Morning shootaround — April 22


VIDEO: Highlights from games played April 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rondo benched in Game 2 | Howard, Smith dominate Mavs | Batum sorry for anti-Spanish comment | Lowry suffers shin injury vs. Wizards

No. 1: Rondo benched as Mavs fall into 0-2 hole — As he did in Game 1, point guard Rajon Rondo started Game 2 last night against the Houston Rockets, but only logged 9 minutes, 55 seconds. That’s a low number for an otherwise healthy starter, and even lower when you consider all but 34 seconds of that stint came in the first half. Rondo was clearly disinterested in last night’s game as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle pulled him early in the first quarter for J.J. Barea and played Rondo a few more minutes in the second quarter. All of last night’s events, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, seem to point to Rondo and Carlisle parting ways permanently this summer:

Rajon Rondo looped around the media horde surrounding his stall late Tuesday night in the Toyota Center visitors’ locker room and darted into the trainer’s room.

A couple of minutes later, Rondo emerged with headphone buds in his ears and ignored the handful of reporters who attempted to ask him questions as he walked toward the arena’s exits, his eyes never shifting from straight ahead.

The whole scene didn’t last much longer than Rondo’s 34-second stint on the floor during the second half of the Dallas Mavericks’ 111-99 loss to the Houston Rockets, who will head up Interstate 45 with what seems like a 2-0 stranglehold on the series.

Actually, judging by his body language, Rondo looked like a dude just waiting for his inevitable divorce from Dallas to happen. Unless the seventh-seeded Mavs pull off a miracle, Rondo won’t have to wait much longer.

Did Rondo really even care about riding pine for most of the night?

“You have to ask him that question,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, not exactly offering a ringing endorsement for the four-time All-Star point guard the Mavs acquired from the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster December trade. “All I know right now is that we need everybody at their competitive best.

“This isn’t about one guy who did or didn’t play. This is about everybody pulling in the same direction for the organization. That’s what it’s about.”

Rondo certainly didn’t come close to his competitive best during the nine minutes, 55 seconds that he wasn’t on the bench during Game 2.

A little more than four minutes into the game, Rondo nonchalantly walked the ball up the floor, getting whistled for an absolutely ridiculous eight-second backcourt violation with the Rockets not even applying pressure. He was pulled for J.J. Barea 40 seconds later — after Rondo wandered aimlessly on defense to let Jason Terry hit a wide-open 3 — and Carlisle didn’t call for Rondo again until 5:30 remained in the second quarter.

At this point, Carlisle really has no motivation to massage Rondo’s ego. They won’t be together much longer before they reach a mutual decision to part ways this summer, when Rondo enters free agency. Carlisle can only care about giving Dallas its best chance to pull off an upset in this series, and the overwhelming evidence from the first two games is that Rondo isn’t part of the solution.

But Carlisle gave Rondo one more chance to prove he deserved minutes with Dallas’ season on the line. Rondo responded by committing two dumb fouls on James Harden and picking up a technical for holding and shoving the Rockets’ MVP candidate after the first whistle, the basketball savant packing all that stupidity into 34 embarrassing seconds of action.

Playoff Rondo? Puh-leeeeese.

Perhaps surprisingly, there were no postgame fireworks between Carlisle and Rondo, multiple sources told ESPNDallas.com. The coach and point guard had infamous expletive-laced exchanges on Feb. 24, the first occurring during a timeout after Rondo walked the ball up the floor and ignored Carlisle’s play call midway through the third quarter, the second coming in the locker room after Rondo watched the rest of the Mavs’ comeback win over the Toronto Raptors from the bench.

In this instance, however, Carlisle simply called the team together in the middle of the locker room and said a few quick words. Rondo and Carlisle didn’t say a word to each other.

There was no outright hostility. Just a lot of awkwardness.

Rondo had a heck of a view from the bench, where he appeared to watch with as little interest as anyone in the rocking arena. He barely moved during the second half, getting on his feet only to offer halfhearted daps to teammates during timeouts.

Rondo’s warm-up shirt read “WE ARE ONE,” the Mavs’ slogan this postseason. His face definitely didn’t convey the same message.

“I’m sure it’s a difficult situation for him,” said Mavs center Tyson Chandler, who has had a trying season as a leader of a chemistry-challenged team. “He’s a competitor. He wants to be out there. Sometimes matchups and all that other stuff, you never know what’s going on.

“But we’ve got to all stay in this thing together. It’s the only way we’re going to have a chance.”

UPDATE: Per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Rondo will be done in Dallas as long as Carlisle is back as coach:

When Rondo realized his run with the Celtics was over this year, he planned to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports. He expected a maximum contract. Once Dallas made the trade, he was open to re-signing with the Mavericks – only there are no max contract offers for Rondo on the market. Not in Dallas, nor Los Angeles. He’s played his way out of that payday – not just this year, but since that terrible ACL injury two years ago.

Everything’s pushing Rondo closer to his inevitable free-agent fleeing to the Lakers this summer. As long as the coach is back, Rondo’s gone, sources told Yahoo Sports. The parting could be mutual.


VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew discusses the Rajon Rondo situation

***

No. 2: Smith, Howard relive AAU glory days in Game 2 win — In the early days of their respective careers with the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, there was always talk of whether one day, childhood friends and AAU teammats Dwight Howard and Josh Smith would team up in the NBA. It took the Detroit Pistons cutting ties with Smith earlier this season for the two players to be reunited in Houston. Last night’s Game 2 against the Dallas Mavericks was a revival of their AAU days in a way as the duo’s dunks, blocks and steals powered the Rockets to a 2-0 series edge. Our Fran Blinebury has more:

There were Howard and Smith scratching off the Mavericks in a fourth quarter of Game 2 on Tuesday night that was both a look back at their past and perhaps a glimpse of how far they still can go in tandem.

It was a one-point game entering the final period until Howard and Smith turned back the clock.

“Unbelievable,” said teammate James Harden. “It brought them back to their AAU days to where they were making passes to each other, lobs, jumping up and down. A lot of excitement in the building. That’s a fun feeling.”

It was fun that grew into delirium as Smith and Howard hooked up with alley-oop passes that produced five dunks in the space of just eight minutes and blew the game wide open to give Houston a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

So even after a portfolio that already held 52 games of playoff experience, this is a different situation and a different atmosphere that Smith finds himself in.

It’s a season that began with him getting cut by the lowly Pistons back in December, told essentially that he could keep all that was left of the four-year, $54 million free agent contract he signed in 2013, if he would just go away.

Smith was signed by the Rockets on Christmas Eve, a gift that has delivered in both directions. Smith has been a model teammate in Houston, a sixth man asked to come off the bench and make those off-the-chart individual skills fit into a team.

It certainly has helped to be reunited with his old AAU buddy Howard, who is a reclamation project himself, trying to fight off two years of back surgery and knee problems that have made some wonder if he’d be able to get back to his former dominant level.

“It’s big to be able to get an opportunity to play in the postseason,” Smith said. “Guys don’t understand the importance of playing in the postseason. But having been there, it’s kind of an addictive feel.”

Howard answered the questions in Game 2 by playing 33 minutes that were full of energy and explosiveness.

Smith’s response was to act like a virtuoso pianist and make his fingers dance across all the keys. When he wasn’t playing pitch and catch with Howard in the fourth quarter, he fed Corey Brewer for a pair of slams and dunked two himself. He also made a sensational hustle play over the end line, saving the ball with one hand and flicking it into the right corner, for Brewer to nail a 3-pointer.

“Josh was finding guys and they were cutting. Guys were moving for him. He and Dwight had some beautiful hook-ups on lob passes and he did a wonderful job of getting into spots and making the next play and breaking down the defense. He had a couple of dunks when they didn’t come over…and that was the game right there.”


VIDEO: Dwight Howard and Josh Smith reflect on their Game 2 play

***

No. 3: Batum apologizes for anti-Spanish message — The Portland Trail Blazers were routed by the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 and after the loss, John Canzano of The Oregonian found a strange sign on one of the TVs in the Blazers’ locker room. On the sign were several motivational phrases for the team, including a puzzling one that read “We don’t lose to Spanish players”. Of course, Grizzlies center Marc Gasol hails from Spain and this message was thought to be a shot at him. Blazers forward Nicolas Batum has apologized for that phrase being on the card and for his role in the sign in the locker room, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:

Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum has apologized for his role in a team motivational message that included an inflammatory remark about Spanish players, which was perceived as a shot at Grizzlies All-Star center Marc Gasol.

“I apologize if I hurt some people,” Batum said before the Blazers practiced Tuesday at FedEx Forum. “But I have total respect for Marc Gasol. He knows that. We’ve talked about it sometimes.”

Batum said his intent was never to harm Spanish people or anyone else when he contributed to a list of motivational themes the Trail Blazers posted inside the visitors’ locker room before their 100-86 loss Sunday to Memphis in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

A Blazers spokesman said several team members contributed thoughts to the card.

Batum confirmed Tuesday he was responsible for the part about Spanish players and that a long-standing international basketball rivalry between France and Spain was the source of the comment. He said the message was not intended as a cultural or racist insult.

The fallout has overshadowed preparation for Game 2 on Wednesday, although Gasol has spent the past two days trying to defuse the scrutiny.

Batum said he has not heard from the league about any potential disciplinary action and that he had not yet reached out to Gasol to apologize directly. Batum said he may have a chance during Wednesday’s game to speak to Gasol to make sure the Memphis star understands the intent was not to be offensive.

Gasol said again Tuesday it shouldn’t be a distraction.

“I don’t have no take,” Gasol said before the Grizzlies practiced. “And if I don’t take anything out of it, I don’t expect any of you guys [in the media] to take anything out of it. As far as I know, none of you guys are Spanish. So I hope nobody is bothered by that.”


VIDEO: Marc Gasol is looking forward to Game 2 of the Blazers-Grizzlies series

***

No. 4: Lowry suffers shin injury in Game 2 loss — So far, the Raptors-Wizards first-round series has been a nightmare for Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry. After averaging 17.8 ppg and shooting 41.8 percent during the season, Lowry is down to 6.5 ppg and 25 percent shooting as Washington has built a 2-0 series lead. Now comes word that Lowry suffered a shin contusion late in the Game 2 loss last night, writes Holly MacKenzie of Raptors.com:

Through two games in this series, Lowry has struggled to stay on the court thanks to foul trouble. In the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Lowry again had to leave the game, but this time it was after getting tangled with Paul Pierce and suffering a shin contusion on his left leg. He left the game at the 5:56 mark of the fourth quarter and did not return.

Lowry addressed the media by his locker after the game, saying that he would be okay. Lowry shot 3-for-10 in Game 2, but only played 28 minutes because of foul trouble. When he was on the floor, the Raptors looked markedly better than when they were trying to keep things afloat without him.

“It sucks because I’m trying to help my teammates, trying to be more physical and play playoff basketball, but I keep getting fouls,” Lowry said. “It’s really holding me back from being out there with my team.”

“I’m not getting clean looks right now and I even missed a couple of free throws,” Lowry continued. “I can’t dictate my game on just offence, I can’t even stay on the floor. I need to find a way to stay on the floor.”

But, good news for Toronto, at least: Lowry told ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst he hopes to play in Game 3:

Kyle Lowry is day to day after suffering a left shin contusion in the Toronto Raptors’ playoff loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. But he indicated he hopes to play when the series continues Friday in Washington.

The Raptors said Lowry will be re-evaluated Wednesday and it’s possible he could get some tests to determine whether there is any damage.

“It’s a little left knee, left shin contusion,” Lowry said. “But I’ll be OK.”

 


VIDEO: Kyle Lowry leaves Game 2 with a shin injury

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Digging deep into the stats from Game 2 of Wizards-RaptorsRockets-Mavericks and Celtics-Cavaliers … Ed Davis is opting out, but he wants to stay with the Lakers … Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is undecided on his option for the 2015-16 season … Sorry, every other NBA team — the San Antonio Spurs are prepared to move heaven and Earth to re-sign Kawhi Leonard … Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green is doing what he can to make Anthony Davis take tough shots … Get this: LeBron James never told the Miami Heat to draft Shabazz Napier … ICYMI, Tim Frazier of the Maine Red Claws in the NBA D-League was named both Rookie of the Year and MVP yesterday

ICYMI(s) of the Night: We could spend all morning watching (and re-watching) this beautiful Kyrie Irving-to-LeBron James alley-oop … 


VIDEO: LeBron James caps off the fast break with an impressive jam

… and how about Dwight Howard serving up the volleyball spike on J.J. Barea‘s weak layup attempt?


VIDEO: Dwight Howard denies J.J. Barea with authority

 

9 Comments

  1. justsayin says:

    Said it before, say it again – if Rondo’s going, the Mavs should make a run at Dragic in free agency. That would be some dynamite transition, pairing him with Parsons and Ellis.

  2. to2oamazon says:

    It’s obvious you do not prefer Rondo and this will be obvious that I do. So get ready for my difference of opinion. Rondo is a pure point guard, a floor general. He was this when Dallas pursued him. Why get a floor general and then handcuff him? It’s very frustrating to watch because Space Jam is a cartoon movie that’s not real. Rondo’s talent isn’t sitting in a ball. His talent is there but it’s being forcibly bottled up. Can you imagine the other players feelings? Seeing Rondo’s past play and watching him in practice or away from Carlisle. Seeing what he can do. Dirk said in an in reference to the February incident, maybe let the guy go because he knows what to do. Hmm, he’s about the onky player who can risk stating the truth. No one can speak out because Carlisle is a bencher, we’ve seen that for ourselves. Why would Dirk say that if Rondo was talentless or not engaged? Rondo is a champion and he wants to win. His current and past teammates know this. Rondo walking the ball up the floor while engaged in conversation with Carlisle is all Rondo’s fault? Nah, the coach should have seen that he was holding him up. He puts it all on Rondo to hide his hand in it. When the whistle blew Carlisle’s face shows surprise. Carlisle was not engaged Barkley. Harden pushes and elbows. Rondo shut him down game 1, check Harden’s stats. The media did not report one time that Rondo shut down this scoring phenomenon. Nope, thats not the spin the media wants on Rondo. Harden played on Carlisle and got his competition out of the way. Rondo jostling along with Harden should have not resuled in benching given Rondo’s proven ability to stop Harden. I understand he got a tech but sit him a while and let him cool down then put him back in. This Carlisle trying to Pinocchio Rondo thing is pathetic. Rondo didn’t change who he was when they pursued and signed him. The media wants this to look like Rondo is moody but I don’t force feed well so I reject that. Rondo is a floor general and Carlisle is a control freak. The two cannot coexist unless one caves in. Why should Rondo cave when his floor general talent is why Dallas pursued him? So, you all can continue to make it what you want it to be but I will only accept the facts thank you. All they did was mess up Rondo’s free agency. “Good grief”. I dare the Mavericks to start a game and announce Rondo will be play calling. Let me see Rondo because I’ve seen enough of Carlisle. Rondo will be responsible for his own disengagement and other adjectives then. Right now, this mess is Carlisle all of the way. Don’t open your palm for rain, capture it and then try to stop it from being wet and then report that the rain won’t cooperate and expect me to belive it.

    • Torq says:

      pack it up folks, we found the chosen one

      In seriousness, I don’t think it could be put better into words..

  3. lino says:

    watching the “inside” clip about rondo shows why shaq should just sit there and be quiet. barkley, of course, and once again, is correct: it’s about responsibility.

  4. Hirsi says:

    If I was Rondo i would`nt show up to my next game and see how they do

  5. Badasi12b says:

    Man I wish we could waive Rondo right now… This is unacceptable. We CAN’T win when a player we gave up ALOT for doesn’t even want to play for the team! It’s unfair! I hated the trade when we did it and my thoughts ring even stronger now. I wanted to keep Branden Wright and Jameer Nelson (who got a bad rap in Dallas), signed! This is sickening. I want us to hurry and get it over with and look to next season without Rondo and hope we’re able to Band-Aid this disgusting situation… It’s almost as if he and the Lakers are in cahoots. Kill a team from the inside out. Literally WALKED the ball up court for an 8 sec. violation… And looking uninterested… If he starts balling out of control next season with the Lakers then everything we thought will be correct… He sabotaged us! UNACCEPTABLE!

    • Mike says:

      Dallas made a mistake getting Rondo YES and only yes because Rondo deserves better he should be Calling plays not relying on a coach who wants everything his way I hope he goes to the rockets or at least a team to contend….. Dallas has way to high of hopes and for the record Jameer Nelson Blows he had 1 good season which he was injured during most of it and I’m an Orlando Fan