Indiana’s Cody Zeller says he is returning to college

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Indiana’s center Cody Zeller is considered a lock lottery pick — DraftExpress has him there — but he released a statement through the university Tuesday that he is staying for his sophomore year in college.

So, as of April 10 he is staying. However, he has until April 29 to change his mind and put his name in the NBA draft.

“I grew up hoping that one day I would get the opportunity to play in the NBA, but at this point, I’m not ready for my college experience to be over,” Zeller said in his released statement. “Coach Crean and my family were very supportive and helpful as I made my decision.”

I bet Crean was pretty pumped he was staying.

While the NCAA has made Tuesday the last day players can withdraw their name from the draft, they can put their name in until the NBA’s April 29 deadline. Meaning Zeller can still enter the draft, but if he does he cannot back out.

How you fall on Zeller’s decision pretty much says how you feel about players leaving college early in the first place. Indiana was expected to be one of the top teams in the nation next year with Zeller back, he gets more of an education, he gets time for his game to develop. There are certainly big draws.

But there are risks to his financial future. Right now he is a lock lottery pick. While he could go higher in a less-deep draft next year, he could also see himself slip down the board. What’s more, he puts off starting the clock on his rookie deal by a year, pushing back the very lucrative second contract for a season, reducing the years he can earn in the NBA. (That’s another reason the NBA owners want an older age limit — reduce the years guys are max earners in the NBA. Save some money.) Of course, there is also the injury concern, but I don’t really want to think about that.

Indiana’s other forward, Christian Watford, said he will be coming back for his senior season as well. Smart move. He would be late second round to undrafted, which means no guaranteed money. Stay in school, get your degree first in this case.

James Harden scores 61, ties Kobe Bryant’s Madison Square Garden visitor’s record (VIDEO)

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James Harden has been on a Wilt Chamberlain-level streak the past few weeks, it’s unlike anything we have seen in the modern NBA.

Wednesday night he topped himself.

James Harden scored 61 points against the Knicks. That would be:

• Harden’s career high.
• Tied with Kobe Bryant for most points scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden (Carmelo Anthony holds the overall record at 62).
• A Rockets’ franchise record.
• His 21st consecutive 30-point game, tying Chamberlain for fourth-longest such streak in league history.

Oh, and Harden had the seal and dunk that sealed the win.

Harden also had 15 rebounds in the game. The last player to have 60+ points and 15+ rebounds in a game? Some guy named Shaquille O’Neal back on March 6, 2000, with the Lakers.

Harden is playing like an MVP — and the banged-up Rockets need him to if they are to have a chance to win every night.

Report: Wizards not trading Bradley Beal, but if team slips Otto Porter could be available

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The Washington Wizards have won 7-of-10 and have climbed up to the nine seed, just a couple of games out of the playoffs in the East. Without John Wall, the Wizards are making a push to get into the postseason.

Which impacts whether they are willing to trade players at the deadline.

The Wizards are not trading Bradley Beal — the most coveted of their stars — but might be open to Otto Porter trades if the team slides back, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Wizards star guard Bradley Beal is not going anywhere, which Washington has made adamantly clear, league sources told The Athletic. Depending on how the next week to two weeks shape up, the Wizards could look more aggressively toward moving Otto Porter. The Utah Jazz have been an interested suitor for Porter, league sources said.

History suggests the Wizards will not be sellers. The pattern for owner Ted Leonsis and GM Ernie Grunfeld has always been to think short term and make the playoff push, even when it was not the smart thing to do. We should expect that again. Maybe Washington crawls into one of the final playoff slots in the East, but is that the smart play?

Don’t expect the Wizards to move Porter, even if they wanted to finding a team to take on his $26 million for 13 points a game this season would be difficult (although Utah would be a good fit), plus Porter is owed $27.3 million next season and has a player option he very likely will pick up for $28.5 million two seasons from now.

Pacers’ Victor Oladipo stretchered off court after scary knee injury (VIDEO)

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Let’s hope this is not as scary as it looks.

Pacers’ All-NBA, All-Star guard Victor Oladipo was trying to defend a length-of-the-court pass to Pascal Siakam when Oladipo went down with a brutal knee injury were his kneecap was clearly not in the right place. Oladipo had to be taken off the court on a stretcher. The video is below, but be warned this is not pretty.

The team’s official announcement called the injry “serious.”

Oladipo is the Pacers’ best player and was a lock to be an All-Star reserve averaging 19.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists a game this season in Indiana. His efficiency had dropped his season as teams game planned more for him. Beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to find a kinder, more genuine person around the NBA than Oladipo.

Quickly the NBA community rallied on social media to Oladipo.

Grizzlies franchise burning down. Literally. They had a locker room fire Wednesday.

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Things have seemed like they are burning down around the Grizzlies the past few weeks: The team has lost 12-of-13 games and now long-time franchise stars Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are on the trade block.

Now the franchise is on fire — literally. They had a locker room fire in the FedEx Forum, which fortunately was small and no one was injured.

Fortunately, there were no injuries or serious damage.

But this seems about right for the Grizzlies lately.