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: Fourteen games on the slate all-but ensured plenty of drama around the Association … and that’s exactly what we got. There were several comeback games, but most notably Jazz-Cavs (which Cleveland won), Celtics-Pacers (which Boston won), Lakers-Hornets (which L.A. won) and Magic-Heat (which Miami won). Whew! Lot of great games to pick from just from that slate, and we’re not even getting to Blazers-Grizz (another rally, this time by Memphis) or Kings-Warriors (where Klay Thompson played the hero). Picking one comeback over another is never easy, but that is what we’re here to do: make the tough decisions. All that said, we’re going with Celtics-Pacers as our one to watch this morning. Indiana seemingly had this one in the bag thanks to some clutch baskets by George Hill, but Kevin Garnett showed why he’s a future Hall of Famer with his pinpoint pass to Jeff Green to clinch the win.
News of the morning
Lakers bond stronger after rally — In case you were living under a rock last night (or even this morning) and missed the Lakers’ epic comeback from a 25-point hole in New Orleans last night, our multimedia crew has all the best moments from L.A.’s stunning win. A win like the one the Lakers experience last night not only helped get them closer to the No. 8 spot in the West playoff race, but also created more of a bond amongst the team. Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News has more:
The Lakers’ 108-102 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets didn’t just mark a game in which they overcame a 25-point deficit against a sub.-500 opponent.
This didn’t just mark the first time the Lakers overcame such a large gap since overcoming a 30-point deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. The Lakers’ latest win gave them renewed confidence they can overcome any obstacle.
“Games like this really strengthen the bond between us players,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “That’s really what the playoffs are all about. You have adversity. It’s about who’s going to stick together and who’s not going to break.”
It helps that the win improves the bottom line results, too.
With the Utah Jazz losing Tuesday to Cleveland, the Lakers (31-31) trail Utah (32-29) by only 1 games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Lakers sat in their locker room afterwards eagerly watching the final minutes of Houston’s loss to Dallas.
“Come on, Dallas!” Lakers forward Metta World Peace yelled from his stall. “Do what you gotta do!”
With Houston’s loss, the Lakers are only two games behind the Rockets (33-29) for the seventh seed.
Bryant took over the offense by scoring 18 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard overcame early foul trouble by taking a large defensive role, including blocking Robin Lopez’s layup attempt with 27 seconds remaining. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks posted 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter by making 4 of 5 three-point attempts.
“Dwight played big. When he’s like that and Kobe’s like this, that’s kind of what everybody envisioned it would be,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We hope we can build on this.”
The roles worked out perfectly.
Woodson: Anthony has fluid buildup in knee — After admitting that he should have pulled Carmelo Anthony out of Monday’s game in Cleveland when Anthony asked instead of letting him suffer a knee injury, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said his star forward will get his rest now. An MRI revealed that Anthony has fluid buildup in his injured right knee and will be taking a seat for a few games, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday:
Mike Woodson said the MRI on Carmelo Anthony’s injured right knee showed “some fluid buildup” in there.
“That’s what’s causing the stiffness,” Woodson said. “Rest will probably be the best thing for him.”
Anthony rested Wednesday night, sitting out against the Pistons. Woodson said Anthony would be evaluated again Thursday night and if he feels better, he could play against the Thunder at the Garden. Woodson said it will be Anthony’s decision.
“I’ll do whatever he wants to do,” Woodson said. “Trust me. Players know their own body. If he tells me he wants to play I’m going to play him. I’m not going to fight him on that . . . If he says, ‘Coach, I need to sit down and rest a game or two,’ I’m going to grant that, absolutely.”
The irony is Woodson said Anthony asked out of Monday’s game in Cleveland before he aggravated his knee and the coach didn’t listen to him.
“He just kind of nodded that his knee wasn’t right,” Woodson said. “I kind of ignored it somewhat. Maybe I shouldn’t have.”
After tripping over his own feet, Anthony fell in the second quarter in Cleveland. When he got up, he walked right to the locker room and never returned. The Knicks were down 22 at the time and rallied to win behind a strong game from Amar’e Stoudemire. This was the seventh game Anthony has missed all or part of this season.
“Obviously he was hurting,” Woodson said. “He asked me to bring him out. I kind of ignored it because we were down. I probably should have taken him out and then he took the spill and he left the game because he was hurting. I didn’t heed to it because I’ve seen him banged up and hit and things of that nature.”
Howard’s comments irritate ex-Orlando mates Lewis, Nelson — In the 2004 Draft, the Magic took Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick and, 19 picks later, worked out a savvy trade with the Nuggets to add Jameer Nelson to the fold, too. Three seasons later, with the Magic as a budding young team in the East, Orlando added Rashard Lewis as a free agent. From there, the Magic began a steady climb in the East, culminating in a 2009 Finals appearance as well as three division titles. Nelson and Lewis joined Howard as All-Stars in 2009, but apparently Dwight’s memory of his teammates and his days in Orlando isn’t so clear. His comments to a local CBS affiliate in L.A. about his Magic teammates riled up Nelson and Lewis, who is now with the Heat. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more:
Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis called Dwight Howard’s recent comments about his former Magic teammates “disrespectful” and defended Jameer Nelson, once one of Howard’s closest friends.
Howard told a CBS affiliate in L.A. that “my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.”
Howard, Lewis and Nelson were on the Magic team that defied odds and reached the NBA Finals in 2009.
“It’s disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was,” said Lewis, who signed this summer with the Miami Heat, which faced the Magic on Wednesday night.
“We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them…”
Nelson said after shootaround that he was disappointed in Howard’s professionalism.
“At some point, when are you a gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner,” Nelson told the Sentinel.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.”
Nelson and Howard were close, drafted together in the first round in 2004.
But their relationship eroded after Howard said before he was traded to the Lakers last summer that he would love to play with some of the league’s elite point guards, such as Chris Paul.
Former Magic General Manager Otis Smith said that Howard “threw Jameer under the bus.”
Said Lewis, “Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people. I don’t care. I got thick skin. That stuff bounces off me…but him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends.
“Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time..you hear him (Dwight) say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy, that guy and Jameer Nelson is the one who took us to the Finals, who helped, even though he got injured.”
Nets opt to bench Humphries — Entering the season, Nets forward Kris Humphries was fresh off back-to-back double-double campaigns in which he had elevated himself as one of the free-agent gems of 2012. Humphries re-signed with Brooklyn and was the Nets’ starting power forward for the first 18 games, but since then has seen his minutes dwindle. He’s averaging a mere 5.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg this season, with averages of 2.1 ppg and 4.1 rpg since the All-Star break. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that the Nets are going to dwindle Humphries’ minutes even further as they gear up for the playoffs, writes Seth Walder and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
Kris Humphries’ official divorce from Kim Kardashian is fast approaching, but his divorce from playing time will come much sooner. According to a league source, Humphries was informed by coach P.J. Carlesimo Wednesday morning that he will no longer be part of the Nets’ shortened rotation.
Carlesimo has said in recent days that he wants to limit the rotation to nine or 10 players as the Nets head into the stretch run before the postseason.
The 6’9″ forward is averaging 18.4 minutes per game this season, a number that has dwindled substantially since the beginning of the year.
The decision to bench Humphries is curious given how fervently the Nets have worked to keep him. In July, the Nets inked the forward to a two-year, $24 million contract. Two weeks ago, at the trade deadline, the Nets could have traded Humphries to their opponent Wednesday night, Charlotte, in a deal that would have brought back Ben Gordon. And yet, despite their commitment to Humphries financially and the value he could have returned in the trade market, his only spot on the team for the foreseeable future will be on the bench.
Carlesimo has preferred Reggie Evans to Humphries since taking over as coach, despite the fact that Evans essentially offers nothing in the offense department (3.4 points per game). Evans has shot just 46% from under and around the basket, according to NBA.com. Evans has had 22% of his shots blocked this year and 33% blocked in February and March. Though Humphries hasn’t displayed a vast improvement on the offensive end of the floor this year, he has been better, and has demonstrated some talent in that respect of the game in previous seasons.
Humphries hasn’t performed at the level that the Nets presumably hoped when they signed him to a lucrative contract in the offseason.
Carlesimo spoke about the rotation Wednesday morning in Charlotte, saying he wanted to limit it to 10 players and that MarShon Brooks will be part of that rotation.
“I think 10 for now. We’re looking more 10. We want to play minimum four bigs and it would be hard to take one of the smalls out of the rotation,” Carlesimo said. “I’m not hung up on the number as much as, for us, coming off the bench, there’s nights we need defense and there’s nights we need offense.”
Budinger, Love await word from doctors — As our own Steve Aschburner documented on Hang Time last night, the Wolves lost 242 man games through their first 57 games to injuries. Two key names on that list, Chase Budinger and All-Star Kevin Love, have missed a combined 90 games and have been a big reason why Minnesota has disappointed so much this season. Good news may be on the horizon for those two players, though, as they are scheduled to talk to their respective doctors this week, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:
Injured Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger will speak by phone with his Florida knee surgeon Tuesday, hopeful he’ll be cleared to practice again with his teammates soon thereafter.
On Wednesday, two-time All Star Kevin Love will revisit his New York City surgeon seeking clearance to play with a healing right shooting hand he has broken not once but twice this season.
Both could be back playing games within two weeks, three weeks at most for Budinger.
With such similar timetables, could both such long-awaited returns possibly come on the same night?
“You never know,” Love said. “You never know.”
Either way, both hope to play at least the season’s final 15 games, Love perhaps a little more than that.
Love said he’ll join the team in Houston the Friday after his Wednesday’s doctor’s visit. He said he won’t play immediately that night even if he does get doctor’s clearance —like he did when he came back the first time in November — because he had surgery this time, on Jan. 15.
But probably not too terribly long after that …
“It’s really up to the doctor and myself and Glen and David,” he said, referring to owner Glen Taylor and basketball President David Kahn. “But until I see what the doctor says, I just won’t know.”
ICYMI of the night: We aren’t sure if this Jamal Crawford-to-Blake Griffin is the dunk of the year, but it has got to be in the running: