NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Harden exits game with bruised right knee — Houston Rockets held their collective breath for a moment Sunday when James Harden suffered a right knee contusion in the first half of a preseason game against Orlando and did not return. Harden played just 13 minutes in the game, a 123-119 loss. Of greater concern for the Rockets, of course, is making sure Harden’s bruised knee is healthy and ready to go when the regular season starts, as the Houston Chronicle‘s Jonathan Feigen explains:
Suddenly, the to-do list, with all those check marks right where the Rockets would have wanted them, was meaningless. The first line, where the goal listed was to stay healthy, had made everything else too secondary to celebrate.
The Rockets had gone from clicking to limping when James Harden and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier collided late in the first half, with Harden slowly walking off with a bruised right knee.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale said that he had been given no update on the severity of the injury after the Magic had rallied back from a 22-point first-quarter deficit to take a 123-119 win. Harden left without speaking, but did not seem to have difficulty walking.
Rockets players did not seem overly concerned, offering an indication of Harden’s reaction.
“He said it’s not really that serious,” Rockets guard Ty Lawson said. “We just want him to get better and get healthy so he can get back to playing well.”
The Rockets began the game playing exceptionally well, but that soon became secondary to one fast break and one slow walk to the locker room.
Harden had just returned to the game with four minutes left in the half when he lost the ball on a drive and never quite got in front of Fournier on a break the other way. Fournier’s left leg banged into the side and back of Harden’s right, and both went down. Harden limped behind the baseline floor seats at State Farm Arena and then straight to the locker room with a shout that sounded more from frustration than pain.
“You kind of know if it’s serious,” said Corey Brewer, who was waiting to check in for Harden before Harden even reached mid-court. “I think he just bumped it a bit. Preseason lasts a long time. He has time to heal.”
No. 2: No timetable for Kerr’s return — A rare spinal fluid leak during July surgery on a ruptured disc in his back is the cause for Steve Kerr‘s indefinite leave of absence from the Golden State Warriors, Kerr told reporters at the team’s practice Sunday. Kerr went into detail about the cause of his absence to clear up any confusion and to reiterate that there is no timetable for his return. Diamond Leung of The Bay Area News Group has more:
Eleven days after the Warriors announced Kerr would temporarily step aside to focus on rehabilitation, he gave his first interview after Sunday’s practice and detailed why he doesn’t know when he will return to coach the team.
“The leak is fixed, but still getting some symptoms,” Kerr said of his follow-up surgery early last month. “And that’s why I’m out.
“And because I’m still having symptoms, it makes it difficult for me to be on the floor. And so the prospects are good. I’m going to heal. The doctor says everybody’s body is different. It’s a matter of your body sort of recalibrating. And unfortunately, it’s not like a sprained ankle, one to two weeks. There’s no telling. It’s a little bit open-ended, but everybody’s very confident everything will be fine.”
Kerr said he has not questioned his long-term future as a coach going through the grind of an NBA schedule.
“I’m 50 years old,” he said. “I’m in good shape. I’m in good overall health. This is a unique circumstance, and once it’s resolved, I’ll be fine.”
Kerr said he wanted to be upfront with fans and media members about his condition after declining an interview request Friday while attending the Cal volleyball match.
“I’m not going to put a timetable on when I’m going to come back,” Kerr said. “I have to get my health right before I can coach the team, before I can bring the energy that’s necessary to coach the team.
“When you are forced to be away, it hurts.”
No. 3: Kobe has no plans to rest in preseason, or at all — Easing into his 20th NBA season is not the way Kobe Bryant plans on doing things for the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he’s doing anything but this preseason, and according to coach Byron Scott, has not even discussed it. Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News has more:
As he sheds off rust without showing any setbacks with his surgically repaired right shoulder, Kobe Bryant left the Lakers feeling encouraged for two reasons.
In the Lakers’ 126-83 victory over Maccabi Haifi on Sunday at Staples Center, Bryant took advantage against the Israeli professional team by posting a team-leading 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 5-of-5 from the foul line in 19 minutes. Lakers coach Byron Scott also reported feeling “very optimistic” that he will play in all of the team’s four remaining preseason contests.
“He wants to play every game,” Scott said.
That seems unlikely to happen, though, for the 82-game regular season. Bryant may sit out for at least a portion of the Lakers’ 18 sets of back-to-backs.
“We haven’t talked about that yet,” Scott said. “I talked to him a week ago and said, ‘We need to sit down and talk about back-to-backs and pick and choose which ones you’ll play in and which ones you’ won’t.”
No. 4: DeMarcus Cousins is living the big man’s dream — Sacramento Kings coach George Karl clearly knows the way to his big man’s heart. All he had to do was get DeMarcus Cousins out of the paint to make the Kings’ All-NBA center to smile. Cousins has been experimenting with his perimeter game during this preseason and it’s not just a gimmick. He’s polishing up his handle and working on his shot from deep as he dives into every big man’s dream. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has the details:
Cousins will not be shunning the post this season. But coach George Karl has said he will move Cousins all over the court. That includes allowing Cousins to shoot threes.
So meet Cousins, the floor spacer. He has never liked being labeled as just a post player, so this season he will have the opportunity to show he’s more than that.
“I don’t really consider myself a center,” Cousins said. “I’m just a basketball player. There’s so much I can do on the floor. People get stuck on the word ‘center,’ ‘big man’ and (are) kind of ignorant to the situation. I can’t really worry about that. I just go out there and do my job.”
And like anyone else, when there are changes to the job, there is an adjustment.
“It’s weird kind of floating out there,” Cousins said. “It’s a different thing, but I know it’s going to help the team, too. It’s just something I’ve got to adjust to and get used to.”
“It’s fun, but it’s also a process,” Cousins said. “This is my first time, but this is what the preseason is for, to knock the rust off, figure each other out and hopefully prepare for how we’re going to play during the season. I think we’re on the right path.”
When Karl was hired last February, he said he thought Cousins could be just as good a face-up player as he is in the post. Karl was also intrigued with Cousins’ ability to dribble and pass the ball.
“I do have those skills but it’s still an adjustment,” Cousins said. “This isn’t just pickup at the park, it’s an adjustment.”
Cousins’ expanded freedom on the court will cause a problem for defenses. Teams that defend Cousins with a bigger player will have to deal with how to match up with him on the perimeter.
If teams counter with a smaller player, Cousins can work closer to the basket where his size and strength are advantages.
“I think Cuz will figure out a balance between what shots we want from him,” Karl said. “Some teams will let him go outside, some teams will let him go inside.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The NBA has extended the deadline for rookie deal extensions to Nov. 2 due to the normal Halloween deadline falling on a weekend … LeBron James, aka “JP,” went full prohibition era (“Boardwalk Empire” style) for his good friend’s birthday party over the weekend. Hair piece and all … Milwaukee swingman Marcus Landry is right where he wants to be with the hometown Bucks … Are you tired of the preseason chatter between the Warriors and Clippers coach Doc Rivers? Good, because Rivers tried to clear the air a bit from China … Derrick Rose went all in for his son P.J. and his monster Ninja Turtles birthday party …