Morning Shootaround — March 4

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: Another great night of games league-wide, starting with the Heat extending their win streak to a team record-tying 14 games, the Pacers taking a key division game against the Bulls, the Thunder sweeping the Clips and the Spurs showing they’re more than just the Tony Parker show. All that said, it’s hard to pick against the Hawks-Lakers game from Staples Center last night. As our man Sekou Smith pointed out, Kobe Bryant not only was in “Black Mamba” mode, but apparently in “#Vino” mode, too. Aside from a classic Kobe jam on poor Josh Smith in this one, this was a good back-and-forth game that saw Bryant deliver the heroics down the stretch and get L.A. back to the .500 mark that so many of us thought they’d be well above by this point of the season.

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News of the morning

Ginobili eyes two more years in NBA? | Vogel gets milestone win vs. Bulls | Smith thinks Howard will stay in L.A. | Stoudemire unfairly benched?| Bynum pondering arthroscopic surgery

Ginobili eyeing next contract, futureSpurs swingman Manu Ginobili is a free agent this summer and, barring a total surprise, will likely be back with the only NBA team he’s known for 2013-14. Still, as likely as it is that Ginobili will be a “Spur for life” (like fellow teammate Tim Duncan called himself a few years ago), how many more seasons of Ginobili will Spurs fans get? Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News caught up with Manu for some thoughts on his future and more:

Ginobili will be back next season, though he says there are no guarantees. At his age, he says, it’s year to year.

“But ask me right now,” he said Sunday, “and I’d like to play two more years for sure.”

His fans would prefer 10 years, but at least his timeline fits with others. Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, for example, currently have contracts through 2015.

Ginobili’s contract ends this summer. And while he’s currently the highest-paid Spur, it’s likely a hometown compromise could be reached with him as it was with Duncan before.

He acknowledged Sunday he feels the years. “Little things” that wouldn’t have physically bothered him before now do. Given that, he eats better, and he stretches more, and he says he’s “less crazy” than he was eight years ago.

Less crazy?

He smiled, acting out how he pulled back against the Pistons, when there were few signs he actually did. After his only turnover, for example, he sprinted back to draw a charge.

Still crazy after all these years. “And I love that,” Stephen Jackson said. “I’d rather play with someone like him, who plays hard and gets hurt, than someone who is afraid.”

But if he’s always been crazy, he’s also always found his game after injuries. That’s why the next few weeks, in Parker’s absence, will give better evidence of where Ginobili is in his career.

Still, even if he can only play in bursts from now on, there will always be a place for the Ginobili who played Sunday.

Pacers’ Vogel gets win No. 100Crack open the Indiana Pacers record book and you’ll see Larry Bird as the club’s all-time coaching winning percentage leader. The guy right behind him? Larry Brown? Slick Leonard? Isiah Thomas? Nope. It’s none other than the current man stalking the sidelines, Frank Vogel, who got career win No. 100 in last night’s nail-biting victory over the Bulls. Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star has more on Vogel, the win and his still-surprising rise to NBA coach:

How lucky did the Indiana Pacers get when they plucked the no-name assistant off Jim O’Brien’s 21/2 years ago and made him an interim head coach?

And how fortunate does Vogel feel after starting his career as a Division III point guard at tiny Juniata (Pa.), then heading to Kentucky, where he talked his way into a job as a manager?

“I never could have imagined I would be in this position,’’ Vogel said Sunday. “Just getting the opportunity to be a head coach, that’s so rare. And then to have such a good and ready basketball team, that’s an absolute blessing.’’

The 39-year-old Vogel is a rising star in the business, a come-from-nowhere guy – well, Jersey, actually – who has a chance to be a long-term answer for this franchise. The Pacers were smart enough to extend his contract earlier in the year, and after a chorus line of three- and four-year stays by previous Pacers coaches, Vogel has shown he can be the rarest of all birds: An NBA coach with staying power.

In 21/2 years, his winning percentage is .608, behind only Larry Bird in the history of the franchise.

He changed the culture almost overnight, infusing the team with a newfound passion and direction.

“The first thing he did was preach positivity,’’ said Danny Granger, who left Sunday’s game early with knee soreness. “At first, honestly, a lot of people didn’t believe it, but then we started playing the way he wanted us to play. This league is all about confidence and when your coaches expresses confidence in you, it spills over onto the court.”

Nobody benefited more from the O’Brien-to-Vogel change than Roy Hibbert who, by the way, is starting to come out of season-long offensive funk in recent weeks.

“He’s a players’ coach,’’ Hibbert said after a double double (18 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots). “He lets us go out there and have fun, but we take things seriously when we go through practice. But he lets us enjoy more. Now we have a voice in the locker room, which we didn’t have before.’’

Hawks’ Smith thinks Dwight will stay putThe friendship between Hawks forward Josh Smith and Lakers center Dwight Howard has been well documented, so it’s only natural that some would go to Smith to pick his brain on whether Howard, a free agent this summer, will stay with the Lakers. Smith provided his own speculation on L.A.’s star big man when he spoke with Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News before last night’s Hawks-Lakers game:

First, Smith says he has a good idea on whether Howard will stay with the Lakers once he becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

“I can’t pick his brain and be in his head but to me, I don’t see him going anywhere,” Smith said before the Lakers hosted the Hawks at Staples Center. “It would be a shock to me.”

Why?

“Dwight is a loyal athlete and loyal person,” Smith said . “He’s not a quitter and doesn’t run from situations. That’s why I believe with this franchise and the way he’s talked so well about it, I can’t see him going anywhere.”

Still, Howard’s encountered frustrations on his first season with the Lakers. That’s included rehabbing from 10-month old back surgery, a torn labrum in his right shoulder, a relatively diminished offensive role and larger media scrutiny.

“He’s grasping that,” Smith said. “He’s trying to find his way on this team and trying to get back healthy. That’s the biggest thing he’s doing and worrying about. He’s getting his legs back under him and he’s starting to block more shots. It’s going to take some time.”

Howard and Smith grew up together in Atlanta and played together on the same AAU team. To this day, they often talk about eventually becoming teammates again.

“Situations like that are far fetched so it’s more, ‘What if we play with each other?’” Smith said. “In AAU basketball, we had a ton of success. You never know what the future entails. But we can talk about it. It might not necessarily happen. But it’s a good conversation.”

But Smith stressed neither he or Howard are actively trying to ensure that outcome.

“If it happens, it’ll be crazy,” Smith said. “But you never know. “

Stoudemire sits as Knicks fall to HeatKnicks reserve big man Amar’e Stoudemire had 12 points in last night’s loss to the Heat, but only three of those 12 game in the second half. Down the stretch of a tight game with Miami, coach Mike Woodson opted to play fellow reserve J.R. Smith some big minutes while Stoudemire found himself stapled to the bench for the final 7 minutes and 56 seconds of the game. That move hasn’t made some folks in New York happy, starting with Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News:

Too much James at the Garden, not enough Knick scoring in the second half, and the last eight minutes in particular, and this is why Mike Woodson now has an Amar’e Stoudemire problem on his hands.

Woodson created it by sitting Stoudemire for the last 7:56 of the Knicks’ 99-93 loss to the Heat. As James and the Heat put the finishing touches on their first win over New York this season, Stoudemire was bolted to the bench, LeBron was locking up Anthony and the Knicks were doomed.

Know this: The Knicks weren’t necessarily going to win if Woodson had called Stoudemire’s number. Not the way James had it going in the final quarter, with 12 points and the best man-to-man defense that Carmelo Anthony has faced this season.

But Woodson made a big mistake by putting his fate in Smith’s hands and not at least trying to get some offense with a proven scorer. Which Smith isn’t, as Woodson readily admitted after the Knicks saw their home record in their last 20 games fall to 11-9.

The idea that Smith needs to learn, while Stoudemire already has the credentials as an accomplished All-NBA selection — because of his scoring prowess, first and foremost — made more than one Heat player chuckle in the postgame locker room.

After seeing his team totally outplayed in the second half by a Miami team that shouldn’t have its 14-game winning streak broken any time soon, Woodson admitted that he didn’t even think about putting Stoudemire back in.

Not even a little bit, Coach?

“No, at that particular time, I didn’t because they were small and I wanted to go with Tyson (Chandler) against (Chris) Bosh and they played small around Bosh,” he said. “So we just tried to keep the matchup.

“I’m not saying he (Stoudemire) wasn’t a good fit,” Woodson added. “I’m saying that’s the way I decided to go. They were small.”

Knowing a controversy when they see one, Knicks officials wisely ended Woodson’s interview right then and there.

But the controversy isn’t over, no sir. Remember, Woodson was the one who boldly stated that he could make the Anthony-Stoudemire pairing work. But he didn’t even try, on a day when it might have been the best way to go.

Bynum considering arthroscopic surgery on kneeOn Friday came the news from Philadelphia that injured center Andrew Bynum said he would be OK with missing the entire season to tend to his still-recovering right knee. While the prospect of a Bynum-less campaign is nothing the Sixers or their fans want to think about, the likelihood of it may be becoming more real based off a report from Jason Wolf of the The (Wilmington) News Journal. Sixers GM Tony DiLeo says the team is waiting to hear whether or not Bynum will have arthroscopic surgery on his knees, which will affect Bynum’s long-term future in Philly:

Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said that Andrew Bynum is considering arthroscopic surgery on his balky knees and that the organization has yet to decide whether to attempt to sign the one-time All-Star center once he becomes a free agent after this season.

But building around Bynum remains the team’s preferred option, if he’s healthy.

“He is Plan A,” DiLeo said Sunday before the Sixers played the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center, speaking publicly for the first time since Bynum announced a setback in his rehab from what could be career-threatening knee injuries on Friday.

“Until we get the answers, until we make a decision, whether like you’re saying it’s a calculated decision or a risk management decision, that’s something we’ll have to make at the end of the year, going into free agency, and that’s something he also has [to figure out],” DiLeo said. “He’s unrestricted, he can go anywhere he wants to and it’s his career. And he’s only 25 years old. That’s just something we’ll have to see. We just don’t have all the information now.”

Bynum was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee in September and with a “mirror issue” in his left knee in November, when a piece of cartilage broke loose and his joint swelled after going bowling. While Bynum said his right knee felt “phenomenal” in February, his left knee remained problematic as he continued to experience pain and a locking sensation in the joint. Now, once again, the right knee is an issue.

Arthroscopic surgery to clean the loose cartilage out of Bynum’s knees would ensure he does not play for the Sixers this season.

It remains to be seen whether Bynum’s knee pain can be managed effectively, allowing him to resume his career.

“We haven’t seen him out on the court,” DiLeo said. “So we don’t have all the answers, and hopefully we’ll get some answers. It’s always been our goal to see him healthy, out on the court with us. So far we haven’t been able to see that.”

ICYMI(s) of the night: Gotta love that trip into the wayback dunk machine Kobe Bryant took last night, but you’ve also gotta love this fantastic pass from Manu Ginobili to Kawhi Leonard:

17 Comments

  1. mayo says:

    black mamba 24 rulessssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

  2. iSHAQ or SHAQTOLOGY says:

    trade DWIGHT HOWARD to TYSON CHANDLER…
    CARMELO & DWIGHT HOWARD need to team up againts HEAT…

    MIAMI will Repeat again this Year…
    Go Erik Spoelstra…. an Elite Coach….

  3. allaroundballer says:

    Black Mamba Mode ………against Atlanta

    • iCFakers says:

      Mambas love birds so it’s no surprise. Can a Mamba beat a “King” Cobra though?

  4. dattebayo says:

    At the beginning of the season I claimed that the Rockets would be above .500 and miss the playoffs yet again. If they actually end up at the 9th seed again and the Lakers sneak into the playoffs, I will be really mad…

  5. BeatHoustonGuy says:

    howard and bynum to d-league…

  6. Bstarr says:

    Aaaaah Mike Woodson you let me down yesterday in the 4th quarter. Never bench Amar’e again in a game vs the Heat.
    You need big & tall players to get the job done defensively.

    Heat deserve to win the game the way they played the 2nd half but you made it easy for them to steal it from you.

    Congrats Heat fans, see you in the playoffs.

  7. topotamadre says:

    This guy’s a wreck. He should retire asap. He’s robbed both LA and Philly, I bet the 76ers will get rid of him this summer right away without even making an offer.

  8. boon says:

    “Dwight is a loyal athlete and loyal person. He’s not a quitter and doesn’t run from situations.”

    …mm-hmm…

    • LBJ06 says:

      what are u talkin about he is a quitter. he quit on magic and ran to lakers when he could have helped them in a big way and i think he is gonna leave when lakers don’t win

      • XPviper says:

        boon is saying the same thing as you :D

      • duy says:

        what are you talking about? the guy above was saying that he’s a quitter. Didn’t you get the “mm-hmm..”?

      • dattebayo says:

        You don’t understand sarcasm, do you?

      • kb24 lj6 dwade3 says:

        says a lebron fan lol

      • menez13 says:

        Obviously u r not reading properly…

      • Vino says:

        That was one heck of a screen that Dwight did for Kobe to deliver that monster jam. He locked his opponent in so hard that they stood completely still. If it were Gasol, it wouldve been hard for Kobe to dunk bc the oppoent wouldve pushed Gasol into Kobe, either blocking his way or alter Kobe’s path to the rim.

      • paqnojo says:

        You are worse then Sheldon from the Big bang theory…