Morning shootaround — Oct. 31


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Westbrook could miss 4-6 weeks | Cavs fall flat vs. Knicks | Smith calls out Faried | Brown rips Sixers’ rebuilding plan | Report: Cavs, Varejao closing in on deal

No. 1: Westbrook could miss 4-6 weeks — All those questions about the depth of the Oklahoma City Thunder? The chatter is about to get even louder. The Thunder’s star point guard, Russell Westbrook, suffered a hand injury and had to leave the game last night against the L.A. Clippers. Our own Scott Howard-Cooper provided some context to what the injury might mean for OKC, and then comes this news: according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman, Westbrook could miss four to six weeks as he heals up. The loss of Westbrook, combined with Kevin Durant already being out with a foot injury, spells trouble in Oklahoma:

The early indication is that Russell Westbrook could miss four to six weeks after fracturing the second metacarpal in his right hand Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

It could keep the Thunder’s electric point guard sidelined through mid-December and add him to an already ridiculously long list of injured Oklahoma City players who are expected to miss the season’s first month.

The projected recovery time would cost Westbrook 15 games on the low end and as many as 21 contests. He would rejoin the lineup between Nov. 28 and Dec. 12.

Westbrook is scheduled to undergo further tests Friday in Oklahoma City.

“It’s just really pretty unbelievable. You’re kind of just shocked almost,” said Thunder forward Nick Collison of his team’s injury-riddled roster. “It’s not funny at all, but you almost have to laugh about it just because it’s so many guys.”

In all likelihood, the Thunder will go into its home opener Saturday against Denver with just eight healthy players. Only one is a point guard. Joining veteran Sebastian Telfair are Collison, Perry Jones, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson, Kendrick Perkins, Steven Adams and Lance Thomas.

Under the league’s hardship rule, however, teams can be granted additional roster spots and exceed the maximum of 15 players if they have been depleted by injuries. At least four players must be injured for at least two weeks and must miss at least three regular season games for a team to qualify.

Oklahoma City, which the league recently denied the hardship exception because it had not yet met the games missed criteria, certainly will be eligible now with Durant, Anthony Morrow, Mitch McGary and Grant Jerrett all set to miss Saturday’s game against the Nuggets.

With Westbrook now out for an extended period, the Thunder could soon add two players to its roster, bringing the team’s total number of players to 17.

Still, the Thunder needs help. Now.

The eight remaining players consist of one borderline All-Star (Ibaka), two defensive-oriented big men (Perkins and Collison), three largely unproven players who possess promise (Adams, Roberson and Jones), one journeyman (Telfair) and one training camp survivor (Thomas).

“It’s unfortunate the way it is right now, but that’s the way it is,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We have to figure out how we can improve and get better from all of our experiences. And this is going to be a tough one, but the good teams, good players bounce back through adversity.”

Westbrook ironically was the Thunder’s healthiest player before Thursday. Of course, Westbrook missed 36 games last season after undergoing three surgeries on his right knee in 2013.


VIDEO: Russell Westbrook suffers a hand fracture against the Clippers

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No. 2: LBJ’s homecoming falls a little flat — The hype leading up to last night’s Cleveland Cavaliers-New York Knicks game at Quicken Loans Arena was likely matched by playoff or even Finals games. Granted, it was LeBron James‘ first regular-season game back with the Cavs, so the pump up for the game was somewhat understandable. But at evening’s end, the Cavs fell to the Knicks and James struggled (17 points, but eight turnovers). Our Steve Aschburner was on the scene and details what ailed Cleveland on such a big night:

Parade, meet rain.

As giddy as most of the day and the first part of the night were around and inside Quicken Loans Arena, that’s how dour things got over the final three quarters of the Cavs’ 95-90 loss to the New York Knicks. This wasn’t just buzzkill. This was LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, David Blatt and 20,000 of their closest friends joining Rose and Jack and that sniveling Billy Zane on the decks of the Titanic.

The sinking of the Cavaliers on Thursday came in multiple ways. Over the final three quarters, they got outscored 77-65. The Knicks shot 60.4 percent after the first quarter, including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers, and they outrebounded the home team 24-20. Cleveland shot 44.8 percent over the final 36 minutes and missed 10 of its final 16 3-pointers.

Led by James’ eight turnovers, a nasty crooked number, the Cavs coughed up the ball 14 times in the final three quarters, setting up 20 of those 65 Knicks points. His other numbers (17 points, five rebounds, four assists) might not have looked horrible by the end, but that was due mostly to his sticking around for 43-plus minutes.

By halftime, James had made just one of his nine shots and scored four points. By the final horn, the parade fully submerged (to mix the metaphors), he was a minus-13 on a night his new/old team lost by five.

“My shooting is a lot [on] me, just out of rhythm,” the pooped-party’s guest of honor said afterward. “My turnovers, some of them were careless, some of them were chemistry. I’m throwing passes where I’m hoping some of my teammates were and they were not there. That will come with each game, with each practice. We’ve got to learn each other.”


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Cavs-Knicks in super slow-mo

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No. 3: Smith fires back at Faried’s comments — The Detroit Pistons faltered in their season-opening game in Denver, taking an 89-79 loss that was mostly fueled by a standout game by the Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried (22 points, 17 rebounds). Josh Smith led the Pistons with 25 points, but went 9-for-22 from the field and missed many of his perimeter jump shots. After the game, Faried had some strong words about Smith’s game and, in the day or so since, Smith has jabbed back at Faried. Vincent Goodwill, Jr. of The Detroit News has more:

Walking off the floor after the Nuggets’ 89-79 win in Denver on opening night Wednesday with 22 points and 17 rebounds to his name, Faried mouthed off about Smith’s evening.

“Josh Smith, we let him keep shooting,” Faried said on the team’s website after the game. “And he ended up with 25, but he still kept shooting. He shot them out of the game.”

Smith, who started off hitting six of his first 10 shots but made just three of his final 12, heard of Faried’s comments Thursday afternoon from a friend, and fired back in kind before the Pistons played the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I don’t respond to nobody with dreadlocks who plays basketball,” Smith said, referring to Faried’s hairdo. “He’s a clown, quote me on that.”

Faried got the better of Smith on opening night, but Smith vowed things would be different when the two meet again in early February at The Palace. Faried has made his name as an energy player at power forward, and earned his numbers in 27 minutes, which likely sticks in Smith’s craw.

“He knows it’s coming, he knows, next time we play,” Smith said. “In order to make those comments like that, you gotta be able to back it up and we’ll see next time.”

“I’ll have some words while I’m busting his (behind). I back it up when I talk. It’s gonna be a pretty good matchup.”

Trash talk isn’t unusual where top athletes compete at the highest level, but rarely is it so straightforward and unprompted, as Faried’s comments appeared to be.

“He fears me,” Smith said. “He’s scared of me, so, of course, he’ll talk about me in the paper. He won’t do it to me in my face. If you have to hide behind a microphone or smartphone, so be it. I don’t mind.”

Other players in the locker room said the Nuggets as a whole were a little mouthy, so Faried appears to be following suit. Not that Smith cares one bit about the origin of Faried’s comments or the culture that appears to exist in Denver.”Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” Smith said. “But do it when the game is being played and not after, when you run your mouth like that.”

“It’s a lot of social media. I’m an older guy, I’m not on social media, Twitter, Instagram. It’s a lot of media thugs and Instagram gangstas, I would classify him in one of those categories.”

***

No. 4: Brown rips into Sixers’ rebuilding plan — Other than Billy Cunningham in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Larry Brown might have been the most successful coach in Philadelphia in the modern NBA era. His teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, led by Allen Iverson, made one trip to The Finals (in 2001) and were a mostly regular playoff bunch. Brown hasn’t coached in Philly since 2002-03 and is currently the coach of SMU’s men’s basketball team. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen the rebuild (or as some would call it, tanking) efforts by the Sixers of late and, as John N. Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Brown isn’t happy with what he’s seen:

As the 76ers begin another unabashed effort to post the worst record in the NBA, former coach Larry Brown says he is disgusted by what has become of the team he led to the NBA Finals in 2001.

“I hate what’s going on in Philly,” the Hall of Fame coach said Wednesday. “They don’t have a basketball person in the organization. It makes me sick to my stomach.”


Brown spoke highly of current Sixers coach Brett Brown. However, he said he could not coach a team whose intended goal is to lose as many games as possible to secure a potentially high lottery pick.

“No, I wouldn’t do it. We wouldn’t lose. Brett can coach, he’s one of Pop’s guys,” Brown said, referring to San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich. “But what they are doing to that city to me is mind-boggling. That’s the greatest basketball city in the world with its fans and you want them to sit back and watch you lose.

“Can you imagine telling Allen Iverson that this is a rebuilding season so we’re going to be bad on purpose?” Brown continued. “I love [Nerlens] Noel, I love Joel [Embiid]. But you can’t put that stuff into them. Again, it boggles my mind. I understand you have to get assets to get better. You get assets by developing young players, draft picks, and moving contracts. But how much teaching is going on?”

Harris hired Sam Hinkie, previously the assistant general manager in Houston, to replace Tony DiLeo. Hinkie is an advocate of advanced basketball analytics. The Sixers finished with the second-worst record in the league last season (19-63) but fell to the third pick in the lottery, and drafted Embiid, a 7-foot center who will likely sit out this season after surgery to repair a broken right foot.

“These analytics, they don’t mean squat to me,” Brown said. “Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. To say that these analytics guys have the answer is crazy. It doesn’t apply to basketball. Everybody uses the data you get, but that’s what coaching is. Maybe it will work, I don’t know. But it’s a shame what those fans are going through waiting to see if it will.”

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No. 5: Report: Cavs, Varejao closing in on deal — As we reported in this space four days ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers and veteran forward/center Anderson Varejao were in the midst of contract extension talks. It appears the two sides are nearly settled on a three-year contract, writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com, that will keep Varejao in Cleveland for the foreseeable future:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are nearing agreement on a contract extension with long-serving big man Anderson Varejao, league sources told ESPN.com on Thursday.

Sources said the Cavaliers and Varejao — one of LeBron James‘ most beloved teammates — are closing in on a new three-year deal worth an estimated $30 million that would kick in starting with the 2015-16 season.

Varejao has spent his entire NBA career with the Cavaliers after Cleveland acquired his rights on draft night in 2004.

The Cavaliers and Varejao, sources said, have been eager to finalize terms on a new pact before the start of the new season. Cleveland opens its campaign Thursday by hosting the New York Knicks.

Varejao, 32, was in the final year of a six-year, $49 million pact and is earning $9.7 million this season.


VIDEO: Anderson Varejao talks after the Cavs’ season-opening loss to the Knicks

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Cool video: Time-lapse photography of the LeBron James banner in Cleveland being unveiled … The San Antonio Spurs will have Kawhi Leonard back in the lineup tonight … The L.A. Clippers could be without Glen “Big Baby” Davis (groin) for a week or so … The Atlanta Hawks are passing on their team option on forward John Jenkins … Former All-Star big man Jermaine O’Neal says he might try to play next season, but not this season …

ICYMI OF THE NIGHT: Jameer Nelson knows a lot about throwing alley-oops from his Orlando Magic days with Dwight Howard. Surely, Tyson Chandler appreciates that … 


VIDEO: Tyson Chandler finishes off the Jameer Nelson assist with power

 

11 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    Who OKC needs RIGHT now is a player like Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo or even Ray Allen.

  2. Thunder ! says:

    Now that the Thunder are hurting a bit, it would be fun to see them add Tmac and Iverson for short timers just for kicks. Probably going to lose the games anyway and they would probably sell out.

  3. Sergo says:

    I think j smith over react
    And Faried is arguably beter player than him

  4. TheKush says:

    Wow not good I was looking forward to seeing how Thunder would play with Westbrook as the leader. Hope to see Westbrook and Durant back on the court sooner than later

  5. T gas TT ako says:

    smith VS faried!!! yeah!!! lets get it on!!! this is for the undisputed power forward championship of the world!!!! place ur bets,,,

  6. Paul says:

    OKCs in trouble.

  7. verkleyalex says:

    Big blow to this team who had championship aspirations in the summer. I thought if they could hover around .500 they had a good shot still to make the playoffs and go far when Durant came back. That looks almost impossible now with Perry Jones leading the way. Lets hope Reggie Jackson comes back quickly and same with Morrow. This team needs all the offense they can get.

    Please click my name and take a look at my blog. I’ll be posting my opinions on injuries, trades, etc as the season goes on. I’ve also posted my season predictions (although those may be shot already with this injury) so take a look and have a laugh at me. Please feel free to leave comments

  8. brusier brody says:

    Back to the trailer park for Thunder fans!!

  9. Rocket's Red says:

    I hate to say… but the Thunder may not even make the playoffs this year. The West is too deep for the Thunder to afford something north of another 12 losses.

    On another note… So J Smoove, you won’t even talk to Kawhi, then?

  10. LEBRON AS GM, TOO FUNNY says:

    CAVS PLEASE KEEP LETTING LEBRON BE YOUR GM. SO FAR CAVS HAVE SIGNED TO WASHED UP HEAT PLAYERS WHO WON’T SEE THE COURT UNLESS THEY NEED ONE BIG THREE POINT SHOT. IT’S LAUGHABLE. PLEASE SIGN VARAJOA TO A FOUR YEAR DEAL SO I CAN LAUGH AT THAT TOO.