Flyers Manning suspended two games, hitting the penguin’s Guentzel

NEW YORK — The NHL has suspended Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning two games for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel during Saturday’s outdoor game played at Heinz Field.

Manning met with the NHL Player Safety Department on Monday. It suspended Manning for interference on the play, a late hit to the head.

Manning had never been suspended before in his NHL career.

Paul George failed after the trade talks: hopefully I’m in the loop a little more

The NBA trade deadline passed Thursday with several big names mentioned in potential deals — notably All-Stars Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony — staying put.

One source close to the process told ESPN’s Marc Stein that Indiana Pacers ownership, in the wake of George’s recent comments to ESPN Radio about wanting to play on a team that contends for championships, felt compelled to hear out interested teams this week to see what suitors were prepared to offer.

But the source said Pacers president Larry Bird — who has made no secret of his desire to persuade George to stay for the long term — was determined to swat away all interest Thursday, hearing nothing from any team that moved him to seriously consider parting with George.

One of the teams interested was Denver. League sources told ESPN’s Chris Haynes and Stein that the Nuggets made an aggressive pitch for George before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline, but the talks never got serious, partly because of George’s reluctance to commit to Denver. He can opt out of his current deal after next season.

The Nuggets were not prepared to include star big man Nikola Jokic in any talks, sources said, but Denver had hoped its array of draft picks and young players would appeal to the Pacers.

Speaking to reporters later Thursday, George called the process frustrating.

“I was kind of on the ropes just like you guys were on what was about to happen,” George said. “It’s kind of a dark moment, a lot of uncertainty. That was the frustrating part. You want me to be your guy here — I thought I’d be in the loop a little more on that.”

Sources told ESPN earlier Thursday that George, at this point, is not prepared to commit his long-term future to any team other than the Pacers or his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers, though, had little incentive to trade for George now, before they know whether they will keep their top-three protected first-round pick this year, league sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. The Lakers also resisted offers Thursday that included their key young players, sources said.

George addressed the Lakers speculation.

“That’s what people are going to think, of course. I’m from L.A., there’s ties there, there’s connections there,” George said. “But you can’t jump to conclusions based off that. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have signed the extension.”

The Bulls, meanwhile, made one key trade Thursday — sending Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Thunder, sources said — but opted to hang on to Butler.

League sources told Shelburne that Bulls management and ownership remained undecided on whether to trade or continue to build around Butler, and thus kept him. Chicago is in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Indiana.

The Atlanta Hawks made aggressive draft-pick-centric trade offers for both George and Butler on Thursday, league sources told ESPN’s Stein. Asked if the Hawks offered three future first-round picks for George and Butler, one source would only say: “More.”

The Boston Celtics, meanwhile, had been rumored as potential landing spots for both Butler and George.

Boston had let teams know before the deadline that the 2017 first-round draft pick of the NBA-worst Nets — which the Celtics own thanks to the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade in 2013 — was in play. But president of basketball operations Danny Ainge opted to hang tight.

“We had a lot of conversations,” Ainge said. “There were things we could do to improve our team but nothing that was good enough to do.”

A deal involving two point guards also fell through.

The Knicks and Timberwolves had discussed a Derrick Rose-for-Ricky Rubio swap. League sources told ESPN’s Stein that New York dropped its request for additional compensation in a potential deal, but Minnesota ultimately balked at a Rose-for-Rubio exchange straight up.

“It’s always a relief not getting traded. It’s a business though. I just got to be prepared,” Rose said. “That’s how I feel I am right now. But I’m happy that it’s over.”

Added Rubio: “As a pro, we know what the deal is. But this time felt a little different, but it’s all rumors, and if it doesn’t go down, you don’t believe it.

“Mentally it’s tough, but things you can’t control. There are people who control where you’re going to play, and you can’t control that.”

The Knicks also opted to hang on to Anthony, who had been rumored in talks, notably involving the Cavaliers, for much of the past six weeks — discussions that quieted of late.

With the deadline gone, buyouts now will take focus.

Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut are among the bigger names expected to latch on elsewhere.

Jet jets Jacob Trumba suspended the head to shoot the senator’s stone

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba was suspended two games Tuesday for an illegal check to the head that injured Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone on Sunday.

The NHL’s player safety department tweeted out the punishment.

Stone made a pass in the Jets’ zone in the third period and while looking away was leveled by a Trouba elbow to the head. He went sprawling to the ice and then went to the locker room.

The Senators lost the game 3-2, but more importantly lost three players to injury. In addition to Stone, the Senators saw forwards Mike Hoffman and Tommy Wingels leave the game with undisclosed injuries.

Sidney Crosby became the 86th NHL player to join the 1,000th club

PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby is the newest member of the NHL’s 1,000-point club.

Pittsburgh Penguins became the league’s 86th in history, reaching 1,000 career points when he helped Chris Kunitz’s goal 6:28 into the first Thursday night to Winnipeg’s period.

Crosby’s assistant gave him 632 assists to 368 goals. Crosby reached a milestone in 757 games, making him the 12th.

At the time of the outbreak of the PPG Paint Arena, Kunitz rushed into a feed from Crosby, bringing Pittsburgh 2-0 lead. Crosby tribute to the crowd in the next game. Crosby is the third penguin to reach 1,000 points with the franchise, joining Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

Durant returned to OKC for the NBA

You might have been too distracted by the most long-awaited sports story of our lifetime to notice the moment Warriors-Thunder became the most important meaningless matchup in the NBA.

It was the 6 o’clock hour in the Eastern time zone on Nov. 3, 2016, and SportsCenter naturally led with the aftermath of the previous night’s World Series-deciding victory by the Chicago Cubs, an event 108 years in the making. Up next in the same segment, before the first commercial break: a preview of Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors facing Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the first time. In the language of television, the fifth regular-season game for both NBA teams was in the same paragraph as a once-in-a-lifetime baseball championship. This was the coronation of the personality-based culture of the NBA, the league’s greatest asset in the crowded sports landscape.

Baseball sells its history. The NBA presents its people. The characters carry the story more than the plot. Normally, all the intrigue from a high-profile sports departure comes from the return to the former city, a process Durant makes for the first time Saturday in Oklahoma City. In this case it only adds to the drama. Fans have scanned social media posts, analyzed seemingly every utterance and even scrutinized choice of attire to ascertain the state of the Durant-Westbrook relationship.

We care what they think about each other.

The first time they squared off more than 3.7 million people watched on TNT, drawing a 2.2 rating that was 120 percent higher than the season average for NBA games on the network. The Thunder fell off their strong start to the season and had dropped to the middle of the Western Conference pack by the rematch on Jan. 18, yet still more than 2.6 million people watched on ESPN, for a 1.6 rating that was 60 percent higher than the season average.

The Warriors won the first two games against the Thunder by a total of 47 points, yet anticipation for Saturday’s game on ABC has increased, not diminished. Now the storyline doesn’t just involve Durant and Westbrook, it also brings in the people of Oklahoma City. There’s a protagonist, an antagonist and a chorus. Yes, it’s helpful to view this in terms of dramatic construct, not athletic competition.

The tension builds even though Durant has gone out of his way to avoid saying anything inflammatory about Westbrook and the Thunder, and Westbrook has declined to address the situation at all since October. (The closest Westbrook came to commenting since then was his decision to wear a photographer’s vest to the Nov. 3 game — a literal fashion statement that called back to Durant taking pictures at Super Bowl 50 from a sideline.)

Durant hates this stuff. All he wants to do is play ball, hang out with his new teammates and call it a day. I’ve had a couple of conversations with him about the nature of the beast, how it’s impossible for it to be so simple, but also how the irrational interest in these subplots is good for the business of the NBA.

“We’re the reality TV stars of sports,” Durant acknowledged, reluctantly.

That means the league is in the perfect place for this society.

The premise of this New York Times Magazine story on Andy Cohen, the creator of “The Real Housewives” television franchise, is that Cohen didn’t drag down America, he understood America. His shows haven’t lowered the tone of the conversation, they’ve reflected it. This passage reveals the key concept Cohen grasped and capitalized on:

“Something Cohen knows, a belief that began to take root in him back when he was watching ‘All My Children’ with his mother, was that people who interacted would always create something interesting.

That’s why he doesn’t understand why anyone would think that ‘Real Housewives’ wasn’t real in some way. Or that it was too crass. Had people been on a subway recently? Had they read an online comments section? If anyone was under the impression that we were still in a Jane Austen novel in terms of national discourse and manners, it wasn’t Cohen’s fault that they were in for a rude awakening. It’s all real. It wouldn’t be compelling to watch if it weren’t.”

The NBA’s social media dominance reflects the mastery of Step 1, creating interest. The five largest Twitter followings among American pro athletes are all NBA-affiliated: LeBron James (34.2 million followers), Durant (15.4 million), Shaquille O’Neal (13.2 million), Kobe Bryant (11 million) and Carmelo Anthony (8.7 million). NFL or college football teams might be more popular, but no individual players matter in America like players in the NBA.

The all-important dramatic element of conflict is organically created. The NBA schedule doesn’t just match up teams jockeying for position in the standings, it forces people to occupy the same space. The “moments,” the kind that make for good commercials and form the basis for these reunion shows, are almost inevitable. In the Jan. 18 Thunder-Warriors game, the action picked up when Westbrook and Durant started exchanging baskets and then started exchanging words as Durant made his way to the free throw line. We had the interaction we wanted to see.

We can’t wait to find out what they do next.

LeBron James does not care about Cleveland without limiting his minutes

INDIANAPOLIS — The Cleveland Cavaliers have not adhered to their stated plan to cut down on LeBron James’ minutes, and James doesn’t seem concerned about it.

“I’m fine,” James said before the Cavs’ shootaround ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers. “Coach is going to do a good job of looking at my numbers and trying to get me rest throughout the game, but I don’t see me having slowed down. My numbers are up, but we’ve been in a good groove, and if I get rest here, couple minutes here throughout the game, couple minutes there, off days, things of that nature, [I will be OK]. It helps the body, but it’s whatever coach wants to do.”

Coincidentally, coach Tyronn Lue announced his intention to limit James’ minutes as the season wore on the last time the Cavs came to Indiana, in November. Lue said James’ minutes would shift from the 36- to 38-minute range to the 32- to 34-minute range when the schedule hit either late January or late February, in a plan agreed upon by Lue, James and James’ longtime athletic trainer, Mike Mancias.

However, rest has been slow to come for the 14-year veteran James, who is second in the league in minutes at 37.6 per night, trailing only Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (37.7), an 11-year veteran.

In James’ eight games since Jan. 23, his playing time has actually increased to 38.9 minutes per contest.

“We’ve been talking about it,” Lue said. “He’s being bull-headed about it. He doesn’t want to back down because he says he’s in a good rhythm right now. We just have to play it by ear. If we’ve got the chance to get him rest, we’ve got to get him rest. When we get up on teams, we have to put teams away, so his minutes will go down like the New York game [last Friday]. Being up 26 in the fourth quarter and then all of a sudden he has to come back and play extra minutes he shouldn’t have to play. We’ve got to be conscious of that and see where it goes.”

The overall rest plan, outside of minutes, is to give James a game off once about every 10 games, a team source told ESPN. Thus far, James has played in 47 of the Cavs’ first 50 games. Cleveland is 0-3 when he sits out.

“It’s a fine line, but at the end of the day we have to do what’s best for the team,” James said. “It’s a long-term thing for us. We’ve got a long journey where we believe in our coaching staff believes in it, Coach Lue believes in it. As much as I’m a competitor, I want to play 48 minutes because I’m a competitor. I hate coming out. But at the end of the day, I have to do what’s best for the team. And if that’s giving me rest that may cost us a game here or there, then so be it. We’ve got to understand that this is a process, it’s a long process for us, and it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I have to remind myself of that.”

James said he and Lue continue to be on the same page.

“This is a joint venture, all right?” he said. “Me and T-Lue is a marriage, all right? This is a two-way street, OK?”

James said he will play Wednesday and was irritated by a line of questioning that pointed out he had not played in three of the Cavs’ past five trips to Indiana.

“I ain’t sitting out tonight, all right?” James said, before adding another playful shot. “Leave me alone.”

But he could sit out Thursday’s nationally televised game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, which will be Cleveland’s third game in four nights — the type of situation Lue said he would look to rest James at the outset of training camp.

“We’ve got to see how many minutes he plays tonight,” Lue said.

Asked whether James could sit out against the Thunder if James played close to 40 minutes vs. the Pacers, Lue said, “That’s fair.”

Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks said he tried to remain optimistic in trade rumors

NEW YORK — Carmelo Anthony said late Saturday night that the New York Knicks’ struggles and the trade rumors swirling around him have been “testing my will,” though he’s trying to remain optimistic.

“I’m still keeping it [mellow], still keeping it cool, man. It definitely kind of tests you, can put you to the test,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ 111-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. “You have to dig deep within yourself to get through it on a day-to-day basis, figure out a way how to still go out there and play at a high level every night, play hard, lead this team.

“That’s kind of where you have to dig deep at, despite of everything that’s going on, that’s surrounding — I don’t even want to say us — me. It’s testing me. It’s testing my will. It’s testing me as a human being. It also is making me stronger throughout this process.”

Anthony has been the subject of trade rumors recently, with Knicks president Phil Jackson and the front office looking for potential deals to move the 13-year veteran.

The Cavs rebuffed the Knicks’ attempt late last month to trade Anthony for Kevin Love, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne.

Stein and Shelburne reported earlier this week that the Knicks continue to pursue Love in advance of the Feb. 23 trade deadline despite the Cavaliers’ unwillingness to part with him. Love said on Friday that he believes he’ll remain with the Cavs “for a long time.”

Sources told Stein and Shelburne the Cavaliers maintain an interest in Anthony — which would pair him with James — but only if a deal can be struck without the Cavs surrendering Love.

The Knicks, who have lost 17 of their past 23 games, also have spoken to the LA Clippers and Boston Celtics about potential deals involving Anthony.

Anthony has a no-trade clause and would need to waive it before any deal can be consummated.

He said earlier this week that he hasn’t thought about waiving his no-trade clause because Knicks management hasn’t discussed any potential deals with him.

Anthony said on Saturday that being around his family and teammates helps him maintain a positive outlook amid all of the trade rumors and losing.

“My son, family, friends. Those are things, people that keep me positive, keep me happy,” he said. “And then when I get to the gym it’s just all about basketball and being around kind of my teammates and seeing the vibe is still there between us, between everybody. Everybody is still positive about what we have going on and what we’re trying to do. So that’s the way I’m dealing with it.”

Anthony averaged 30 points in a recent seven-game stretch from Jan. 19 to Jan. 31 but has struggled in the past two games, missing 30 of 42 shots.

He was booed sporadically by the crowd at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

“I mean, you are what the back page [of local newspapers] says you are. Fans read that. And they react to that,” Anthony said. “I got to get in the gym. I’ve got to get in the gym tomorrow and work on my shot and they won’t boo me.”