Morning Shootaround — March 27

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: Is there any other choice this morning but that OT thriller between the Mavs and Clippers from Dallas? The Mavs have now won seven of their last 10 games to pull within a game of the L.A. Lakers for No. 8 in the West while the Clippers are struggling a little and lost their long-held No. 3 seed in the West to the Denver Nuggets with this defeat. The Clips might not have been in this position had Blake Griffin‘s amazing shot with :00.4 left counted, but he was called for an offensive foul in the must-see play of the game. Still, credit to the Mavs, who are truly not giving up on this dream of making the playoffs this season and have a healthy Dirk Nowitzki ready to lead them to their goal.

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News of the morning

Magic to shut down Vucevic for season? | Del Negro not worrying about future | Banged-up Celtics falling fast in East | World Peace diagnosed with torn meniscus

Magic’s Vucevic done for season?In case you missed it, Nikola Vucevic is fourth in the league in rebounds per game (11.5) and is third overall in total rebounds (780), trailing only Omer Asik and Dwight Howard. Pretty impressive stuff for a player thought of as a throw-in/afterthought in the Howard mega-deal that sent the ex-Magic big man to the L.A. Lakers last summer. While Vucevic has enjoyed a breakout season, he won’t play in tonight’s game against Charlotte and hasn’t played since March 19. Vucevic is recovering after getting hit in the mouth vs. Indiana and has been dealing with concussion symptoms since then. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more on Vucevic, whom the Magic may just keep out of the lineup for a while:

Nik Vucevic, who is recovering from a mild concussion he sustained on March 19, won’t play when the Orlando Magic play the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

Vucevic said Tuesday he wasn’t scheduled to accompany the team to North Carolina, but he said he expects to play again this season.

“I’m getting better,” the 22-year-old center said. “I’m better day-by-day. I’ll leave it up to the trainer and the doctor.”

Vucevic suffered his injury when he absorbed an elbow to his mouth against the Indiana Pacers. The shot left him a bit dazed and left him wondering whether he had lost any teeth.

In the days that followed, he said he had a headache and some sensitivity to light.

After some tests, a doctor determined he had sustained a concussion.

In Dec. 2011, the league instituted a concussion protocol.

Physician Jeffrey Kutcher, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and the director of the NBA’s concussion program, consults with all teams on the return-to-play schedules of players who have suffered concussions.

Coach Jacque Vaughn might decide to not to play Vucevic even after Vucevic receives a medical OK to play again. Vaughn has been cautious in putting players back on the court after injuries.

Vucevic wouldn’t speculate on how close he is to playing again.

“I don’t know,” he said. “All that is up to the trainer. I just follow what he says.”

Del Negro not fretting futureA cursory search of this very blog for the term “Del Negro” brings up a smorgasbord of posts about L.A. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and his seemingly always-tenuous future with the team. Del Negro has, throughout his nearly three full seasons on the job in L.A., become a popular whipping boy whenever things go a little bit south in Clipperland. Such is the case again for the Clippers coach. He is operating on the last year of his contract and hasn’t been offered an extension by the team, but Del Negro tells the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner the future is the last thing on his mind:

Del Negro was asked by a member of the media in front of the group about his coaching future with the Clippers.

The Clippers picked up Del Negro’s contract last year, but he wasn’t given an extension. His deal expires when the season is over.

“I enjoy the pressure,” Del Negro said. “That’s what it’s about. I love the competition. Could things be a little bit better in certain areas? Of course. But all those things get answered at the end of the year.

“Our focus is on tonight’s game and on this season and all those things get answered at the end of the season, one way or the other,” he said.

The Clippers are playoff-bound for the second consecutive season under Del Negro. It will be only the third time in franchise history the Clippers have had consecutive playoff appearances.

Del Negro was asked if his future was tied to how far the Clipper go in the playoffs this season.

“No, my future is great,” Del Negro responded. “I’ve got a great future, no matter what. I’ve been pretty fortunate, so I don’t really worry about that stuff so much. Like I said, all those things take care of themselves when we finish.”

Celtics falling fast in East raceWith no Kevin Garnett and no Courtney Lee last night against the Knicks, the Celtics were at a decided disadvantage before the game ever began. Throw in a four-game losing streak heading into last night’s contest and mix in the overall sloppy play of Boston throughout its 100-85 beating and the Celtics now sport a five-game losing streak and have fallen to No. 7 in the East. Worse yet for the Celtics is that Milwaukee is just 1 1/2 games behind them and owns the tie-breaker, too. Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe has more on the late-season stumbles of the Celtics:

For the first time since Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury in January, it seemed as though the Celtics had finally – if not reluctantly — succumbed to the reality of their limited roster. A 15-point home loss to a shorthanded team will do that.

“It’s been like that for us all season long, it just seems like it gets worse and worse,” captain Paul Pierce said of the injuries. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

The Celtics have lost five consecutive games, and as Garnett is expected to miss up to two weeks with inflammation in his left ankle, a rather gloomy question looms:

Is this what the Celtics can expect while their defensive anchor is out?

“No,” a defiant coach Doc Rivers said. “Guys, I think you’ve been around me long enough. Kevin’s not playing. I don’t worry about it. I really don’t.

“Somebody else has to play better. A lot of guys. It’s not going to be one guy. But overall, we were pretty bad [Tuesday]. Kevin had nothing to do with that.”

After a tight start, the Knicks, who won their fifth straight, utilized a back-breaking 14-0 run in the second quarter to separate themselves. A J.R. Smith 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer gave New York a 15-point lead entering the fourth.

The fans began to file out midway through the final quarter, having seen enough.

“We just didn’t have it,” Rivers said. “I wish I knew why.”

The Celtics had talked in weeks past that they weren’t concerned with trying to move up in the standings to try to earn home-court advantage.

Now, such a possibility is gone.

If the Celtics end up tied with the Bucks in the final playoff spot, Milwaukee will own the tiebreaker as they’ve beaten Boston in three of their four matchups this season.

Which means the Celtics would be the East’s eighth-seeded team and would face powerhouse Miami in the first round of the playoffs.

“Listen, the decision we’re making with Kevin is the right one,” Rivers said. “But we still want to win games.

“We’re not going to let one game say that we’re not going to win any more games. It’s silly to me to even think that way. We have to get ready for tomorrow and go from there.”

World Peace suffers torn meniscusThings can’t seem to ever turn around for the Lakers. After a fairly successful start to March, L.A. has lost three in a row and holds a one-game lead over both Utah and Dallas for the No. 8 seed in the West. Now comes word that small forward Metta World Peace, who has started 64 of the 70 games he’s played in this season, has a torn meniscus in his left knee. The injury deals a big blow to L.A.’s hopes of holding on to that last playoff spot and, worse yet, the Lakers have yet to find out precisely how long World Peace will be out. Sean Highkin of USA Today has more:

The Los Angeles Lakers took a serious setback Tuesday, when the team announced forward Metta World Peace has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. World Peace was injured during the Lakers’ loss Monday to the Golden State Warriors, and the team announced in a news release that an MRI showed a meniscus tear. He will be flown to Los Angeles — the Lakers are on the road to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday — for further evaluation before a timetable for his return is determined

The loss of World Peace comes at an inopportune time. The Lakers are clinging to a one-game lead on the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and with Pau Gasol finally healthy, coach Mike D’Antoni hoped to use the final weeks of the regular season to get his starting five reacquainted.

The loss of their starting small forward will likely force the Lakers to start Antawn Jamison alongside Earl Clark and Dwight Howard in the frontcourt. Not only will Jamison be playing out of position, but has the potential to take away one of the team’s most consistent scoring options off the bench.

ICYMI of the night: J.R. Smith went wherever he want and did whatever he wanted in last night’s win against the Celtics, as this play shows … :


4 Comments

  1. W/E says:

    Dallas and Utah 1 game behind Lakers, if Lakers dont make it to the playoffs they are simply the biggest failure in the history of the NBA and proves that Kobrick Bruant isnt even a top 10 all time player.

  2. matt says:

    The Mavs have had a pretty disappointing season thus far, but when they get motivated (and stop shaving, evidently) it looks like they know how to turn it up and compete with quality teams. Dirk had some fantastic fadeaways last night, and I loved watching OJ drive the baseline to tie it up! I saw the game on my iPad (the second half anyway) after my shift at DISH ended. I ride the bus home, and with my DISH Anywhere app I can take all my live TV and DVR wherever I go. I’m a big Nuggets fan, and with the tight race in the West I like to keep tabs on other teams above and below us in the standings. I normally hate the Mavs as a rule, since they contend pretty much every year against the Nuggets, but I was glad they beat the Clips, and it’s actually kinda’ cool to root for Dirk rather than against him!