'Linsanity' continues in heroic fashion

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'Linsanity' continues in heroic fashion

From Comcast SportsNet
TORONTO (AP) -- Already writing the NBA's best story, Jeremy Lin has now scripted a thrilling finish. Nothing about the kid from Harvard should be a surprise anymore. When he launched a 3-pointer in a tie game with a half-second left in Toronto on Tuesday night, the result seemed obvious. "I knew it was going in," Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said. Who would doubt it at this point? Lin's 3-pointer capped his finishing flurry of six straight points to close the game as the Knicks rallied for a 90-87 victory over the Raptors, extending their winning streak to six. Their season sputtering just two weeks ago, before Lin escaped the bench, the Knicks (14-15) can get back to .500 with a victory over Sacramento on Wednesday. And with Lin running their show, that's exactly what they expect. "He continues to impress every night," New York's Jared Jeffries said. "Every game he plays better, he does more and more to help us win basketball games. You can't ask any more of a kid coming into this situation." Huge in New York, Linsanity was even bigger in Toronto, whose international community couldn't wait for a look at the NBA's first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent. A season-high crowd of 20,092 was only the Raptors' second sellout of the season, and some 75 reporters and 16 cameras packed a Tuesday morning press conference to hear Lin speak. "Are we in the playoffs now?" coach Mike D'Antoni joked as he made his way to the front of the room. Not yet, but they sure have a shot now with Lin. The reigning Eastern Conference player of the week scored 27 points and added a career-high 11 assists, shaking off a sloppy first half to carry the Knicks down the stretch. Toronto led 87-82 with less than two minutes to go when Shumpert stole the ball from Jose Calderon and drove in for an uncontested dunk. After a missed shot, Lin completed a three-point play, tying it at 87 with 1:05 left. Leandro Barbosa missed a 3 for Toronto and, at the other end, Shumpert missed a jumper but Tyson Chandler grabbed the rebound. Lin took the ball near midcourt and let the clock run down to 5 seconds before driving and pulling up against Calderon to bury the decisive shot. "You just watch and you're in awe," D'Antoni said. "He held it until five-tenths of a second left. He was pretty confident that was going in, no rebounds, no nothing. That ball was being buried." Lin, cut by both Golden State and Houston in December, struggled early. He didn't score for the first eight minutes of the game, then turned the ball over on three straight possessions early in the second quarter and Toronto took advantage with a 6-0 run, widening its lead to 13 points. That was long forgotten by the end. "When he hit that shot it was simply amazing, we were hugging at midcourt like we'd won a championship," said Amare Stoudemire, who scored 21 points after missing four games following the death of an older brother in a Florida car crash. Scouts and general managers may have missed Lin when he went undrafted two years ago, but people all over the NBA are watching him now. The reaction to his winner on Twitter was similar to one of LeBron James' or Blake Griffin's huge dunks. "It's crazy!" Phoenix guard Steve Nash wrote. "I'm watching Linsanity hoping every shot goes in. Hope I never grow up." But Lin deflects the praise to his teammates, even though they were going nowhere until he started getting real minutes on Feb. 4. "It's not because of me, it's because we're coming together as a team," Lin said. "We started making these steps earlier but we were still losing close games and so obviously it wasn't fun. But when you win, that solves a lot of problems. We've been winning and we've been playing together."

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer reflects on Blackhawks days prior to 'One More Shift'

Steve Larmer took the pregame spin, part of the Blackhawks’ “One More Shift” series on Friday night. High above him at the United Center hang several retired Blackhawks numbers.

As of now, Larmer’s No. 28 isn’t among them, but he’s OK with that.

“I think that really is reserved for very special people,” Larmer said.

OK, but isn’t he one of those in the Blackhawks’ history?

“Thank you, but I think that Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito and Denis Savard and Keith Magnuson and Pierre Pilote are kind of in a league of their own,” he said.

Many would say the same about Larmer, who ranks fourth in Blackhawks history with 923 points, third in goals (406) and fifth in assists (517). Over his entire NHL career Larmer played in 1,006 regular-season games, recording 1,012 points. But whether or not his number is retired by the Blackhawks, coming back for events, including Friday’s, is a treat.

“It’s nerve-wracking and it’s going to be fun,” Larmer said prior to his spin on the ice. “It’s really quite an honor and a surprise to me to be able to do this and I just, it’s a great organization and they’ve always been great to me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Larmer put together a stellar career. Many believe it deserves a retired number here – and maybe more. Blackhawks play-by-play man Pat Foley, when accepting the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in November of 2014, spoke immediately on how Larmer should be in the hall, too.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I’ve been fortunate enough to call Blackhawks hockey for over a third of the games they’ve ever played and I’ve never seen a better two-way player come through here,” Foley said that day about Larmer. “When Steve Larmer left Chicago and went to New York, it’s no coincidence that shortly thereafter, they won the Stanley Cup.”

Larmer laughed when reminded of Foley’s speech.

“Well, Pat’s a good friend,” Larmer said with a smile. “He’s always been a good friend. For the last 35 years, since the early 1980s when he was doing radio and TV back then and we all traveled together and hung out together and it was one good group. It’s fun. I mean, Pat’s always been a big supporter and a really good friend.”

Larmer would’ve loved to have hoisted the Stanley Cup during his time with the Blackhawks. Coming as close as they did in 1992 stayed with him for a bit – and it hurt.

“That stung deeply. Because you’re starting to get older and you’re thinking, ‘oh my God, that was it, that was the chance and it’s freaking gone,’ right? It’s never going to happen again,” Larmer recalled. “I’m not one of those guys who happened along and all of a sudden you’re on a team and you win like the Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. We lost out to the team that always won, right? It was disappointing that way. But when you get to that point and you have that run, then we lost to Pittsburgh, that stuck with me for a year in a half. I couldn’t let it go. It was always in the back of my mind. You’re out there playing and you’re sitting on the bench and still thinking about that.”

So when Larmer got another chance with the New York Rangers – he was dealt there in a three-way deal involving the Rangers, Blackhawks and Hartford Whalers – it meant everything.

“The neat thing about going to New York is it gave me another chance to play with some great players and have that opportunity to win and finally get over that hump,” he said. “It was a neat city to win in and to be able to play with guys like Mark Messier and Leach and all those players was a lot of fun.”

Larmer put up fantastic numbers in his career. He got to hoist a Cup near the end of his career. His number should be in the rafters to commemorate that great career.

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

What a flat salary cap in 2017-18 could mean for Blackhawks

For the first time since the 2009-10 season, the NHL's salary cap could stay flat next year, reports ESPN's Craig Custance.

Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed at the latest NHL's Board of Governors meeting that the projected ceiling for the 2017-18 campaign could be an increase between zero and $2 million, which isn't exactly encouraging considering the projection at this time of year is normally an optimistic one.

That means the salary cap may be closer to — or at — the $73 million it's at right now.

In the last four years, the cap has increased by $4.3 million in 2013-14, $4.7 million in 2014-15, $2.4 million in 2015-16 and $1.6 million in 2016-17. The number continues to descend, and it affects big-budget teams like the Blackhawks the most.

It makes it especially difficult for the Blackhawks to navigate because they own two of the highest paid players in the league in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom carry a $10.5 million cap hit through 2022-23. It's a great problem to have, though.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

According to capfriendly.com, Chicago currently has $60.6 million tied up to 14 players — eight forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender — next season. If the cap stays the same, that means the Blackhawks must fill out the rest of their roster with fewer than $13 million to work with and still have to sign Artemi Panarin to a long-term extension.

And they may need to move salary to do it, with the potential cap overages crunching things even more.

On the open market, Panarin would probably be able to earn Vladimir Tarasenko money — a seven-year deal that carries a $7.5 million cap hit — but if he prefers to remain in Chicago, the contract would likely be in the range of Johnny Gaudreau's six-year deal with an annual average value of $6.75 million.

With the expansion draft looming, the Blackhawks know they're going to lose a player to Las Vegas in the offseason. The two likely candidates, as it stands, are Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and the former would free up $3 million in cap space while the latter $825,000.

If that won't get the job done, the Blackhawks may be forced to part ways with a core player such as Brent Seabrook and his eight-year, $55 million contract, although he has a full no-movement clause until 2021-22 and it would be very hard to imagine since you're trying to maximize your current championship window.

Anything is possible, however, after seeing promising young guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw shipped out of Chicago due to a tight budget.

It's a challenge general manager Stan Bowman has certainly already been thinking about, and a stagnant salary cap doesn't make things any easier.