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 tend to like the closer games as our nominees for the one to watch each morning, but we’re going with a game that, score-wise, wasn’t so pretty. Still, last night’s Rockets-Warriors game was worth watching for several reasons: two teams fighting it out for the right to avoid San Antonio or Oklahoma City in the first round, Golden State with revenge on its mind for the rout Houston put on them the last time at Toyota Center and a chance to see some good young talent (James Harden, Steph Curry, Omer Asik, David Lee, et al) square off. Save for a Rockets surge in the third quarter, the Warriors never really lost control of this one and won in a rout, strengthening their grip on the No. 6 seed out West.
News of the morning
Bryant doubtful vs. Suns — Since injuring his ankle on a potential game-winning shot in Atlanta on Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant has played 12 minutes, gone 0-for-4 from the field and sat out one game (Sunday, a win over the Kings). It appears Bryant won’t be suiting up anytime soon, writes Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, and that Bryant is unlikely to play in the Lakers’ next game:
Kobe Bryant’s sprained left ankle didn’t feel strong enough for Bryant even to test it on the court Sunday before skipping the Lakers’ game against Sacramento.
Bryant is considered doubtful to play Monday in Phoenix, according to a Lakers spokesman.
If Bryant doesn’t play against the Suns, he will have three more days of rest and treatment before the Lakers play their next game Friday night against Washington.
Two days after that is the Lakers’ only multigame trip left this regular season: at Golden State, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Sacramento.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni had expected Bryant to test the ankle in the hours before the game vs. the Kings on Sunday night, but Bryant opted to save the effort given the minimal chance he would actually play vs. Sacramento, which was shorthanded without leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins (quadriceps).
It was Bryant’s first game of the season not playing. He played one quarter on the ankle in Indiana on Friday before telling Lakers coaches: “I can’t go.”
Jodie Meeks was the replacement starter at shooting guard in Bryant’s place Sunday night, though D’Antoni said he has already learned not to count Bryant out too early.
“I didn’t think he had any chance (Friday in Indiana), and he played,” D’Antoni said.
Bulls’ Rose adds more consistent 3-pointer to arsenal — Entering the 2010-11 season, Derrick Rose was a career 24.2 percent shooter from 3-point range and had made 32 3-pointers in his career. That season, the one in which Rose was named league MVP, he showed off a 3-point stroke that had him making a respectable 33.2 percent of his attempts and 128 total 3-pointers. Though he fell back a little bit last season (54 3-pointers made, 31.2 percent), Rose had become a serviceable 3-point shooter. After suffering a season-ending ACL injury in the 2012 playoffs, Rose has been rehabbing away, and, not surprisingly, adding to his game. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports that Rose has put in particular work to make his 3-point shooting game as consistent as possible:
Rose hasn’t played since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the playoff opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 28. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau says the franchise is not pressuring Rose to return.
“This kid has done everything to come back,” Thibodeau told Yahoo! Sports. “When he is ready, he’ll be ready and we will know. He is getting closer. We don’t want him out there unless he’s completely comfortable. He’s handled his part great. Everyone has to remain patient, let him work through it and he’s going to be fine.”
Rose has not shot over 35 percent from 3-point range in his NBA career, but during his layoff he has spent time working on his 3-pointer and says he’s more confident in it now. The right-handed shooter also has been working on his left-handed runner shot. If Rose’s athleticism is close to what it was with his improved shooting, he can be even more dangerous offensively than he was before.
“I see his improvement each and every day,” Thibodeau said. “And as I’ve told him, we’ve waited this long and we don’t mind waiting until he is completely comfortable to play. And if that means a couple more games, five games, whatever it is. And that would be for any player, we don’t want to put someone out there that is not comfortable with being out there.”
“You can only imagine what [Rose] would bring,” teammate Carlos Boozer said. “You can’t even put that into words. If you get an MVP player like him back it changes your whole outlook.
“Remember, last year before he got hurt we were thinking we were going to be the champs. We felt we had every component to be champions last year.”
Lakers’ Hill may be back for playoffs — Despite an ankle injury to Kobe Bryant that sidelined him for Sunday’s game against the Kings, the Lakers topped Sacramento to maintain their ever-so-slight lead over Utah for the West’s N0. 8 seed. The Lakers have been shackled by depth issues all season, some of which began when young forward Jordan Hill had hip surgery in early January and was thought to be done for the season. Turns out, Hill is healing up nicely and could be on the active roster once playoff time rolls around, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
It remains a long shot, but Lakers forward Jordan Hill said doctors have told him there’s a slim possibility he could return in late April or early May after spending the past two months rehabbing from a surgically repaired left hip.
Hill said he’s been off crutches for the past three weeks has performed exercises on bike and elliptical machines. Though he’s occasionally come out to the practice court at the Lakers’ training facility dressed in basketball gear, Hill says he hasn’t performed any basketball exercises.
Hill said he plans to meet with team doctors in three weeks to reevaluate the possibility he’d return assuming the Lakers remain in the playoffs by then. The Lakers (35-32) have a half-game lead over the Utah Jazz (34-32) for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lakers play their last regular-season game April 17 against the Houston Rockets. Assuming the Lakers make the playoffs, their best-of-seven first-round series would start at an away venue either on April 20 or 21st.
After having surgery Jan. 23 on his left hip, the Lakers expected Hill to stay sidelined for at least six months. Hill injured his left hip in the Lakers’ loss Jan. 6th against the Denver Nuggets. He had appeared in 29 games averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes.
“People keep forgetting about Jordan Hill,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant recently said. “We’re missing him. He’s a big part of our team. What he does on the glass and his ability to stretch the defense, he’s a really big part of what we do defensively as well.”
Ilyasova in rhythm again with Bucks — After a breakout campaign a season ago in Milwaukee, Ersan Ilyasova became one of the marquee free agents of the summer of 2012. Although some teams showed interest in the multi-faceted forward, he eventually re-signed with the Bucks for four years and $31.6 million. But Ilyasova struggled to regain his form from a season ago and was often on the outs with former coach Scott Skiles early in the season. In a great feature on not just Ilyasova’s season, but his overall NBA career, the Racine Journal-Times’ Gery Woelfel looks at how the Bucks’ big man has switched his fortunes:
After a sluggish start to this season, when former Bucks coach Scott Skiles shuffled him in and out of the starting lineup while reducing his minutes, Ilyasova is thriving for the 32-32 Bucks, who hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
While he is averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for the season, Ilyasova has scored at least 19 points in eight of the last 13 games. That included a 29-point, 11-rebound outburst against Toronto and a 26-point, 17-rebound outing against the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat Friday night.
Jim Boylan, who promptly inserted Ilyasova into the starting lineup when he assumed the head coaching reins, is delighted with his young starting power forward.
“Ersan has been really, really consistent with his scoring, his effort, his rebounding,” Boylan said. “He’s done so much for us. When we didn’t have him for those games (against Golden State and Sacramento last week), it showed how much we missed him.
“It’s incredible the amount of progress he’s made as a player.”
Boylan is more impressed with Ilyasova’s growth off the court.
“Ers came from a foreign country into a new environment,” Boylan said. “ I played myself over in Europe. I lived in another country (Switzerland) for six years, so I understand Ers’ situation. People think it’s easy to come in and hit the ground running. It isn’t.
“So to see how far Ers has come is amazing and a credit to him.”
Marbury to help coach Chinese national team? — Stephon Marbury hasn’t played in the NBA since a 23-game stint with the Celtics during the 2008-09 season (remember that?). Since then, Marbury has made a name for himself playing for the Bejing Ducks in China, leading them to a championship in 2012. His team is out of the playoffs after losing in the semifinals, but Marbury reportedly has a new gig to fulfill. According to Niubball.com, Marbury says he will serve as an assistant coach for the Chinese national team:
In an interview on BTV, the 36 year-old guard announced that he will serve as an assistant coach for Beijing as they prepare to participate in the 2013 China National Games. He will work under his CBA head coach Min Lulei, who serves the same position for the Beijing Ducks.
The National Games, which happen once every four years, are completely separate from the Chinese Basketball Association season. As a sort of intra-China Olympics, the National Games pit the country’s different provinces against each other in various athletic events, including basketball.
The two-week competition will start in late August in host-province Liaoning. However, there will be a qualifying tournament in late April for basketball. Guangdong won the basketball tournament in 2009, which was held in various cities in Shandong.
Marbury’s addition to the coaching staff comes on the heels of other big news this week. The Beijing team got a boost when it was announced that Sun Yue, who plays for Beijing Aoshen — a team that is not part of the Chinese Basketball Association — will be representing Beijing at the Games, in addition to several other Aoshen players. A longtime key contributor for the National Team, Sun will be one of the best players in the tournament.
The National Games, though technically centered around athletic competition are the epitome of not only basketball, but sports with Chinese characteristics. With the eyes of provincial governments focused directly on their teams, the Games’ main purpose serves government officials, who can be gain status and be promoted to bigger and better positions if their teams achieve good results. Though the Olympics trump all in terms of importance, the National Games is a major event and one that places great pressure on athletes to perform for the glory of their province.