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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Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Week 14 Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys and Patriots can earn playoff byes

Just when you thought it was going to stay tight in various NFL divisions, 2016 Week 13 came along. We saw DALLAS gain a firm 3-game lead in the NFC East, DETROIT jump out to a 2-game lead over Minnesota and Green Bay in the NFC North, SEATTLE maintain its 3-game lead in the NFC West and NEW ENGLAND vault to a 3-game lead in the AFC East.  Other division races remain either tied (NFC South, AFC North and AFC South) or within one game at the top (AFC West).

That separation in various divisions has us looking at three division title clinching scenarios this week and Dallas and New England can first-round playoff byes, with Dallas also having a shot at claiming homefield advantage throughout the playoffs as the #1 seed.

Before we get to those scenarios and one involving Oakland gaining a playoff berth, let's recap Week 13.  With DALLAS' win over Minnesota last Thursday and Washington's loss at Arizona, the COWBOYS clinched a playoff berth.  Week 13 is the earliest DALLAS has clinched a playoff spot since 2007 when they clinched playoffs in Week 13, Division title in Week 14, a playoff bye in Week 15 and homefield advantage Week 16.  That was also the year the 10-6 NY GIANTS beat the 13-3 COWBOYS on the road in the Divisional Round 21-17. :-)

Two teams were also eliminated from playoff contention during Week 13 as JACKSONVILLE's loss to Denver was the Jaguars final nail in the coffin and the NY JETS loss on Monday Night at home to Indy spelled their playoff doom.  Jacksonville has failed to make the playoffs since 2007 and the NY Jets haven't seen Postseason since 2010.  That leaves 28 teams in Super Bowl contention with four weeks to play which is 5th best in last 9 years, but 3 off last year's record number of 31 teams in contention.

QUIZ TIME: Which NFL team hasn't made the playoffs in ANY YEAR since the League realigned in 2002?   Answer Below (and it might surprise you).

HERE ARE YOUR 2016 WEEK 14 OFFICIAL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: 

DALLAS COWBOYS
   Dallas clinches division title:
    1) DAL win
   Dallas clinches a first-round bye:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie
    2) DAL win + SEA loss
   Dallas clinches homefield advantage throughout NFC playoffs:
    1) DAL win + DET loss or tie + SEA loss

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
   Seattle clinches division title:
    1) SEA win + ARI loss or tie
    2) SEA tie + ARI loss

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
   New England clinches division title:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie
    2) NE tie + MIA loss
   New England clinches a first-round bye:
    1) NE win + MIA loss or tie + PIT loss or tie

OAKLAND RAIDERS
   Oakland clinches a playoff berth:
    1) OAK win + MIA loss or tie
    2) OAK win + DEN loss
    3) OAK tie + MIA loss + BAL loss or tie
    4) OAK tie + MIA loss + PIT loss or tie  

MORE NFL: SHOULD THE REDSKINS' OL TAKE SOME OF BLAME FOR RECENT LOSS?

OAKLAND's situation is interesting as the Raiders have two-team tiebreaker advantage over both New England and Miami (whichever one doesn't win the division when looking at playoff berth clinching scenarios). You then have to look to see if eitehr Miami or New England can use Kansas City or Denver to jump over Oakland in this exercise.  Miami loses tiebreaker to Denver based on common opponents and canít use Kansas City since there is no scenario where the three-way KC-OAK-DEN tie ends with DEN finishing first, KC second and OAK third.  Kansas City would win the AFC West in that tiebreaker in this scenario no matter what happens in future games after this Thursday.  However, Miami CAN use Kansas City if Denver ties this week instead of loses and Denver wins division at 11-4-1 and KC and OAK tie at 11-5.  New England can beat KC and jump Oakland in that same Denver division winner scenario.  THUS...the need for a DENVER LOSS with an OAKLAND WIN as one clinching option this week.

TIEBREAKER NOTES AND ANECDOTES:
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed this week, not only will it be interesting to see what the COWBOYS do with playing time for Tony Romo and the Rookies, but it will also mean that DALLAS won't have "must-win" motivation when they face TAMPA BAY Week 15 and DETROIT Week 16...two teams firmly in the Playoff hunt.
- If NEW ENGLAND clinches the AFC East title this week, it will be the EIGHTH consecutive division title for the Patriots and 13 titles in the last 14 years.  Amazing.
- If DALLAS were to clinch the #1 seed in week 14, it will be the earliest any NFL team has accomplished that since the 2009 Indianapolis Colts (who also did the same thing in 2005). No NFC team has clinched the #1 seed with three weeks to play since the 1985 Chicago Bears.  Super Bowl Shuffle anyone? 

QUIZ ANSWER: THE BUFFALO BILLS have not made the playoffs since realignment in 2002 (only NFL team) and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 which be remembered as the year Buffalo lost to Tennessee in the Wild Card Playoffs 22-16 in what is known as the "MUSIC CITY MIRACLE".  Can you say Frank Wycheck?

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS FOLLOWING WEEK 12:
SEED    AFC                NFC
1    New England Patriots        Dallas Cowboys
2    Kansas City Chiefs        Seattle Seahawks (jumps ATL for #2)
3    Pittsburgh Steelers        Atlanta Falcons
4    Houston Texans            Detroit Lions
5    Oakland Raiders            New York Giants
6    Denver Broncos            Washington Redskins (need to go 3-1 vs. TB 2-2)

Enjoy Week 14 and best of luck to your favorite team!

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Morning tip: Markieff Morris channels emotions into better defense

Morning tip: Markieff Morris channels emotions into better defense

BROOKLYN -- Markieff Morris appeared to be headed down the path to self-destruction again, picking up his fifth technical foul of the season -- tied for second-most in the NBA -- after arguing his third personal foul assessment in the second quarter. 

Soon after, a close game at 53-48 grew into a 66-51 deficit for the Wizards at halftime. 

He returned with a vengeance in the third quarter when he had four steals and scored 12 of his 16 points. 

“He let the game bother him. You got to play with great passion and intensity. If calls go your way, great. If they don’t you have no control of that," said coach Scott Brooks, who has seen his starting power forward ejected recently after perceived quick whistles on him from game officials. "You have control over your emotions. We have to make sure he’s locked in. We need him on the court. We can’t have him get thrown out."

Defensively, Morris was engaged from that point on as he avoided deeper foul trouble. He had active hands along with Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre as they created deflections and disrupted Brooklyn's offense in the second half when 15 of its 22 turnovers were committed. John Wall and Bradley Beal joined in, too, with their ball pressure on the backcourt of Isaiah Whitehead and Sean Kilpatrick.

The Wizards (7-12) knew they were underperforming. It didn't require Brooks to go into the locker room to berate Morris, or the team, at halftime for their erractic behavior They self-corrected.

"He didn’t really yell at us. We took it upon ourselves before he came in here," Bradley Beal said. "We were just talking that we need to pick up our energy and he came in and reinforced it. It wasn’t a matter of screaming at us. He allowed us to be coached and coach ourselves and we went out there and did a good job."

Brooks, who has preached defense from Day 1 in his first season in Washington, still wants to see this for 48 minutes and multiple games at a time. Morris played in a role in Bojan Bogdanovic shooting just 2-for-8 in the second half. Everyone played a role in the comeback. 

"We created a lot of deflections and steals and then got out in transition. The game turned because we started defending and we were hitting shots off our defense, Brooks said. "We had to remind ourselves we had to play that way. We can’t relax and let teams feel free and that’s what they did in the first half.

"We were getting beat off the dribble all throughout the perimeter. You do that it puts a lot of pressure on the interior defense. We’re not a team that blocks a lot of shots and then our pick-and-roll coverage, we were softer in that first half and then we picked it up. Our hands were active in that third quarter. Changed the game. They couldn’t get into their offense. They were under duress make that first pass and that’s what we have to do to start the game."

[RELATED: Didn't matter who took what shots for Wizards in win]