Morning Shootaround — April 15

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: Dirk Nowitzki finally shaved off that mangy, disgusting beard last night on the heels of the Mavs reaching the .500 mark 80 games into the season. Cute, but not exactly game-of-the-night material there. The Lakers-Spurs game was a pretty amazing showcase of heart and drive by the crew from L.A. in its first game following Kobe Bryant‘s season-ending injury as the Lakers took care of their old rivals. But we’re going with the Pacers-Knicks game from Madison Square Garden yesterday simply because it showed just how much being in rhythm as the season winds down can be key. When New York’s shooters went into a swoon and the Pacers got hot in February, it looked like Indiana would easily hang on to the No. 2 spot in the East and provide the stiffest challenge for the defending-champion Heat. Instead, the Knicks have found their rhythm late in the season and this game yesterday assured N.Y. of the No. 2 spot and keeps them rolling as the playoffs draw near.

News of the morning

Knicks itching for rematch with Celtics | Lakers show surprising heart in win | McHale likes where Rockets are headed | Erving takes shots at Bynum

Knicks can’t wait to face Celtics in playoffsLocking up the No. 2 seed in the East, as we mention above, was nothing to sneeze at in New York. Especially when you consider the last time the Knicks had the No. 2 seed, it was the 1993-94 season … when New York lost to Houston in the NBA Finals. Still, as nice as it was to throttle the Pacers to accomplish that feat, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks are more looking forward to exacting some revenge on the team that ousted them from the playoffs last season: the Boston Celtics. Howard Beck of The New York Times has more on the Knicks’ goals:

The Knicks got everything they wanted, and with a minimum of pain.

With a suspense-free 90-80 victory, they clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference and secured home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs, including a potential second-round meeting with the Pacers. The Knicks will open the playoffs Saturday against the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics — the team that swept them two springs ago, in Carmelo Anthony’s first postseason in New York.

“That’s in the back of our minds,” said Anthony, who scored 25 points. “We want to beat Boston — I mean, let’s be quite frank. This would be a great series for us.”

Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, who is injured, are the only Knicks left from that 2011 series. Yet the memory remains fresh, and for Anthony, painful.

A sweep was hardly the way he wanted to begin his career on Broadway. The Celtics have stood in the Knicks’ way ever since he arrived.

Two years later, the Knicks are deeper, wiser, more seasoned and better built for the challenge, with a veteran cast surrounding Anthony.

“We’re different as a team,” Anthony said. “As an organization, we’re a lot different than we were a year and a half, two years ago. The mind-set is a lot different. My mind-set right now is a lot different.”

Most important, the Knicks (53-27) emerged without a serious injury, although Anthony did bruise his left shoulder in the third quarter. He sat out the final period, but only because the Knicks did not need him.

Coach Mike Woodson twice called Anthony over when the Pacers started to rally down the stretch.

Each time, the Knicks beat back the spurt, and Anthony returned, smiling, to his seat.

“I was just playing with him, messing with him,” Woodson said. “No, his shoulder’s fine. And I was going to put him back. But I decided to pull him and ride the guys that kept the lead for us.”

With the Knicks clinching the No. 2 seed — their highest since finishing second in 1994 — Woodson will now rest his key players for the final two games. Anthony said he would sit out Monday night’s game at Charlotte. Raymond Felton also said he planned to take a rest over the final two games.

“I’ll be fine,” Anthony said. “And I’ll be ready come playoffs.”

Kobe-less Lakers step up against Spurs Heading into Sunday’s game against the Spurs, the Lakers had plenty of reasons to feel down on themselves — the foremost of which being the season-ending torn Achilles Kobe Bryant suffered on Friday night against Golden State. But in a rare display of heart and teamwork, the Lakers bound together, got a strong performance from their “other” superstar (Dwight Howard), overcame a rough night by another big name (Pau Gasol) and got contributions from surprising places (such as Steve Blake) to edge ever closer to a playoff berth. Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News has more on the Lakers’ big win:

Life without Kobe Bryant, Day 1, was nothing if not unpredictable.

And in a crazy, wonderful, astonishing way, actually quite beautiful.

On a night when Pau Gasol was the 7-foot invisible Spaniard, Steve Blake told him, “I’ve got your back.”

Blake went on to have the performance of his career while standing on one of the biggest stages of his life.

In a game in which the Lakers hovered around 35 percent shooting all night and Gasol clanked 14 of 17 shots, they shook off their notoriously soft-defending ways to harass the San Antonio Spurs into 36.5 percent shooting.

“We can’t look at anybody else for help,” said Howard, who looked more comfortable in his Lakers skin than he has all year, leading the way with 26 points and punishing the Spurs with 17 rebounds and three blocked shots.

And with his team needing him to hit two crucial free throws late in the game, he sank both of them.

“Now we have to go out there and get this next game,” Howard said.

Two days ago no one would have believed they could, not with Bryant withering around in pain after tearing his left Achilles tendon and the big, bad Spurs coming to town to put the Lakers out of their misery.

Now, who knows?

After watching Blake score 23 points and Antawn Jamison come off the bench to score 15 – including two huge 3-pointers – and Gasol shake off one of the worst shooting nights of his career to grab 16 rebounds and block three shots and the Lakers dig in defensively in a way we haven’t seen all year, a trip the playoffs now seems likely.

No one is foolish enough to think the Lakers can mount some miraculous playoff run. That pipe dream is over, falling apart the moment Bryant went crumbling to the floor Friday with a season-ending injury.

Even if the Lakers do sneak through the small playoff crevice available to them, they’ll be a quick one-and-done against either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio in the opening round.

To think anything else is crazy talk.

Right?

“I still believe we can win,” Howard said, sternly. “No doubt in my mind.”

McHale, Rockets embrace underdog roleHardly any seeds in the Western Conference are secure, which is just fine for coach Kevin McHale and the Rockets. Houston is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09 and has its most wins since that season, too. Although it will likely come down to the season’s final night before Houston knows who it will play in the first round, McHale and his crew are ready to play the up-tempo style that led them to the postseason, regardless of whichever foe they face. David Barron of the Houston Chronicle has more:

With their 121-100 win over the Sacramento Kings, the Rockets improved to 45-35 and tied Golden State for the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They hold the tiebreaker over the Warriors and can clinch the sixth spot with wins Monday night at Phoenix and on Wednesday in Los Angeles over the Lakers.

There are scenarios aplenty for playoff series against any of the five teams in front of them — too many for coach Kevin McHale to focus on. Besides, McHale said, he knows how the form chart will read under any circumstances.

“Whoever we play, we will not be favored,” he said. “We’ll be underdogs to whoever we play. That’s fine with us. We want to get in there and get the guys playing well.

“I like our chances against anybody. If we can get defensive stops and get out and run and put pressure on the rim and knock down some shots, we’ll give anybody we play a good go.”

“This year is a year when we’re building a lot of stuff,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff to be proud of. I think James (Harden) has had a tremendous year. Jeremy Lin coming in has played very, very well. Omer Asik for the first time starting.

“It’s been a year. Greg Smith has really come on. Terrence Jones is coming on. Finding Patrick Beverley and bringing him over here … like I said, we’re just building and building. We’ve got two more regular-season games, and then we have the playoffs. I’m looking forward to it.”

Erving sounds off on BynumThe Sixers’ season has been an unmitigated disaster, thanks most in part to the various injuries and rehab work that have kept Andrew Bynum from playing a single game in a Philly uniform. As reports are spreading that coach Doug Collins will resign soon and the team’s future looks ever-more hazy, a night of good memories might have been just what Philadelphia needed. Before last night’s eventual 91-77 win over the Cavs, the Sixers honored Julius Erving, Moses Malone and the rest of their 1983 championship team before the game. Erving, who serves in a front-office role with the team, sounded off on Bynum’s lack of play and more, writes Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com:

The 76ers haven’t publicly criticized Andrew Bynum during a season in which he was paid $16.5 million and played no games due to knee injuries.

Hall of Famer Julius Erving, who is the team’s strategic advisor to the Sixers’ ownership group, didn’t hesitate to give his opinion on Bynum.

Prior to the Sixers’ home finale, a 91-77 victory over the Cavaliers on Sunday afternoon, Erving was asked about Bynum, whom the team acquired in a blockbuster Aug. 10 trade.

“I know what the net result is,” said Erving, smiling. “The net result is Robert Parish’s old number — 00. We have not benefited one degree. I guess he has.

“If the Bynum situation is one of total uncertainty for another year, I don’t think the organization should stand for that or the fans should stand for that.”

On the other hand, if the Sixers don’t re-sign Bynum or any of their other impending free agents, they could have about $12 million to spend this summer in free agency.

“I think if he’s not here, you’re going to free up a lot of money,” Erving said. “Washington and Lincoln can’t play the corners for you, but they can get somebody that can play the corners for you. We need somebody to play a corner for us and play the middle for us. It’s going to be costly.”

ICYMI of the night: Speaking of Julius Erving … has Chris Andersen been watching Dr. J’s iconic up-and-under-the-backboard layup from the 1980 Finals lately?:

38 Comments

  1. Don’t worry my fellow Celtics fans & to opposing fans, Celts will do great this playoffs! It doesn’t matter who they face-to them it doesn’t matter who in 1st, 2nd, 3rd round or finals they face! Since it’s ny in the 1st round, so be it them who will face & suffer the fury of The Green Monster-The Green Machine! Prepare to watch Celtics run DEEEEP this playoffs 1 game @ a time, 1 series @ a time!!!
    GO GET IT CELTICS!!!
    CELTICS-HORAAH-UBUNTU!!!

  2. Pimpicus says:

    Dr. J speaks the truth about Bynum. Sixers paid mad dough just to watch his antics off the court lead to zero minutes on the court. But…they should have known better. Bynum himself pretty much said he didn’t care about where he plays and the conditions under which he plays. Obviously he doesn’t even care IF he plays…so long as he’s paid. Sad!!! Lakers got the best part of that deal even though it’s taken some time for Howard to get back into beast mode. One thing, though… Last night’s game vs the Spurs showed why so many people are turning their backs on the NBA. These NBA refs are either willfully blind or else plain sped’s Spurs didn’t do themselves any favors offensively for most of that game but damned if the refs didn’t try their hardest to make sure L.A. makes the playoffs. Frikken disgusting!!! I thought watching Heat games was bad…

  3. Kal says:

    The Doc is still awesome as ever. can’t wait for that documentary.

  4. dre says:

    Lakers will do well without Kobe just look at the nuggets they are better without Mello. That’s why Lebron is the greatest because he makes all his team mates better and they feel comfortable playing with him. Not a Lakers fan but go Lakers

    • Patty says:

      THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KOBE & MELO. DONOT EVER COMPARE MELO IN THE SAME SENTENCE AS KOBE.

  5. elSnoopy says:

    As a Celtics fan, I’m not optimistic of this year’s team in the post-season. Injury-riddehn, yes but they just brick up jumpshots (Terry) instead going of going more to the inside for a higher point % , and also horrid at rebounding.

    Since they’re going to face the Knicks, they better rev up their rebounding to make up their offensive woes or else it’s Knicks in 5.

    • KNIX4EVAH says:

      Don’t worry “Snoop”, we have plenty of injuries too. It should still be an interesting match-up due to the “rivalry”. Pierce and Garnett will not go down without a fight and your bench is better than last year, and you know who now has plenty of “heart”.

    • Patty says:

      WHAT IS GOING ON WITH PIERCE.

  6. Too funny... says:

    @ Sally–> I agree with you all the way.. I know they wouldn’t have beat the Spurs if Kobe was playing. You saw what they can do because they don’t have to walk on egg shells anymore with the one way Kobe act. Now they can actually play ball as a team, no gripes or even worrying about Kobe now. The dark cloud is gone, sun light and getting to be themselves is what they have needed. How can you get your hoop on if this guy is constantly trying to control the ball?? This is a great thing for Lakers, this injury.. Happened at a great time for players on team not named Kobe. I think they’ll get one game in playoffs if they get there… Not a fan of them but, it’s time for Lakers to evolve, rude awakening coming for you Kobe ball washers out there….

  7. Raphajiujitsu says:

    Philly´s organization made a choice and it went down bad. Bynum is a very good player when is healthy but with those knees problems, philly should’ve known better.but with those knees problems, philly should’ve known better. In addition to that, they picked up a bad contract with J. Richardson, got rid of AI and send to the magic Arron Aflalo, Mo Harkless and Nicola vuc.

  8. rich says:

    Lucky Fakers ! Spurs are afraid and are sandbagging !

    • KNIX4EVAH says:

      Spurs not afraid of anyone, they have the experience and continuity, especially when healthy to sustain consistency as we all have witnessed throughout the years. Watchout when Ginobilli returns to full strength. The bench is rather good also, never count out “Pop”.

  9. Drago says:

    Bynam is a great C but those injuries make him a hazard like Amare Stodemaer I would never sign a max contract with that guy to much risk.

  10. Shake says:

    @sally –> I dont know how long you’ve been watching basketball for, but Kobe Bryant is the one and only reason they are even clinching that position. It seems like they needed to see something disastrous like his achilles tear to wake up, but prior to that everyone seemed to have been sleeping with Gasol recently waking up from a nap. Dwight can not single handedly do anything as we saw in Orlando and neither am I saying that Kobe can because the year they got spanked by Celtics in the finals showed that. But for you to think that they will do better without him, is just sheer ignorance.. I’ll come back to this blog after they loose 4-0 to OKC in the first round… Give credit where it’s due.. for all of the injuries they’ve had, if you think they would have been 10th is hilarious..

  11. beyKrewz says:

    Bynum is just a waste of money and talent.
    He and Howard are both undisciplined and a bunch of whiners.
    But i guess Howard’s slowly learning to mature..IN TIME.

  12. Freida says:

    The knicks are playing wicked good. I am not a Knicks fan but worried a little about facing the Miami Heat which I am a LeBron fan. We will see if they can defeat the Celtics. Last year Miami barely beat them even though Bosh was out.

    I told my friend that the Lakers will do fine without Kobe because he is a ball hogger. Gasol couldn’t get his rhythm yesterday. Everyone was a little rusty because Kobe always hogged the ball, Defensively they were a monster with Dwight Howard. Once Nash comes back they would have a chance against the Spurs but not against OKC and the way it is looking OKC may very well #1 in the West.

    And as far as Bynum is concerned he is a loser. He just appeared not to care and run with the money. I hope he has a hard time trying to find another team. In that contract it should say, “you don’t play, you don’t get paid.”

    • Sergio says:

      this kid doesnt know anything… dont mind him. The Lakers without kobe is like the bulls without Jordan… He is the only player on the lakers that can even create his own shot. I hate kobes personalitity but got damn is he a good ball player. Any team who loses a player of that calibur will surely find themselves having trouble in the post season. REMEMBER we are heading into the playoff.. this aint the regular season. Name 1 player who doesnt do it better in the post season that kobe?

  13. Rolana says:

    Sally,

    Clearly you know nothing about basketball and the heart and soul determination you need to play and survive in this league.

  14. Gwendolyn hill says:

    What a big turn for the 76ers. They will be back to much history

    • dan'o says:

      I hope Bynum returns next season and earns his keep for both organization and player. The dude is too talented and dominant (even if injury-prone) not to play.

  15. Arky says:

    Ahem. The Boston Celtics were not the team that ousted the Knicks from the playoffs last year. That would be Miami.

    • Oldschoolmarcel says:

      I guess the point is to build up a match up that noone outside of New York or Boston cares about. Nice if they got their facts straight.

    • Fan says:

      I do believed he wrote TWO seasons ago…

      • Arky says:

        Nope, it still says:
        “Still, as nice as it was to throttle the Pacers to accomplish that feat, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks are more looking forward to exacting some revenge on the team that ousted them from the playoffs last season: the Boston Celtics”

    • KNIX4EVAH says:

      No, it wasn’t the Miami Heat, it was the injury bug, press rewind, please.

      • Arky says:

        The Knicks were not getting past Miami even if Shumpert’s knee stayed healthy and Amare didn’t punch a fire hydrant. Jeremy Lin wasn’t making the difference either. Don’t be such a homer.

  16. nubbamehedonmunnid says:

    nice job, I have to watch a 30 second commercial to see a 15 second video clip, get a grip nba.com

    • DJ3 says:

      nice job, I have adblock to watch a 15 second video clip without ads, get a grip nubbamehedonmunnid

  17. Agon McDouche says:

    To be clear, Kobe’s injury was an Achilles tendon tear. Not an ACL injury.

    • dattebayo says:

      I am sure everyone got that in those 8 million blogs about that in the last 48 hours, but thanks for making it clear…

  18. pede says:

    an ad before every 15 second clip can get a man mad

  19. sally says:

    I think Kobe being out is a good thing for the Lakers, now they ALL get a chance to show what they can do and not have to worry about getting the ball to him. He is a good player, but he just dominates the whole organization and I don’t see why they let him do that. He’s just a player like everybody else. He’s not always right….I guess him getting hurt proves that because he should have been sitting out some games or at least resting some till his injury was gone. Greed does weird things to people. Good Luck to the Lakers, I think they will do just fine without him…..maybe even better.

    • Arjei says:

      Stating that the Lakers will do fine or even better without Kobe just makes you ignorant about the game. It’s pretty obvious that you don’t watch the Lakers or you just don’t understand the game at all. Yes, you are right that the rest of the team gets to showcase their talents or skills, but not having one of the best players in the league on your team going into the playoffs will be extremely challenging. Can they still do it? Maybe. Like you said, they’ll do fine without him, but doing fine isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs. You have to be great in order to go all the way. Kobe gives them that chance.

    • DMC says:

      Yes, watched the game and couldn’t agreed more with you. Gasol had a bad night, if kobe’s there he’ll shoot his way to “help” the team. now everyone played teamgame rather than one man hero, blake step up, and oh my D12! finally doing what he’s suposed to do. He’ll get the benefits with kobe’s injury. Go Lakers! I know kobe is a star but we can still win without him.

    • tina says:

      wow, that sally girl is one of the most unknowledgable fan ive ever heard of. please dont speak unless you actually know what u are talking about. why you would even question what kobe means to the laker organization shows how much you dont know about anything. maybe u should go read about how many rings he brought into the organization before you start opening your mouth. and the reason why they need him is he is the one that is pushing them to get to the playoffs.

      • lakers fan says:

        ring ring ring…why he get 5 ring i think you’ve never know tina….lot of supporting cast that’s why…he’s greatest ballhogger ever.accept the fact….;)