Morning Shootaround — April 16

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.

News of the morning

Noah, Gibson could be on playoff minutes limit | Lawson finding his rhythm | OKC continues to impress | Gores wants accountability for Dumars, Frank | Report: Bobcats name change a ways off

Bulls win, but bigs could be on minutes limit As they’ve done all season, the Bulls continue to stay in the thick of the race for the No. 5 seed in the East — a spot that won’t be decided until likely the season’s final night. Last night’s easy win over the hapless Orlando Magic provided a good sign for the Bulls in that injured big men Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both got in some playing time after missing games with injuries. But K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Noah and Gibson could see a tight minutes limit come playoff time:

A season filled with uncertainty will close with this dose of clarity: The Bulls won’t know their first-round playoff opponent until Wednesday’s season finale.

That’s because the Bulls defeated the hapless Magic 102-84 on Monday night as both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned to test their recoveries from injury and coach Tom Thibodeau said it’s “a possibility” both players will be on minutes limits at the start of the posteason.

Noah, who had missed 12 of the previous 13 games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, finished with six points, five rebounds and four fouls in 14 minutes, 21 seconds off the bench. Gibson, who had missed 17 games recently in two separate bouts with a sprained MCL in his left knee, contributed 12 points and two blocks in 21:13.

“I knew there was a setback right away last time,” Noah said after his last attempt to return April 7 in Detroit. “I feel pretty good right now. I’m just happy my foot held up.”

Noah admitted his wind wasn’t “great” but vowed it would “get better quick.”

Gibson wore the large brace he said he disliked.

“The brace is real protective, but I just have to get used to it,” Gibson said. “It’s kind of heavy. But the knee felt great. The main thing I wanted to do was play some defense because our defense was really awful the last couple games.”

…”We have to be at our best in a short amount of time,” Thibodeau said. “We’re a well-rested team. The question I have is are we a sharp team? We have guys that haven’t played a lot of minutes lately that are going to be called upon to be at their best. The moment of truth will be here shortly.”

Lawson getting back to his old selfShortly after their 15-game win streak ended, the Nuggets were dealt a serious blow to their hopes of a long playoff run when Ty Lawson went down with a foot injury on March 27. Although he missed just five games as he got better, the Nuggets were concerned how much their point guard could play and whether or not he’d be the game-changing playmaker they were used to. Last night’s win in Milwaukee went a long way in proving Lawson is speedily returning to form, though, writes Christopher Dempsy of The Denver Post:

With 14.2 seconds to go and down one at Milwaukee, a game the Nuggets had to have to lock up a top four spot in the Western Conference, Ty Lawson surveyed the court and lofted the ball to Wilson Chandler. Chandler handed the ball back off to Lawson who drove the lane, crossed over the defender, Monta Ellis, rose up and hit a shot that was arguably the most important jumper any Nugget has hit in the last three weeks.

Lawson is back.

His heel is not all the way healed, but that shot suggested his game is.

The degree of difficulty won’t go down as calculus level stuff. It was a 10-ish-foot jumper. But Lawson’s speed and quickness, which was in full display on the play, got him free for an open look. And in the process wiped away – or should have – any of the doubt about what he is and can be in the playoffs.

Initially, Karl said if Lawson could give 20-25 minutes when he returned that he could work with that. And yet Lawson, since returning late last week, has given him so much more.

His arc, since playing on April 12 has looked like this: 13 points; 12 points and 10 assists; and now 26 points and seven assists. After Sunday’s game against Portland, Karl was already gushing: “I couldn’t have asked for a better script these last two games,” he said of his point guard.

Tonight’s game should have erased any other doubts.

Lawson has averaged 17 points, 6.6 assists and 1.6 steals in the three games he’s been back. He’s shot 56 percent from the field and 84 percent from the free throw line. Monday night’s game brought back another encouraging sign – his ability to get to the rim and draw fouls.

In the last two weeks there has been enough bad news for the Nuggets, who are just trying to get their roster to survive the remainder of the regular season to get to the playoffs. First, Lawson’s status was in doubt. Then Danilo Gallinari was lost for the season. Then Kenneth Faried went down and can only hope to be close to 100 percent for the start of the playoffs.

It was time for some good news.

Ty Lawson provided it. And with it, may have renewed at least some of the belief that these Nuggets are still headed for a healthy playoff run.

OKC wraps up No. 1 in WestIt is easy to take for granted the success the Thunder have enjoyed all-so-quickly since moving from Seattle before the 2008-09 season. Although the first campaign in Oklahoma saw the Thunder go 23-59, since then it has been nothing but a steady climb for the youthful contenders. Last night, they achieved perhaps their greatest feat since the move, winning their 60th game and wrapping up the top spot in the West. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has more on the Thunder’s rise to the top of the conference:

Not only did the Thunder clinch the top spot in the conference, but OKC also won for the 60th time this season, marking the first 60-win season in Oklahoma City’s brief basketball history.

“It’s shows that we’re improving every year,” said Thabo Sefolosha. “It’s a big number. There’s not a lot of teams that can do it, and to be part of that group and just to get to that number is big.”

With a win in the season finale Wednesday against Milwaukee, the Thunder can finish with a .744 winning percentage. Win or lose, though, the Thunder will have increased its winning percentage in each of its first five seasons, from .280 in 2008-09, to .610 in 2009-10, to .671 in 2010-11, to .712 last year. Even with a loss Wednesday, the Thunder would finish with a .732 winning percentage.

“It feels good, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” said Kevin Durant of winning 60 games. “We’ve never done it here before so it’s new to us. But it feels good. It shows our progression as a franchise each and every year.”

Gores wants accountability for Dumars, FrankWe haven’t seen or heard much from Tom Gores since he took over ownership of the Pistons in 2011 from the Davidson family. While he has been mostly a quiet owner of the team, he has no doubt been unhappy with the fifth straight season of sub-.500 basketball, the youthful-but-mistake-prone efforts and the roster that is a bit of a mishmash of parts. Gores spoke to the media before the Pistons’ home finale against Philly and was none to pleased with his team, GM Joe Dumars and coach Lawrence Frank, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Speaking with the news media briefly before Monday night’s home finale against the Philadelphia 76ers, Gores said he was serious when he said last season he expected to make the playoffs and is disappointed the franchise didn’t come close.

“I will say I expected better results,” Gores said. “I met with Joe and Lawrence (Sunday) and I let them know that. They’re great guys that know their business, but I’m here assessing everything. My job is to move this franchise forward.”

The Pistons moved to 29-52 on the season following Monday night’s 109-101 victory. The season concludes Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets, and then the season postmortem will begin.

For Gores, it’s all about accountability. He plans to meet with both Frank and Dumars in the coming days. The Pistons are 54-93 under Frank in two seasons.

“I think both of them, including ownership, has to be accountable for the year,” Gores said. “We have to be accountable for the results of this year. We have a great core of young players, but we have to be accountable.”

“Now I’m very excited about what we have going,” Gores said. “We have a lot of (cap) room. We’ve set ourselves up financially, and basketball operations has set ourselves up, so I’m very excited about the future.

“But I’m not content about how we performed this year.”

Through a series of transactions the last 10 months, the Pistons will have roughly $25 million to spend this summer on free agency or trades. He said the Pistons “are prepared to spend.”

“It’s always important, but it’s magnified this year because we’ve really put ourselves in position to really make moves,” Gores said. We want to win a championship. We want to get into the playoffs and all of things.

“I tell you, Lawrence is a tremendous guy. I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple and he’s tremendous, but I really have to think about what the best thing is.”

Report: Bobcats name change a ways offOn Jan. 24, the New Orleans Hornets officially announced they would be changing their name, colors and logo to that of the Pelicans for next season. It was a move to closer bind the franchise to the New Orleans community and leaves the Hornets moniker, which dates to the franchise’s days in Charlotte, back in the NBA’s hands. Shortly thereafter, chatter (or buzz, if you will) began around the Web and the Charlotte community that the current team there — the Bobcats — should look to reclaim the nickname that was once theirs. A website called BringBackTheBuzz.com is spearheading the charge on the Internet, but the hopes of that group and others who want the Bobcats renamed for next season are looking unlikely. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on what it would take to change from the Bobcats to something else:

If the Charlotte Bobcats ask the NBA for a name change, it would be at least 18 months before such a request was implemented.

NBA commissioner-to-be Adam Silver met with the Observer and other print media outlets Monday during a visit to Charlotte. Much of his 20-minute interview addressed the possibility the Bobcats might switch their nickname to “Hornets” now that the New Orleans Hornets are switching to “Pelicans.”

The Bobcats have done some market research but have yet to make a request with the NBA. Silver said he is fine with whatever the Bobcats decide, but that the team’s deliberate approach is the right course.

Silver said this would be a “very expensive process for the team,” so it’s “a weighty process, not just what ‘X’ amount of fans say in an opinion poll.”

Rather, it’s about whether a rebranding would be lucrative enough to justify spending millions on new uniforms, logos and signage.

Since the NBA owns the name “Charlotte Hornets,” plus the teal-and-purple color scheme the team wore in Charlotte and New Orleans, Silver was asked how quickly a new brand could be implemented.

Even with all that working for it, a change from Bobcats to Hornets would take a minimum of 18 months, the deputy commissioner said.

Silver also was asked whether the Benson family, which owns the Pelicans, still controls the Hornets nickname. Silver replied that the Bobcats wouldn’t owe the Pelicans compensation if they took on that name.

ICYMI of the night: Derrick Williams might be the best player in the league at finishing off crazy alley-oops. Here’s another one to add to his stockade of such plays:

2 Comments

  1. Kevin Fletcher says:

    Why didn’t the Utah Jazz change their name to something more Utah like the Grizzlies. Then New Orleans could be the Jazz as they should be. Then Memphis could change their name to something that makes more sense.

    • Bob O says:

      And the Lakers should change their name because they’re not near Minnesota’s Lakes anymore. And the Hawks because their name comes from Blackhawk, an Indian Chief from Chicago (and they’re not located anywhere near there anymore). And a lot of others…