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: Can’t deny that amazing performance by LeBron James last night against the Bobcats — the reigning MVP made 13 of 14 shots, the league’s third-best shooting performance with at least that many attempts in the last 18 years — as Miami won. But our vote goes to Bulls-Pacers in a matchup of two of the East’s elite squads — both in terms of records and defensive ability. Paul George showed why he’s both an All-Star and one of the best all-around young talents in the game with a 25-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance that included an amazing dunk and a dazzling assist. Surprising as well was both teams combining for 212 points, considering where the Bulls (19th) and Pacers (26th) rank in offensive rating.
News of the morning
Dwight doesn’t want a ‘circus’ — After a ‘Dwightmare’ that lasted pretty much all of last season (and into the 2012 offseason), Dwight Howard isn’t looking to create more drama in Lakerland. In a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, Howard defended his actions last season, spoke of not wanting to be a distraction in Lakerland, further detailed his nagging shoulder injury and discussed playing with Kobe Bryant. ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin has the report off the interview, which has some pretty telling stuff about how Howard views himself:
“I’m not a crybaby,” Howard told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on SportsCenter on Monday. “I didn’t try to cry my way out of Orlando. That was never my intention, or not what I did at all. And I understand everybody thought it was that way because of what was being put out there. I’m not indecisive. I love this game. You know I play it because it inspires me; it inspires millions of kids around me, adults and all. And, I’m going to have fun while I do it.”
Howard becomes a free agent July 1 but wants to live in the present, sticking to his goal of winning the first championship of his nine-year career this season, no matter how unlikely it may seem with the Los Angeles Lakers getting off to a 22-26 start more than three months into the season.
“Right now, my only focus is to get us into the playoffs and win the championship,” Howard said. “Nothing else matters at this point.
Howard talks about his future in L.A. and knows the Lakers want him back, but he isn’t ready to commit to them just yet:
The Lakers have made it clear that they want Howard to be a keystone for the franchise moving forward, with general manager Mitch Kupchak telling Newsday this week that the center will not be traded, but Howard does not want to focus on the future just yet.
“I understand, you know, what the Lakers want,” Howard said. “And I also understand that right now, there’s no need for all the circus, and all the stuff that happened last year to start back up. I don’t want it, my team doesn’t need it, I don’t need it, and frankly, our fans don’t need it neither.”
What the fans do need is to see more of Howard looking like the player who became the first person in league history to win three straight Defensive Player of the Year awards. First he needs to be on the court to do so.
Howard is considered a game-time decision when the Lakers play the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday because of a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder. Howard, who has missed four games this season because of his shoulder but has not missed any time from complications stemming from offseason back surgery, said he continues to battle with his health.
“Well with my back you know, it’s not all the way there, 75 percent,” Howard said. “And with my shoulder, it’s day to day. This is the first year recovering off of a back surgery. I really don’t think people understand the severity of the surgery and the injury, and how long it takes to recover. Even sitting down in this chair right now is causing my legs to go numb, and just having this tingling sensation all the way down my legs. So, that happens when I’m playing. That happens when I’m just sitting on the bench for a couple minutes. It’s not easy.”
In terms of playing with Bryant, Howard says he can’t let the fact Kobe tends to shoot a lot disrupt his game:
“You play with Kobe Bryant you know, he’s going to get them up,” Howard said. “But, at the same time, I have to find ways to still be effective. I can’t allow that to affect how I play. There were a lot of times early in the season where I would get upset you know, because I felt like he shot the ball a lot. And you know, I wanted some touches down low. Do I want touches, yeah. But, whatever I have to do to help this team win, I have to keep my mind in that area.”
It’s Finals or bust for these Pacers — Indiana’s win over Chicago pulled it into a tie for the Central Division lead and has the Pacers sitting at No. 3 in the Eastern Conference. Reason to be happy, right? Not exactly, according to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. The Pacers have shown the ability to be very good, but need a game-changing scorer off the bench to realize the team’s full potential: a Finals-worthy squad. Kravitz expounds on his point and has a few deals he’d like to see Indiana make:
It’s not enough for the Indiana Pacers to win 50-plus games and go deep into the playoffs. It’s not enough for them to be a really good team that has a chance to take the Miami Heat to the edge and make them sweat, as they did one year ago.
The bar has to be raised higher, an NBA Finals appearance or bust, and there’s only one way that’s going to happen:
Before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, team President Donnie Walsh and general manager Kevin Pritchard must make a season-changing deal.
They have two needs if they want to go from nice playoff contender to NBA Finals possibility.
They need a dynamic scorer off the bench. Right now, they’re hanging on by their fingernails, scoring by committee. But they don’t have anybody like, say, a J.R. Smith of the Knicks, who can come off the bench and drop 20 on an opponent.
Go grab somebody like J.J. Redick, the Orlando sharpshooter who would give the Pacers the dead-eye presence they so sorely lack. That might mean losing Redick, a free agent, at season’s end, but it could be worth the investment.
Or how about picking up some of the pieces when and if the Boston Celtics decide to break up the old gang? The Pacers would re-unite with Leandro Barbosa in a heartbeat. The Pacers would love a piece of Jason Terry. Somebody. Anybody.
They could also use a bit more size at the backup point guard spot, even if that’s not as great a crying need as a scorer off the bench.
What’s frustrating is, they were within minutes of pulling off a trade last year for O.J. Mayo. And then when that trade fell through, Jamal Crawford, a free agent, decided he would no longer wait around and signed instead with the Los Angeles Clippers.
…Who do they move?
I’d make Tyler Hansbrough available.
I’d make Green available.
I’d think about moving Lance Stephenson, even though he has emerged the way former team boss Larry Bird envisioned he would.
And I’d part with a first-round pick in a year in which the draft is unusually weak.
Here’s who I wouldn’t part with: Danny Granger.
He has been the subject of fan trades for years, and just this week, there was another rumor that the Houston Rockets were making exploratory calls about Granger’s availability.
Listen to me.
Don’t trade him.
Without him, they have zero chance to make any noise in the playoffs.
The Pacers are close, really close, likely a top-three seed in the Eastern Conference.
But they’re not an NBA Finals contender.
Not yet, anyway.
No big secret to Chandler’s rebounding success — With his 20-rebound game against the Pistons last night, Tyson Chandler joined Willis Reed as the only player in Knicks history to amass 20-plus rebounds in three straight games. In the 13 games before this rebounding outburst, Chandler averaged 11.5 rpg — right at about his season average (11.2). So what has led to his big turnaround on the boards? Newsday’s Jim Baumbach says a stern talk with coach Mike Woodson lit a fire under Chandler to pick up his rebounding work:
The way Knicks coach Mike Woodson sees it, when a 7-footer with Chandler’s wingspan plays with as much energy and hustle as his center has recently, those rebounds are going to pile up. And after a recent stern talk initiated by Woodson, Chandler has been proving his coach’s point twentyfold.
In Monday night’s 99-85 victory over the Detroit Pistons , Chandler grabbed 20 rebounds for the third straight game, a feat that hadn’t been accomplished by a Knicks player in more than four decades.
He credited his recent rebounding surge to a frank talk he had with Woodson in the coach’s office last week that “mentally lit a fire under me.”
Woodson said he thought Chandler’s play had been slipping for a few games, and the coach wanted to put a stop to the troublesome sign before it became a trend.
So Woodson called Chandler in and harped on the fact that now that he’s an All-Star for the first time in his 12-year career, he has to play like one all the time.
“I didn’t think he was playing complete basketball,” Woodson said. “He was taking possessions off. He wasn’t moving the pace offensively and he wasn’t getting it done in terms of rebounding the basketball. And you can’t be an All-Star in this league and not play like it.”
As hard as it was for Chandler to hear that from his coach, he said he didn’t take offense. Instead, he said he channeled his emotions on the court — especially when chasing down those missed shots.
“The last thing you want is for people to start questioning you,” Chandler said. “And I agreed . . . Sometimes you need that. You need a little push.”
Bynum keeps working, but worries about bone bruises — Sixers big man Andrew Bynum is ramping up his on-court knee rehab a little each day and is still targeting post-All-Star break to make his Philly debut. But as he works to return, his main concern is avoiding a bone bruise on the knee. Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com has more on what Bynum’s rehab schedule and concerns are:
Bynum said prior to Monday’s home game against the Magic that he expects to play sometime in February, barring “a bone bruise or something like that.”
The earliest it would seem Bynum could be in uniform is Feb. 20 in Minneapolis, which is the first game after the all-star break.
As for the Feb. 14-19 break, Bynum said the plan is to go to his home in Los Angeles for the first part and to return to Philadelphia that Sunday or Monday.
Bynum has missed the entire 2012-13 campaign due to bone bruises in his both knees.
Asked what is keeping him from playing, Bynum replied, “My doctor said it’s fear of a big bone bruise, so we need to nurse it back up to playable conditions without having a setback or creating a bone bruise.”
While he’s still isn’t even playing 1-on-1 in his workouts, he said he’s progressing to the point where his sessions last as long as three hours and consist of running, lifting weights and basketball drills. He’s running on the anti-gravity treadmill with 75-80 percent of his body weight.
Bynum said it hurts when he does “jumping, lateral movement and defensive slides” and wonders if it’s a range-of-motion issue.
The second set of Synvisc shots he received Thursday in New York from personal physician Dr. David Altchek don’t seem to be helping much, according to Bynum, though his right knee “feels phenomenal.” That’s the knee he hurt bowling. He injured the left knee doing a basketball drill in September.
Z-Bo trying to find way out of slump — Memphis’ double-double machine and All-Star, Zach Randolph, was more than dependable the first three months of the season. He averaged 15.6 ppg and 12.8 rpg from October to January and, aside from shooting 33.3 percent in Memphis’ lone October game, never shot worse than 43.5 percent in any month. Much has changed for him from late January to the start of this month, as he’s averaging 6.7 ppg, 14.0 rpg and shooting 26.5 percent from Jan. 28-Feb. 1. Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal talked with Randolph about the cause of his swoon:
Zach Randolph pontificated for several minutes about the Grizzlies’ offense, how he needs to play and the nuances of opposing defenses geared toward weakening his presence in the paint.
Then, the Griz power forward fielded a simple question.
“How are you feeling?” a reporter asked, wondering if the lower back pain that caused Randolph to miss a game about two weeks ago might still linger.
“I ain’t the one to complain,” Randolph said. “If it was (hurting) I couldn’t tell you.”
Randolph let loose a hearty laugh. But there isn’t much amusing about Randolph’s inability to score over the past three games. What’s funny — as in odd — is the All Star has missed layups, tip-ins, settled for off-balanced jump shots while fading.
The veteran’s offensive problems have added up to a three-game stretch in which he’s scored a total of 20 points on 9-of-34 shooting (26 percent).
This is so funny that Randolph put a stamp on it.
“This has probably been the worst slump since 2003 for me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve really played good offensively this whole year. I have my spurts. I’ve been doing other things.”
From coach Lionel Hollins to every teammate, the Griz agree that they can help Randolph get back on track.
No one but Randolph can correct his inexplicable misses around the basket, but the Griz have talked about improving their early offense and overall spacing to alleviate pressure in the post.
“He’s got to work harder to get up and down the court so we can get some easy buckets for him, and we haven’t done that,” Hollins said. “And we’ve got to do a better job of getting the ball to him in the post where he can operate and then getting out of his way.”
Hollins preferred more pick-and-rolls and transition offense without an injured Randolph most of last season. The gradual move away from setting up and throwing the ball in the post continued this season.
However, Randolph has relied more on facing up and launching midrange jump shots as his effectiveness around the basket has decreased.
“On the offensive end, it’s not like it was two years ago. It’s been different,” Randolph said. “The beginning of the season was different. But it’s just a matter of me getting right. That’s what I do. I’m an offensive player and a rebounder. I’ve just got to keep pushing.”
Clippers staying tight-lipped on KG talk — As we mentioned on the Hang Time blog yesterday, reports are circulating that the Clippers may be chasing after Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. One of the players believed to be involved in a potential trade, guard Eric Bledsoe, didn’t have much to say about a deal and neither did his coach, Vinny Del Negro. Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News wonders, though, if a trade is just what these Clippers need most:
The aging, expensive Celtics recently lost point guard Rajon Rondo to a season-ending knee injury, knocking an already unbalanced season sideways.
With the Clippers potentially looking for help to get back on track, the Celtics contemplating blowing their roster up and going into full rebuild mode and the Feb. 21 trade deadline approaching, the game of connect the dots is in full swing.
Which led to a report that surfaced Sunday in the Sporting News that indicated the Clippers had inquired about the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
The Clippers reportedly are dangling point guard Eric Bledsoe and forward Caron Butler for the 37-year-old Garnett, who has two more years on his contract beyond this season worth $23 million.
Bledsoe has enough on his hands trying to hold things down
until Paul returns from his knee injury – that included playing the entire second half Sunday against the Celtics – let alone worry about trade rumors.
“I’m just focused on the Washington Wizards,” Bledsoe said before Monday’s game. “Just focused on the Wizards and trying to get back on a winning track.”
It was a clever way of downplaying the reports, but the reality is Bledsoe knows full well his name is out there in trade talks. To deal with it, he boils his focal point down to the most minimal element.
“It’s what I can control,” Bledsoe said. “So I’ll focus on the Wizards and trying to get back on the winning track.”
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said trade talk isn’t an issue and most of the rumors being bandied about have little validity.
“Most of (what’s reported) isn’t accurate,” Del Negro said.
Does it make sense for the Clippers to take on the two years and $23 million remaining on Garnett’s contract after this season, considering it will take him beyond his 40th birthday?
They remain tight-lipped about their deadline plans, but all indications point to a level of interest in exploring ways to improve the roster.
“We’re no different than any other team out there. If there’s an opportunity to do something to get better we’ll look at it,” Del Negro said.