Morning Shootaround — Jan. 31

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Two great games last night (Clippers-Wolves and Lakers-Suns) that we’d like to nominate as a must-see this morning, but if we have to pick just one, we’re going with Clippers-Wolves. Great back-and-forth action all game, slick passing from Ricky Rubio here and there, Blake Griffin doing his thing, a little bit of chippiness between two West teams that haven’t liked each other much the last few seasons. Going in, this looked like an easy one for the contending Clips against the banged-up Wolves, but it turned into an overall solid game.

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News of the morning

Howard has shoulder pain | Raptors wild night in Georgia | Pistons say farewell to Prince | Heat teach Nets a lesson | Popovich excited about something? | Nuggets finding their way

Dwight’s shoulder flares up againDwight Howard got his shot blocked by Phoenix’s Shannon Brown with 6:57 left in the game and that was the end of the night for the Lakers’ star big man. Check out the video, but Howard is clearly in pain and reaches for that bothersome right shoulder and the torn labrum that’s hobbled him at times all season. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin and the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding both chime in on what’s next for Howard, who says he won’t shut himself down for the season:

From McMenamin:

Howard checked out of the game and did not return as the Suns finished on a 19-8 run without him in there. Howard’s shoulder will be re-evaluated Thursday after the team flies to Minneapolis and his availability for Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves will be determined.

“It’s real sore,” Howard told reporters after icing his shoulder and applying kinesiology tape to the joint following the game. “Everything on (the right) side (of my body) is hurting pretty bad right now.”

Howard originally injured his shoulder during a Jan. 4 game against the Los Angeles Clippers and sat out three games to try to strengthen the muscles surrounding his shoulder. He re-aggravated it in the second quarter of the Lakers’ 106-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week and sat out the second half, but did not miss any subsequent games.

The All-Star center said Wednesday’s aggravation was the worst pain he’s had since the original injury occurred against the Clippers and he will have to consider resting again to help it heal.

“I’m going to try as much as I can but I don’t want to cause more damage to my shoulder,” said Howard, who finished with nine points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes against Phoenix. “I don’t want to (miss any games), but we’ll see.”

And from Ding:

Dwight Howard flatly ruled out shutting himself down or turning to surgery for the labrum injury in his right shoulder, even though he said the pain from this aggravation was the greatest since he first got hurt.

“Just got to deal with it as much as I can,” he said late Wednesday night after the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix.

Howard said that the shoulder pain on previous occasions has abated the day after, which he hopes will be the case again. Accordingly, the Lakers are expecting him play Friday in Minnesota, and Kobe Bryant said the labrum issue is one that will go on all season but with which Howard can learn to deal.

“I’m going to try as much as I can, but I don’t want to cause more damage to my shoulder,” Howard said.

Howard’s injury is not the common tear in the labrum itself that has sent many athletes into surgery and months of recovery. Howard has explained his injury as a tear only in the sense of the labrum tearing away from the bone in his shoulder.

Howard said: “I won’t lose my spirit, and I’ve just got to continue to do whatever I can to get my shoulder strong.”

Raptors’ wild night in Georgia First, the Raptors trade guard Jose Calderon and forward Ed Davis in a multi-team team deal that sends Rudy Gay to Toronto. Then, the Raptors get in a nip-and-tuck game with the Hawks in Atlanta. And lastly, the Raptors have a shot to win in Atlanta, but a late-game scramble on the boards by DeMar DeRozan that ended with a no-call on a possible foul fires up coach Dwyane Casey. Oh, and the Raptors sound like they’re more or less ready to part with former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, too. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun has the details:

It has been obvious for some time that it is time for Bargnani to move on, for his sake and for the Raptors, and Colangelo indicated a move could happen soon, though it is not a certainty.

“Andrea is a player that has definitely garnered interest. Unfortunately when he gets hurt that takes him off the market,” Colangelo explained after breaking down the Gay trade to reporters.

“That’s not to say we’re going to trade Andrea … He’s a unique talent, but sometimes a change of address is not bad. I’m not saying he’s asked for a trade, but he would certainly not fight or resist a situation if it was the right situation.”

Bargnani has two years left on his contract, but is a tremendous offensive weapon, when in top form, a player opposing coaches gameplan around. He has many faults, and this corner has addressed them many times, but someone will come calling for him.

But likely only if he returns to the lineup soon, and well in advance of the February 21st deadline.

“Right now there’s no assurances we trade Andrea. Right now, the goal and the focus is to get him back healthy on the court and let him contribute to this team and we’ll see where things go,” Colangelo said.

Not long before Colangelo spoke, Casey let loose, after the officials declined to call a foul at the end of Toronto’s one-point loss when DeMar DeRozan clearly was mauled.

“I’m tired of losing games because of missed calls at the end of games. I know the league is going to come down on me, but I don’t care,” said a seething Casey, smoke practically billowing out of his ears.

“These guys have fought their hearts out, played their hearts out and at the end of the game, we get cracked, (league sends out an) apology, go back to Canada. I’ve been in this league 18 years and I’ve never seen so many missed calls at the end of the game to cost us the game. We’ve got great officials in this league, and too good to miss calls and short-change young men like this. It’s not right. I watched the replay three or four times, hoping that they (somehow made the right call) but they didn’t,” he said.

“This is fourth time this year that we’ve been in this situation … Clearly DeMar DeRozan was cracked on that last play. Make him go to the line and make two free throws.”

Pistons bid adeu to last title-team linkTayshaun Prince will always be remembered in Pistons folklore for a play known as “The Block” — Prince rejecting Reggie Miller‘s breakaway layup in Game 2 of the 2004 Eastern Conference finals. The Pistons would win that series and the ’04 crown and Prince was an integral part of the Pistons’ lockdown defensive crew of the 2000s that featured Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton. Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press says parting with Prince in the Rudy Gay trade was what Detroit needed to do to official move on from that era:

There’s a graphic montage of the 2004 NBA champion Pistons in their practice facility, honoring all the contributions from that blue-collar, superstar-devoid anomaly. The image of Tayshaun Prince captures his lanky arm swooping up from behind an unsuspecting Reggie Miller, swiping away what should have been a game-clinching lay-up for Indiana in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in Indianapolis.

“The Block” shifted momentum in the Pistons’ favor.

It was fitting that Prince’s long career as a Piston ended Wednesday at the site of his signature moment.

The Pistons parted with Prince and Austin Daye in deal with Memphis and Toronto that landed them point guard Jose Calderon — and more important, his expiring $10.5-million contract.

Prince represents the last link of the “Goin’ to Work” Pistons era highlighted by the 2004 championship as well as six consecutive trips to the conference finals. It’s always a difficult decision parting with someone so deeply intertwined with an identity that paid many dividends.

But it was a move that was long overdue.

The Pistons finally have closed the chapter on that period.

In the Pistons’ locker room following their loss to the Pacers, Prince expressed his surprise over the trade but acknowledged that he was ready to take “the next step” in his career.

This was a good trade, but it also places an unwritten ultimatum on Pistons president Joe Dumars. If the Pistons aren’t a playoff team capable of advancing beyond the first round next season with all the possibilities now available to them, Dumars should be shown the door. After this summer, there are no longer any excuses.

This season’s written off — as it should be. Throw the young guys out there into the deep waters and see how they respond. Not making the playoffs guarantees that they can keep the conditional first-round draft pick Dumars offered Charlotte to entice it into taking Ben Gordon‘s toxic contract off his hands.

It made no sense keeping Prince around as a reminder of what once was. The memories always will be there, but it’s time to move forward. This trade actually provides hope that finally the Pistons can return to local relevance and attract more people to the Palace in another season. They’re finally turning the page, finally saying farewell to a period of great pride and performance.

Heat deal crushing blow to Nets’ confidence?Since parting with coach Avery Johnson on Dec. 27, the Nets have gone 13-5 under coach P.J. Carlesimo and made up ground in the East playoff chase. Wednesday night’s matchup with the Heat — Miami’s only visit to Brooklyn this season — was supposed to be a showdown of East powerhouses. What happened instead was a Heat romp led by LeBron James and Co. that left some doubts in Brooklyn, writes Howard Beck of the New York Times:

For the better part of five weeks, the Nets evolved. They focused a bit harder, reached a bit higher, listened more intently and became a better version of themselves. But evolution is a squiggly path, not a straight line, and that path was obliterated Wednesday by a team that needs no growth or introspection.

The Miami Heat dealt the Nets a blow so forceful, so profoundly humiliating, it might have knocked them right back into the doldrums of December. The final score was 105-85, but the gap seemed twice as wide, and the psychic damage perhaps even deeper.

Most of the Nets’ players left the locker room before reporters arrived. Those that remained wore dull expressions, except for Gerald Wallace, who was simply seething.

“Typical Nets basketball,” Wallace said. “We don’t play together. Careless turnovers. We don’t execute offensively. And defensively, we don’t do anything. We don’t defend. We don’t guard the ball. We don’t help each other out. It’s the same story as it’s been all season.”

It hadn’t looked that way for most of January, with the Nets winning 11 of 14 games before this one, steadily climbing the Eastern Conference standings. Wallace said it was an illusion, a product of a soft schedule, and he may be right. The Nets have lost three of four games, all by double digits.

“I honestly don’t know what’s going on,” Wallace fumed.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two fully evolved N.B.A. superstars, led the charge for Miami, putting together a highlight reel of flying dunks, all before a national television audience and with the Nets’ owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, watching from a luxury suite.

James put up 24 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists. Wade added 21 points. And the Heat hardly broke a sweat after putting the game away with a 36-14 third quarter.

“When the bubble burst, it burst completely,” said P. J. Carlesimo, the Nets’ coach.

The Heat have beaten the Nets by an average of 21 points over three games, but Wallace and Joe Johnson both insisted they were not that far behind Miami, or at least shouldn’t be.

“It has nothing to do with the talent,” Wallace said, adding, “It just has to do with teamwork.”

The tension started hours before tip-off, with Reggie Evans’ deriding the Heat’s championship in an interview with The Daily News, and James accusing the Nets of quitting on Coach Avery Johnson, who was fired in December.

“They are playing with more passion, more together — they are playing like they want to play for their coach,” James told reporters after the Heat’s shootaround.

By that time, Evans had already slighted the Heat, saying their title “doesn’t prove nothing.” He added, “That was a lockout season.”

Taunting the N.B.A.’s best team is always inadvisable. The Nets should be clear on that much now.

Shocker! Popovich looking forward to All-Star GameSpurs coach Gregg Popovich is known for his curt answers to reporters — especially those sideline types who bother him during a game. Still, even he’s not beyond appreciating the chance to coach the West All-Star team, which he will do in a few weeks, writes Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:

It’s never a goal for Gregg Popovich or his players, but now that Popovich has been officially installed as coach for the Western Conference All-Star team, the veteran of 16-plus seasons on the Spurs’ bench admits he looks forward to a weekend with some of basketball’s best players.

Popovich earned his spot because the Spurs are guaranteed a better record than the Clippers on Sunday, the deadline for determining the coaches for the Feb. 17 showcase at Houston’s Toyota Center.

While it is still possible for Oklahoma City to have a better winning percentage than the Spurs, Thunder coach Scott Brooks isn’t allowed, by league rule, from coaching because he led the West at the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando.

“It will be just like it has been in the past: a heck of an opportunity to enjoy amazing talent,” Popovich said after his team’s 102-78 victory over the Bobcats. “That’s not just a B.S. or trite statement. It’s true. When you’re around those guys, you look around the room and you can’t believe you’re in the same room with them. It’s a huge honor just to be a part of it.”

Popovich also coached the West All-Stars in 2005 and 2011.

Gallinari, Nuggets keep rounding into formNuggets forward Danilo Gallinari had a rough November and December, shooting a combined 40.2 percent and averaging 15.9 ppg. But January has been a different story as he’s shooting 46.9 percent (and 43.2 percent from 3-point range) and averaging 19.3 ppg as Denver has picked up steam. Last night’s win over the Rockets only kept he and the Nuggets humming, writes Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:

The Italian Danilo Gallinari hit three key 3-pointers, two of them back-to-back, in Wednesday’s crazy fourth quarter, and the Nuggets did it again. Make it a dozen. The Nuggets won their 12th game of January in the final game of the month, and fifth straight overall, 118-110 against Houston, a team Denver also beat one week ago.

The Nuggets made it interesting, indeed. Just as in the previous game against Indiana, a big fourth-quarter lead dwindled. On Wednesday, Denver led by 13 points with 6:54 remaining, but the home team made the necessary stops and sent the fans home happy (with tacos, too!).

Gallo was gallant. The Nuggets forward, the team’s top player in this 12-3 month, scored a team-high 27 points, doing so on a respectable 10-for-17 shooting. He also unleashed two monster slams, one a one-handed hammer over Greg Smith, the other after dribbling the length of the floor.

And his two consecutive treys gave Denver a 94-86 lead during an push in the early stages of the final quarter.

And so, the Nuggets (29-18) have won those five consecutive games heading into two winnable games, first against New Orleans on Friday and then against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

ICYMI of the night: Anyone wondering if John Wall is completely healed from his knee injury should go ask Sixers big man Spencer Hawes:

3 Comments

  1. Jeka says:

    The lack of call in Atlanta vs the Toronto Raptors was absolutely disgusting. Being the only Canadian team in the NBA with no real superstars that stand out makes it feel even worse – its as if they have a total lack of respect towards the hard work these young guys put in. Too bad there won’t be any repercussions for Atlanta or the referees whatsoever. Absolutely ridiculous.

  2. Average Joe says:

    Is DH’s injury for real?