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: We were more than a little jazzed around these parts for last night’s Clippers-Pacers game from BankersLife Fieldhouse. A matchup of two of the NBA’s elite — not just in terms of record, but also in terms of defensive acumen as well as young All-Star talent (Blake Griffin on the Clippers and Paul George on the Pacers). The game lived up to the hype through the first half, but by the third quarter, the Clippers imposed their will on the Pacers and had built a hefty 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. Indiana showed some heart and made a late charge to get back in the game, but overall this was all Clippers in the second half.
News of the morning
Paul’s steady hand saves win — On paper, what was the game of Thursday night was the Clippers-Pacers game in Indiana that pitted two of the NBA’s best teams against each other. Although the Pacers kept it close (as we detail above), the Clips took control midway through the fourth quarter and seemed to have this one salted away. Indiana made a late charge while the Clips’ starters rested on the bench, but once Chris Paul got back in the game, L.A. finally locked up the win for good. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register explains how CP3 imposed his will on the Pacers before things got out of control:
The Clippers were up by 17 points over the Indiana Pacers with less than six minutes to play. Players were smiling on the sidelines, dancing to the music blaring and getting ready to celebrate a nice road victory.
Less than three minutes later, the Clippers found themselves fighting to hang on, as the Pacers ripped off a 13-0 run to cut the lead to four.
In situations like this, the Clippers lean on point guard Chris Paul to make things happen, and Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, he didn’t let his team down in a 99-91 victory.
“I just love to see him take over games like that,” Chauncey Billups said. “That’s either something you’re blessed to have, or you’re sorry you don’t have it.”
Paul drained a jump shot over Tyler Hansbrough and got to the rim for an acrobatic right-handed finish. Then with the lead at four and less than a minute to go, Paul drove past Indiana’s Lance Stephenson, simultaneously ending Indiana’s momentum and chances for a comeback.
“You’ve got to hate to lose,” Paul said. “… At some point, you have to slow everything down and say, ‘It’s winning time.'”
Report: Howard wants to play in 2016 Games — Dwight Howard suffered a season-ending back injury in 2011-12 and, as such, missed not only the 2012 playoffs, but also the 2012 Olympic Games so he could recover. Although the back (and a new injury — a sore right shoulder) haven’t had him playing at his peak level this season for the Lakers, Howard forsees a full recovery at some point and has already set his sights on playing for Team USA in the 2016 Games, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard, who won Olympic gold with the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games but had to miss last summer’s London Games while recovering from back surgery, said he wants to be back on the team in 2016.
“No doubt,” Howard said Thursday when asked if he wanted to play in Brazil.
Howard will be 30 years old when the next Olympics roll around. He expressed disappointment in not being able to go for back-to-back gold medals this summer, much like Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant was able to do, because of the back surgery he underwent in April.
“I was pissed off,” Howard said. “I was mad I couldn’t play in the playoffs. I was mad I couldn’t play in the Olympics. I was pissed. I was looking forward to going to London. I was looking forward to making a big run in the playoffs last season, so I wasn’t too happy about the fact that I had to have surgery and miss a lot of basketball.”
Howard said he has maintained a relationship with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo.
“He’s cool with me,” Howard said. “He’s always been someone that I’ve thought highly of and he’s always supported me.”
Howard said he received an invitation from Colangelo to play on the 2012 team prior to his back injury.
“He called me and asked me about joining the team in London,” Howard said. “We were looking forward to it. He was one of the first people that contacted me and asked me if I wanted to play. I was very excited about it. I wanted to play. He said, ‘OK.'”
Colangelo will be tasked with not only filling out a roster for Rio de Janeiro, but finding a new coach.
Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN Radio this week that he will not assume his coaching duties with Team USA when his season at Duke ends.
Report: Bulls, Amundson in talks — Veteran big man Lou Amundson spent the first 30 games of the season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but asked to be cut by the club when his playing time dropped. The Wolves obliged, releasing him on Feb. 8, and Amundson has been looking for a new squad since then. As of Thursday, FoxSportsFlorida.com’s Chris Tomasson reported that four teams — the Bulls, Knicks, Celtics and Heat — were pursuing Amundson. As of this morning, though, the Bulls have emerged as the favorite, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
The Chicago Bulls are in talks with Louis Amundson about signing the veteran power forward, according to league sources.
A decision is expected Friday, sources told ESPN.com, with the Bulls and Amundson’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, scheduled to talk about specifics.
The Bulls are looking for an extra big man with Taj Gibson sidelined by a sprained left knee. And Chicago has just enough room under its hard salary cap of $74.307 million to sign Amundson, who is eligible to play for the Bulls in the postseason because he was waived by Minnesota before Friday’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline.
Williams finding his way in Minnesota -- After having a solid reserve role the first nine games of the season, second-year Wolves forward Derrick Williams was more or less riding the pine in December and January. Injuries to Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko, among others, forced Williams back into the rotation by mid-January and he has picked up his game since. Williams is averaging 10.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg this season, but in his last 10 games has upped those marks to 16.0 and 9.0, respectively. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune has more on Williams resurgance:
Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams returned home to Los Angeles for Thursday’s game against the Lakers not exactly a changed man but feeling differently for sure.
“Just more confident really,” he said.
His statistics in his past five games — 18.8 points and 10.6 rebounds — tell part of the story.
Coach Rick Adelman‘s decision to draw up a potential game-winning play for him on Tuesday in Phoenix suggests Williams has earned a little more trust. Williams was one of two options on a play that ended with Alexey Shved missing a driving layup near the overtime buzzer.
Until recently, Williams struggled to find his way — and earn Adelman’s faith — in a league where No. 2 overall picks are expected to do so much more from their first day.
In the past two weeks, Williams has delivered the double-doubles — three 20-point, 10-rebound games in his past five entering Thursday’s game — that are nearly nightly achievements by Kevin Love, the Wolves’ injured All-Star whom Williams has replaced as the starting power forward.
Williams credits Love’s biggest attribute — rebounding — for his recent play. “Rebounding really is what got me going,” he said. “Trying to get every rebound has got my confidence up, not really knocking down shots. I’m focused on the defensive end and trying to get as many rebounds as possible.”
ICYMI(s) of the night: If we wanted to, we could call this the hey-look-at-what-Blake-Griffin-did of the night given his highlight reel-ish play. We aren’t changing the name, of course (it’s way too long), but Griffin gets the nod today anyway for two awesome jams …: