I said I was done talking about Mike Piazza’s book, but I lied. NotGraphs’ Robert Baumann flagged a great excerpt involving Rickey Henderson always wanting to vote everyone with any possible connection to the team a full playoff share because “F*ck that! You can change someone’s life!” There are all kinds of Rickey Henderson anecdotes floating…
Paul George came close to getting the Indiana Pacers out of the first round, but they didn’t have enough to get past the Toronto Raptors in Game 7. Still, it was a bounce-back season to elite status for him as he led them to 45 wins after missing the postseason a year ago.
Indiana has a few free agents worth a look for the Wizards, who will go into the offseason with as many as nine spots open.
The Wizards' goals are to get younger, more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the salary cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.
They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.
These are Indiana’s free agents, in order of best fit:
Solomon Hill: Look at the Pacers at the end of games, and this 6-7 forward who earned just $1.4 million is on the floor because of his improving three-point shooting ability and defense. When they needed someone to slow down Beal in the second half of their last meeting with the Wizards this season, they went with Hill and it worked. He’s unrestricted and has surprising athleticism. His numbers are modest (4.2 points, 32.4% three-point shooting) which should translate into him being more affordable. The key with Hill is upside. He’s a solid rotation player at 25.
Jordan Hill: A career backup center, Hill gets his production (8.8 points, 6.2 rebounds) through hustle and can be a spot starter in a pinch. He made $4 million and is unrestricted and won’t command too high of a pricetag.
Ian Mahinmi: In his first year as a starter, the 6-11 center played well enough to get a raise above $4 million and is unrestricted. Mahinmi, 29, probably will want a chance to continue starting rather than returning to a backup role (9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds).
Ty Lawson: At one time a starting quality point guard, he’s now relegated to a backup role and is unrestricted. If he can regain his form, he’d be a steal but there’s no indication that’s going to happen soon. Lawson made $12.4 million this season and won’t come anywhere close to that in the open market. Shoots in the low 40s from the field and low 30s from three-point range, not a good enough of an upgrade behind Wall.
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without defenseman Kris Letang when they face the Capitals for Game 4 of their second-round playoff series Wednesday night here at Consol Energy Center.
Letang has been suspended one game for his open-ice check to the head of Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson, who missed Tuesday’s practice with an upper body injury.
“He’s the backbone of their defense,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said of Letang, who leads the Penguins in average ice time with 29:13 a game. “He goes back for pucks and gets them out of his zone with a pass or a flip. He transitions the puck and logs key minutes on their PP.”
With Letang out of the lineup the Penguins likely will turn to Justin Schultz and Derrick Pouliot for their third defense pairing. The two young defensemen have combined for just two career playoff games.
“He’s an important player for them,” Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie said. “He plays both sides of the puck, he plays big minutes for them. We lost a key component on our D line in (Brooks Orpik). Everyone has to make adjustments. It’s a big loss for them but they’ve got some players who can make a difference too.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he doesn’t think Letang’s one-game suspension will change anything for the Penguins, but it will heighten the importance of the Capitals’ game plan of targeting Pittsburgh’s defensemen.
“They have an identity,” Trotz said of the Penguins, “and they’ll try to play to their identity. Kris is a tremendous defenseman in this league. He’s a top guy. They’re just going to have to try to fill the void like we are with Brooks out.”
Unlike Game 2, when Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta did not return after taking a hit from Brooks Orpik, Johansson returned to play the second and third periods in Game 3 after absorbing the hit from Letang. Johansson finished the game with a career-high nine hits in the game.
“Nothing should lessen (the length of a suspension),” Trotz before the suspension was announced. “… I said a lot yesterday and I’m probably going to say not very much today. You know my thoughts from yesterday. I read all them.”
Trotz insinuated on Monday that the NHL gave Orpik a three-game suspension because the Penguins are their opponents.
As for what goes on inside the NHL Department of Player Safety, Wilson said it varies from hit to hit. He referenced Brayden Schenn’s chop at the back of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s right leg in the first round against the Flyers. If Kuznetsov was injured on the play, Wilson said he’s certain Schenn would have been suspended.
“The league looks at a million different things,” Wilson said. “They slow it down to a fraction of a second and see exactly where the contact was and they take into consideration how the other player’s doing. It’s unfortunate it has to come down to how the other player’s doing. It should be more black and white. But if you see a guy go down with a concussion, the hit is usually a little more severe.”
Wilson joked that he’d love for the NHL to turn back the clock 20 years and let players settle their grievances on the ice.
“I’d love to be able to go out there and drop the gloves and grab Letang, but it’s a new age,” Wilson said. “It’s not old-school hockey anymore.”
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang wills erve a one-game suspension for his late, high hit on Capitals' forward Marcus Johansson in the first period of Game 3, the NHL announced on Tuesday afternoon.
As Johansson attempted to push the puck toward the Penguins' net, three players closed in on him.
As the puck scooted toward the boards, Letang led with his shoulders, leaving his feet and drilling Johansson in the head.
Letang was sent to the penalty box and Johansson was taken to the locker room, where he was cleared for a return. Johasson was not however, a participant in Capitals' practice on Tuesday morning.
Following Brooks Orpik's hit on Olli Maatta in Game 2, which garnered a three-game suspension, there was much debate as to what punishment Letang would receive.
Justin Schultz is the likely candidate to dress in Letang's place. The Penguins were significantly worse without Letang during the regular season.
The team went 2-8-1 in the 11 games he missed during the regular season. The team had a -10 goal differential in those 11 games and were just 4-for-30 on the power play without Letang.
Letang will miss Game 4, which takes place on Wednesday night at 8:15 p.m. ET in Pittsburgh.