Morning shootaround — March 20


VIDEO: Highlights of the games played March 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant held out of practice | Report: Spurs might pursue Grizzlies’ Gasol | Gordon apologizes for Suns talk in 2012

No. 1: Durant held out of practice with Thunder — A little over a week ago, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he expected reigning MVP and team star Kevin Durant to return to the lineup in a week or two. Well, here we are eight days later … does it look like Durant will be suiting up soon for OKC? Based on Royce Young‘s report on ESPN.com’s Daily Thunder blog, it sure doesn’t sound like it:

Durant did not practice today, held out with what Brooks called “some soreness,” which is a word I’m quite sick of seeing, personally.

“Experiencing a little bit of soreness,” Brooks said. “That’s expected. We have some peaks and valleys, and we always have a cautious approach, so today he didn’t do anything.”

Eight days ago, Brooks updated Durant’s timetable to return to play in a “week or two.” That followed two one week re-evaluations. So since Durant underwent a second surgery on Feb. 23, he’s missed almost four weeks.

Asked if he’d classify Durant’s soreness as a setback, or how he’d classify it, Brooks worked around the edges of answering that.

“Just he experienced some soreness,” Brooks said. “I think when you go through rehab, we all know through the rehab process you’re going to have some peaks and valleys, and you just have to adjust accordingly. That’s why he was off today, and he’s definitely not playing tomorrow. That’s all part of the process with his rehab.”

Asked directly if Durant’s timetable has changed, Brooks gave maybe the most revealing answer of all.

“I don’t know that yet,” he said. “But we’ll definitely take, with all our players, with injuries we’ll always take the best interest of the player and always take a cautious approach.”

That’s worrisome. Again, Durant was given a timetable of “a week or two” eight days ago, which suggested he would be back soon. Him not practicing today is certainly a step in the wrong direction of returning, and it certainly appears he’s not on track.

Obviously, with all of this Durant stuff, there’s a lot of worry and concern. But I’ll say this: I have every reason to believe Durant will return in the regular season. I have been told repeatedly by those who would know that Durant’s Jones fracture isn’t at risk. It’s about the pain he’s experiencing as a result of the screw head rubbing against a bone for weeks.

 


VIDEO: OKC’s players are readying for a big showdown with the Hawks tonight

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No. 2: Report: Grizzlies’ Gasol could be Spurs’ top free-agent target — If things hold as they are this morning in the NBA playoff picture (which, of course, you can hardly count on), the Memphis Grizzlies will host the San Antonio Spurs in a first-round series. And if that series comes to pass and the Grizzlies win it, maybe Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili would retire afterward. That’s some of the talk surrounding the Spurs in some circles and, as well, what their next moves would be. Would San Antonio make a push to sign Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, an unrestricted free agent, this summer?  Sean Devaney of The Sporting News has more on such a notion:

Injuries held the Spurs down for much of the early part of the season, and their annual rodeo road trip did not go as well as usual — the Spurs were just 4-5. While Tim Duncan continues to be among the most effective big men in the league, he will be 39 next month. Manu Ginobili, meanwhile, is 37 and again battling ankle trouble.

That’s fired up speculation, an annual rite in the NBA, around what’s next for the Spurs. For much of the year, a rumor has simmered that the Spurs are girding for the retirements of both Duncan and Ginobili, and, according to league sources, are prepared to chase hard after one of the top free agents on the market this summer: Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.

“It depends on what Tim and Manu and everyone there does,” one Western Conference executive told Sporting News. “But if they’re going, the Spurs are not going to step back and rebuild, no one thinks that. The understanding is Gasol would be their top target.”

Even if Gasol remains with the Grizzlies or heads elsewhere, the Spurs will likely look for bold moves to secure their future. They’re expected to give Kawhi Leonard a new contract at the league maximum, or something close to it, and are unlikely to stand pat going forward.

“They tend to fly under the radar on this kind of thing, then pop up and make the George Hill trade or almost get Jason Kidd,” one general manager said. “With their situation, you’d expect that to be the case again. If it is not Gasol, it will be a trade for a draft pick, something on draft night, it will be someone you’re not expecting. It’s not an organization that has gotten where it is without being prepared.”

In 2011, the Spurs surprised many by trading away established guard George Hill to Indiana for the rights to Leonard, the No. 15 pick in that draft. In 2003, the Spurs very nearly signed point guard Jason Kidd — and would have let Tony Parker go to do it — before Kidd opted to go back to New Jersey.

Of course, given the remarkable longevity shown by Ginobili and Duncan, retirement might, ultimately, remain on the shelf. But the front office is well prepared for all contingencies.

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No. 3: Gordon regrets his past free-agency comments — Back in July of 2012, then-free-agent Eric Gordon agreed to a four-year, $58 million offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns. A player for New Orleans the season before, Gordon said about his hopes of landing with the Suns that “Phoenix is where my heart is now.” But, the Pelicans (then known as the Hornets) matched Gordon’s offer sheet and such talk was basically forgotten — except by a large faction of New Orleans’ fan base. As the Pelicans faced the Suns last night, though, Gordon reflected on his comments and apologized for them, writes John Reid of The Times-Picayune:

The Suns apparently stole Gordon’s heart that summer by having more than 100 Suns employees greet him when he arrived at the US Airways Center and the franchise rolled out the orange carpet and had Gordon’s name on a billboard in front of the arena: “Gordon cornerstone,” a suggestion that Gordon could become the cornerstone of the franchise.

But Pelicans general manager Dell Demps ended the party and seemingly broke Gordon’s heart at the time when he matched the Suns’ offer.

Now, it appears everything has worked out for the best for both franchises and Gordon.

On Thursday night, Gordon will be making his first trip back to Phoenix this season  when the Pelicans play the Suns in a crucial game that will have an impact on both team’s playoff hopes.

Admitting he’s more mature, Gordon acknowledged for the first time this week that  he should have handled things differently than he did three years ago. When asked if he wished he could take back saying Phoenix was where his heart was, Gordon said, “For sure.”

”It was business, a tour for them to use and for me you know I got this contract because of them,” said Gordon, who has a year remaining on his current contract and is not likely to opt out this summer to explore free agency. ”That was the thing, but I’ve always believed in myself.”

Gordon said he no longer feels the enormous burden of trying to carry the Pelicans through the rebuilding process.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson is looking to return tonight … Ex-Houston Rockets guard Vernon Maxwell really wanted to face Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in a Finals … Denver’s new coach, Melvin Hunt, is a big fan of small-ball lineups … Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (finger) likely won’t play for a while … A few breaks here or there and the vastly improved Utah Jazz could be in the midst of a 14-game win streak … For the fifth time in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers have a 50-loss season

ICYMI(s) of the Night: Being a shot blocker means sometimes you’re going to get dunked on. Tarik Black of the Lakers reminded Rudy Gobert of this fact …


VIDEO: Tarik Black dunks on Rudy Gobert

… and the Timberwolves keep showing us flashes of just how much fun they can be to watch …


VIDEO: Zach LaVine’s dunk caps off a great stretch for Minnesota

One Comment

  1. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    The Spurs get Gasol would be really big, but i think he will stay in Memphis, right??, i mean the Grizz can’t let him walk for nothing in return… Indiana’s Own Eric Gordon, had so much potential and seen flash’es at times but the injury’s have just hurt him, really i forgot he was on the Pelicans, lol…