One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

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One of the NHL's all-time greats skates away

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Swedish defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom retired after 20 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, ending one of the best careers in NHL history on Thursday. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and seven-time Norris Trophy winner as the league's best defenseman fought back tears as he made the announcement. "My drive and motivation are not where they need to be to play at this level," Lidstrom said. The 42-year-old set an NHL record by playing 1,564 games with a single team. He had put retirement on hold in each of the previous two years by signing one-year contracts. "I've been dreading this day since I became manager in 1997," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. Lidstrom had 264 career goals with 1,142 points. After being incredibly durable for 19 seasons, he missed a career-high 11 games with a bruised right ankle and was out for another game with the flu. "That didn't sway me one way or another," Lidstrom said. "A couple of weeks after the season is over, you start working out. Once I started doing that I didn't have the push I need and I can't cheat myself." He plans to move his family to Sweden and hopes to have an off-ice role with the Red Wings. "Retiring today allows me to walk away with pride, rather than have the game walk away from me," said Lidstrom, whose oldest of four sons went to Sweden two years ago to attend school and play ice hockey. Lidstrom was named the NHL's best defenseman last year for a seventh time, matching Doug Harvey's total and trailing Bobby Orr's record by one. When Lidstrom won his final Norris Trophy last summer, he was a finalist for the 11th time in 13 seasons. Defenseman Brad Stuart, who was his teammate for the past four-plus seasons, said he was amazed at Lidstrom's ability to make the right play on almost every shift game after game. "I've played with great players who made mistakes, but I can't think of one game when I thought, Nick just didn't have it tonight,'" Stuart said during this year's one-series postseason. "He's that same, steady, amazing defenseman every night. I think I've seen him out of breath maybe three or four times in a few years because he's so smart, he gets himself in the right position to make a play." The four-time Olympian also scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden over Finland in 2006. He became the first European-born captain to win a Stanley Cup in 2008, six years after being the first from Europe to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP. He has a chiseled body thanks to a year-round workout that includes exercise before practice and after games along with a sensible diet that includes only occasional slices of pizza and fast food. Lidstrom's teammates call him "The Perfect Human," in part because he's as humble as he is successful on the ice. "It's one of the most emotional days in Red Wings history with Nick retiring and all you people showing your respect for such a high-quality individual," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said at a packed news conference that included a slew of team employees wearing Lidstrom's No. 5 red jersey with a winged wheel.

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Wojnarowski: C's, Pacers talking Nets pick for George

Often times reporting something can shake something loose from another source. That might have been the case Thursday morning. 

Just eight minutes after Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that the Celtics and Pacers were not in advanced discussions on Paul George because of Boston’s unwillingness to deal the Nets’ 2017 first-round pick, he sent a follow-up saying sources had indicated that the pick was indeed in play. 

George, 26, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 season. 

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

O'Connor: Zizic would go top-10 in 2017 draft

It seems the Celtics can throw yet another piece onto their treasure trove of assets. 

The Celtics stashed two of their first-round picks from the 2016 draft overseas and in the process have seen 23rd overall pick Ante Zizic establish himself as a very promising NBA prospect. 

The Croatian center, currently playing in the Turkish League, has boosted his stock with a strong season in what’s expected to be his last before joining the Celtics. Appearing on Toucher and Rich Thursday morning, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor said that Zizic has improved to the point that he would be a top-10 pick in the 2017 draft. “He looks really good,” O’Connor said. “I liked him last year when I first watched him. I thought, ‘Good energy big man. He’ll have a solid career,’ but then the more you watch him, the more you see. 

“This year, he’s really taken a step forward. All his strengths look better. All the things he was already good at like screening, rebounding and rim-protection, he looks better. But he’s also starting to flash a little bit of a mid-range jumper, and he’s never had bad mechanics, but now that shot’s starting to fall. So maybe he can be more than that energy big man. Maybe he’s a little bit more dynamic than that. 

“If I’m the Celtics, I value him as you’re getting a top-10 pick this yea. I think he’d go around nine or 10 in this draft.”