NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Patrick Beverley gets bad break. — The injuries are really starting to pile up in Houston. With guards James Harden and Jeremy Lin already sidelined with different ailments, backup center Omer Asik still recovering from a bad knee and the recently returned Greg Smith also getting hurt Saturday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills, the Rockets lost starting point guard Beverley for four to six weeks to a broken bone.
From Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Rockets guard Pat Beverley left Saturday’s game with a fractured right hand. He said he was told he had fractured the fourth metacarpal in the hand and will be out four to six weeks. Extensive tests and a visit to a specialist are scheduled for Sunday, but the remarkable run of injury problems had gone beyond nuisances.
Yet, while the Rockets lost player after player, the one who has competed in every game this season would not let them lose a game, too. Dwight Howard dominated from start to finish, scoring a season-high 35 points to lead the shorthanded Rockets past the Detroit Pistons 114-97.
Beverley and Greg Smith went out during the game. James Harden was ruled out before the game because of his sore ankle. Jeremy Lin was at least a game away from returning from his sore back. Omer Asik was in Houston with his sore knee.
For all the injuries that have marked the season – with players combining to miss as many games as all of last season – Beverley’s will be the most long-term.
“I went for a low strip, and my hand went back,” Beverley said. “I kept playing with it. It still doesn’t feel like it’s broken. I still feel like I could finish the game. It’ll be four to six (weeks). I’m going to work on my left hand now.”
No. 2: Melo thinks Knicks are head cases. — Tyson Chandler is back in the lineup. The walking wounded and struggling Grizzlies were in town with all of the baggage of their own troubles. Yet the Knicks were hammered on the boards and lost their 10th home game of the season and Carmelo Anthony now says the problem is all between their ears.
From Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk:
Ultimately, the rally fell short, just like the Knicks have all season long. And at the moment, Carmelo Anthony believes the issues are mental more than they are related to basketball.
“I don’t think it’s nothing that has to do with basketball at this point,” he said of the home losses afterward. “I think it’s in our heads. It’s the mental part of it. And as individual players we’ve got to get out of our own mind, our own head and start — I don’t know what you have to do, but just start having fun again and playing basketball, and not trying to worry about too many other things that’s going on out there.”
That might be believable if there weren’t so many legitimate problems with this team, all of which were on display in this one.
Tyson Chandler is supposed to be the Knicks primary rim protector and anchor of the defense. But after managing just eight points and six rebounds in almost 33 minutes of action while seeing Memphis outrebound the Knicks by an absurd 56-29 margin, it’s clear he’s nowhere near 100 percent, playing in just his second game back after missing all but the season’s first four with a right leg fracture.
“I’m getting there. Battling,” Chandler said, when I asked him how we was feeling physically. “I’m trying to come back, trying to get my conditioning right, trying to get my timing right and my legs under me and all that good stuff while trying to stop whoever’s in front of me. But I expect it to take time, and I expect it to take a little while for myself to get in a rhythm with my teammates, and for my teammates to get back in rhythm with me.”
No. 3: Bulls center Noah apologizes, sort of. Joakim Noah is ready to admit that he made a mistake by entering the Thunder locker room following Friday night’s game. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to exchange Christmas cards with OKC’s big man and bouncer Kendrick Perkins.
From Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com:
“It doesn’t matter,” Noah said of the incident. “Just nothing. Just trying to chill with Thabo. It’s all good. … It’s not that serious.”
“I know that you guys are probably bored right now: We’re losing, there’s nothing to do, there’s nothing else to talk about. But it’s not a big deal,” Noah said. “Just waking up in the morning having to talk to NBA security. Come on, let’s move on. We’ve got a game tonight. It’s not a big deal. No big deal.”
Noah said he had no previous history with Perkins. Although there was no physical altercation, the pair continued to exchange words as Noah walked to the Bulls’ bus.
“He’s just an angry dude, you know?” Noah said. “It’s all good.”
When asked to clarify his discussion with NBA security, Noah tried to move on.
“We don’t have to talk about this anymore,” Noah said. “Nothing happened. It’s no big deal. I shouldn’t have been in that locker room in the first place. Just wanted to say hi to some loved ones, Thabo’s family, that’s it. It’s not a big deal. Perk is an angry dude. It’s all good.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau knows that former teammates want to see each other after games but seemed surprised Noah went into the Thunder’s locker room given that he hasn’t played for Oklahoma City.
“You see it sometimes where a player — like Thabo played for the Bulls,” Thibodeau said. “So if a guy played for the team it’s not a big deal but usually guys will wait outside.”
Thibodeau said this incident would not change the Bulls’ policy on allowing former players to enter into their locker room after games.
“If a guy’s been with the organization … that’s usually the case,” he said. “Usually you have a guy, if he’s played [with your team] and he wants to come in and say hello to his old teammates he does. The trainers and people like that. We allow that. It’s more or less frowned upon to go into someone else’s locker room where you haven’t played.”
No. 4: Lillard gets his naps, points Lillard wakes up Blazers.-- Never underestimate the value of a good nap in the afternoon. Damian Lillard has made it a point to get plenty of rest of late and that makes him fresh and alert to carry the surging Trail Blazers to another victory as they continue to keep pace at the top of the Western Conference.
From Mike Tokito of the Oregonian:
Lillard scored 29 points and had five assists and took a late charging to key the victory.
“Damian is Damian,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “He understands what needs to be done. He takes it upon himself when he needs to. He’s fearless taking the ball to the basket. He makes big shots, competes defensively. Damian kind of speaks for himself.”
Lillard’s performance came after he scored 36 points in consecutive road games – at Cleveland and Minnesota – and made buzzer-beating game-winning shots against Detroit and the Cavaliers. His secret?
“Over the past few games, my game has felt the best because I’m starting get a few more naps in,” Lillard said. “I always tell my teammates and my staff, I could never take naps. I just could never do it. I’ve been taking naps, so that might be the difference.”
That and an instinct to make big plays. With New Orleans leading 105-103 after Anthony Davis dunked an offensive rebound to give the Pelicans (11-14) a 105-103 lead, and New Orleans got the ball back after Wesley Matthews missed a three-pointer. Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday had the ball and was looking to make a play against Lillard, who had five fouls at the time.
Lillard anticipated Holiday’s move and took a charge.
“I saw the action was to my right,” Lillard said. “It seemed like he was going to try to act like he was looking at that and take me away from his strong side. I saw him take off and his whole momentum was going to his right. I just jumped the move, just jumped on his right hand and let him run me over.”
Lillard then drained a three-pointer with 1:27 left, giving Portland a 106-105 lead it would not lose.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Richard Jefferson is going championship hunting next summer…Michael Jordan unveils the new/old look of the Hornets in Charlotte…The surprising Suns stay hot by nailing 15 3-pointers to burn Dallas.