NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Paul confirms he’ll play in All-Star Game– The Los Angeles Clippers finally got Chris Paul back in their lineup on Sunday night and while his stat line against the Philadelphia 76ers wasn’t overly impressive, his presence meant a lot to the squad. The Clips and their fans got some more good news Monday when Paul confirmed that he will take part in the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans this weekend and is looking forward to the game for both sentimental and on-court reasons, writes Eric Patten of Clippers.com:
After returning to the court from a separated right shoulder in a 123-78 victory over the76ers Sunday, Chris Paul announced Monday that he will play in this weekend’s All-Star Game at New Orleans Arena.
“It was all about me getting healthy,” Paul said. “It was more important for me to get healthy and be there for my team and my teammates. The All-Star Game is an honor and a privilege, but being healthy is the most important thing. The All-Star Game was second, but it feels good to be ready to go.”
Paul was the 2013 All-Star MVP and was selected as an All-Star for the seventh time in his nine-year career when he was named as a reserve two weeks ago. But there was still some doubt about whether or not he would be ready to play in time for the game.
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said there may not be a more perfect situation for Paul to get court time than a game that is traditionally bereft of defense.
“I like him playing in the All-Star Game, personally,” Rivers said. “I think this is a rare case where he’s ready to play and the All-Star Game is probably the safest venue for him to play because it’s such a defensive struggle. Guys are taking charges and diving on the floor. I think it will just be a good thing for him to just go up and down. It allows him to go up and down in NBA game with really good players that don’t play defense in the game.”
Paul’s appearance in New Orleans will come seven years after his first All-Star Game in the city. Of course, Paul also played six seasons with the Hornets, making his return to New Orleans a momentous occasion.
“For me in 2008, it was an unbelievable experience,” said Paul, who had 16 points, 14 assists and four steals in that game as a 22-year-old. “It was our first year back in New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina], everyone on our team was excited to be back there and we had me and [David] West plus Byron [Scott] as the coach in the game. I am not sure what the NBA knew to expect coming to New Orleans, but once everyone got there, no one wanted to leave. It was one of the funnest times of my career and a game that I will never forget.”
No. 2: Evans, Williams mum on situation in New Orleans – Former Rookie of the Year winner Tyreke Evans has had an up-and-(mostly) down first season with the New Orleans Pelicans as he has more or less struggled as the team’s sixth man. Perhaps the lowest point came Sunday night against the Brooklyn Nets, when Evans was a healthy scratch from the game and coach Monty Williams refused to offer up why he benched the swingman. Evans played Monday night in the Pelicans’ road loss to the Toronto Raptors and finished with 23 points, but both he and Williams remain quiet on what caused the Sunday benching, writes John Reid of NOLA.com:
Unlike Sunday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans swingman Tyreke Evans played Monday night against the Toronto Raptors.
And he finished with a game-high 23-points on 10-of-14 shooting in the Pelicans’ 108-101 loss to the Raptors.
But for the second-straight day, Pelicans coach Monty Williams would not elaborate other than to say it was an unspecified internal matter on why Evans was benched the previous night.
Evans declined comment before Monday night’s game about not playing against the Nets.
But he did say there is not a communication problem going on between Williams and him as been speculated.
“I just want to help the team anyway I can,’’ Evans said.“The media can put whatever they want to put. But I know what was said and here for my teammates. I want to help them win. I’m still hurting, but I’m out there still battling and fighting.”
Evans said he’s still experiencing pain from a cartilage tear between his ribs. But a team source said, Evans’ injury had nothing to do with why he was benched Sunday night.
Unable to shake injuries, Evans has not made the type of impact that was expected before the season started. In Monday’s game against the Raptors, Evans came off the bench but started the game by badly. Evans started slowly Monday night. He airballed a jump shot before getting cal for an offensive charging foul when drove the lane while crowded with Raptors defenders.
Throughout the season, Evans has shown ability to beat defenders off the dribble,but he has struggle to finish around the rim. Evans is averaging 12.4 points, but has made just 40 percent of his shots from the field.
Last week, Williams urged for Evans to become a better jump shooter.
“ I certainly feel like I’ve had to learn his game, learn how to use him and I’m still working on that,” Williams said earlier this week. “He’s also got to learn how we play basketball. He’s got to be a willing passer and understand that he doesn’t have to do it all by himself.
“For Tyreke to be an effective player, he has to play consistent on both ends. We know he can attack the basket, but he’s going have to become a better jump shooter.”
No. 3: McGrady solid in first minor league pitching task – As our good friend Lang Whitaker covered a few weeks ago on the All Ball Blog, retired NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady is more than just pondering a career in baseball … he’s awful serious about trying to get into the big leagues. McGrady has been trying out with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters and threw to stand-in hitters yesterday. Mark Berman of KRIV-TV has more on McGrady’s debut and reports that T-Mac was impressive in his own right on the mound:
McGrady threw to hitters for the first time during a 20-minute bullpen session on Monday at Constellation Field, the home of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
The hitters did not swing, but they got a good look at what McGrady can bring.
“He’s so tall and his arms are so long. His downward slope, you’re not going to see that too often,” said Barrett Barnes, a minor league outfielder in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, in an interview with FOX 26 Sports.
“When you have a presence like that on the mound, it’s really hard to settle in and be comfortable hitting.
“Say his velo is 87, but with his arms and his body, it feels like it’s 90-91 (MPH),” Barnes said.
“His velo might by lower, but it feels like it gets on you way faster.”
Kansas City Royals minor league outfielder Daniel Rockett said it felt like McGrady could almost reach out and touch him from the mound.
“With a dude that big it’s like he’s in the box with you,” Rockett said.
McGrady, who is hoping to land a spot with the Skeeters, an Atlantic League franchise, is working with Arizona Diamondbacks pro scout Scipio Spinks, and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens.
“(Spinks) taught me a lot, mechanics, and just a lot of things I didn’t know about pitching, and I’m using that to my advantage,” McGrady said.
“I also have Roger Clemens out here. What better person to have teaching you some things about pitching than Roger Clemens.”
No. 4: Bucks’ Sanders out indefinitely with eye injury — Whatever the opposite of a breakout season is in the NBA, that’s what Bucks big man Larry Sanders has experienced in 2013-14. After bursting onto the national NBA scene and becoming a Twitter (and Bucks fan) favorite last season, Sanders’ season has gone through a series of fits and starts that began with him missing six weeks of action after a bar fight in Milwaukee early in the season. Sanders has played in 23 games of the Bucks’ 51 games and had been coming into his own in February, but after suffering a hit to the right in Saturday’s loss to Houston, he’ll be out for a while, writes Andrew Gruman of Fox Sports Wisconsin:
Larry Sanders’ turbulent season has hit another bump in the road, as the Bucks center will be out indefinitely with a fractured right orbital bone.
The Bucks did not give a timetable for a potential return, saying Sanders will see a specialist Tuesday. Sanders suffered the injury when he took an inadvertent elbow from Rockets guard James Harden early in Saturday’s loss to Houston.
Bucks coach Larry Drew said Sanders is still experiencing blurred vision and will be out at least through the All-Star break.
“That’s really unfortunate because the kid has been play well,” Drew said. “He was starting to play with a rhythm and played two of his better games this year. It’s just real unfortunate that he sustained the injury.”
Sanders was beginning to regain form of late, averaging 14.3 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 63.3 percent from the field in three February games before having to leave just four minutes in on Saturday.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (rib) won’t play again until after the All-Star break … Warriors center Andrew Bogut has a shoulder injury and coach Mark Jackson‘s comments about it irked the Golden State big man … Evan Turner‘s production has fallen off immensely since his hot start to the season … “Surgery” is planned for New Orleans Pelicans mascot Pierre the Pelican … Bobcats coach Steve Clifford has gotten Charlotte to buy-in on defense and one of the biggest contributors has been Al Jefferson … An SUV belonging to ex-Pistons star Ben Wallace was reportedly involved in a hit-and-run accident in Virginia …
ICYMI(s) of the Night: Officially, the Pacers play at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But there are times when you could call the arena “Rucker Park Midwest” with the kind of fancy dribbling moves Lance Stephenson is known to show off …