Magic Johnson, Kevin Love, Others Remember Jackie Robinson

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Jackie Robinson, most recently immortalized in last year’s baseball film, 42, is a sports icon—in large part due to the significant contribution he made to all sports in being the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball during racial segregation (prior to the Civil Rights Movement).

Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers 67 years ago on this very day, April 15, 1947.

10 years ago, in 2004, Major League Baseball decided to commemorate Robinson’s legacy by beginning a tradition, known as Jackie Robinson Day, in which all uniformed players and managers wear the number 42 to honor his legacy.

SH Blog: Knicks waiting for 2015; Cavs want to keep Spencer Hawes

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Jeff Hornacek SunsMonday night. 10 p.m. Eastern. Memphis Grizzlies. Phoenix Suns. Only one of them can make the playoffs. The Grizzlies will be coming off a game the previous night against the Lakers. If they win that game, they’re a game up on the Suns. If they lose, the two teams are tied. Phoenix has to be praying the Lakers get the win, because they’ve lost all three games against the Grizzlies this season, and they need to claim the eighth spot outright.

If Memphis wins tomorrow night and again Monday, they’re in. If they lose both, they need to beat Dallas on Wednesday. So it has to be said that while the clock hasn’t struck midnight on the Cinderella Suns, it’s 11:58.

Regardless, they’ve won 47 games with a lineup full of players only the most diehard fan could have named at the beginning of the season. In an era where NBA coaches are more expendable than ever, Jeff Hornacek is proving that the right guy can make a huge difference.

Now let’s get to the latest from around the NBA:

SH Blog: Will Kevin Love return to L.A. as a Laker?

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LAKERS TARGETING KEVIN LOVE

ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 02 Arizona v UCLATimberwolves president Flip Saunders will do everything he can to keep Love, who is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game and third in rebounding at 12.6 per game this season. And Minnesota will have the advantage of being able to offer a five-year extension, versus a four-year deal from any other team.

But if Love makes it clear that he has no intention to re-up with the Wolves, Saunders will be forced to shop Love or risk seeing him walk for nothing in return.

Which is where the Lakers come in.

Love’s ties to L.A. are undeniable. He went to college at UCLA. His father, Stan, played for the Lakers — and coincidentally was on the 1974-75 team, a.k.a. the worst team in Lakers history up until this season, so his son could help make up for that. And Love was born in Santa Monica, to boot.

“You know, my parents live there and they had me there,” Love said of L.A., after his Wolves beat the Lakers for the third time in four tries to win the season series Friday. “It’s not my fault. So, I don’t really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don’t think about it.”

While Love downplayed his interest, the Lakers clearly could use a player of Love’s caliber to jump-start their rebuilding process. Especially with Kobe Bryant recently putting the screws to management to turn things around as soon as possible so he can contend for another championship in the twilight of his career.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Friday the Lakers would be willing to trade their upcoming pick in the heralded NBA draft — likely to be in the top half of the lottery — to land Love.

DRAFT WATCH: RANDLE’S STOCK UP; PARKER CONSIDERING STAYING?

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

275px-Jabari_ParkerIt would be a shocker, and the Sixers and Bucks wouldn’t like it one bit, but Duke’s Jabari Parker just might stay for his sophomore season, instead of leaving for the NBA draft this June.

“That’s what’s in the air right now, Parker staying, but we haven’t heard anything official,’’ one Eastern Conference GM with an interest in Parker’s plans said on Friday.

If he stays at Duke, the top of June’s draft will be weakened. Despite his poor NCAA Tournament game in a first-round loss to Mercer, there’s still a lot to like about Parker.

“He plays like he’s 23, not 18,’’ said the GM. “He can post and score inside, he has great hands and rebounds. He’s just not a big-time athlete. But he’s got ‘top pick’ written all over him.’’

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:

Julius RandleRandle has been tremendous during the tournament, averaging 15.6 points and 12.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field. His 23 double-doubles this season leads all Division I players, and he’s just the second freshman in NCAA tournament to have that many double-doubles in a season (the other being Michael Beasley, who had 28 in 2008). In addition to scoring and rebounding, Randle has also done a good job creating for his teammates, as evidenced by his six assists in Kentucky’s upset win over Wichita State. Rather than taking on double teams and putting up bad shots, Randle is taking what the defense gives him and making the right play more often than not.

This was the case in the final minute of Kentucky’s game against Louisville, when Randle spun into a double team and delivered a perfect pass to Aaron Harrison, who hit a three-point shot for the go-ahead score. Moments later, Randle hit two clutch free throws to seal the win for the Wildcats. After the game, Kentucky head coach John Calipari praised Randle’s decision making and pointed out that the clutch assist was an example of just how much his star player had grown in recent weeks.

With Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott among others sitting at home, Randle is the top NBA prospect remaining in the tournament. Throughout the season, Randle has been in the shadow of Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, usually being mentioned as a potential top-five pick in the 2014 NBA Draft but rarely being included in the debate over who will go first overall. The same thing happened during high school recruiting, when Wiggins and Parker were heralded as the next big things while Randle was ranked as the third best player in the class and treated as if he were a notch below the top two.

Like Wiggins and Parker, Randle is 19 years old and has a ridiculous amount of potential. Unlike Wiggins and Parker, Randle stepped up in the tournament and had some of his best games of the season while playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

VINCE CARTER WANTS TO STAY WITH MAVS

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News:

Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014In three seasons with the Mavericks, Carter has seen them go from defending champions to barely making the playoffs to missing them entirely.

Neither he nor anybody else knows if this season will produce a return to the postseason. But Carter does know two things.

This team is better than last year’s. And he desperately wants to hang around to see this rebuilding project through to the end.

Or at least next season.

“I think I’ve earned the right to stick around,” Carter said.

The 6-6 future Hall of Famer will be a free agent after this season. Carter’s three-year contract he signed before the 2011-12 season has been a huge bargain, as the Mavericks paid him only about $9.3 million for those years of work.

He hopes it is a no-brainer that he re-signs with the Mavericks.

“My fingers are crossed,” he said. “Next year might be even better. We can attract some more people, more talent. Now I know my role, and I know the system, it’s second nature to me now. I know the city very well. I’m stepping out, going to SMU games and getting out and about. I’m very comfortable here.

“I like the guys. I like the nucleus we have here. With my role and the way I play and the way I go about things, it really helps guys here. And they like that. Hopefully, that’s enough so that they can still have trust in me enough to play significant minutes and help the other guys out.”

SH Blog: Beverley potentially lost for the season, Woodson says Anthony would be MVP candidate if Knicks’ record was flipped

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Patrick BeverleyWhen the Houston Rockets have their full starting lineup intact, they are capable of being one of the best teams in the league. Since late January, they have won 19 of the last 24 games and have established an identity as a team to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, their hopes of being a powerhouse in the West in the playoffs took a major hit on Friday with the news that point guard Patrick Beverley could miss the remainder of the season due to a knee injury, from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley could be lost for the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his right knee, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Beverley, 25, will get a second opinion on the injury soon, sources said, and then it’ll be determined whether there’s possibly a rehabilitation process that could expedite his return before the end of the NBA playoffs, sources said. 

PODCAST: The MVP Debate — Who Will Finish Second?

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Kevin Durant is going to be the MVP. There’s no stopping him, and nobody is doing anything remotely close to what he is doing on offense for Oklahoma City. He might even win the award unanimously.

So that steers the MVP argument toward who should finish second, and I have been making the case for two weeks now that Blake Griffin is the most deserving candidate (although his missed FT late in regulation against the Pelicans was especially costly last night).

I have Griffin ranked No. 2 (and Joakim Noah ranked No. 3) in my latest MVP rankings, with LeBron James fourth. And after the Heat lost yet again last night, falling in Indiana, I would say my argument has been strengthened.

That was one of the topics of discussion this morning on AM830-KLAA on the Travis Rodgers show, but we also hit upon how Phil Jackson will try to rebuild the Knicks, how long the mediocrity window will stay open for the Los Angeles Lakers, and several other hot NBA topics. Enjoy.

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