NBA legend won't be returning next season

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NBA legend won't be returning next season

From Comcast SportsNet
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Larry Bird has resigned from the Indiana Pacers, effective from the end of August. Bird, perhaps the most respected and beloved basketball figure in a state obsessed with the sport, is the Pacers' president of basketball operations. He spent four years building the team into an Eastern Conference contender and was this season's NBA executive of the year, but is instead moving on after saying just a month ago that he was willing to stay. Bird said health issues were among the reasons for his departure. He said he may need shoulder surgery and cited longstanding issues with his back. "I just think it's time," he said at a news conference on Wednesday as the team announced an executive reorganization. Bird said he was prepared to leave last year with the organization headed in the right direction. He and owner Herb Simon had discussed his eventual departure for a few years. Bird also said that payroll issues with the small-market Pacers did not affect his decision. "(Simon) knows to get to the next level we're going to spend some money," Bird said. "Every time I went to Herb about a player or about money to spend, he questioned it. And he should. At the end of the day, he always said go ahead and do what you have to do to make this team better. That's the support you need. ... We're going to spend money." Bird said he plans to take a year off and get healthy before he evaluates his situation. He did not rule out a return to basketball. Owning a team used to be a goal, but he said he no longer has that interest. Simon said he had hoped to keep Bird, who will stay on for the draft when the Pacers are scheduled to pick No. 26 overall in the first round on Thursday. His contract expires on Aug. 30. "I feel sad (with) the announcement that Larry's going to be leaving us," said Simon, who continued to talk to Bird about staying as late as Monday. "Larry could have stayed here as long as he wants, but he has his own reasons. The Pacers organization appreciates everything he's done for us in his nine years. We wish him the very best and hope that we can still be associated with him in the coming years." The 55-year-old Bird was the Pacers coach from 1997-2000, taking the team to its only NBA Finals appearance that final year before he returned to the team's front office in 2003. He took full control as president of basketball decisions after the 2007-08 season, when Donnie Walsh left to become the New York Knicks' president. Walsh is returning as the Pacers' president. Kevin Pritchard, the director of player personnel, is being promoted to general manager, replacing David Morway, who resigned on Tuesday. Walsh said he won't travel the country to evaluate collegiate prospects, leaving that to Pritchard. Bird had said just a month ago that he wanted to stay and expressed interest in a three-year deal rather than the annual "handshake" agreements he had with Simon. Bird won three MVP awards and three NBA titles during his Hall of Fame career with Boston. As the Pacers' president, he took a franchise humbled by the brawl between Pacers players and Detroit fans in 2004, made a series of difficult trades to get rid of troublemakers, rebuilt through the draft and returned the Pacers to the Eastern Conference semifinals this season. It was Indiana's deepest postseason run in seven years.

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Wizards put themselves, credibility on line with all-black ploy vs. Celtics

Wizards put themselves, credibility on line with all-black ploy vs. Celtics

For the Wizards to wear all-black as a statement for tonight’s game (6:30 p.m. on CSN) with the Boston Celtics seems like quite a reach. This is just Game No. 45, but Bradley Beal insisted that they do it.

A 13-game home winning streak is on the line and so is the advantage in the season series which is tied 1-1.

These teams just can’t stand each other. The Jan. 11 game ended with an altercation between Jae Crowder and John Wall and the league fined them both.

Crowder instigated by getting in Wall’s face after the final buzzer and poked him in the nose. Wall countered with a quick left-hand slap to his jaw. The NBA fined Crowder more for what happened, an indication that he deserved the larger share of the blame.

There are a lot of key moments and subplots between these teams, too: Wall and Isaiah Thomas are fighting for reserve spots on the East All-Star team; Beal received a technical foul in the last game for getting tangled with Marcus Smart, who broke his nose and gave him a concussion with a blow to the face last season; Wall was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul after blowing out the Celtics in the first meeting; Crowder bad-mouthed the Wizards in the offseason and got in an argument with the bench that drew a technical a year ago, too; Wall had an emotional win over the Celtics that he dedicated to a young cancer patient he befriended; and Crowder hit the game-winning layup on Washington off an inbounds play.

Wall has felt disrespected at every turn, from the Wizards not getting much national attention, finishing sixth in All-Star voting despite being the only one in the East averaging a double-double, not getting a single vote from 29 other GMs in a preseason survey of the NBA’s best passers and the list goes on

This decision to treat a regular-season game like Game 7 of the playoffs has brought the attention that they've all craved, but now they’re under pressure to produce. 

That type of confidence has been absent since Paul Pierce’s one season in Washington, when he called the Toronto Raptors soft – a team they couldn’t figure out in the regular season -- before a playoff series as the Wizards proceeded to beat them into submission via sweep.

[RELATED: Celtics not impressed with Wizards wearing all black: 'That's cute']

Following that up with a 41-41 season when players admittedly checked out on then-coach Randy Wittman long before it ended contributed to the lack of belief in who they were at that time.

Starting this season 2-8 added onto what could’ve been a dumpster fire under new coach Scott Brooks. But this gesture suggests the Wizards are being incredibly naïve or will fully turn the corner before the All-Star break.

To think that for the home opener vs. Toronto, after losing winnable games at the Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies on the road, it was considered an overstatement by Marcin Gortat to call that a must-win game.

The frequent complaint about today’s game is that good old-fashioned rivalries and animosity are gone. That players are too friendly with one another.

But Brooks has emphasized all season that he’d prefer his players treat every game equally. He doesn’t want them to play harder against the Celtics, for instance, than they do the Philadelphia 76ers. In theory, that’s how it should be but human nature tends to win out.

Wall wears his emotions on his sleeve which is why he has nine technical fouls which is fourth-most in the league. Beal is trying to prove he’s worth the $128 million he was paid in the offseason and make his case for being an All-Star, too, with DeMar DeRozan of Toronto being the only shooting guard reasonably ahead of him.

Beal emerged from his 1-for-21 three-point shooting funk in Charlotte last night to go 4-for-9. He was the hot hand in the 117-108 loss to Boston when he had 16 points in the first quarter. 

Only 23 total fouls were called then (10 on Boston), Brooks was openly irritated by the officiating and for the first time this season cracked about the inconsistency in how some games are called. By comparison, the Wizards were called for 23 fouls alone in beating the Hornets on Monday. 

Both teams did their share of trash-talking in game that went unpunished which likely contributed to the postgame heat that required police presence between the locker rooms at TD Garden.

It'll be safe to assume that there will be significantly more whistles tonight, and one of the three officials will be Marc Davis. It was Davis who ejected Wall at the end of the Wizards' early-season loss to the Houston Rockets after bumping him during a timeout.

Playing with emotion can be a double-edged sword. A convincing victory will make more people want to watch the Wizards on a wider scale. An epic fail will result in a "nothing-to-see-here" response. The latter, by far, is the worst-case scenario.

If the Wizards want to put themselves on the line like this to prove a point this early in the season, let them. If it's a rivalry and it's real at least to them, then it's real. 

 

[RELATED: Have the Celtics become the Wizards biggest rival in the East?]

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Capitals call up Chandler Stephenson from AHL Hershey for road trip

Capitals call up Chandler Stephenson from AHL Hershey for road trip

The Capitals recalled forward Chandler Stephenson from AHL Hershey to join the team on their road trip, GM Brain MacLellan announced Tuesday.

Stephenson, 22, made his NHL debut last season and appeared in nine games for the Capitals. 

In the AHL this season, Stephenson has tallied 24 points on six goals and 18 assists for Hershey. 

He will join the team as it prepares to take on the Ottowa Senators tonight (coverage begins at 7 p.m. on CSN). The two games remaining on the road trip are against the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. 

MORE CAPITALS: Coaches declare Caps the favorite to win the Cup