Houston braces for Linsanity

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Houston braces for Linsanity

From Comcast SportsNet
HOUSTON (AP) -- Jeremy Lin is starting over in Houston. He will have to explain why he said he would have rather stayed in New York. The 23-year-old undrafted point guard out of Harvard is scheduled to meet the Houston media on Thursday, two days after the Knicks opted not to match the Rockets' bold three-year, 25 million offer sheet. Shortly after the deal became official on Tuesday night, SI.com reported that Lin had acknowledged in an interview, "Honestly, I preferred New York. But my main goal in free agency was to go to a team that had plans for me and wanted me." The Rockets certainly did. "They made a very compelling pitch in terms of what I could bring to the team and for the city," Lin said in a statement released through the team on Wednesday. "I am also impressed with (Houston owner Leslie) Alexander and the management's commitment to improving the team." Houston had Lin in training camp in December, but waived him because the Rockets already had Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry. He got to New York when the Knicks claimed him off waivers, was briefly dropped to the developmental league, was recalled, and then got his chance to play when coach Mike D'Antoni put him in after the Knicks' record dropped to 8-15. He scored 25 points in a 99-92 win over New Jersey Nets, and "Linsanity" was born. Soon, New York was in playoff contention, and Lin was having drinks named after him. Lin said Wednesday that he "loved this past year with the Knicks and truly appreciate the opportunity that New York gave me," even though the team decided to let him go. "The way the fans fully embraced me and our team was something I'll always cherish forever," he said. "It was an extraordinary and unforgettable time that was easily the best year of my life." And now it's on to Houston, which made its biggest move in years and got its man. The Rockets not only filled a position of need, but also snagged a player who might re-establish the franchise in Asia, where the team enjoyed massive popularity during Yao Ming's career. Lin is American-born, but of Chinese and Taiwanese descent. His timing is perfect to capitalize on the NBA's explosive growth in China. He will wear No. 7 for the Rockets, a change from the No. 17 he donned with the Knicks. The team began taking pre-orders for Lin jerseys online on Wednesday. Lin was the buzz of sports radio in Houston on Wednesday and the topic exploded on social media. About 18 hours after the move became official, the Rockets' Twitter page had picked up 3,000 new followers, and the Facebook page added 10,000 "likes." Rockets forward Patrick Patterson is eager to work with Lin, and feels he is an ideal fit for coach Kevin McHale's system. "With the type of athletes that we have, we like to run up and down the court in transition. We like to do pick and rolls," Patterson said before the Rockets' summer league game Wednesday night in Las Vegas. "And that's what he thrives well in: pick and rolls, getting to the basket, getting layups, creating opportunities for each player on the team on the floor." Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson said in Las Vegas that the team hopes Lin brings stability to the point guard position for many seasons in Houston. "We expect Jeremy to come in and be our point guard," Sampson said. "We're not looking for anything other than that. He's a high-character kid, plays hard, really good off pick and rolls. I think he's good in transition. We're going with a really young team next year and Jeremy, with his work ethic and his leadership, I think he's going to be what we really need." Before the season arrives, general manager Daryl Morey still has work to do. The next major priority for Houston is finding a big man. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is still available in a potential trade, but that might be long shot. The Rockets expect to sign Bulls center Omer Asik to a three-year, 25 million offer sheet that is similar to Lin's deal. Beyond that, Morey must replenish a roster that has been gutted over the past two weeks. The Rockets traded Chase Budinger and Samuel Dalembert and stockpiled draft picks for a package aimed at enticing Orlando to send them Howard, a six-time All-Star. Houston made three first-round draft picks, selecting Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb, Iowa State forward Royce White, and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who all remain unsigned. The Rockets lost unrestricted free agent Dragic to Phoenix, began their pursuit of Lin, and traded Lowry to Toronto. They withdrew their qualifying offer to guard Courtney Lee, completed a sign-and-trade that sent center Marcus Camby to New York, and used the amnesty clause to waive forward Luis Scola. On Wednesday, the Rockets waived forward Jon Leuer and center Jerome Jordan. Leuer came to Houston in the Dalembert trade with Milwaukee, and Jordan was acquired in the Camby deal.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

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USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.