Memphis may not blow it up after Conley extension

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As we mentioned Friday night, Chris Broussard of ESPN reported Friday night that the Nuggets are not interested in the deal the Knicks were trying to put together which would land them Carmelo Anthony, with O.J. Mayo going to Denver. It’s a major sigh of relief for Grizzlies fans who would have been doubly-screwed in such a trade. They would have been used as a cash dump for the two teams, while trading Mayo solely so that owner Michael Heisley wouldn’t deal with criticism for not re-signing him when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2012.

It’s a close call because multiple sources in Memphis confirmed that Memphis GM Chris Wallace has long been interested in both J.R. Smith of Denver and Anthony Randolph of the Knicks. Both of those players could be disastrous in Memphis, as an Anthony Randolph-Hasheem Thabeet combination would resort in quite possibly the lowest basketball IQ between two players in the history of the league and bringing J.R. Smith to Memphis, Tennessee alongside Zach Randolph and Tony Allen would be like throwing a fire cracker down a mine shaft covered in nitroglycerin with live ammunition at the bottom, no matter how great a force in the community Randolph has been. (It should also be noted several reports have stated Randolph was the voice of reason in the Tony Allen-O.J. Mayo dispute and he’s had no issues since joining the Grizzlies. None.)

For New York, it’s back to holding the line, unwilling to give up too much of a playoff team to get Melo, knowing full well they may have the opportunity to simply snatch him up in free agency. It’s a hard bargain Donnie Walsh is trying to drive, but he knows he can’t get desperate. After all, that’s Billy King’s job, apparently.

Meanwhile, Alan Hahn of Newsday reports that the Grizzlies fully intend to match any offer for Marc Gasol in free agency. That sound you hear is the biggest sigh of relief ever from the Grizzlies contingent (and yes, they have fans, thanks). Keeping Gasol is far and away more important to the Grizzlies than keeping Mayo, despite Mayo’s upside and scoring punch. Gasol is a rising center in the league, already a borderline All-Star and with a bigger role without Zach Randolph potentially, could be an even bigger star if not asked to simply facilitate the offense, which he already does extremely well.

These two moves together could help Heisley to keep his promise that he would keep the core of the Grizzlies together, including Zach Randolph, should he decide to commit the money to this team. But for that to happen three things have to happen. One, the Grizzlies have to make the playoffs, to get the town to give a crap about them. Second, the fans have to start coming to the actual games. And finally, they have to not receive a better offer for Mayo. Because it’s clear they’re shopping him, despite what they say publicly. It’s a good not great core for the Grizzlies, but it’s got massive potential with Rudy Gay becoming a star and Mike Conley turning into a legit point guard. With some upgrades they could compete. But that’s if the team doesn’t detonate it first. These two reports give the fans hope that won’t happen.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.

Raptors’ ‘culture reset’ shines in Game 5 win over Wizards

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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The Raptors promoted ball movement. They emphasized 3-point shooting. They empowered their reserves.

This was why.

Backups Delon Wright and C.J. Miles and starting center Jonas Valanciunas – who was benched in previous postseasons due to his old-fashioned style, but expanded his game beyond the arc this year – scored Toronto’s final 18 points in a 108-98 Game 5 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Stars DeMar DeRozan (0-for-4 from the field) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-1 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws) struggled down the stretch, as the Raptors burst open what had been a one-point lead.

Though DeRozan (32 points) and Lowry (17 points and 10 assists) were good overall, they succumbed late in previous playoff games. Toronto didn’t want that duo stuck with the burden of creating so much in a stagnate offense.

Hence, Masai Ujiri’s famous “culture reset.”

The results have been mixed so far against a tougher-than-average-eight-seed Washington. But at least the Raptors – up 3-2 entering Friday’s Game 6 in Washington – are on the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

Raptors honor victims of van attack before Game 5 (photos)

Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images
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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors honored the victims the deadly van attack Monday with a moment of silence Wednesday night before Game 5 of their playoff series against the Washington Wizards.

Players from both teams held up banners with the hashtag #TORONTOSTRONG as they stood on the court during the tribute and the national anthems that followed:

The Raptors, the Wizards and the NBA will make a donation to a fund for victims and those affected by the incident.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke about the attack after the Raptors practiced Tuesday.

“What we do doesn’t really matter sometimes,” Ujiri said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on that sidewalk.”

Guard Kyle Lowry said he was impressed by the actions of Const. Ken Lam, who earned international acclaim for peacefully arresting of suspect Alek Minassian.

“In America he would definitely have been shot up,” Lowry said. “He did an amazing job of making a judgment call. I think more people could learn from that.”

Coach Dwane Casey was struck by how close the carnage occurred to his own Toronto neighborhood,

“It’s not too far from up the street from where I live,” Casey said.

Casey and his coaches were in the midst of a meeting Monday afternoon when assistant Rex Kalamian’s phone buzzed with someone informing him of the tragedy. The coaches stopped their meeting and turned on a television to find out what had happened.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Casey said. “Just this weekend I was talking to people saying how safe Toronto is, how it’s a melting pot and you don’t have the same crime. Hopefully though, sport can offer a relief, some reprieve.”

Like Casey, Ujiri said he is proud of Toronto’s reputation as a safe, welcoming place.

“Everywhere I go, I brag about this city,” Ujiri said. “It’s the safest place in the world. It’s the best city in the world and it’s going to continue to be the best place and the best city in the world.”

Toronto police said the 10 people killed and 14 injured in the attack were “predominantly” women, but have declined so far to discuss a motive. The 25-year-old Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

Former President George H.W. Bush says he’s more concerned with Rockets beating Timberwolves than his own health issues

AP Photo/Rick Bowmen
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Former President George H.W. Bush is hospitalized with an infection.

Spokesman Jim McGrath:

The Rockets, up 3-1, play the Timberwolves in Game 5 tonight.