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: In a season where we’ve had a 17-game win streak (by the Clippers) and a 27-game win streak (by the Heat), it might be easy to discount the Knicks’ 12-game run as something as ho-hum. But after a win last night in one of the toughest places to play — Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena — we’ve got to give New York some love this morning as our pick of the day. Every time it looked like Carmelo Anthony and company had this one wrapped up, Russell Westbrook would pick up the Thunder and send them charging back. Still, another quality win for the Knicks (to go along with victories over the Heat, Hawks, Celtics and Jazz) as they are hitting their stride at the right time. An extra nod of the head this morning to the Jazz, too, who showed some little-seen resiliency on the road by beating Golden State and taking control of the No. 8 spot out West.
News of the morning
Nowitzki hoping for best in Dallas — After the Dallas Mavericks missed out on landing Deron Williams, a former Dallas-area prep star, and didn’t have the assets to get into the trade mix for Dwight Howard last summer, owner Mark Cuban opted for some cheaper deals on several players. Many of those new faces are on one-year deals, giving Dallas another shot at the free-agent game this summer in hopes of landing a young star to pair with their aging-but-still-effective star, Dirk Nowitzki. To be certain, the Mavs’ floundering about in the West and their longshot odds to claim the conference’s playoff berth is hardly what Nowitzki or the Mavs had in mind this season. But Nowitzki, in a great interview with USA Today’s Sam Amick, talks about his plans for the future and the hope he has for Dallas:
The Dallas Mavericks star may have been critical of his owner’s approach in the past, back when the wounds of Mark Cuban’s cold and calculated roster-building ways were still fresh. But as Nowitzki nears the end of this memorable stretch of 12 consecutive postseason berths and ponders his future, the future Hall of Famer who vowed not to shave until his team reached the .500 mark swears he’s not still upset about the way Cuban broke up the 2010-11 championship team and ushered in all this mediocrity.
But if nothing has changed by next season, if the Mavericks’ imperfect-but-prudent plan to counteract the league’s harsh new collective bargaining agreement backfires because they aren’t able to land an impactful free agent this summer and return to the elite level during the twilight of Nowitzki’s career? Might Nowitzki — who will be a free agent in the summer of 2014 — considering retiring in a jersey other than the Mavs’ one he has always worn?
“Now that I already reached my goal (of winning it all), I really want to finish my career in Dallas,” Nowitzki told USA TODAY Sports recently. “But saying all that, I don’t want another year next year with the same as this year, (with) the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us. (Mavericks general manager) Donnie (Nelson) knows. Cuban knows. We want to get back to the championship level.”
Free-agents-to-be Dwight Howard of the Lakers and Chris Paul of the Clippers are expected by most to remain with their current teams, which may mean the Mavs pursue someone like Atlanta forward and fellow free-agent-to-be Josh Smith or perhaps do a deal for a young, dynamic player like Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins. Nowitzki, said this summer will determine whether or not it was the right move.
“You can’t really judge yet if it was a good move or the wrong move until you see what we get this summer,” he said. “If we end up with nothing again and sign eight or nine (players on) one-year deals, then maybe it wasn’t a good move to let everybody go. But if we can make this team younger and more explosive again and add a superstar, then maybe it wasn’t all bad. I guess the judgment is still kind of out.”
Cuban, who has consistently said he would not trade Nowitzki under any circumstances, is extremely sensitive to the idea that Nowitzki could ever don another jersey than the one he has worn since his rookie campaign in 1998.
“Of course he doesn’t want to fight for an eighth seed in the future; none of us do,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports via e-mail. “Beyond that, like he has told me and the world, he can’t see himself being anywhere else.”
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who has coached Nowitzki since 2008, expects him to be as good as ever in 2013-14.
“(The doctors) did whatever they needed to do in there (during the Oct. 19 arthroscopic knee surgery),” he told USA TODAY Sports. “Now he has the entire summer to cycle up to training camp.
“Mentally, I think he’s looking at playing two or three more years, so as long as he’s mentally locked in, his routine is always going to be consistent. He can keep playing at a superstar level. We’ve got to manage his situation the right way. We’ve got to get the right guys around him, to make sure we’re playing him the right number of minutes, and all those things.”
With the right players, and in the right jersey until the end.
“I’ve got obviously one more year on the contract next year, and by then I’m 36 and I’m sure I’ll play a couple more years,” he said. “It’s kind of tough to say how long (he’ll play). I’m thinking I’m going to sign another two or three year deal, and then slowly ride off.”
“I don’t want to be the guy who does it too long, you know? I want to be a guy who can still do some stuff at the end of his career, like Nashy (Lakers point guard and close friend of Nowitzki’s, Steve Nash) and those guys — (Kevin Garnett) and Tim Duncan.”
Rose not giving up hope on return — Wherever you stand on the Derrick Rose issue — whether it is that the former MVP should play now and in the playoffs or he should just shut it down and wait for 2013-14 — the Bulls’ star has the final say, of course. For a timeline’s sake, Rose first scrimmaged with his teammates on Feb. 18. Since then, there has been a lot of hope and talk that Rose would be returning soon. But the mental side of his rehab — particularly the ability to dunk off his injured left foot — has kept him from a return. But Rose tells the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson that he hasn’t ruled out a return for the season, despite what many may think:
“Oh, no,” Rose said, when asked if he’d announce he’s sitting out this season. “I’m keeping it open.”
After Sunday’s game against the Pistons, the Bulls have just six regular-season games remaining.
“I’m not trying to think about that right now,” Rose said. “I’m just trying to get better. I’m just trying to help my teammates, give them confidence to go out there and play hard. I’ll play whenever I’m ready to play. Who knows when I’m ready to? Right now, all I can do is just cheer on my teammates.”
Playing on a minutes limit wouldn’t bother him.
“I wouldn’t mind at all,” he said. “Of course I want to play more. But it’s not that big. I’m going to play whenever I’m ready. I don’t care if it’s 15 or 40 (minutes). I just love the game too much. Like I said, I’m just waiting and praying about it. And hopefully I’ll be out there soon.”
Since the likelihood of Rose sitting out the season increases with each day, he got asked if having another summer of rehabilitation and drill work would benefit him.
“I think it is where it gives me more time to work out if I don’t play,” Rose said. “But I think I have enough time already knowing I haven’t played in a long time. Just taking that time and getting my body together, it could definitely be big. But I’m going to come back whenever I’m ready.”
Wade likely to rest until playoffs begin — On Saturday night, LeBron James returned to Miami’s lineup after missing three games and looked just like his old self, scoring 27 points as Miami took care of Philadelphia. The same cannot be said for James’ superstar running-mate, Dwyane Wade, who hasn’t played since March 29 as he is resting a balky right knee. Wade tells ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace that he’s likely to ride the bench until the playoffs because he wants to be healthy once the Heat begin their championship defense:
Dwyane Wade won’t rule out missing the rest of the regular season to recover from a right knee injury, but the Miami Heat star said Sunday he hopes to return before the playoffs.
Wade has missed six of the Heat’s past eight games and is still dealing with soreness and swelling in the knee, which he has aggravated twice since initially injuring it a month ago.
“The most important thing is to be healthy,” Wade said Sunday, addressing the media for the first time since he last played March 29. “So when I feel it, then I’ll get back on the court. Obviously, I want to play. But I have to make sure that I’m right. You have to get healthy.”
Chris Bosh, who missed Saturday’s game, is recovering from a hyperextended right knee and said Sunday he wasn’t sure when he might try to return.
Wade, James and Bosh were among Miami’s players, coaches and front-office staff members who attended Sunday’s annual Heat Family Festival. The carnival-style event held outside of AmericanAirlines Arena raised more than $503,000 for local charities affiliated with the Heat.
While the injuries James and Bosh have been dealing with have been considered minor, there seems to be more concern around the team regarding Wade’s situation.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday that all three of his marquee players will be considered day to day for the rest of the regular season. But Spoelstra confirmed that Wade has been held back by consistent swelling in his knee.
“His body will tell us when we’ll play him,” Spoelstra said of Wade on Saturday. “He got hit right on top of his knee twice. He was able to resolve it, then get past it. But in the New Orleans game, he got beat up and was on the floor.”
Wade seemed to downplay the severity of the swelling and the bruise on Sunday, but alluded to areas around the knee that have been the focus of his recent treatment sessions.
Because the Heat have clinched the No. 1 seed in the East and are closing in on securing the best overall record in the league, the team’s approach is that it’s best to be cautious down the stretch and get players healthy now.
“We took care of business so we were able to say, ‘We have these injuries, so let’s take care of it now and be smart,'” Wade said. “I would love to be playing right now. As a player, if you get a couple of days off you, you want to get back to it. But I’m just trying to be smart with my doctors. When I feel like I can get back on the floor, then I will.”
Wade played through soreness in his left knee late last season and had it drained during the second round of the playoffs. He ultimately had surgery on the left knee last summer after the Heat beat Oklahoma City in the Finals.
With six games remaining on the Heat’s regular-season schedule, Wade said he’s hopeful he can get back on the court as early as this week. Miami plays Milwaukee on Tuesday, travels to Washington on Wednesday and hosts Boston on Friday.
“Obviously, the biggest thing is to get your wind back and get your legs back under you,” Wade said. “But I’ve been around the block a few times. It’ll be a little adjustment, but I’m not overly concerned about it. I do want to get back on the court before the playoffs to get a rhythm. Hopefully, sometime this week I can step back on the court.”
D’Antoni: World Peace ‘ahead of schedule’ on rehab — Just two weeks ago, the Lakers’ road to the playoffs got a lot tougher once they lost starting small forward Metta World Peace to a torn meniscus, an injury that was expected to keep him out of the lineup at least six weeks. But since the injury and subsequent surgery, World Peace has been apparently rehabbing like crazy and told the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina he could have played in last night’s loss to the Clippers. The Lakers aren’t going that far with World Peace’s progress, but are hoping he’ll be back much sooner than expected:
Lakers forward Metta World Peace walked down a Staples Center hallway in full stride and was bearing a wide smile.
He insisted he can return when the Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday at Staples Center despite having surgery to treat a lateral meniscus tear on his left knee a little more than a week ago.
“I’ve been ready to play,” World Peace told this newspaper following the Lakers’ 109-95 loss Sunday to the Clippers at Staples Center. “I could’ve played today.”
Not so fast.
The Lakers plan to have World Peace run today at 90 percent of his body weight on an elliptical machine before evaluating whether he can run with full body weight Tuesday. It’s likely he’ll then have to go through at least a practice before returning.
Still, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni described World Peace’s progression as “way ahead of schedule.” The Lakers estimated he’d sit out at least six weeks. But World Peace spent the past three days running and the past two participating in shooting exercises.
How did he progress so quickly?
“I’m good,” said World Peace, who’s missed the last six games. “I’m not a (wimp).”
“I was walking a day after (surgery). I only used the crutches because I was lazy,” World Peace said. “I was ready to go.”
Inconsistent defense an issue for Thunder — Back-to-back losses in March to the Nuggets and Grizzlies, two of the NBA’s better teams in both scoring in the paint and rebounding, raised concerns about the defending West champion Thunder, particularly in terms of defense. But since those losses, OKC posted a 6-1 record, including wins over San Antonio and Indiana — both of whom are solid defensive and rebounding teams. Yesterday’s matinee matchup with the Knicks, though, re-exposed some recent issues for the Thunder as they were pounded on the glass by New York, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
Oklahoma City followed up its best defensive performance of the season with one of its worst. After holding Indiana to eight points on 2-for-18 shooting in the fourth quarter Friday, the Thunder allowed a season high for points, yielded at least 30 points in three quarters (and 29 in the fourth) and allowed 19 offensive rebounds.
The rebounding was the worst of all evils.
That’s because Sunday marked the fifth time in the past 10 games that the Thunder has allowed at least 16 offensive rebounds. The Knicks converted their 19 offensive boards into 23 second-chance points.
“We just gave up too many offensive rebounds,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “When we did make them miss they got 19 offensive rebounds and 23 putback points. That’s not good. We should not be able to give up both of them.”
After out-rebounding the Pacers, the league’s best rebounding team, by 22, Sunday’s showing was the equivalent of five steps back after one step forward.
In its past 10 games, the Thunder has allowed 14 offensive rebounds. By comparison, the league’s high mark is Milwaukee’s 12.3.
“We just have to go back to the basics,” Brooks said. “We’re going to talk about it and we have been talking about it. The basics of rebounding is blocking out. It’s not rebounding. The rebound comes after a block out. If you focus on rebounding there’s too many athletes in this league that it’s a 50-50 ball. You block out first and then you go get the rebound.”
So are the players not blocking out enough?
“It’s a combination,” Brooks said. “Everybody has to think rebound. We’re such a high, explosive offensive transition team that we can’t think about that until we secure the ball. That’s just something that we will brush up on and try to get better at that the last five games.”
ICYMI of the night: It must be nice to be able to take off for a layup, get up in the air, and then decide you want to dunk it anyway …: