Morning Shootaround — Feb. 7

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: A 13-game night means there’s a little bit of everything for any kind of fan: lottery team showdows (like Bobcats-Cavs or Suns-Hornets), playoff team scuffles (such as Grizz-Hawks) and elite teams in action (like Warriors-Thunder, Rockets-Heat and Spurs-Wolves). We’re not going to pick a lottery showdown and that Grizz-Hawks game ended up being a blowout, so it’s out. The elite teams (OKC, Miami and San Antonio) did what they wanted and there was little doubt they’d win. So our pick today is Bucks-Jazz. Although Utah won by 14 points, Milwaukee gave a good fight most of the night. Plus, we’re a fan of watching big men go to work, and what team in the league has a better stockpile of ‘em than Utah with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter? It’s enough to make Karl Malone wish he could teach ‘em all a few tricks (more on that below) … 

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News of the morning

Kobe wants ‘urgency’ from Dwight | D-Will still in pain | Malone wants to re-join Jazz (on bench) | ‘Sheed looks back on D.C. days | Sixers’ Richardson done for season? | Carter a ‘long shot’ to be traded | Wall a franchise star?

Kobe pleads for ‘urgency’ from HowardThe Lakers got word Wednesday afternoon that an MRI revealed Pau Gasol has a tear in his foot and are awaiting word as to how much time he will miss. Meanwhile, center Dwight Howard has missed L.A.’s last three games to rest a torn labrum in his shoulder. Oh, and, the Lakers have virtually no backup big men after they lost forward Jordan Hill for the season in January to hip surgery. All that said, Lakers star Kobe Bryant knows that for L.A. to climb back into the playoff race and stay there, he’ll need help from Howard sooner rather than later. ESPNLosAngeles.com details what Bryant is feeling about Howard and his need to rest his injuries:

“We don’t have time for (Howard’s shoulder) to heal,” Bryant said Wednesday in an exclusive interview with ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan. “We need some urgency.”

The interview with MacMullan came one day after Bryant publicly challenged Howard, stating that playing through an injury is “something that you have to balance out and manage.”

Bryant also asserted that Howard is preoccupied with how he is perceived by fans and media.

“Dwight worries too much about what people think,” Bryant told MacMullan. “I told him, ‘You can’t worry about that. It’s holding you back.’ He says, ‘OK, OK, OK,’ but it’s always hovering around him.

“He just wants people to like him. He doesn’t want to let anyone down, and that gets him away from what he should be doing.”

Bryant also speculated that Howard, in his first season with Los Angeles, may not be accustomed to the Lakers’ standards.

“(Howard) has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is,” Bryant told MacMullan. “It’s win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That’s just how (the Lakers) do it. And that’s foreign to him.

“When you think about it, there aren’t many organizations that look at it that way. There are only two that can really honestly say that’s what they live by — Los Angeles and Boston.”

Howard preached patience in a recent interview with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, pointing to the fact that Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal needed three years before winning a championship with the Lakers.

But the 34-year-old Bryant, who is averaging 27.6 points per game in his 17th NBA season, is approaching this season with more desperation.

“We don’t have three years,” Kobe said. “We’ve got this year.”

Howard is listed as day to day, and his status is uncertain for Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics.

The Lakers are hopeful Gasol’s injury will prompt Howard to return “sooner than later,” a team source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.

D-Will still dealing with painDeron Williams has had a rough season, part of which can be attributed to various injuries which have hampered his effectiveness and made him less-than the All-Star guard he usually is. Last night against the Pistons was no different for Williams, who had a rough night stats-wise and was mostly ineffective against Detroit’s young guard combination of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

For Williams, it was another game with more pain. He came up limping and grimacing in the first quarter, with a knock that appeared to involve his knee or thigh. In the second quarter, he required attention from the trainer after grabbing his shoulder.

Williams walked it off, like he does with most of his aches and pains. And per usual, he never really recovered.

The point guard, who has been a shell of his former explosive self because of the injuries, had his moments in the fourth quarter, including a smooth crossover that led to an 18-foot jumper. But Williams was mostly ineffective, slow and hesitant, finishing with 12 points and nine assists — leaving him with averages of 11.8 and 6.5, respectively, in his last four games.
He also is missing his first All-Star game in three years.

“Right now I think he’s sore,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said of Williams, who has injured both ankles, his foot, his thigh and his wrist this season. “There’s no question. Someone like Deron who played all summer — we are beyond the halfway mark, so the guys that are playing big minutes are beat up. They are sore. In his case, his ankle and his wrist. He’s had trouble with that the whole year.”

Williams hasn’t dunked once this season, or hit a game-winner. So it was no surprise Lopez got the call down the stretch, with the game there for the taking thanks to Detroit’s fourth-quarter ineptitude (the Pistons shot 6-of-20 in the period).

Mailman wants back in with JazzFew players are as synonymous with a franchise as Karl Malone is with the Jazz. The Hall of Famer, former two-time MVP and the No. 2 all-time scorer in NBA history hasn’t suited up for Utah since the 2003 playoffs, but a statue of him resides out front of EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City and his No. 32 jersey hangs from the rafters in it. Malone currently serves as an the director of basketball promotions and assistant strength and conditioning coach for his alma mater, Louisiana Tech, but has also hosted a weekly radio show on ESPN 700 in Salt Lake City in the last year. He appeared with ESPN 700’s Hans Olsen and James Rust on Wednesday afternoon and made his case to join Utah’s staff as an assistant coach:

Malone doesn’t want to replace any of Tyrone Corbin’s current full-time helpers, but he wouldn’t mind finding a spot next to Sidney Lowe, Jeff Hornacek, Michael Sanders and Brad Jones.

“All they’ve got to do is call me,” Malone said during an interview with ESPN 700’s Hans Olsen and James Rust on Wednesday afternoon. “I’ll work with the big men for free for a while until it work.”

This isn’t the first time Malone has offered his coaching services to the organization he helped turn into a powerhouse and a two-time NBA Finals squad during his 18 years in Utah.

“I’m saying it again. Ain’t nobody took me up on it,” Malone said. “Maybe they don’t want to hear me.”

Malone said he wouldn’t necessarily want a full-time gig and he has no desire to travel with the team every game.

“But look. We can start off and see if it working,” Malone said. “If not, I’ll be the first one to say, ‘Guys, it ain’t working.’ And they don’t have to say nothing.”

Malone has no doubt if the Jazz’s former coach was still in charge — or is again elsewhere someday — he’d be in a gym teaching bigs how it’s done.”If coach (Jerry) Sloan ever got another coaching job, I would be with him sometime,” he said. “End of story.”

“I’m being dead serious about this,” Malone said. “I don’t want no cameras around. I would be more than willing to come.”One large factor Malone is interested: He’s a big fan of the Jazz bigs.

“Utah Jazz is one of my favorite teams. I still have them doing damage,” Malone said during the 25-minute interview. “Utah Jazz have a group of the best big men that’s in the league. Go through any team (and compare).”

“All in all guys, don’t start blowing up the team,” he said in the radio interview. “If you don’t have to get rid of a big guy, don’t get rid of a big guy. You don’t see a lot of them coming down the pike. But the fact of the matter is, we have talent on this team.”The sports talk-show hosts also asked Malone who he’d pick if he had to between Big Al and Malone’s fellow Louisiana Tech product, Millsap. Malone grumbled and laughed about being put on the spot but then — you guessed — gave his opinion.

“I love Paul Millsap and he’s going to play somewhere all he want to. If you’re making me choose between one or the other — and I’m Tech Nation, Paul MillsapAl Jefferson, to me, is a bigger guy that would do more damage at that position if you can’t bring but one of them back,” Malone said. “Try to bring both back. Whatever you do, do not get rid of these two young kids (Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter).

‘Sheed still remembers his Bullet daysLong before Rasheed Wallace was an All-Star performer as a Portland Trail Blazer and a key part of the Detroit Pistons’ championship team of 2004, he was the prized pick of the Washington Bullets (now Wizards) in 1995. Going No. 4 overall to Washington, Wallace garnered All-Rookie Second Team honors and was part of a young-but-developing squad that included Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Calbert Chaney and other young talent. But after his rookie season, ‘Sheed was sent to Portland for Rod Strickland and Harvey Grant as the Wizards tried to make a serious playoff push. Wallace talked with the Washington Post’s Michael Lee about his D.C. days and what could have been had he stuck around:

“Every time I’m back here, people say, ‘Man, why’d you leave?’ ” Wallace said, shaking his head, at Wednesday’s morning shootaround at Verizon Center. “It wasn’t up to me.”

Wallace still blames former Bullets General Manager John Nash for his exit after one season with the team, but Nash had resigned before Wes Unseld eventually shipped him to Portland for point guard Rod Strickland and forward Harvey Grant in one of those promising-big-for-fading-small deals that the franchise was so accustomed to making in the 1990s (ahem, Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond).

With a few more gray hairs peeking out of his scraggly beard and unkempt Afro, Wallace still looks back on his time as a Bullet as a classic could’ve-been.

“Man, I think about it a lot,” said Wallace, who averaged 10.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in his rookie season. “I understand it was all business and money, but we had a helluva squad here. I wish we could’ve stayed like two, three years together, just to be able to see what we could’ve done.”

The Bullets were stocked with front-court talent back then, with Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Gheorghe Muresan, Jim McIlvaine and Bob McCann and Wallace was often viewed as a luxury. Wallace started 51 games as a rookie, getting a lot of time at power forward as Webber recovered from a dislocated left shoulder, but he also dealt with troubles on and off the court in his short stint with the Bullets. He also didn’t need much time to establish a reputation for berating NBA officials, and had been mentioned in trade rumors since January of that season.

The Bullets reportedly offered Wallace to Philadelphia for the No. 1 overall pick, which turned out to be Allen Iverson.

Still, Wallace was stunned when he was seated in a barbershop in Philadelphia and got word that he was going to join the Portland Trail Blazers.

“My cousin called, and told me, ‘You just got traded to Portland.’ I was like: ‘Man, whatever. I didn’t get traded,’ ” Wallace said with a laugh. “About two seconds later, my agent [Bill Strickland] called and was like, ‘The rumors is true.’ I was like, ‘Aarghhhh!’ ”

The “what ifs” will never be resolved in Washington but the memories remain. When asked what he misses most about his days playing at the Capital Centre in Landover, Wallace said: “Just the enthusiasm of the crowd. The crowd felt the same things that we did. That it was a helluva team and we could’ve did some things. …I think we would’ve went far in the playoffs, because we were big. Unfortunately, I started those games that I did because Web went down. I hate to move into his starting slot like that. But man, we could’ve did a lot of things.”

Richardson facing season-ending surgeryThe Sixers have spent the season waiting for All-Star big man Andrew Bynum to get into the lineup so they can see exactly what kind of team they have. But while Bynum has been rehabbing and progressing, Philly has been waiting to get veteran guard Jason Richardson back, too. Richardson hasn’t played since Jan. 18 as he’s been dealing with a nagging knee issue that will now likely require surgery and six to nine months of recovery time, writes Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Philadelphia 76ers guard Jason Richardson learned Wednesday he will miss the rest of the season due to a left knee injury that requires surgery, a source told Yahoo! Sports.

The 12th-year veteran was told by a doctor in New York City that he has a cartilage tear the size of a quarter on the right side of his left kneecap. Richardson is expected to be out six to nine months following surgery that is expected to take place next week.

Richardson had missed the previous seven games after being diagnosed with synovitis in his left knee. He finishes the season averaging 10.5 points and 3.8 rebounds while starting in all 33 games he played in during his first season with Philadelphia. He is under contract through the 2014-15 season.

Carter a ‘long shot’ to be tradedOur own Jeff Caplan caught up with Mavs swingman Vince Carter, who has been hot lately for the Mavs, averaging 17.6 points on 49.0 percent field-goal shooting and 45.0 percent from 3-point range over his past eight games. Carter’s name has been bandied about in trade rumors, but the likelihood of him being shipped out of Dallas seems slim, and he seems to be enjoying his second season in Big D, too:

There’s no doubt that teams are and will inquire about Carter’s availability. Dallas reportedly didn’t get involved as a third team in the Memphis-Toronto trade that sent Rudy Gay to the Raptors because it wouldn’t part with Carter. Detroit took the role and acquired point guard Jose Calderon from Toronto.

A league source Wednesday characterized the odds of Dallas moving Carter by the Feb. 21 as a “long shot.”

Which Carter said suits him just fine, despite the Mavs needing a significant run just to get into playoff contention.

Carter signed a three-year contract with the Mavs prior to the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season as part of the franchise’s retooling following the 2011 championship. His hopes of helping Dallas repeat didn’t materialize, but he had found a good fit. When the club decided to bring him back this season at $3.1 million, it fully guaranteed his final season next year at $3.2 million.

Carter’s contract is certainly attractive, but with Dallas uninterested in taking back salary and unlikely to net a major asset, there’s little reason to trade him when the club still believes it can make a push into playoff contention.

“There’s a reason he’s such an important guy to us,” Carlisle said following Wednesday’s win. “People key on his offensive stuff, but he’s just a big team guy. He’s one of our leaders.”

Two seasons ago with Phoenix, Carter’s career seemed to be closing quickly as his production continually dropped.

“Sometimes you get on a team where your talent isn’t needed, utilized,” Carter said. “This is a different type of offense here. I don’t know, I felt pretty good then and I will say I do feel even better. I put my work in after that summer because it kind of bothered me to even hear somebody think that or say it at that point in time because I still felt at that point physically able to contribute, to be effective for any team.”

Wall not a ‘franchise’ guy?Ex-Magic coach Stan Van Gundy got in a little hot water with folks in the D.C. area after appearing on ESPN 980′s The Sports Reporters in late December and saying that Wizards guard John Wall wasn’t a great decision-maker or a franchise cornerstone. Van Gundy recently talked to Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com and clarified his point a little bit, but Stan Van apparently isn’t a huge fan of Wall as the ONLY top-level talent on the Wizards: 

“I said this: John Wall is a talented guy, a very good player. I don’t think he’s good enough that you can build a franchise around him,” Van Gundy said after serving as television analyst for George Mason’s home game against Drexel last Thursday night. “I don’t think he can be your best player, certainly not clearly your best player. You need one guy better than him or a couple of guys at his talent level for them to win.

“To me that’s not a negative. I didn’t say it as a negative. I think some people took it that way. I just don’t see John Wall as a franchise player because – a lot like Rajon Rondo; I don’t see him as a franchise player even though he’s an All-Star – he’s not a good enough shooter yet and he’s not a reliable go-to scorer.

“In the NBA, your franchise guy has got to be a guy you can put the ball in his hands late in the game and he can get you a basket. I don’t see that from John Wall at this point in his career. Maybe it will develop, but I don’t see it.”

ICYMI of the night: Ricky Rubio likes setting Derrick Williams up for dunks, as we’ve seen before. But last night’s ultra-high alley-oop to Williams might have been one of their best connections yet …:

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