Report: Knicks trying hard to sign Beno Udrih

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Beno Udrih was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Orlando Magic last season, enjoying a mild career resurgence when he was handed the reigns late in the season while  getting some spot starts in the absence of starting point guard Jameer Nelson. The 31-year-old Slovenian’s decent production while his team went 2-16 to end the season didn’t earn him much fanfare on this year’s free agent market, unsurprisingly, but the New York Knicks are apparently still interested in his services for the upcoming season.

The journeyman point guard was paid nearly $32.5 million over the past five seasons spent with the Sacramento Kings, Bucks and Magic, but ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that the Knicks are trying hard to convince him to move to New York if he’s willing to take a bit of a pay-cut. Actually, a pretty large pay-cut, unfortunately for Udrih, considering the Knicks only have enough room under the salary cap to offer the nine-year NBA veteran a minimum contract. If Udrih can match the 10.2 points and 6.1 assists in 27 minutes like he did with the Magic last year, that’d end up being a pretty solid get.

Udrih’s been a consistently average point guard in the NBA since joining the San Antonio Spurs as a backup in 2004, but there’s value in consistency when it comes to backup point guards. The Knicks haven’t had a lot of luck when it comes to injuries in its backcourt over the past few seasons. Between incumbent starter Raymond Felton, Udrih and 36-year-old veteran Pablo Prigioni, though, New York’s backcourt should always be occupied with a steady hand to guide the offense.

The Knicks could also play Udrih off the ball like the Bucks did during the 2011-12 season, but his value there is only truly intriguing if he’s making and taking shots like he did with the Magic to end last season. The lefty’s shot selection has very rarely been lauded by those watching him play (his pull-up jumper in transition is even legendary in some circles) but the fact that he was able knock said shots in Orlando certainly helped his plight. In a 27-game sample, the 6-foot-3 gunner shot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc — his best percentage since his rookie year — while taking more 3-point shots than he had since his time in Sacramento.

The Knicks getting Udrih might not be a game-changer. If he’s able to stay productive on a minimum contract, though, it’ll likely be considered a nice signing when all is said and done.

Report: Pacers looking to bring back Lance Stephenson for playoff run

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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Tuesday’s win gives Wizards first division crown since 1979

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Divisions are almost forgotten in the NBA. They exist still as quaint reminders of days gone by, but they don’t matter other than as a potential tie breaker with a non-division-winning team. Winning your division doesn’t even guarantee a team a playoff spot anymore.

Yet, the last time Washington had won a division title they were in the Atlantic division and when you turned on the radio you were likely to hear that new hit Heart Of Glass by Blondie. It was 1979.

That was until Tuesday when John Wall led a 13-point comeback in the fourth quarter against the Lakers to get the Wizards the win and the SouthEast division title.

According to CBSSports.com, that 38-year division title drought was longer than any team in any major U.S. professional sports — NHL, NFL, and MLB.

Congrats to the Wizards. They also have locked up home court in the first round, and they are currently the No. 3 seed in the playoffs (who they face in the first round is up in the air still as only three games separate seeds five through nine).

With Scott Brooks at the helm this feels like a far more dangerous — and healthy — team heading into the postseason. Wizards fans have waited a lot time for a team like this.

Report: Pacers waive Rodney Stuckey, will likely add player before playoffs

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Rodney Stuckey was having a down year for the Pacers when he was healthy, averaging 7.2 points and 2.2 assists per game, with a well below average 48.3 true shooting percentage. Stuckey also was not healthy often, playing in just 39 games.

The Pacers are banged up — Glenn Robinson III and Al Jefferson are hurt — and need a healthy body on the roster for the playoffs, plus they weren’t going to pick up Stuckey’s $7 million option for next season anyway, so they chose to wave him Wednesday, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports.

The question now is who the Pacers bring in to fill that spot. With Jefferson down, do they lean on someone they know in Tyler Hansbrough? Is there someone out of the D-League or free agent pool that intrigues them?

The Pacers need to do something to start winning some games and making Paul George happy.

Paul George on Pacers after loss: “No sense of urgency, no winning pride”

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Indiana still has a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs (according to fivethirtyeight.com), they are two games clear of the nine seed with seven games to play.

But they fell to that seventh seed with a loss to Minnesota on Tuesday night, an evening that Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Miami all won. Chicago is the nine seed right now, lurking with its soft schedule, and looking for another team to slip up, and in a key game Indiana did.

The Pacers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night despite being at home and having a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Indy had no answer for Karl-Anthony Towns, who dropped 37. Paul George had 37 points as well, and afterwards pissed and frustrated would be good words to describe his mood. Here’s his quote, via Nate Taylor at the Indy Star.

“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” George said of losing to the Timberwolves (29-44). “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit and we’ve got to own up, man up….

“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride,” he said. “This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”

If you don’t have urgency playing for your playoff lives with seven games left in the season, when will you have it?

Yes, this was a frustrated George venting after a loss. However, it also points again to the challenges Larry Bird and the Pacer front office have this summer — George wants to win, wants to play for a contender. Or if not that, maybe in his hometown. If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team (he likely just misses out, forward is a stacked position in the league right now) and the Pacers can’t offer him a “designated player” max, Indiana needs to put a contender around him, or consider trading him so they don’t lose him for nothing in a year. Both of those options present challenges come July.

In the short term, the Pacers need to make the playoffs. Even if they do, play like this against the Cavaliers (their current first-round matchup) or any of the other top-four teams in the East and Indy’s stay in the postseason will be short and uneventful.