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Plekanec to retire a Canadien after contract termination

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Tomas Plekanec said Friday he will retire from the National Hockey League after agreeing to have his contract terminated by the Montreal Canadiens. 

The Canadiens announced earlier in the day that the forward would be placed on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract. 

“I always wanted to retire a Montreal Canadien,” Plekanec said Friday, noting Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had approached him about a trade this season.

The 36-year-old added he would consider continuing his playing career in the Czech Republic.

Plekanec began the year as a healthy scratch for the Canadiens, but played his 1,000th NHL game on Oct. 15 against the Detroit Red Wings, scoring his lone goal this season. He had not played since October 18 due to a back injury. In three games this season, he scored the lone goal and posted an even rating while averaging 10:53 ice time. 

“The organization made a hockey decision regarding the future of Pleky. It was a tough decision to make. Tomas will always be a part of the Canadiens family,” Bergevin said Friday.

Plekanec has played  984 of his 1,001 career NHL games with the Canadiens. The Kladno, Czech Republic native put up 608 career points (233 goals and 375 assists) along with 53 points in 94 playoff games.

He said Thursday he saw the end of his time coming with the Canadiens due to their developing young core of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Max Domi and Phillip Danault at centre. 

“I’m going to miss the guys,” Plekanec said. “It’s another family, coming here every morning. Now, it’s gone. It’s something I’m going to miss, for sure. I’m going to watch them and cheer for them.”

Plekanec signed a one-year deal, $2.25 million cap hit to re-join the Canadiens on July 1 after being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of February’s trade deadline. He posted two goals and four points in the Maple Leafs first-round playoff series after having just two assists in 17 regular-season games with the club. 

Bergevin said Plekanec will not count against the cap for the remainder of the season, since it was a mutual termination.

Plekanec was selected in the third round (71st overall) by the Canadiens at the 2001 NHL draft. He was an assistant captain from 2010-2011 through until the 2017-18 season. 

He made his NHL debut during the 2003-04 season, appearing in two games with the Canadiens. Plekanec became a full-time NHL player in 2005-06, scoring 29 points in 67 games. He also spent three full seasons with then-Canadiens AHL affiliate the Hamilton Bulldogs, appearing in 233 games and scoring 176 points. 

He spent a total of 15 years with the franchise, reaching the Eastern Conference Final in both 2010 and 2014.

“I’m happy with what I’ve done here with the Canadiens,” Plekanec said Friday. “I can leave happy.”

Internationally, Plekanec won gold with the Czech Republic at the 2001 World Junior Championships along with one silver and two bronzes at the World Championships. He also appeared in two Olympics for the Czechs. 

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Steelers' Bell doesn't report, will sit season

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Running back Le’Veon Bell did not report to the Pittsburgh Steelers by the 4 p.m. ET deadline Tuesday meaning he is ineligible to play for the rest of the season.

The Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second time this past off-season, but the 26-year-old has decided to sit out the year and wait for a long-term contract rather than play under the tag, which would have paid him $14.5 million this season.

“I want to confirm that Le’Veon Bell did not sign his Franchise Tender today and, as a result, he will not be eligible to play football during the 2018 season,” general manager Kevin Colbert said in a terse statement.

The Steelers can still place the franchise tag on Bell for a third time after the season, but that is reportedly unlikely. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that under league rules, a third tag for Bell would be for the quarterback salary number (average of the top five quarterback salaries), which will likely be more than $25 million.

A more likely scenario would be for the Steelers to place the transition tag on Bell. That would allow Bell to negotiate a contract with other teams around the league but give the Steelers a chance to match any offer.

If the Steelers decide not to place any tag on Bell this off-season, the 26-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent.

With Bell now officially out for the rest of the season, James Conner will hold onto his starter’s role in the Steelers’ backfield down the stretch, provided he’s healthy. Conner sustained a head injury in the Steelers’ Week 10 win over the Carolina Panthers but, according to reports, the Steelers are confident he’ll be ready to play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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Durant: Not giving 'headlines' on Green

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OAKLAND, Calif. — The Golden State Warriors don’t expect Draymond Green’s latest dustup with Kevin Durant to become a long-term issue for the two-time defending NBA champions.

Nor do they expect the emotional Green to change after his one-game suspension by the team Tuesday.

Durant said he expects to work things out with Green, saying, “I’m sure it will, we’ve got a long season ahead.”

“His presence has been a part of this team for a while, even before I got here he’d been a huge staple in this organization,” Durant said. “Obviously it’s definitely weird not having him around and everything that went down. But that’s what happens, (stuff) happens in the NBA.”

Green was suspended one game without pay for conduct detrimental to the team following an altercation a night earlier with Durant, though general manager Bob Myers declined to offer specifics on the All-Star forward’s behaviour that was considered going too far. Myers and Steve Kerr collaborated on the decision.

“We just felt like this rose to the level of acting the way we did,” Myers said, noting of Green: “He was professional. He loves to play basketball, which is all you can ask of him.”

The Warriors made the announcement about four hours before they were set to host Atlanta, and the 28-year-old Green was serving the suspension as his teammates beat the Hawks 110-103. He wasn’t at Oracle Arena and didn’t immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Kerr said. “We’re a team that goes through stuff, just like everybody else. And things happen, bumps in the road. You’ve got to move forward. It’s all part of coaching a team, it’s all part of being on a team. You have to get through the adversity and there are some difficult times and you just get through them.”

In the closing seconds of regulation during Monday’s 121-116 overtime loss on the road to the Clippers, Green secured a rebound and, with Durant calling for the ball, instead dribbled the length of the court into traffic and lost control as the Warriors failed to get a shot off. Durant was shown on camera visibly upset immediately afterward.

Then, back on the bench waiting for the extra period to begin, the two traded words and gestured with Klay Thompson seated between them and Andre Iguodala, DeMarcus Cousins and others trying to calm the situation.

Durant wouldn’t get into the specifics of what was said.

“I’m going to keep that in house, that’s what we do here. I’m not trying to give nobody no headlines,” Durant said. “What happened, happened. We’re trying to move on, we’re just trying to play basketball.”

For everyone who figures this franchise is perfect, Myers quickly cleared up that notion.

“It’s hard to win a championship. You can’t allow anything else in your locker room, in the narrative. This team has done a good job of that,” Myers said. “I know it may appear as if it’s looked easy over the last however many years. It’s not. If you’re in our locker room, if you’re in our organization, it’s hard.

“And so they’ll get through it, and we’ll keep moving. Hopefully we get to the finals and win a championship. That’s all anybody’s thinking about, because I think that’s all you can think about. That’s something that we’re going to keep doing. This team has proven that they will do that and continue to do that and have done that.”

Myers and Kerr have long supported Green’s fiery nature that leads to technical fouls. Myers even sat with Green next door to Oracle Arena at the Oakland Coliseum when Green was suspended for a crucial Game 5 loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors wound up losing in seven.

Green apologized after yelling at Kerr during halftime of a game at Oklahoma City in February 2016.

“My feeling on Draymond and his impact on our team doesn’t change. These things happen sometimes over the course of an NBA season,” Kerr said. “We deal with it — again, internally — so any conversations that are happening or have happened it’s our business.”

This wasn’t the first verbal altercation between Durant, the two-time reigning NBA Finals MVP, and Green. In another overtime loss, 109-106 at Sacramento on Feb. 4, 2017, they shouted at each other and argued near the bench.

“How you handle things after they happen is the most important thing,” Myers said.

Kerr said he spoke to Green, who was part of the recruiting group that worked to sway Durant to the Bay Area from Oklahoma City before the 2016-17 season.

“They’ve won championships together, they’ve been teammates, now this is the third season, they were teammates on the Olympic team,” Kerr said. “Draw your own conclusions.”

Green has been off to a strong start this season for the two-time defending NBA champions, averaging 7.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.4 assists. Kerr has credited him for taking great care of the ball and establishing a tempo on both ends of the floor.

The game at Los Angeles marked Green’s return from a two-game absence with a sprained right foot and toe.

“Draymond is always going to be who he is. He’s a powerful force,” Kerr said. “He’s a huge reason why we’ve had so much success here.”

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Durant leads Warriors to win as Green sits out

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Kevin Durant never found his typical offensive flow and found it a little strange playing without fiery Draymond Green, even if they have yet to make up from all that went down a night earlier in Los Angeles.

Durant isn’t sharing any details.

“I’m going to keep that in house, that’s what we do here,” Durant said. “I’m not trying to give nobody no headlines. What happened, happened. We’re trying to move on, we’re just trying to play basketball.”

Durant scored 29 points with a key jumper in the final minute, a day after a shouting episode on the bench with Green at least in part led to his teammate’s suspension Tuesday, and the undermanned Golden State Warriors held off the Atlanta Hawks 110-103.

Klay Thompson added 24 points as Splash Brother Stephen Curry missed his third straight game with a strained left groin. The two-time MVP shuffled and danced as he celebrated big plays from the bench.

Taurean Prince scored 22 points, making four 3-pointers and finishing 8 for 14 from the floor in the Hawks’ fifth straight loss and ninth in 10.

Durant led the way despite shooting 9 of 23 hours after the Warriors suspended All-Star Green for one game without pay for conduct detrimental to the team. He got into it with Durant on the bench at the end of regulation in a 121-116 overtime road loss to the Clippers and Green wasn’t even at the arena Tuesday.

Jonas Jerebko started in place of Green and had season bests of 14 points and 14 rebounds — “He was our MVP tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said — as the Warriors stayed unbeaten in the second game of a back-to-back this season.

Quinn Cook dished out six of Golden State’s 28 assists playing in Curry’s spot.

“I think we’re all professional. We all love each other. We’re with each other every day for nine months. Brothers are going to fight and brothers are going to get into it,” Cook said. “I think the biggest thing, we know the common goal, we know what’s at stake. These guys have been great for a while. I think we’re all going to get past this and come together. It’s going to make us stronger.”

Does Durant agree?

“Who knows, we’ll see,” he said.

Dazzling Atlanta rookie Trae Young was held to four points on 2-for-12 shooting and missed all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. The Hawks dropped their eighth straight to the Warriors and seventh in a row at Oracle Arena.

Golden State shot 6 for 21 in the opening quarter, missing 7 of 9 3-point tries.

“Not an easy game back-to-back, just coming in a little fatigued, a little emotionally spent and we had to grind it out,” Kerr said. “I’m proud of the guys. It wasn’t our best game but it was a good effort. We stayed solid.”

TIP-INS

Hawks: Atlanta hasn’t won on Golden State’s home floor since a 95-79 victory on Feb. 25, 2011, and not in the series since Feb. 6, 2015. … The Hawks are 1-7 on the road, 0-3 vs. the Western Conference. .. Prince has hit at least one 3 in his first 13 games. “Just to see him in rhythm, in our offence with the ball and body movement that we like to play with, really helped everybody out,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said.

Warriors: Durant made all 11 of his free throws and grabbed six rebounds. … Jerebko posted his 11th career double-double. … Golden State is 40-60 all-time without Curry, 23-19 since 2014-15. … The Warriors are 3-0 in the second game playing consecutive nights. … Golden State sold out for the 300th consecutive game, the fourth-longest active streak in the NBA.

SMALL RING CEREMONY

Behind the scenes, a few more Warriors championship rings were delivered.

Former athletic trainer Chelsea Lane returned to Oracle with Atlanta and so did ex-Warriors performance coach and therapist Michael Irr and former assistant athletic trainer John Dusel.

Lane, who was key to getting Curry back on the court for the playoffs, left the organization after the latest championship run to become Atlanta’s executive director of athletic performance and sports medicine.

Warriors general manager and assistant GM Kirk Lacob presented the rings outside Atlanta’s locker room during pregame warmups.

Lane joked about texting a photo of her ring to departed centre Zaza Pachulia, who won’t return to Oracle until late March with his new Pistons team to get his sparkling jewelry.

UP NEXT

Hawks: At Denver on Thursday night.

Warriors: At Houston on Thursday to begin a three-game road trip all in Texas.

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More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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