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: A lot of blowouts across the board last night, but there were three close ones: Miami rallying to win its 20th straight in Philly, the Hawks edging the Lakers in a controversial finish and our choice of the day, the Grizzlies doing their grit-and-grind act in Clipperland. Don’t look now, but the team once known as the “Hang Time Grizzlies” has taken hold of the No. 3 spot in the West and is only three games back of mighty OKC for No. 2. Gotta love the work Marc Gasol put in last night (21 points on 10-for-14 shooting). A nice contribution from Tayshuan Prince (18 points, six rebounds) is nothing to sneeze at, either.
News of the morning
Garnett, Pierce reach milestones in win — The Celtics’ win over the Raptors last night moved Boston into a three-way tie with Chicago and Atlanta for the No. 5 seed in the East (tiebreakers would put the Celts at No. 6). But bigger than playoff positioning was that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce both moved a little higher in the all-time scoring record book — Garnett into 15th place, Pierce into 20th. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has a great story not only looking at that milestone for the Boston duo, but also at the friendship the two have forged over the years:
Kevin Garnett was not exaggerating about his relationship with Paul Pierce. Despite Garnett being 17 months older than Pierce, they were part of the high school class of 1995 and the two often played ball together during summers while participating in basketball camps.
A long way from when Garnett donned the cover of Sports Illustrated with “Ready or Not” next to his smiling face as he became the first of the new generation of prep-to-pro prospects. A long way from when doubts about Pierce’s athletic ability and ability to score in the NBA dropped him below Raef LaFrentz, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Jason Williams, and Larry Hughes in the 1998 NBA draft.
What’s more, that quartet – all of whom are retired or in Traylor’s case, deceased – have just 2,520 more points combined than Pierce himself.
Neither Pierce nor Garnett will reflect fully on their accomplishments until they are done. They are consumed with the Celtics’ effort to finish the season strong, their quest to win at least one more title before they depart Boston, their desire to remain relevant and productive in a young man’s game.
But it’s been nearly 18 years since Garnett decided to enter the draft and about 20 since he and Pierce formed a bond, and that wasn’t lost on the reflective leader.
“You guys have no idea what I was like as a kid,” said Garnett, who seemed to understand this moment required more than a few low-key ‘aw shucks’ statements. “I didn’t have all the magazines but for some reason I had all the pictures in the magazines. I don’t how I was able to acquire that but that’s another story. I just fantasized, mimicked, appreciated, all the things that a young kid does when he’s creating heroes and he’s creating stories in his head.”
Garnett couldn’t help but reminisce, when as a country kid from South Carolina, he visited Los Angeles and played on various all-star teams, bonding with Pierce, then a high-level Division 1 recruit from Inglewood High School.
Pierce embraced him, and if the two weren’t busy trying to improve their national basketball reputation, they were bonding.
“What you all don’t know is that Paul and I have history and it’s only right that we come in here and we make history together,” he said. “Thirteen, 14 [years old], tearing up his mom’s living room, breaking vases, almost getting our [butts] whupped. First time I ever experienced Crenshaw [Boulevard] on a Sunday, Paul taking me out being 15, 16 years old. Then finally being able to follow our dreams . . . having some duration together, trying to go to the same school then obviously going different paths then finally meeting up here in Boston, winning a championship, doing the things we’ve been doing since we’ve been here.”
Lin’s pep talk helps fire up Rockets — With the taste of Saturday’s 107-105 loss in Phoenix still in their mouths, the Houston Rockets got out of the gates slowly against the Suns at home. By the second quarter, Phoenix had opened up a five-point lead and the Rockets called timeout to try to get back on track. While coach Kevin McHale had something to say about the rough start, it was point guard Jeremy Lin’s words that helped get Houston out of an early funk and inspire the Rockets to an eventual 30-point rout of the Suns, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Midway through the second quarter at Toyota Center, the Rockets were sinking, the Phoenix Suns were leading, and Saturday’s confounding and deflating Rockets loss seemed to be repeating itself.
James Harden had missed a 3-pointer and then failed to get back defensively, leaving Jared Dudley open for a corner 3 and a five-point Phoenix lead. As cranky as coach Kevin McHale had been since Saturday’s two-point loss, the message during the timeout must have been at full blast.
The point was clearly made, but this time McHale didn’t have to make it. The Rockets heard all they needed from each other, returning to the floor transformed. The game was never the same, either.
The Rockets went from that timeout to 18 dominant minutes and from Saturday’s loss in Phoenix to a 111-81 blowout of the Suns on Wednesday night to open a seven-game homestand with their biggest rout of the Suns in franchise history.
It all began with those few minutes recharging their batteries on the bench.
“It was J. Lin,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said of the message Jeremy Lin led during the timeout. “We said something like, ‘C’mon, this game is way bigger for us than it is for them. We have to win this game with defense.’
“I think all five guys bought in and really played hard. Guys were all over the place. Guys were really physical defensively. We were getting on the floor. We were taking charges. We were doing all those tough, nitty-gritty things that we didn’t do when we played them in Phoenix.”
They nearly matched the Suns’ 16-0 run on Saturday with a 15-0 run of their own coming out of the timeout Wednesday.
From the timeout to the end of the half, the Rockets bolted through a 20-2 burst to take control. They kept pouring it on, making 19 of 30 shots over an 18-minute span and outscoring the Suns 52-19.
Backcourt depth on Knicks’ minds? — Given that center Tyson Chandler left last night’s blowout loss in Denver with a knee injury, the thinking might be that the Knicks would plan on adding a frontcourt player to their mix. As we mentioned in this space before, New York has been pondering a roster addition, but the move of choice may be to bolster the guard corps instead of the frontline. Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com has more on what the Knicks may do next for the roster:
The Knicks’ immediate need is in the frontcourt, but here’s the problem: There are no good big men to sign. As one seasoned agent put it, “It’s pretty much desolate.” The dismal field includes Tony Battie, Josh Boone, Brian Cook, Dan Gadzuric, Troy Murphy, Ben Wallace, Hassan Whiteside and Sean Williams.
The most intriguing free agent is Henry Sims, who was recently released by the Hornets on a 10-day contract after playing for the D-League’s Erie BayHawks. But a source close to the Knicks said that if the team released or bought out a player — possibly James White as Woodson is too committed to Rasheed Wallace — they would likely not sign a big. That’s especially because the Knicks don’t want to spend time this season developing the rookie Sims. They’re in veteran mode.
Instead, the source said, the Knicks would be interested in a younger, but experienced, backup point guard. That player would build on Raymond Felton’s aggressive play in transition and half-court sets to start games. While Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni are wise floor generals, they simply don’t have the consistent speed and quickness to get into the paint and make plays.
The Knicks sometimes lack offensive balance from their first to second unit, and without Amar’e Stoudemire for the long haul, they’re going to need more perimeter penetration to create more shot opportunities. Not to mention, Carmelo Anthony‘s right knee is still bothering him, so his teammates need to make things easier on the Knicks’ star. The number of his routine isolation grind-outs must diminish.
The source said that point guard Delonte West makes the most sense for the Knicks. Also available is Sundiata Gaines, 26, who averaged 5.1 points, 2.2 assists and one steal in 14 minutes per game last season for the Nets, but he’s not regarded as highly in NBA circles. Another option could’ve been Jannero Pargo, but he’s signing a 10-day deal with the Bobcats.
Thorn calls Bynum’s knee injury ‘bizarre’ — The saga of Andrew Bynum and the Sixers has been well documented. So we won’t get into all the painful past details of how the Bynum-Philadelphia 76ers marriage has gone off the tracks due to the big man’s recurring knee woes. The newest piece of info, though, is that Sixers president Rod Thorn is chiming in on the state of Bynum, the Sixers and more in an interview with John Wolfe of The News Journal (via USA Today):
Sixers president Rod Thorn called Andrew Bynum’s injury situation “bizarre” and confirmed that insurance would reimburse the organization for at least a portion of the one-time All-Star center’s $16.9 million salary this season.
“There is a league-wide insurance that he’s under that gives you some relief along those lines,” Thorn said before the Sixers played the Miami Heat on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center. “It’s the same league-wide program that every player’s under. Unless you have a pre-existing condition — and he didn’t — so he’s on the same one as everybody else.”
That Bynum’s salary is at least partially insured lends credence to the team’s assertion that four doctors reviewed his medical history and approved the trade. Sixers co-owner and CEO Adam Aron has said that six doctors have actively treated Bynum throughout the season.
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. The Sixers expected Bynum to be ready to play in the season opener, but as the season progressed, the team and player repeatedly delayed the date of his expected debut.
“It’s a little bizarre, there’s no doubt about it,” Thorn said about Bynum’s inability to get on the court. “He’s had problems. He’s worked very hard. As you can see when you see him, he’s huge. His upper body, he works in the weight room, he works hard, he just hasn’t been able to play. It’s been very tough for him and obviously it’s been very tough for us.”
Earlier this week, a Sixers spokesperson said that Bynum is still visiting with doctors and considering how to best attempt to resolve his knee troubles.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen,” Thorn said about whether Bynum will opt for surgery. “I think Andrew is very attuned to himself physically. He’s obviously seen a lot of doctors, so I think he’ll be able to make that decision when the time comes.”
ICYMI of the night: Big men sharing the ball is always fun to watch. Big men sharing the ball WITH FLAIR, as Donatas Motiejunas does with Omer Asik, is even better: