Morning shootaround — March 18


VIDEO: Highlights of the games played March 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls get good news on injuries | Silver: Talk of work stoppage ‘premature’ | Randolph, Grizzlies miffed after loss | Popovich: Spurs’ effort vs. Knicks ‘pathetic’

No. 1: Injury cloud may soon be leaving Bulls — As The Starters discussed on their show yesterday, several teams in the NBA this season have been unlucky when it comes to losing players due to injury. One such team on that list is the Chicago Bulls, who, of late, have been without the services of Taj Gibson and All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose. Things are starting to look up for Chicago, though, as Gibson and Butler are nearing a return and Rose may be ahead of schedule for a comeback, too. The Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson has more:

Ater an injury-riddled, 4-7 stretch and talk of minutes restrictions and internal discord, the Bulls needed some positive news.

They got it.

Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson practiced fully Tuesday at the Advocate Center and Derrick Rose participated in the non-contact portions. All three players remain on schedule to return, with Butler and Gibson possible later this week and coach Tom Thibodeau saying Rose is “maybe even slightly ahead” of his four to six week timeline that began Feb. 27.

“This was very good,” an upbeat Thibodeau said of the day’s developments.

Butler sprained a ligament and suffered a small bone impaction in his left elbow when he ran into DeAndre Jordan’s screen on March 1. He wore a brace but even got up left-handed shots — his non-shooting hand — after practice.

“My body feels great in the morning. My first practice back, I had a few bumps. But I think it’s possible,” Butler said of returning late this week. “But I can’t rush it. I don’t want it to get any worse. It’s never going to have full range while I’m playing, but I think it will feel better in a few days.

“My teammates, coaches and management are all in my corner, telling me to be careful. Obviously, I know that. But it’s hard when I want to play so bad. You want to get back, but you know you shouldn’t come back too early.”

Gibson severely sprained his left ankle Feb. 27, the same day Rose underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove a small tear in his right meniscus. The Tribune reported Feb. 25 that Rose expected to return this season.

“It’s the next phase of his rehab,” Thibodeau said of Rose participating in parts of practice. “He still has to obviously strengthen the knee. But it’s a good step for him.”

So, obviously, would returning to full strength. The Bulls are 15-4 when Rose, Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol start.

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No. 2: Silver: Talk of work stoppage now would be ‘premature’ — If you missed it Monday, our own David Aldridge had a great Morning Tip in which he spelled out many of the labor and salary-cap issues concerning the NBA that will have to be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement. While Aldridge seems to think a work stoppage is inevitable come 2017, NBA commissioner Adam Silver mostly stayed away from the topic as he spoke with the media in Indianapolis before Monday’s Pacers-Raptors game. Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star has more:

Silver praised front-office personnel (Larry Bird, Kevin Pritchard and Donnie Walsh) for the Pacers’ success since February, calling the team’s 13-3 record, before Monday’s loss, “just fantastic.” However, not once during Silver’s whirlwind tour — that also included a luncheon at the local rotary club — did the topic of a potential NBA work stoppage in 2017 arise in conversation.

“Believe it or not — I can’t speak for the union or anything — but it’s not something I’m talking to teams about yet,” Silver said. “I think it’s premature.”

Recently, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) made the expected decision to reject the league’s proposal to smooth out the rising salary cap. The NBA’s new media rights deals, worth more than $2.6 billion per year, are expected to take form in the 2016-17 season as well as increase the salary cap. By “smoothing,” the league intended to avoid a dramatic spike in the cap in 2016-17 and progressively spread the money over the first few years of the new TV deal.

However, the refusal to this proposition — as well as union leader Michele Roberts already stating on record that the NBPA plans to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in December 2016 — has caused concern that another labor fight between players and owners could be in the future.

Just not enough concern, at least in Silver’s interactions, among management and owners across the league to discuss the possibility. The current CBA expires after the 2016-17 season.

“We’re operating under the current CBA and building stage,” Silver said. “There will be a time for that but (now) it’s premature.”

 

Additionally, Silver, who recently completed his first year as commissioner, stated his next focus will be finding ways to improve the health and welfare of players, specifically mentioning the need to examine scheduling of back-to-back games and four games in five nights. However, Silver does not envision a change in the 82-game schedule.

“I’m not looking to reduce the length of the season,” Silver said. “It’s no secret, it’s an economic issue for the league and the players if we were to cut the number of games in a season and I don’t think that’s the issue. Frankly, as I travel, people only want more NBA, not less NBA.

“We’re going to look at everything but to me, in the first instance, we’ve got to look at how we can do a better job scheduling within the existing number of dates,” Silver continued. “Then beyond that, should we be starting a little bit earlier? Can we go a little bit later? Those are also the kinds of things we can look at to try to stretch the season out a little bit.”


VIDEO: Adam Silver’s interview with Indianapolis media

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No. 3: Randolph rages after Grizzlies lose to Pistons — The Memphis Grizzlies entered last night’s game against the Detroit Pistons as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and wake this morning in the same spot. That’s the good news for the Grizzlies. The bad news — after last night’s 105-95 loss in Detroit — is that Memphis’ star forward, Zach Randolph, sees some issues with Memphis as it enters the final month of the season. Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal has more:

Zach Randolph stomped around the visitors’ locker room, wearing a scowl and delivering a twofold rant about the Grizzlies’ latest debacle.

“Ten in a row?” the veteran power forward said. “Ten in a row?”

That was in reference to the Detroit Pistons’ 10-game losing streak that fell by the wayside Tuesday night with a 105-95 victory over the erratic Grizzlies in The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Randolph went on to use another word to describe the Griz, who are supposed to be a championship contender but continue to find ways to lose to teams with bad records.

On this night, the Griz were soft. They blew a 17-point, first-half lead, then allowed the Pistons (24-43) to run an offensive clinic over the final two quarters. Detroit shot 61 percent, turned the ball over just four times and outscored Memphis 66-41 in the second half. A Pistons team that hadn’t won since Feb. 22 looked like a world beater.

“We’ve got to get tough,” Randolph said before nearly pushing the locker room door off its hinges upon his exit. “It’s not just one thing. It’s a lot. We were soft, and we didn’t stick to what we were doing. It’s a disappointing loss, especially with what we’re talking about doing. We’ve got to do something to fix this.”

The Griz (47-21) have almost exhausted ways to describe the malaise. They are 8-7 since the All-Star break, with four of those defeats against teams with a sub-.500 record.

Coach Dave Joerger stood outside the locker room seven minutes after the final buzzer and before the media assembled for interviews. So Joerger went back into the locker room and later declined to comment to The Commercial Appeal as he walked to the team’s bus.

Griz center Marc Gasol wasn’t even visible in the locker room.

Randolph and Gasol combined for 24 points and 11 rebounds by halftime, when the Griz led 54-39.

Memphis initially took control when it closed the opening period on a 9-0 run and continued to methodically sew what seemed to be a comfortable cushion.

But the game proved just how fleeting the Grizzlies’ offensive execution is, and how disconcerting their lack of focus is these days.

“It’s like we let our guard down,” Tony Allen said. “I’m not even worried about today. We’ve been talking about this for a long time as a team. We had a good opportunity to push it out to a 20 or 30-point lead and we didn’t. It’s happened a lot of times. We’ve got to find a way to change that.”

 

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No. 4: Popovich blasts Spurs after their OT loss to Knicks — In San Antonio Spurs lore, this time of the season is typically when the team rounds into form and gets its mojo working for a long playoff run. And the Spurs have been playing well of late, winning seven of their last eight games entering last night’s game at MSG against the lowly New York Knicks. But then the Spurs went out and got outscored 28-21 in the fourth quarter to help New York notch an eventual 104-100 overtime win. Afterward, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich laid into his team, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com:

The Spurs coach went out of his way to praise the Knicks and coach Derek Fisher for their 104-100 overtime upset at Madison Square Garden before ripping into his own team.

“We didn’t respect the game, we didn’t respect our opponent,” said Popovich, whose Spurs led by as much as 13 in the third quarter. “It was a pathetic performance and I hope that every player is embarrassed. Not because ‘we are supposed to win the game’ but it is about how you play the game.”

Popovich had good reason to be fuming. The rebuilding Knicks, who improved to 14-53, became the first team with a winning percentage below .200 — at the 60-game mark or later — to beat a defending NBA champion according to ESPN Stats and Info.

“They were really good,” Popovich said. “I take my hat off to him, a really difficult year and watching Derek conduct himself the way he has all year long is a really impressive thing. He and the coaches deserve a lot of credit and the players were fantastic tonight. They moved the ball better than we did, they played better team basketball.”

Tony Parker had 21 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Spurs, who played without Manu Ginobili (ankle).

“I thought their movement and unselfishness was great,” Popovich said of the Knicks. “Their juice and competitiveness was better than ours. They respected the game. They got rewarded for it. So I am happy for them. It will help them get through the rest of the year.

“Not much else to say,” Popovich added. “It’s been a joy, have a good night.”


VIDEO: Gregg Popovich says the Spurs gave a ‘pathetic’ effort against the Knicks

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Miami Heat will soon sign Michael Beasley for the rest of the season … Heat center Hassan Whiteside is learning how to control his passion on the court … Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is building a home on Disney’s sponsored Golden Oak in Orlando … Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist wants to be remembered as the best defender of all-timeJohn Wall and DeMarcus Cousins say their 2010 Kentucky team could beat the current undefeated squad … Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic knows he doesn’t look good in a headband … Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry says he’d vote for LeBron James for MVP

ICYMI of the Night: Reggie Jackson bounced back in a big way last night against the Grizzlies…


VIDEO: Reggie Jackson notches 23 points and 20 assists against Memphis

6 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    Am I the only one happy for the Bulls that their players will be coming back? I prefer the Bulls over the Cavaliers. Just me.

  2. Abjamu Jackson says:

    20 and 10 would look real nice in Detroit?

  3. dustydreamnz says:

    Knicks vs Spurs wasn’t the biggest upset I’ve seen but was close to it.
    I think Williams will be fine with the Pistons, always takes time to adjust. If they shop well in the summer, they could be a team to watch next year.

  4. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    A healthy Bulls were everyone’s pick to come out the East, but it might be to late, The Grizzles are going to be a tough out in the playoffs, there fine as long as every one stays healthy. Bad lost for the Spurs.

  5. Alex says:

    I think he was trying to rest some players and didn’t like what his bench showed him. The bench is a big reason for the Spurs winning last year and they have been up and down all year. Having said that, I am not worried and think Tha the this loss is needed to give a “jolt” to a team which was pretty much disinterested for stretches this season.

  6. lino says:

    yeah, well, pop didn’t do himself any favors by changing up his rotation, and one can only guess it’s because he too didn’t take the opponent very seriously. go ahead, give matt no-defense bonner almost 13 minutes of pt, and this is what you get.