Michael Jordan makes odd hire for Bobcats coach

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Michael Jordan makes odd hire for Bobcats coach

From Comcast SportsNet
The Charlotte Bobcats have hired St. John's assistant Mike Dunlap to be their new head coach, two people familiar with the decision said. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because an official announcement was still being planned for the next two days. The Charlotte Observer first reported the news. The choice comes as a bit of a surprise because Dunlap was not one of the team's three finalists and rejoined the picture late. He was originally one of the 10 candidates to interview for the job, but the team trimmed the list to former Utah coach Jerry Sloan, Indiana assistant coach Brian Shaw and Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Quin Snyder last week. At some point Dunlap re-entered the picture and was offered and accepted the job Monday night. A text message sent to Dunlap was not immediately returned. Dunlap, 54, will replace Paul Silas, whose contract was not renewed after Charlotte finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history this past season. The Bobcats were 7-59. A former assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets, Dunlap assumed all duties with the St. John's program after head coach Steve Lavin took a leave of absence to deal with prostate cancer. "The Johnnies basketball family is ecstatic for Coach Dunlap's opportunity," Lavin said in a statement. "Mike's selection as the Charlotte Bobcats' head coach is a well-deserved honor. To make the unprecedented jump from college assistant to NBA head coach is testament to both Mike's abilities as a teacher and our basketball program's marked improvement over the past 27 months." Dunlap has spent most of his career at the college level and has worked under Lute Olson in Arizona. He joined St. John's after serving as the associate head coach on Pac-10 staffs at Arizona and Oregon. Arizona went 21-14 in 2008-09, advancing to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 before ending the season with a loss to top-seeded Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal game. Dunlap joined Oregon's staff in 2009-10 and the Ducks posted a 16-16 record. Prior to working at Arizona and Oregon, Dunlap spent two seasons in the NBA with the Nuggets working under head coach George Karl. The Nuggets compiled a 95-69 (.579) record during his tenure and made two playoff appearances, including a 50-win season for the 2007-08 Denver squad, a first for the organization in 23 seasons. Early in his career, Dunlap also served as an assistant coach at Southern California under George Raveling, and as an assistant coach at Iowa. He also spent five years as an assistant at his alma mater, Loyola Marymount University. In between he spent 10 years at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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Braden Holtby, almost singlehandedly, gets the Caps a point on the road

Braden Holtby, almost singlehandedly, gets the Caps a point on the road

TAMPA—The Capitals didn’t earn the two points they came here seeking, but they got one—and they’ve got goalie Braden Holtby to thank for it.

Holtby was easily the Caps’ best player Saturday at Amalie Arena, where the Lightning eked out a 2-1 shootout victory. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced, including a handful of difficult saves at critical junctures.

”He made some really key stops in that game, at really key moments when the game was 0-0 and another when it was 1-0 for them,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought his effort was real solid. Without his performance maybe we don’t get a point here.”

RELATED: Caps' struggles continue after shootout loss to Lightning

One such save came six minutes into the second period. Tyler Johnson won a defensive zone draw, Ondrej Palat flipped a long pass to Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning’s leading goal scorer. Kucherov gathered the puck on the fly, broke in alone and attempted to beat Holtby on the blocker side. Holtby, though, turned him back, keeping it 0-0.

“It was high flip, so you never know if it’s going to dig in or not,” Holtby said of the play. “So I didn’t know if I had the time to go out and get it, which I might have. But I tried to just play it patient.”

In the 3-on-3 overtime, Holtby came up with another game-changing gem. Palat went end-to-end, knifing through Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. The winger raced in at full speed and tried to beat Holtby through the five-hole. Holtby, however, slid over in the butterfly and slammed his pads shut just in time.

“Holts was great,” said Nicklas Backstrom, who tallied the Caps’ long goal. “He’s been great for us all season, as usual. He’s always giving us a chance to win. Now it’s just up to us to start scoring goals.”

Indeed, the Caps have now scored only 13 goals in the past seven games (3-3-1). And, for the most part, the offense struggled to get much going on Saturday, as well.

Holtby, however, chose to focus on the positives after the loss.

“Obviously, we got a big one from our power play,” Holtby said, asked how he digests a shootout defeat on the road. “But it shows character that we were able to come back from 1-0. They’re in the same situation as us; they were desperate, as well. A game like that can go either way, really.”

With the 32-save performance, Holtby’s save percentage improved to .922 and his goal against average dropped to 2.18.

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Caps' struggles continue after shootout loss to Lightning

Caps' struggles continue after shootout loss to Lightning

Nicklas Backstrom forced overtime, but the Caps fell in to the Lightning 2-1 in a shootout.

How it happened: After a scoreless first period, Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring in the second period with a power play goal. The penalty killers were caught low as the puck went to the corner. A failed clear attempt went to Hedman who fed Kucherov at the blue line. With plenty of room to work with, Kucherov unleased a monster slap shot to beat Braden Holtby. Nicklas Backstrom pulled the Caps even in the third period when he called his own number on the power play, sending a wrister from the top of the circle past goalie Ben Bishop. With no winner in overtime, the game went to a shootout where the Caps lost in four rounds after Brian Boyle netted his first ever shootout goal.

What it means: Washington has now lost three straight games for the first time since Feb. 2015. The loss drops the Caps in a three-way tie with Tampa and the Philadelphia Flyers in the final two wild card spots. It was Washington's first loss to the Lightning since Nov. 1, 2014 after a stretch of five straight wins. The Caps have, however, earned at least one point in 12 of their last 13 games against Tampa.

Staying hot: Backstrom's goal was his seventh of the season and first on the power play. Six of those seven goals have come in the last nine games as the veteran center has really stepped up his game in recent weeks. He leads Washington in points this season with 21. Backstrom now has points in 11 of his 1ast 13 games against the Lightning.

Special again?: The power play struggles continued on Saturday as the Caps failed to convert on their first three opportunities of the game, bringing their streak up to 13 straight failed power plays. Then Backstrom finally, finally put the Caps on the board with his game-tying tally in the third period. It was the team's first power play goal since Nov. 25 against the Buffalo Sabres. For the night, Washington went 1-for-6 on the man advantage. Not a good night by any stretch, but the one goal the team did score proved crucial.

Trouble with the law: With two penalties on the night, Alex Ovechkin now leads the team in minor penalties with 10, one more than Lars Eller whose early season struggles were well documented. Ovechkin closed the gap quickly with four minors in the last two games. It's hard to blame him for either penalty on Saturday. In the first period, Ovechkin was tripped and then reached his stick out while on the ice after the puck. Victor Hedman tripped over it and Ovechkin received the only call. In the second period, Ovechkin slashed Hedman to try to break up a scoring opportunity. Even if you want to absolve him of both penalties in this game, however, the fact that he new leads the team is not what you want to see from the team's biggest offensive weapon.

Blanked: With Backstrom's third-period goal, the Caps avoided being shutout in consecutive games for the first time since March 2-4 of 2012. At that time, Dale Hunter was the head coach. To say that offense wasn't Hunter's top priority would be an understatement.

Look ahead: The Caps return home for a brief two-game homestand starting on Monday against the Buffalo Sabres. They host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday and then reacquaint themselves with the Sabres on Friday, this time in Buffalo.