Morning Shootaround — March 8

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: Two games on the schedule, but only one of ‘em was a real must-see, making Thunder vs. Knicks our pick this morning. Kevin Durant put in work on basketball’s biggest stage, rolling up 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook had 21 points, six rebounds and five assists as OKC took a thriller at MSG. Great work put in, too, by the Knicks’ J.R. Smith as he scored a career-best 36 in the losing effort.

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News of the morning

Green finding way in Boston | Lin returns to Oakland | Knee still irking Cavs’ Irving | Report: Rockets, Morey agree to extension | Richmond seeks front-office job with Kings

Green taking command of bench unitThe transition Jeff Green has faced since coming to Boston in a 2011 deal hasn’t been easy on him or the team. Green had to acclimate himself to a new system in the span of a few months. Then, in the 2011 offseason, Green was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism that wiped out the 2011-12 season. Green then re-signed with the Celtics last summer for four-years and $36 million contract, but he struggled to find a groove in Boston. At last, though, Green is thriving as the leader of Boston’s reserve corps and is loving his role to boot, writes Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

“The past couple of weeks I just think I was more consistent,” he said. “That’s what (Rivers) sees. But he’s grown to trust my abilities, and allowed me to make mistakes. That being said, we can both see now how I can help this team out. He’s found where he can put me on the floor. He’s feeling more comfortable about it.“I’m just playing basketball,” said Green. “I have a training camp under my belt. I came here first in a trade and I wasn’t familiar with the schemes, nothing. It affected how I guarded at first, but it helped when I was able to have a training camp. It’s a long season, and things are just coming around.”

Green has taken over leadership of the second unit, and is usually on the floor at the end of games. That perpetual pressure Green imposes on himself is paying its highest dividend yet.

“I don’t see it any more than anyone else,” Ainge said of Green’s inner wrangles. “Jeff has opened up. He’s a communicative guy. The Jeff we’re seeing now is a Jeff who is more confident. He knows where he fits in, and as a result of confidence and rhythm you get more aggressive. Doc has been real good for Jeff in that way. He pushes him. His teammates also push him that way.”

Garnett has told him not to be so nice, in language that typically can’t be used here. They’ve all told him to be more selfish. But Green has the critiques covered.

That never-ending gravity was apparent the night of Feb. 20 in a tweet by @unclejeffgreen: “Damn altitude killed me today, tough (loss) but got another one tomorrow.”

Green came off the bench with 15 points that night during a loss to the Lakers in the Staples Center. He also had seven rebounds, four assists and a block. He may have been minus-11, but rare was the Celtic with something to crow about that night.

So Green sent out a modern mea culpa. He tweeted.

Lin returns to where it all really beganWhen ‘Linsanity’ burst onto the scene last season, most casual fans thought of Jeremy Lin as a solely New York Knicks kind of story. But a deeper look into Lin’s career reveals that his NBA journey actually began in Golden State. It was there that Lin, as an undrafted rookie, played 29 games in the 2010-11 season before being cut by the Warriors. After an appearance in the Houston Rockets’ training camp (where he was cut again), Lin landed in New York , went on his miracle run and parlayed that into a big payday with the Rockets last summer. As Houston plays Golden State tonight, though, Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury-News looks back on Lin’s NBA beginning:

A little more than a year after the birth of “Linsanity,” point guard Jeremy Lin returns to where it almost didn’t begin.

He was buried on the Warriors’ bench for 29 forgettable games two seasons ago. It was during that stretch when an elderly man with a special place in basketball history sat down and wrote him a fan letter.

“I figured he could use a little bit of encouragement,” recalled Wat Misaka, now 89 and living in Salt Lake City. “So I sent him a note that said: ‘Hang in there. It’s sure to get better.’ “

Things got better all right. Lin, now with the Houston Rockets, returns to Oracle Arena on Friday as an internationally known sensation playing on a three-year, $25 million contract.

A documentary that traces his unlikely rise to fame with the New York Knicks opened to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The 88-minute film, “Linsanity,” makes its San Francisco debut next Thursday at the Center for Asian American Media Festival.

Lin’s global fame means the world to Misaka, who in 1947 became the first non-Caucasian to play professional basketball in the U.S. The Japanese-American was a 5-foot-7, 150-pound point guard for the Knicks, even if his career only lasted three games.

The two finally met face to face in January, one night after the documentary about Lin’s journey from Palo Alto High to Harvard University and from D-League scrub to Knicks phenomenon was greeted by a standing ovation at Sundance. The Los Angeles Times called the documentary an “uber-inspirational tale.”

Misaka was scheduled to attend the Sundance screening but a blizzard disrupted the plan. Instead, he attended the Rockets’ game against the Utah Jazz a night later.

His reaction to finally meeting Lin?

“He was big,” Misaka said of the 6-3, 200 pound guard. “Especially since I’ve shrunk four inches since my playing days.”

The tone of modern media coverage for “Linsanity” could be similarly jarring, as San Francisco-born director Evan Jackson Leong discovered in making his well-received documentary.

Fortunately for him, he had access to Lin long before the cameras began to swarm. Leong began pestering Lin for permission to make a film while the point guard was still at Harvard.

Lin finally consented while with the Warriors, figuring the worst-case scenario would be having some cool footage of his basketball career to look back on later.

“We started it before I had ever gone to New York. That was the coolest part of it. We have the whole journey,” Lin told ESPN.com at the Sundance screening. “We have me being cut, me getting waived, me going to the D-League — the moments when I basically had to be dragged in front of the camera to be filmed, even though I didn’t really want to. Looking back, it was one of the best things ever.”

Leong laughs now when he recalls that he and his producers considered wrapping the project after Lin’s stay with the Warriors.

“We knew we had this great story of this kid who made the NBA, but was kind of a bittersweet for a ‘success story’ because his career wasn’t that great,” Leong said by phone from the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. “It was kind of a sad ending.

“So we were looking for an ending, right? In February, he gave it to us … and then he gave us another. And then it just got really crazy.”

Knee still bothering Cavs’ IrvingKyrie Irving showed off his All-Star credentials in leading the Cavs to a comeback win over the Jazz on Tuesday night. But he apparently is still struggling with a knee injury that caused him to miss two games in late February. Bob Finnan of The News-Herald has more on Irving’s injury and how the Cavs plan to handle it:

After Wednesday’s game at Quicken Loans Arena, Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving admitted his right knee is not 100 percent.

“I’m trying not to let it bother me,” Irving said. “It’s still bruised. The only way it’ll get better is to the sit out the rest of the season, and I’m not doing that.”

Irving played 38 minutes in the 104-101 victory over the Utah Jazz. It was a rough-and-tumble game, and the point guard took several hard falls.

The news caused a furor on Twitter.

A Cavs spokesman clarified the team has no plans to rest Irving.

“If he said it was bothering him again to the point that he can’t perform like I know he’s capable of, yeah (I’d considering shutting him down),” coach Byron Scott said.

Irving missed three games recently with a hyperextended right knee. He said he landed awkwardly in practice on Feb. 7. He played two games on the Florida trip, but things didn’t feel right. He had an MRI when the team got to Chicago. He missed the Bulls game on Feb. 26, Toronto on Feb. 27 and the Los Angeles Clippers on March 1. The 6-foot-3, 191-pound Irving had 20 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals against Utah.

Scott said he couldn’t tell if Irving’s knee bothered him against the Jazz.

“In the first half he looked like everyone else — disinterested in the game until the second half,” Scott said.

Scott added he planned on discussing the matter with Cavs athletic trainer Max Benton on Thursday.

“If Kyrie is hurt, I have no problem with sitting him down,” he said. “I want him to go out there and be effective. When I read it (in the clips), I hadn’t heard that. It definitely caught my attention.”

Report: Rockets, Morey agree to extensionThe Rockets have a tenuous grasp on the No. 7 seed in the West, thanks in part to a roster that has been built from the mind of their advanced metrics-following GM, Daryl Morey. Although Morey has been on the job in Houston since 2007, Houston has missed the playoffs the last three seasons. The Rockets seem much closer to the postseason than ever before and that progress has led to a contract extension for Morey, reports Mark Berman of MyFoxHouston.com:

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told FOX 26 Sports on Thursday that he and general manager Daryl Morey have reached a verbal agreement on the key components of a 4-year extension.

Morey has one-year left on his contract, so the four-year extension ties him to the Rockets through the 2017-18 season.

“The reason I extended Daryl, I thought he’s done a terrific job in his tenure with the Rockets,” Alexander said.

“I think he’s somebody we want to keep around for a long time to help construct the team.”

Morey joined the Rockets as assistant general manager in 2006, and succeeded Carroll Dawson as general manager the following year.

Prior to this season Morey traded for guard James Harden and signed guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik as free agents, moves that have propelled the Rockets into the playoff hunt.

Richmond seeking front-office gig with KingsIf you missed it earlier this week, our man David Aldridge had a great recap/update on the goings on with the Sacramento Kings sale. We’ll let you parse through that, but one of the key points of the story is that there are several folks who have contributed $1 million to keeping the Kings in town. One of those contributors is none other than Kings legend Mitch Richmond. Richmond is not only buying in to the Kings’ future to stay in town, but is also seeking a front-office job with the team, too, writes Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:

The first legitimate star of the Sacramento era is among the investors who each have committed $1 million and are bidding on the seven percent share being auctioned in bankruptcy proceedings.

But that’s not the bottom line. Richmond wants back into basketball, too.

Because uncertainty intrudes into virtually every conversation about the Kings and their future, Richmond declined to elaborate. There is an exhausting list of issues to be addressed and resolved before one city celebrates and the other city slumps.

But if things shake out Sacramento’s way? If the Mastrov/Burkle offer is presented and approved by the board of governors during the April 18-19 meetings? If the incoming owners clean out the basketball operations department headed by longtime president Geoff Petrie – who, coincidentally, traded an aging, discouraged Richmond in a masterful maneuver for Chris Webber in 1998? If Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson retains his influence and provides the necessary job references?

Richmond will contact a moving company and pack his bags. Though he has a home in Southern California, where he oversees a foundation (Rock Life) that addresses bullying and other social issues affecting children, he says he has not lost affection for Sacramento or forgotten the best of times with the Kings.

“This is a city that really gave me a lot,” Richmond said. “There was a time when I wasn’t happy about the trade, but this city, this team, the fans stood behind me from Day One. They came out and sold out every night. The (investment) was a good way to try to give back to the city, get involved. The Kings mean a lot to this community. It would just be a sad day if the Kings leave this community.”

ICYMI of the night: Injuries have prevented us from seeing one of the better jack-of-all-trades reserves this season, but now that Wilson Chandler is healthy and doing work for the Nuggets, we get plays like this:

9 Comments

  1. yoyosuites says:

    As for Mitch and the Kings offseason, good luck. Tough choices for the Kings in the draft and free agency this year. Evans, Patterson, Douglas. It’s hard to imagine paying Tyreke a lot for what he does. Good defender but really clogs the lane with insistent driving and does not spread the floor well. I have watched a lot of Kings basketball, rarely do you see Tyreke slashing back door from the weak side when Cousins is in the post. You have to wonder how good Tyreke would be had he been drafted to the spurs.

  2. DIRK-DURANT-KOBE-RONDO-WESTBROOK says:

    Houston is a young team that will get better every year

  3. miguel says:

    Great decision for the houston rockets and their future they are on a good run, great signs for houston in the future

  4. Dylan Ellison says:

    “Although Morey has been on the job in Houston since 2007, Houston hasn’t made the playoffs during his tenure.” Excuse me? I do recall the Houston Rockets having quite an epic playoff battle against the Lakers in the first round in 2009, it went on for 6 or 7 games and the Lakers eventually went on to beat the Magic for the championship. Come on Sekou Smith, you’re better than that!

    • Read FOOL says:

      He said that he has held down the job since 2007, but since 2009 they have not made the playoffs. Please learn to read.

    • ^^ says:

      sekeo said… last 3 yrs.

    • Art Vandelay says:

      Sorry to burst your bubble there, Dylan, but if you’re going to quote the author, at least quote what he actually wrote. He says “Although Morey has been on the job in Houston since 2007, Houston has missed the playoffs the last three seasons,” which either means the author edited the entry after your post (doubtful, based on my past readings/comments on this blog), or you read what you wanted to instead of what was written.

  5. Bstarr says:

    Man Jeff Green adds the spice to the Celtics offense. He attacks the ring with a lot of authority, can shoot from outside if necessary, and his D is good too. I really had my doubts about him after his surgery but I was wrong!! OKC can keep Kendrick Perkins, we have Jeff the Green monsterrrr!!