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: How about the Spurs last night? Taking care of one of the East’s elite — Chicago — without any of their Big Three (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker)? Impressive stuff, no doubt. However, our pick this morning is the Nets-Pacers game. Deron Williams sat this one out while undergoing treatment for his bothersome swollen ankles. The Nets could have folded up shop after being down 76-72 with 1:38 to go. But Joe Johnson came up with a big shot to force overtime and Brook Lopez showed his All-Star stuff as Brooklyn won in one of the NBA’s toughest places to do so, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
News of the morning
Media at fault for Kobe-Dwight spat? | Mavs may stay quiet during deadline | Bynum’s return pushed back | Pacers ready for Granger’s return | Irving, Scott to have own shootout | Drummond’s creative rehab work
Media to blame for Kobe-Dwight rift? — Before the 2012-13 season, most of us thought the Lakers might be a daily part of the conversation about a run at the championship. Instead, the Lakers have been a daily part of the conversation as we all attempt to figure out why they can’t even reach .500, let alone talk about a title. From Mike Brown‘s firing to Mike D’Antoni being hired, from Steve Nash‘s injury to Pau Gasol‘s injury and from Dwight Howard‘s back woes to conflicts between Howard, Kobe Bryant, Nash and others on the team, what’s happening off the court has been much-discussed in Lakerland. According to Bryant, though, any drama that exists between Kobe and Howard is something that the media has made up. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more from Bryant on this issue and more:
If Bryant wanted to call out Dwight Howard for resting his injured shoulder for three games last week despite being medically cleared to play, he would’ve just done so. Instead, Bryant claimed his call for “urgency” was misinterpreted as a call-out and turned into a “manufactured conflict.”
“I didn’t say anything wrong. I didn’t say anything to hammer him over the head or take a run at him,” Bryant said before the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice Monday. “That was actually manufactured. I’d own up to it if I took a run at somebody.
“Urgency is something we’ve been trumpeting, we’ve been beating that drum since the beginning of the season when we started struggling.”
The comments Bryant is referring to came from an interview he gave to ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan before the Lakers played the Boston Celtics last Thursday. Howard had sat out the previous three games, and the Lakers had just learned they would be without injured forward Pau Gasol for at least six to eight weeks.
Bryant did not say the quotes in the story were taken out of context. Rather, he took issue with the controversy that spiraled from them and the perception of a rift between himself and Howard.He said that he reached out to Howard to make sure he understood it wasn’t his intention to call him out.
Bryant has been with the Lakers for 17 seasons and has grown somewhat immune to the noise generated by Los Angeles’ media. But even when he hears it, Bryant said he’s learned it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
“It actually helped us keep our edge, keep our intensity,” Bryant said of the controversy that always hovered over his championship runs with Shaquille O’Neal. “It gave us something to kind of build towards. But like I said, there was actual conflict though.
“At least the Shaq stuff was actually warranted. This is just comical.”
The situation escalated over the weekend, however, when Howard’s father took exception to the comments, as well as coach Mike D’Antoni’s handling of the the issue.
Asked Monday whether he could’ve done a better job handling the situation, D’Antoni said:
“We’re not going to play out what we do in the locker room or how I should coach in the media,” D’Antoni said. “That’s been our problem. Everybody wants a story. Everybody wants to give a story. The story is whether we win or lose and how we play.
“We will sit down with a player, we sit down with players all the time. I’m not going to play it out through the media. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think any team I’ve been on has ever done that, and I’m really surprised here in L.A. that seems to be the norm. … That’s not good.”
D’Antoni bluntly stated that he doesn’t believe the Lakers have a “communication problem.”
“Most of the time when there’s a communication problem, it’s because the message being received is not the message you want,” D’Antoni said. “It’s not that they don’t know what they need to do, how we need to act as a team, whatever. If you don’t like the message, then you go say there’s a communication problem.”
‘Bank of Cuban’ still open, but deals iffy — A little less than a month ago, Mavs owner Mark Cuban proclaimed that the ‘Bank of Cuban’ was open — meaning Dallas was open to a trade come the Feb. 21 dealing deadline. Since then, Cuban seems to have softened on that stance and is offering a few caveats to any potential deals the Mavs may make, writes Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com:
If the Mavericks don’t make a trade before the Feb. 21 deadline, Mark Cuban insists it won’t be due to a lack of effort.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle have both gone on the record recently with predictions that the Mavs will stand pat. Cuban acknowledges that could be the case, but he continues to actively search for opportunities to upgrade the roster of a 22-28 team while keeping the Mavs’ future in mind.
“It takes two teams to trade,” Cuban said Monday evening. “There’s a lot of deals we would make [laughs], but nobody seems willing to do what we want to do. You never know, but nothing imminent. The bank’s still open.”
The bank is still open, but Cuban will be very judicious when determining whether a deal is worth sacrificing space under the salary cap this summer. Tampering rules prevent Cuban from coming out and saying it, but the Mavs aren’t bowing out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes unless they can acquire a building block in the next week and a half.
“It’s gotta be something really, really, really good,” Cuban said. “It’s got to be a futures type player that we can build around or really adds a lot.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean an established All-Star. It just has to be a player the Mavs project to become an All-Star, or at least one of their top three players. Cuban points to the Mavs’ acquisition of Steve Nash back in the day as an example.
“There’s been lots of players we picked up over time that weren’t All-Stars that turned into cornerstones,” Cuban said. “We’d take those. They don’t have to be proven. They’d have to be someone we think it’s just a question of time or system or coaching or whatever.”
Bynum switches timetable on return — The Sixers have done an admirable job of hanging around the Eastern Conference playoff picture (they’re three games behind Milwaukee for the No. 8 seed) despite not having Andrew Bynum all season and recently losing Jason Richardson for the rest of the season. Hope had come to Philly once Bynum finally started working out with the team recently and going through some drills. A post-All-Star break return was penciled in just a few weeks ago. But Bynum’s return is apparently being pushed back — again — as pain in his left knee is growing, writes Jason Wolf of USA Today:
Andrew Bynum has eased up on his workouts after experiencing “a lot of pain” in his left knee and is unsure if he’ll make his Philadelphia 76ers debut this month.
“I think I worked well for two days on the court and then I got a lot of pain,” Bynum said Monday, “so we backed down a little bit today. I’ll probably go on (the anti-gravity treadmill) tomorrow.”
There is no official target date for Bynum to join full-team practices, or for him to play in a game. But earlier this month, the one-time all-star center told reporters that he was hoping to appear in his first game with the Sixers “around the all-star break.”
Bynum was asked Monday whether he was still planning to play in a game this month.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It’s all going to depend on if we get a setback or not. Right now, I think things are going well. I’m losing weight and staying on the court for as long as I can.”
But he also said the pain in his left knee “limits me from continuing to go.”
“I don’t know if it’s normal soreness, or if I’ll have to play with it,” Bynum said. “I don’t know what it is. It’s not anything that I haven’t felt, so it’s not new. And it continues to kind of go away over time, so it’s all good stuff. No swelling.”
Pacers can’t wait to see Granger again — Indiana is in the thick of the upper half of the Eastern Conference thanks to a 13-8 stretch since Jan. 1 and the emergence of Paul George as an All-Star. Still, Indiana has fallen on a little bit of hard times, losing two straight and seeing its 15-game home win streak come to an end after an upset loss to the Raptors on Feb. 8. Good news is on the horizon with Danny Granger expected to suit up for the first time this season on Wednesday. He’s expected to resume his role as a starter, displacing Lance Stephenson. While there’s a tendency among Pacers fans to not upset the apple cart, writes Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, this is the best move for Indiana long term:
This idea that Granger should be a high-scoring sixth man, this notion that the Pacers shouldn’t mess up a good thing by moving Lance Stephenson back to the benchd…
An hour before the Pacers’ 89-84 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night, Vogel said he’s initially going to use Granger off the bench in order to get his legs back under him, but once he’s in basketball shape – that should take a week – he’ll be back in the starting lineup.
And that’s that.
Because the stats here don’t lie: Once George Hill took over the point guard spot late last season, the Pacers had the most productive starting five in the NBA. They’ve been very good with Stephenson – check out my new favorite website, 82games.com, to see the numbers – but they were the best in the league with the old starting five.
“Obviously, there’s some merit to having one of those guys coming off the bench, much like with San Antonio and Manu Ginobili or Oklahoma City when they had James Harden, but that (original lineup with Granger) was dominant,’’ Vogel said. “That’s something we’re looking forward to getting back to.’’
Pacers fans should be forewarned: It’s going to take some time. For one thing, Granger hasn’t played in months. He is a notoriously slow starter, even when he’s healthy, and it’s going to take a couple of weeks before he’s fully re-acclimated back into the team. My guess is, as soon as Granger struggles – and he will – there will be a hue and cry to restore Stephenson to the starting lineup and relegate Granger to the bench.
And no, they won’t.
For two years, Stephenson looked like a lost cause, an immature kid with little hope of finding his way. He wasn’t getting it done on the court, and he was no treat as a teammate in the locker room.
Then, the light came on.
And just in time, given Granger’s injury. Would the Pacers be where they are now without him?
“He was finding his way early in the season and finding it well, but I’m not sure if he really understood he belonged,’’ Vogel said. “When he struggled a couple of games on the West coast, we sat down and I reiterated and illustrated to him how important he is to being a big part of our success. That may have been the moment when the light came on for him, and he’s been on a tear since then.
“I think he’s being smarter with his passing. He’s a homerun passing kind of guy. That’s his DNA, that’s what his instincts are. But now, more than in the first two years, he’s reined it in and kept it under control. If he makes a fancy pass, it’s a safe, fancy pass, which is something we welcome. And defensively, he’s continuing to grow. He’s staying disciplined in our defensive scheme. He’s chasing guys, he’s negotiating through screens; he’s still a work in progress, but he’s much better than he was the first two years.’’
Granger can’t return quickly enough. After a nice run of 15 straight home victories, the Pacers have now lost two straight home overtime games, the latest one to a Deron Williams-less Nets team playing the back end of a back-to-back. Paul George and David West, their two best players, shot a combined 3-for-21. This was the kind of game the Pacers couldn’t afford to lose, not with so many Eastern Conference bunched up around the 3-4-5 seed.
Irving gets first Three-Point Contest challenger — Cavs All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is going to be mighty busy during All-Star weekend. He’s not only in the league’s showcase event, but he’s on Team Shaq in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday evening and will also participate in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Saturday evening. Irving’s coach, Byron Scott, wants to get a preview of sorts of how Irving will do in the Three-Point Contest, so he’s challenged him to a post-practice 3-point shootout, writes Bob Finnan of the News-Herald:
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said he challenged point guard Kyrie Irving to a 3-point shootout after practice on Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Scott wouldn’t say if the media would be invited to this must-see event.
Irving has been invited to the Three-Point Contest during All-Star weekend in Houston. Scott competed in the event twice — a last-place finish in 1987 and a third-place performance in ’88.
“I challenged him today,” Scott said. “We’ll go around twice. He’s talking a lot. I think I have a good shot at (beating him). My only problem is if I get tired.”It’s almost turned into an endurance test. Sixty seconds of constant shooting is more than people realize.
“We’ll have fun,” Scott said. “Basically, it’s to show him how the contest is done.”
Irving said he read where Scott challenged him.
“That’s something a third-place winner would do, go behind my back and challenge me,” he said. “The challenge is supposed to be tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. I’m getting up early and doing my pushups.”
They have nothing riding on the contest — yet. By the time they get to the end of practice on Tuesday, trash talk could escalate. Don’t be surprised if some cash is bet.
Pistons get creative with Drummond’s rehab — Detroit’s standout rookie, Andre Drummond, is going to be out a month after suffering a back injury. Leave it to Detroit’s longtime trainer, Arnie Kander, to come up with an innovative way to get the Pistons’ big man back on track. The method of choice? Beating a drum during practices, which will serve a two-fold purpose, writes Terry Foster of The Detroit News:
Andre Drummond beat the drum slowly and softly Monday before the Pistons game against the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace.
And that wasn’t good enough for strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander.
“You got to work now,” Kander told Drummond. “Let’s go.”
Drummond saw that Kander was serious and pounded on his drum a little quicker. But he was not the second coming of Buddy Rich.
The Drummond drum beat served two purposes. It is helping his sore back get better and it also is a way for Drummond to keep connected with his team. He will be with teammates every day during his rehabilitation. Step one was beating on a drum that he carried with him throughout the game-day practice.
The idea is to strengthen his core by keeping his back straight while he taps on the drums. Drummond injured his back last week and is expected out four to six weeks.
“He is our Ringo Starr,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “I think it is very important that when you are injured in all professional sports to remain engaged. Sometimes in sports when you are injured, you become invisible. I think it is important that we integrate him in everything we do and he integrates himself. Mentally you are preparing like you are playing, but physically you can’t play. So you prepare yourself as best you can.”
Drummond’s spirits were up Monday. He joked with teammates in practice and poked his head in during a media scrum with guard Will Bynum. He also participated in a simple drill that helps stretch teammates.
Frank said the injury is especially rough on Drummond because it is his first injury — and he might not be able to handle things as well as a veteran who has been injured before.
“This is his first time going through anything like this,” Frank said. “A veteran guy kind of understands the nature of it. But when you are 19 years old and this is your first injury you can become invisible sometimes. You know that happens sometimes. You not only can become invisible but it is easy to not just take care of yourself 100 percent. When you are young guys don’t know.”
ICYMI of the night: So many great dunks by the Clippers last night … thankfully, we’ve got them all in one tidy highlight that is a must-watch: