deputy commissioner in 2006. He was the lead negotiator during the lockout and Stern has relied more heavily on him in recent years, even turning to Silver to answer questions on tougher topics.

Stern said he wouldn't leave until he knew there was a successor ready, and he has repeatedly said Silver is ready for that role. Stern said he would always remain available to take a call and help the league.

``Life is a journey and it's been a spectacular journey,'' Stern said. ``Each step along the way there are things that you have to do, things that you maybe wish you hadn't done. But I don't keep that list, and so I'm totally pleased and I'm particularly pleased with the transition of which we're now embarking.''

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Wizards Trade Timeline: Sorting through details of scrapped Trevor Ariza trade

Wizards Trade Timeline: Sorting through details of scrapped Trevor Ariza trade

The Washington Wizards’ attempt at upgrading their defense by acquiring veteran forward Trevor Ariza in exchange for key reserves Kelly Oubre Jr. and Austin Rivers fell through. Various reports on how the three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies fell apart includes contradicting details.

The subsequent noise and chaos created confusion over what transpired. As of Friday night all we knew for sure was the no trade was ever reported to the league for approval. Here’s what NBC Sports Washington has learned as of early Saturday morning from league sources.

Quick recap: The Wizards were in talks to add Ariza, who played two seasons with Washington (2012-2014), along with a pair of second-round picks coming from Memphis. Oubre would land with the Grizzlies while the Suns would receive Rivers, Memphis guard Wayne Selden and player with the last name Brooks.

Trade news popped moments after the Wizards’ 125-118 loss at Brooklyn. Washington fell to 11-18 after a fourth consecutive loss. Another lost moment soon followed.

Everything blew up because the Suns believed they were acquiring Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks, a second-year player, while the Grizzlies claim the trade involved journeyman MarShon Brooks. Deals are torpedoed at the last minute from time to time. That happened here except reports leaked publicly with the details, including the Brooks confusion, all of which led to a wild night on social media.

- The Wizards entered into discussions about Ariza over the last 2-3 days. By that point, the Suns and Grizzlies were deep into conversations about a potential move with Memphis concerning Dillon Brooks. The two sides talked at least a half-dozen times over 7-10 days including at least one directl chat with owners of both teams.

With Dillon Brooks currently sidelined by a knee injury, the Suns requested the guard’s physical from the Grizzlies. Enough information and dialogue were exchanged during the process between all three teams that there was clear understanding of the players involved, at least for the Suns and Wizards. It’s possible what all witnessed was a bad case of nerves by the Grizzlies at the buzzer.

Other reports offer similar details, but Memphis general manager Chris Wallace countered the notion of Dillon Brooks’ involvement from the start, according to ESPN.

- As for what comes next, its conceivable talks are revived. Wojnarowksi reported Saturday morning that the Wizards and Suns "were exploring whether a deal could be made between the two teams that included Ariza, Oubre and Rivers" with the Grizzlies perhaps still involved.

Players signed as free agents during the offseason, including Ariza, could not be traded until Saturday regardless. Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix in July.

- That the deal fell through opens the door for other teams interested in Ariza. The Los Angeles Lakers were thought to be among the teams in the mix before Phoenix agreed to the three-way trade. Even if Washington hopes to find a new path, other teams now know the price and could counter with their own offers. 

Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers and Rockets were among the teams now “pushing the Suns” for a trade involving Ariza, who reportedly desires a trade to his native Los Angeles.

- Washington’s interest in Ariza comes on multiple fronts. The 6-foot-8 forward, who would start alongside Otto Porter, is one of the better 3-and-D players in the league, though his shooting numbers were off with the Suns this season. In 26 games this season, Ariza shot a solid 36 percent on 3-pointers, but only 37.0 percent overall while averaging 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds.

Don't panic over Ariza’s shooting numbers for now.  The 5-25 Suns are perhaps the lone team in the league without a true point guard. In Washington Ariza would once again play with Wall, a five-time All-Star and one of the league's top passers. Factor in the presence of Bradley Beal and Porter and Ariza would find himself open on the perimeter often.  

The Wizards rank 29th in points allowed this season with 117.2 points per game. Ariza, 33, proved formidable on the perimeter during the last four seasons with the Rockets. Houston, a Western Conference finalist in 2018 with Ariza, has fallen to 13-14 this season in part because of their defensive shortcomings.

- Washington would reduce its luxury tax payment for the second time in the last week. Salaries for Rivers, another expiring contract, and Oubre combined for approximately $860,000 less than Ariza’s $15 million deal. That works out to around $2.1 million savings. Washington previously saved around $4.7 million by trading Jason Smith. The Wizards would have remained $5 million over the luxury tax in this failed scenario.

The trade would not shed major long-term salary, however. The Wizards are currently over the projected 2019-20 salary cap with only five players under contract. The Ariza deal would help the team keep playoff hopes alive this season and save some money in the process.

- Lastly,  the Wizards are expected to practice Saturday. We’ll see what happens.

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Another Ovechkin hat trick, another Capitals win

Another Ovechkin hat trick, another Capitals win

This is getting a little silly. 

Alex Ovechkin, at age 33, matched the longest point-scoring streak of his career and recorded his second hat trick in a row. What else is there to say? 

The Capitals beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-5 in a shootout in Raleigh on Friday night. They rallied from 4-1 down to beat a Metropolitan Division rival and have now won 12 of their past 15 games. They’re rolling. 

But all you can talk about after these games is Ovechkin, who now has 28 goals in 31 games to lead the NHL. He’ll cool off eventually. But there’s no sign of that happening any time soon. Ovechkin has a five-goal lead over Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine. He is seventh overall in points with 42. 

Ovechkin is the 18th different player since 1943-44 to score at least 28 goals in his team's first 31 games, and third to do so since 1993-94. The others: Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 (28 goals) and 1996-97 (30 goals) and Mario Lemieux in 1995-96 (29 goals). 

Only 14 players have recorded consecutive hat tricks multiple times. Ovechkin is now one of them. He leads all active players with 22 hat tricks and just tied Teemu Selanne for 11th all time. 

Ovechkin would tie Bengt Gustafsson for fifth-longest point streak in team history if he has a point in Saturday’s game against Buffalo. The numbers almost become numbing.

He’s leading the way for a team five points clear of second-place Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. The Caps are also seven ahead of third-place Pittsburgh. But Ovechkin isn’t the only reason. 

On a night where Braden Holtby struggled, including the gaffe behind the net trying a clear that led to Carolina tying the game at 13:48 of the third period in a 5-4 game, others produced. Tom Wilson scored again. His goal at 12:37 of the second period started the comeback from 4-1 down.

Give the fourth line credit. The trio of Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin is a factor almost every night. They played their fourth game together in a row and Boyd tipped home the goal that cut the deficit to 4-3. In this stretch Dowd has five assists, including three against the Hurricanes. Boyd has five points (three goals, two assists) and Jaskin is the physical moral compass of the line. He has a goal and an assist. Overall, Dowd has 10 points in his past 10 games (three goals, seven assists).

John Carlson also had three assists, including the primary on Boyd’s goal and then Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 9:49 of the third period. He’s up to 35 points (five goals, 30 assists) and well on his way to passing last year’s career-best 68. He is again quietly tied with Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot for most points by a defenseman this season.   

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