NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Waiters back at practice; discusses players-only meeting — Two of the more popular topics of late, at least in terms of news related to the Cleveland Cavaliers, have been a players-only meeting and Dion Waiters‘ health. News on the players’ only meeting was broken by ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, who wrote that the Cavs might be dealing with some chemistry issues after tempers flared during the meeting. In terms of Waiters’ health, that has been a touchy topic around Cavs fans. Waiters missed the team’s last two games, with C.J. Miles getting the start instead of Waiters. At any rate, Waiters cleared up both his mysterious illness and the team meeting, as Bob Finnan of The News-Hearld & Morning Journal reports:
Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters insists he was “sick” over the weekend, which would dispute wide-spread rumors that he was suspended.
He also contends no punches were thrown at a now-famous, players-only meeting last Wednesday.
Waiters said he was prescribed medicine, and missed games Friday and Saturday. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder was back at practice on Monday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Whether he’ll be back in the starting lineup is anyone’s guess.
Waiters said guard Kyrie Irving called the players-only meeting, and things got a bit testy.
“I think it was productive,” he said. “I think it helped. I think we needed it as far as a team and all the built-up frustration, especially when you want to win and you want to win now. So I think that helped us.”
He said there were no physical confrontations.
“Nobody got into (any) altercations or anything like that,” he said. “We got everything off our chests that we needed to. All the other rumors, man, are rumors. Don’t believe it. It’s not true. We talked. Everybody talked. Nobody put their hands on (anybody).”
He said the players vented and got some things off their chest.
“People said what they felt,” Waiters said. “I said what I felt. Other guys said what they felt. At the end of the day, (we’re) men, so we’ve got to get it off our chest, especially being a players-only meeting, we’ve got to say what we feel.
“It’s not good to keep something inside that’s going to keep building and keep building and you don’t say (anything) about it. So at the end of the day, everybody said something.”
Waiters said the meeting was productive.
“At the end of the day, we’re grown men,” he said. “I think we should be able to talk to one another and say what we feel. If I go on the court every night, I make sure I’ve got every one of my teammates’ back. Right or wrong. No matter what. I feel as though it’s vice versa.
“At the end of the day, we should be able to come to one another and say something and tell them how we feel, what we don’t like, what we do like in certain situations. That’s what we did. That’s what we talked about.”
Among the players who spoke up were Waiters, Irving, Miles and Tristan Thompson.
“At the end of the day, we’re teammates,” he said. “Like I said, ‘I’d rather fight somebody else on the other team than one of my teammates.’ That’s the way it is. That’s the way I was brought up. I feel as though we say we’re family, then we’re a family and I’m going to look out for you to the best of my abilities. All the other stuff is foolishness.”
He said being in the starting lineup is out of his hands.
“The only thing I can do is come prepared,” he said. “I can’t control those types of things. I can only do my job.”
Waiters said he feeling much better.
“I’m doing good,” he said. “I feel better. I had a cold.
“I know what happened. That’s some people’s job just to think stuff that happened that didn’t. I knew what happened. I knew what took place. What happened was I just got sick at that time. Of course, everybody’s going to think otherwise. But everybody on the team and I knew what really happened. So I’m good.”
Waiters said he’s ready to play in Wednesday’s game.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “I’m ready. I feel a little bit better. It’s going to go away on its own, still lingering. But I got medicine. I’ll be back.”
No. 2: Curry suffers bad headache vs. Jazz — With just under nine minutes left in the Warriors’ game in Salt Lake City against the Jazz, guard Steph Curry drove the lane. He was knocked down trying to pass out of a trap and fell and while he was on the ground, Jazz forward Marvin Williams fell on Curry’s head. The Golden State guard’s head hit the court hard and he left the game, but told the Contra Costa Times‘ Marcus Thompson II that he merely suffered a bad headache afterward:
Warriors point guard Stephen Curry had no shirt on and a grin plastered on his face, holding one finger in the air as the locker room TV showed his Carolina Panthers win.
With just under nine minutes left in the game, Curry drove the lane and was cut off. He was knocked down trying to pass out of the trap. While Curry was on the floor, Jazz forward Marvin Williams fell on top of Curry’s head, smashing the left side of his face into the hardwood.
The Warriors star lay facedown on the court for several minutes, his teammates and coach Mark Jackson standing over him.
Eventually, Curry rolled onto his back, then sat up. He was helped up, then walked off under his own power to the locker room with head athletic trainer Johan Wang.
Curry said he never lost consciousness. But the gravity of head injuries wasn’t lost on him.
“I haven’t had any concussion episodes before,” Curry said. “When I first hit, it rung my bell pretty hard. I made sure I took my time. I didn’t want to put myself in jeopardy for the next game, especially with the lead we had. … The way it felt, it was definitely pretty serious.”
No. 3: Asik back at practice in Houston — The trade talk surrounding the Rockets and big man Omer Asik hasn’t died down. But his teammates in Houston are trying to not let it get to them. Asik didn’t play against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday because he was deemed sick at the time, but he returned to practice on Monday and Asik’s teammates were glad to see him back, writes Adam Wexler of CSNHouston.com:
By all accounts it was business as usual for the Houston Rockets at their Monday practice in advance of their game with the Boston Celtics in Houston on Tuesday night. The only thing unusual about that is things were not that way for the last couple of days for the team.
Rockets center Omer Asik returned to practice for the first time since he reportedly demanded a trade and was deemed unavailable for Saturday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
His teammates and coach seemed pleased about his presence and were ready to put it behind them.
“I’m happy. We can use him,” Chandler Parsons said. “Obviously, he’s been a big part of his team. I understand his frustration. It’s got to be difficult, he wants to play.
“But he’s here, he’s on the Rockets” Parsons said. “So he should be practicing with us, he should be playing with us trying to help us win games.”
Clearly the reason Asik is frustrated is due the acquisition of Dwight Howard, who, as expected, has become the Rockets new starting center.
“(I’m) glad he’s back out there,” Howard said. “We’re trying to accomplish something great here and everybody has to be all-in. There’s going to be some adversity but we have to stick together.
Howard said he and the team are looking ahead regarding the situation, rather than focusing on what transpired.
“That’s behind us, he apologized for it,” Howard said. “We have to move on, we can’t dwell on it. We can’t make it an issue. We all have to be understanding, empathize with him and keep moving forward.”
No. 4: Hawks never talked extension with Smith — During the offseason, the Hawks were one of a handful of teams to make a free-agency pitch to big man Dwight Howard out in L.A. as he weighed offers from the Lakers, Warriors, Rockets and Hawks. Howard, of course, ultimately chose Houston. Atlanta had a solid free agent of its own to possibly woo in Josh Smith, but that apparently never happened. Smith spoke with an Atlanta radio station and detailed why there was a lack of a conversation with the Hawks to have him come back to the team, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has previously said the team did not make Josh Smith a contract offer once he became an unrestricted free agent this summer. Smith gave some more detail into the Hawks’ lack of interest this summer in a radio interview with 92.9 FM Monday.
“No, there wasn’t,” Smith said when asked if there was a contract offer. “During free agency, during that period, there were a lot of guys out in L.A. that were meeting with various teams. I was one of those guys. That’s where I work out in the summertime as well. The only time I saw the Hawks during free agency was when they came to one of my workouts just to say hello. I think they were meeting with Dwight Howard that day. They never came in or sat down with me during the free agency period to offer me anything.”
The forward returns to Atlanta Wednesday for his first game at Philips Arena as a visitor. The deal with the Pistons was below the maximum he could have received from the Hawks. He could have signed a four-year deal with another team for a maximum of $70 million. The Hawks could have signed him to a five-year deal for a maximum of $94.3 million.
“As it relates to his returning to the Hawks I spoke to Josh during the season, both before the trade deadline and after, about where his head was regarding his future here as well as our intentions,” Ferry told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I also had steady and open communication with his agents Brian Dyke and Wallace Prather during the season as well as during the summer. Although we both decided it was best to move in different directions, I wish him well. Josh was obviously a very important part of several good seasons for the Hawks and he did wonderful things in the Atlanta community.”
Smith, who is top 10 in most of the Hawks’ all-time statistical categories after nine years with the organization, said he has no hard feelings.
“Once you take your personal feelings out of the situation you understand that it is a business, more so than anything,” Smith said. “You kind of are going to set yourself up for failure. It’s probably an organization that probably wanted to go in a different direction and I understand that. I moved on for the better of my situation and I’m pretty sure they felt the same way.”
Smith said he is looking forward to an opportunity to come back home and stay in the home he still has here. How he will be greeted by Hawks fans remains to be seen.
“I’m having mixed emotions,” Smith said. “I know that my friends and family are going to be happy to see me there. I don’t necessarily know what is going to happen with the rest of the fans. I’m just coming to win a basketball game. That is pretty much it. I’m coming in there being focused to win a game, get off on the right foot, and I’m not necessarily concerned with how the crowd is going to receive me.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jazz rookie Trey Burke cleared to do some contract drills … Hawks forward Elton Brand tried Twitter for a day … and then retired from it … Tobias Harris returned to practice for the Magic yesterday … Foes are starting to praise the Bobcats for their defensive work this season
ICYMI Of The Night: The Bobcats are hovering around .500 as they have all season and part of that has been due to the improved play of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who shows off his passing skills with this inbounds dish to Gerald Henderson …