NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Nash leaves game with back pain, will see doctor — Through eight games this season, the Lakers find themselves at 3-5 after getting off to a 2-2 start. Point guard Steve Nash has played in only six of those games this season as the Lakers and coach Mike D’Antoni have attempted to keep the point guard as fresh as possible by resting him in the second night of back-to-back games, a plan devised by D’Antoni. But as Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports, Nash suffered a back injury during last night’s loss to the Wolves and will see a specialist soon:
Steve Nash exited the Los Angeles Lakers’ 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves early on Sunday night because of back pain and will visit Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist, on Monday for evaluation.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni pulled Nash from the game with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter and the point guard did not return, finishing with two points and three assists in 13 minutes.
“It’s tough,” Nash said after the game. “I hesitate to even talk about it now because it’s probably not a good time. I’m a little emotional. It’s hard. I really want to play and I really want to play the way I am accustomed to playing. To be so limited is frustrating and also to not know where kind of a cleanish bill of health is [coming] is a little daunting, too.”
The two-time league MVP told reporters last week he is still struggling with nerve issues stemming from the broken left leg he suffered last season that caused him to miss 32 games.
“I still feel that almost every day all over,” Nash said of the nerve discomfort. “It’s not just in that spot [in his left leg]. It’s like the nerve system and nerve roots are on guard. So the whole system in a way is different now. It’s just a little more sensitive, and you face different things because of it. So, freaky, freaky thing, but I can’t complain. I’m still playing basketball and I’m still effective and I can get better physically and my game will come around the more I play.”
Nash detailed his injuries after the game on Sunday.
“I have, obviously, back issues,” Nash said. “It’s nerves coming from my back. You could call it the back, you could call it the nerves. I’m getting the pain in the hamstring. … It’s basically the same thing from the end of last year.”
Nash missed the Lakers’ final two playoff games in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs last season, unable to play despite receiving three epidural injections in his right hamstring in the span of a week to try to get back on the court.
“I’m trying to play through it but at the same time be smart and try to overcome what I can and see,” said Nash, who added that the same issues had been bothering him for the last several weeks. “But it’s taken a bit of a turn for the worse.”
No. 2: Woodson, Anthony rip Knicks’ effort vs. Spurs — The Knicks got J.R. Smith back in the lineup yesterday after he served his NBA-mandated five-game suspension for a substance abuse policy violation, but not even his return to spark New York to a win. The Spurs took care of business against the Knicks in Sunday’s matinee, ripping New York by 31 points, which drew the ire of coach Mike Woodson and star forward Carmelo Anthony, writes ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley:
“We didn’t compete tonight. That’s just unacceptable,” Woodson said. “Right from the start, we let our offense, shots that we missed, dictate how we defended on the other end.”
The Knicks fell behind 10-0 to start the game and trailed by as many as 18 in the first quarter. They heard boos throughout the game from the sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd.
After the game, Woodson was asked if the Knicks showed any pride in the second half as the Spurs’ lead ballooned to 37 points.
“No. No. Not at all. It’s something that will be addressed [in Monday's practice]. It’s just unacceptable,” the coach said. “It’s my job to push them through it and try to get them over the hump. I know we’re a better team than what we’ve shown.”
Carmelo Anthony agreed with his coach’s assertion.
“It was embarrassing for us to come here on our home court and lose a game like this,” said Anthony, who scored 16 points on 10 shots and sat for most of the fourth quarter. “It wasn’t about losing a game. It was just how we lost the game. We didn’t compete today, and it showed out there on the court.”
The loss was one of the worst in Woodson’s 112-game tenure and continued a nightmare start to the season for the Knicks.
No. 3: Bobcats get Clifford back in practice; Jefferson to return soon? — Last Thursday night, Bobcats coach Steve Clifford began experiencing chest pains that ultimately led to him missing Charlotte’s game against New York so that he could have two stents placed in his heart. Clifford has been given the medical OK to coach tonight’s game against the Hawks (7 ET, League Pass) and while he’ll be back on the job, the Bobcats may also get starting center Al Jefferson back tonight, too. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has more on Charlotte’s news:
Coach Steve Clifford was at practice Sunday at Time Warner Cable Arena, two days after two stents were inserted into his heart to guard against blockages. Clifford felt chest pain Thursday night and was admitted to Presbyterian Hospital.
Meanwhile center Al Jefferson, who played in the season-opener against the Houston Rockets, then missed the next five games, returned to practice for the first time since re-injuring his right ankle.
Clifford said he’s “hopeful” Jefferson can play against the Hawks, but that won’t be determined until they see how his ankle responds Monday to a full practice.
Clifford is in a dramatically better position than he was Thursday night, when the chest pains started. A first-time NBA head coach, Clifford said there is a history of coronary disease in his family.
“I was lucky. It was a warning sign and I’ve since been educated that a lot of people who have strokes or heart attacks don’t get warning signs,” Clifford said. “Also fortunate I had great doctors. They have a good plan for me, and I’m going to follow it and get better quickly.”
Clifford will have shorter workdays, at least for the next week. He can coach games and travel, but doctors want him resting most of the time in-between.
Jefferson sprained his right ankle in the second preseason game against the Miami Heat. He played in the season-opener, then was stiff and sore enough that he couldn’t play the second regular-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over a week later, he said it’s now primarily a bone bruise along his ankle that is the issue.
Jefferson played one-on-one games the three days leading up to Sunday’s practice to test the injury. He said he felt out of game shape,but has done enough workouts on a stationary bike that he should recover full game shape in about a week.
A key free-agent acquisition – he signed a three-year, $41 million contract in July — Jefferson is wary of another setback.
“I don’t want to play one game, then sit out another two weeks,” Jefferson said. “When I come back, I want to come back to stay.”
No. 4: Adelman cautiously embraces new-wave stats — Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman is no stranger to the the new-wave stats revolution that has swept up the NBA. He was coach of the Houston Rockets from 2008-11, which coincided with the rise of the team’s GM, Daryl Morey, and his advocacy of advanced stats. Though thought to be an old-school coaching type, Adelman isn’t so gruff that he can’t see the value in advanced stats, but he’s taking a careful view of them nonetheless, writes Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com:
Speaking before his team took on the Lakers Sunday night, he talked about the biggest challenge for a lot of coaches dealing with this — how to get the information from stats across to the players in a meaningful way.
“Maybe I’m just old fashioned or whatever, but when they give us stats and everything like that I kind of know what’s coming,” Adelman said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve observed it, I may not know all the reasons, and they give you very good input, but I think it’s knowing what you run offensively, knowing what your tendencies are, those things all help…
“I think in the playoffs it gives you a bigger factor, because we play so many games in a week you know can have stats one game after another. So you pick and choose what you show players, you pick and choose how to reach them, and I think changes from week to week.”
Adelman in the end said what most coaches and scouts say about the stats — they’re a nice tool, but just another tool.
“There’s so much out there now, we had a ton of it in Houston when we were there, I think all that stuff is a tool that you can use to be better to help your players be better, but that’s what it is,” Adelman said. “You still have to play the game out on the court.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gives the Warriors a big vote of approval … The Lakers’ bench crew is the best in the league … Markieff Morris and the Suns continue to sizzle out West
ICYMI Of The Night: Suns coach Jeff Hornacek is showing faith in Gerald Green early in the season, who has played at least 25 minutes in each of Phoenix’s last five games. Green is responding with some great play, including this amazing jam last night against the Pelicans …