Holiday, Celebrate: Sixers Sign on for Four More Years With Jrue

Holiday, Celebrate: Sixers Sign on for Four More Years With Jrue

When last night's game against the Nuggets came and went without news of
a contract extension for the Sixers' starting fourth-year point guard
Jrue Holiday, with Oct. 31st being the deadline for '09 draftee
extensions, it looked all but sure that Jrue would head to restricted
free agency next summer to seek the max contract he had reportedly been
asking. However, it appears team and player put their heads together
after the season-opening win and came to an agreement: A four-year,
$41-million deal with another five million being rumored in
"incentives," whatever that means.

Personally, I'm elated. First
and perhaps foremost, just because they've settled the issue and it
doesn't have to hang over the team all season, with everyone (especially
us) worrying about whether Jrue was playing himself into big money, or
playing himself out of a contract. Secondly, in today's NBA, four for
$41 is a very reasonable amount for a top 15 point guard yet to even
enter his prime, especially considering that the far-more-unproven DeMar
DeRozan of the Raptors signed for four and $38 just hours before.
(Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson of the Warriors and Nugs respectively both
got a little more, but their stats in the league have been superior to
Jrue's thusfar, so fair enough.) Considering Jrue was said to be looking
for a max deal (four years at roughly $15 mil), this could've been a
LOT worse.

It's also exciting because it means the team is
investing in Jrue as a critical part of their future. After three years
of reluctance to give the Damaja the ball and let him run with it, Coach
Collins and GM Tony DiLeo finally seem ready, with the trade of Andre
Iguodala and the goodbye-wave to Lou Williams, to make the leap of
faith. The game last night probably didn't have a huge impact on their
decision, but it was a good example of how even though Jrue has a long
way to go, he is at trustable team leader, both in getting his teammates
involved and making big plays in the game's key moments.

Of
course, making this kind of commitment to Jrue means that the team will
have further difficult decisions to make regarding the remainder of
their roster, and as Michael Levin of LIberty Ballers rightly points out,
with Holiday's agreement and a likely extension for Andrew Bynum, it'll
be tough to pay big money to surrounding wings, which could mean
trouble for Evan Turner's future in Philadelphia if his play this year
doesn't merit a similar level of extension. With Thad and Jrue locked in
for sizable contracts, the team doesn't get to swing and miss on any
more from here if they expect to contend at all in the next few years.

Still,
these are issues for another day. Today, with a home victory over a
likely playoff team and a reasonably priced extension for one of our
core players, is a happy day. Let the Damaja-ing ensue.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).