Durant, Westbrook too much for Cousins, Kings

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Durant, Westbrook too much for Cousins, Kings

April 11, 2011BOXSCORE KINGS VIDEONBAPAGE NBASCOREBOARD

SACRAMENTO (AP) Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are no longer just a young team happy to make the playoffs, they are convinced they are legitimate NBA championship contenders this season."We're growing up, We hold ourselves to a higher standard now," said Durant, who leads the NBA in scoring this season.It was another strong effort for Durant, who had nine of his 32 points in the fourth quarter against Sacramento in Oklahoma City's 120-112 win over the Kings on Monday night.Russell Westbrook had 30 points and nine assists for the Thunder, who beat the Kings for their fifth straight victory.Oklahoma City (55-26) has clinched the Northwest Division and will be seeded no worse than fourth in the playoffs. The Thunder trail Dallas by a game and the Los Angeles Lakers by a half game.The Thunder, who had an emotional road win Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers, are 16-3 since losing to the Memphis Grizzlies on March 7.They conclude their regular season Wednesday at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, while Dallas meets New Orleans.Despite the strong finish over the past six weeks, Durant said it won't mean much once the playoffs begin this weekend."It's very important (how we finish), but we also know that what we did in March and April is all out the door once the playoffs start," said Durant, who made four free throws in the final 41 seconds to secure the victory.The Thunder will head into the playoffs with Kendrick Perkins handling the middle. Since arriving in a trade with Boston on Feb. 24, he has brought a toughness and defensive presence to a team that lacked it a year ago."I see this team really starting to play together," said Perkins, who had six points, three rebounds and blocked two shots."We're starting to think defense first. We keep improving and we have a bunch of guys who are hungry. They like to win and take losing hard."Despite a dismal record and a possible move to Anaheim looming, the Kings (24-57) played inspired before a boisterous crowd of 15,683 that at times showed its verbal support by chanting to keep the team in Sacramento.Rookie center DeMarcus Cousins made 18 of 21 free throws and had a career-high 30 points and nine rebounds for the Kings, who have dropped six straight to the Thunder. Marcus Thornton had 21 points and nine rebounds, Beno Udrih also scored 21 and Jason Thompson added 16."(The move) is not something I'm thinking about, I'm a Sacramento King," said Cousins, whose free throws made and attempted were both records for a rookie in the Sacramento era. "The only thing I'm thinking about Wednesday is finishing this season with a bang. Like I said, I'm a Sacramento King."Serge Ibaka, who moved into the starting lineup when Jeff Green went to Boston, had 14 points, eight rebounds and six blocks for the Thunder, who trailed by six points at the half.James Harden scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter when the Thunder converted 16 of 17 free throws to hold off the Kings."It was great to come in here and get a win on the road in back-to-back games," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "This is not an easy place to play. They have been playing good basketball. We knew that we were going to be in a good game tonight."If the Thunder win and the Mavericks lose, Oklahoma City moves into the third slot because it defeated Dallas 2-0 in the season series. The Lakers have two games remaining, including the season finale in Sacramento."The Lakers was a big win, but it was even bigger to come in here tonight and keep it going," said Westbrook, who added six rebounds, two steals and a block."We're ready to go once the playoffs start. We're older and know what to expect this year."The Kings quickly opened a 10-point lead early in a high-scoring third quarter that was both physical and fast paced.Scoreless in the opening half, Ibaka scored 12 points in the third and Westbrook had 11. Durant's 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave the Thunder an 87-83 lead.The Thunder went on a 7-1 run to open the fourth and built the lead to 101-89 by the 8:55 mark. Inspired by their fans, the Kings kept the game within reach.The Kings cut the lead to 114-110 on Thornton's 3-pointer, but Westbrook answered with a jumper with 55 seconds left to put the Thunder ahead by six.The Kings played without last year's rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans, who sprained his left ankle in Sunday's victory over the Golden State Warriors. Evans said he would play against the Lakers.Notes: The Kings are 11-29 at home and must defeat the Lakers on Wednesday night to avoid tying the worst home record in franchise history. The Kings went 11-30 in 2008-09. ... Thunder backup center Nazr Mohammed made all five shots and had 10 points, five rebounds and five fouls in 18 minutes.

Spring training to be slightly shortened starting in 2018

Spring training to be slightly shortened starting in 2018

NEW YORK -- For everyone who thinks spring training is too long, help is on the way - a little, anyway.

Spring training will be shortened by two days starting in 2018, when new restrictions in Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement take effect on game times for regular-season getaway days.

The voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players will be 43 days before the major league opener instead of 45, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press. For other players, the date will be 38 days ahead instead of 40.

The change was tied to spreading each team's 162 regular-season games over 187 days, up from 183.

Players' association Assistant General Counsel Matt Nussbaum said the union's goal was to create more days off during the season "in a way that doesn't just chew up offseason days."

"We have heard for years and I'm sure we will continue to hear that spring training is too long, that guys are really ready to go well before opening day, but I think what the commissioner's office would tell you is that there are big challenges for the clubs in substantially shortening spring training because they have various commitments to put on a certain number of games," he said Monday.

Late arrival times ahead of regular-season series openers also were addressed.

Starting in 2018, the latest possible start time on getaway days when either team is traveling to a game in another city the next day or a home off day will be calculated by subtracting the time of the flight over 2½ hours from 7 p.m.

There are cutouts for Sunday night games broadcast by ESPN and games after June 1 at Texas' current home ballpark - where the Rangers avoid afternoons for much of the season because of the heat.

Another new rule for 2018 says no game in the original schedule may be set for before 5 p.m. when a team played the previous night in another city starting 7 p.m. or later. There are exceptions involving flights of 90 minutes or less for home openers and holiday weekends. Current cutouts are carried over for up to six exceptions each season at Chicago's Wrigley Field and rescheduled games involving flights of 90 minutes or less.

"We fully recognize that our players play a very demanding schedule, and we're always looking for ways to ease the burden on players while at the same time scheduling games at a convenient time for our fans to watch them," MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said.

Sunday night games on holiday weekends followed by afternoon games still seem likely to occur.

"We have contracts with various national broadcast partners that limit our ability to schedule day games in certain instances," Halem said.

Nussbaum said if the players had their way, there would be "a flat rule that says all getaway games are day games" but understand why that would cause difficulty for teams.

"There's still going to be some challenges in the schedule," he said, "but we think what we've done with these two prongs is pare back the most egregious of the travel."

As part of the agreement, one game in the major leagues may be scheduled each year on the Thursday after the All-Star Game starting in 2018.

Ownership of Jazz transferred to Legacy Trust to keep team in Utah

Ownership of Jazz transferred to Legacy Trust to keep team in Utah

Since Larry Miller died back in 2009, there have been some around the league that thought the Jazz might eventually be sold out of the family, most likely to an owner looking to move them out of Utah. The Miller family has denied that vehemently, and there has been not even a step that direction, but it’s easier to kill Freddy Krueger than an NBA rumor.

Monday, the Miller family killed that rumor for good, taking an unprecedented step that will keep the Jazz in Utah for a long, long, time.

Gail Miller has transferred ownership of the Utah Jazz and Vivint Smart Home Arena into a Legacy Trust that will keep the Jazz in Utah for what she said would be “generations.”

“As a family, we have always considered the Utah Jazz a community asset and it has been our privilege to serve as stewards of this team for more than 30 years,” Miller said. “There have been many opportunities to sell and move the franchise, but from the day Larry and I purchased the Jazz our goal was to keep the team in Utah. The Legacy Trust will help to ensure this commitment is kept for generations to come.”

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