Morning shootaround — Oct. 16

VIDEO: Highlights from games played Oct. 15


Rose not ruling out return for opener | Kerr may soon rejoin team | George thinks Pacers can have elite defense again | Report: Pelicans sign veteran Robinson

No. 1: Rose not ruling out return for opener — Chicago Bulls fans are understandably skeptical when they hear any news about when Derrick Rose may return from an injury. This time around, the Bulls’ star is recovering from a orbital fracture that will keep him out of the preseason and has his status for the regular-season opener against Cleveland in jeopardy. Rose took part in yesterday’s non-contact practices and wore a protective mask. He said after seeing how he’d fit in new coach Fred Hoiberg‘s offense, he’s truly hoping to play in the opener. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:

But in his first public comments since fracturing his left orbital bone Sept. 29, there was no hiding his excitement to play in Fred Hoiberg’s offense. That may be in part why Rose refused to rule out playing in the Oct. 27 regular-season opener despite not yet getting cleared for contact.

“Every day, it’s improving. It could be quick. Who knows? It’s no timetable. It’s whenever I can go play,” Rose said Thursday after his first non-contact workout with his new mask. “I want to play. I’m anxious to play. I’m getting jittery just watching the freedom we have playing. … If I’m willing to go and I know there’s nothing in my way, I’ll play (the opener.)”

Rose said he hasn’t experienced pain since the first two days after the Sept. 30 surgery, though his eye still is swollen and he occasionally experiences double vision.

Rose, in detailing how fully opening the swollen eye causes the double vision, offered a window into his confident mindset.

“With one eye open, I think I could play pretty good,” he said.

“He was moving, cutting full speed, getting full-speed shots up, so it’s encouraging,” said Hoiberg, who celebrated his 43rd birthday. “Now, a big part of it is getting the confidence that he can take a blow. I played with Reggie Miller when he did this, and he was really conscious of, ‘If I get hit again, is something going to happen?’”

Rose said he had input in which mask to wear, opting, like friend and workout partner Russell Westbrook, for a version that doesn’t guard the nose so he “can breathe better.” And, yes, Rose may become another Richard Hamilton.

“When I first put it on it was a little uncomfortable, but through practice I got more comfortable with it and it feels all right. I was able to shoot, my eye opened up a little bit more,” Rose said. “I hate getting my face touched so if it’s a thing where I come out and I’m hot, I’m feeling it, and we’re playing good, you might see it for the rest of my career.’’

“It’s a lot of open space, a lot of drives,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any reason why I shouldn’t average more than seven assists with all the shooters that we have and the way he lets us shoot the ball. … I’m cool with (being a facilitator). Whatever makes the game easy.”

Rose also worked out with Hoiberg and several teammates at the practice facility in September.

“(Hoiberg) yelled at me a couple of times for not pushing the ball and getting the ball up the court quick enough,” Rose said. “I just have to reprogram myself. My whole life, I was used to playing an uptempo game. Under (Tom Thibodeau), it’s kind of a slower offense. We’d run here and there. Fred, he wants one pace but under control.”


No. 2: Kerr expected to soon rejoin Warriors; Surgery next for Bogut — The Golden State Warriors have maintained that they would not lose focus on repeating as NBA champions while coach Steve Kerr mends from his offseason back surgery. Interim coach Luke Walton has done his best to keep the Warriors on track and was the man in charge last night as Golden State throttled the Houston Rockets. Afterward, writes Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury-News, Walton shared that Kerr will rejoin the team on its road trip. Walton also provided an update on center Andrew Bogut, who suffered a broken nose in last night’s game:

Warrriors coach Steve Kerr has seen his condition improve and is expected to join the team in Southern California on its three-game preseason trip, according to interim head coach Luke Walton.

Walton said he spoke with Kerr on Wednesday and received a vote of confidence. Walton along with the Warriors’ championship-experienced players have taken on greater responsibilities during Kerr’s leave of absence to focus on rehabilitation after two offseason back surgeries.

There remains no timetable for the return of Kerr, who has said a spinal fluid leak was the cause of symptoms, including headaches. Walton said he didn’t know how much of practice and games Kerr might be a part of when the team is scheduled to travel Friday to San Diego. Kerr has a home there, and his ability to travel was welcome news for the Warriors.
“He wouldn’t be coming down with us at all if he was still as bad as he was, so I think it shows signs of improvement,” Walton said. “I don’t think it means he’ll be back within the next two days, but all you can ask for is that he keeps getting better.”

The Warriors didn’t get through their latest game without an injury, as Andrew Bogut suffered a broken nose in the second quarter after being struck on the follow-through of a dunk attempt from the Rockets’ K.J. McDaniels.

Bogut was scheduled to undergo minor surgery to reset the nose and help his breathing and said he expected to miss the next two games in San Diego and Los Angeles before likely returning to play the finale in Anaheim wearing a mask.

The news was better for Harrison Barnes, who missed the game for precautionary reasons with a bone bruise in his right knee. He participated in the shootaround and likely would have played had it been a regular-season game, according to Walton.

VIDEO: Andrew Bogut suffers broken nose in preseason win over Rockets


No. 3: George thinks Pacers can be defensive demons again — From 2012-14, no team had a better defensive rating in the NBA than the Indiana Pacers, who led the league in that category for a two-season stretch. Last season was a different story as injuries (to Paul George particularly) and roster transition (Lance Stephenson departing) dropped Indiana to (a respectable) eighth in that category. In a roster shake-up this summer, the Pacers traded away stalwart center Roy Hibbert and saw big man David West jet, too. Those players — plus George and Stephenson — made up the core of Indiana’s strong defense. Yet as 2015-16 approaches and the Pacers near the end of their preseason, George tells the Indianapolis Star‘s Candace Buckner the team can regain its elite defensive status despite roster changes:

“I would like for us to get back to being one of the top defensive teams,” Paul George said after Wednesday’s practice.

The Pacers have won three of four preseason games on the strength of their still-blossoming spread offense. They’ve reached 100 points three times though they haven’t looked 100 percent sharp in executing the tenets of the system: running, spacing and passing. But when the team plays Cleveland on Thursday night (7 p.m.) for the fifth exhibition matchup, against the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers, George said he wants to see a leap in improvement on the neglected end of the court.

“Offensively we’ve grown so much. I can’t even remember how many times we’ve been able to score in the 100s. So that’s new to me and I love that,” George said. “But I think by Game 5, especially playing against one of the elite teams in this league, defensively if we can start to get down our principles –  that would be great for us.”

Two very long years ago, Indiana imprisoned opponents in a defensive dungeon. Torturing with protection at the rim and harassing with length on the perimeter. No easy buckets inside. No gifted 3-point attempts. That’s how the Pacers reigned at the top of the league in opponent shooting percentage in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Of course, those Pacers thrived in the former smash-mouth identity with different personnel. Even so, George imagines his new mates can match that greatness.

“I expect our numbers to be right where they’ve been when our previous five was all together, meaning myself, Lance (Stephenson), George (Hill), David (West) and Roy (Hibbert),” George said. “I think our numbers should be right around where they’ve always been.”

Though three of those starters are long gone, Indiana still has assistant coach Dan Burke, the designer of the defense. So, the defensive scheme for the 2015-16 season has not changed significantly. In fact, coach Frank Vogel believes the Pacers can be superior to the past teams at defending outside of the paint.

“I don’t feel it’s changed much at all, to be honest with you,” Vogel said of the scheme. “We want our rim protectors to protect the rim, and run them off the 3-point line. Honestly, I think we can be even better in those areas with the speed we have on the perimeter.”


No. 4: Report: Pelicans sign veteran Robinson — The New Orleans Pelicans have been dealing with some injury issues in their backcourt, particularly to combo guard Tyreke Evans and point guard Norris Cole. As the season draws closer, they are attempting to shore up their guard line by reportedly adding NBA veteran Nate Robinson on a one-year, non-guaranteed deal. John Reid of The Times Picayune has more:

Veteran point guard Nate Robinson has agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract to join the New Orleans Pelicans, sources said Thursday afternoon.

Robinson joins former UNO guard Bo McCalebb, who was signed to a partially guaranteed contract on Thursday. Sources say Robinson is expected to arrive in New Orleans on Thursday night and will participate in his first practice with the team on Friday morning.

The Pelicans have looked for veteran help at point guard because starting point guard  Jrue Holiday remains on a minute restriction until January to avoid recurring problems with a lower right, guard Tyreke Evans has a sore knee and backup point guard Norris Cole is out for possible six weeks with a high ankle sprain. Cole’s injury occurred at practice on Sunday.

By acquring Robinson, the Pelicans will have to waive another player to get their roster to 20, the maximum number allowed in the preseason.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly having contract extension talks with Dion Waiters … Arron Afflalo should make his New York Knicks preseason debut tonight … Amir Johnson is expanding his offense in the Boston Celtics’ system … As the Chicago Bulls celebrate their 50th season, Sam Smith of looks back on that inaugural squad

ICYMI of the Night: Paul George is having a really great preseason, but this is one moment from it he’s going to want to forget …

VIDEO: J.R. Smith sends Paul George to the floor with a fantastic crossover move

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