Morning shootaround — Nov. 20


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rose a game-time decision vs. Warriors | Scott: Lakers’ offense ‘more settled’ with Kobe | The deep, shared bond of Westbrook and Durant | Embiid chats with Ilgauskas

No. 1: Rose a game-time decision vs. Warriors — If you’re not pumped about tonight’s Bulls-Warriors showdown in Oakland (10:30 ET, ESPN), you may not have a pulse. Undefeated and 13-0 Golden State squaring off against a Chicago team that, in its own right, has the look of a title contender, is enough to get most to tune in. Throw in a potential matchup between Warriors star (and reigning MVP) Stephen Curry and Bulls guard Derrick Rose and you’ve sold us on the game already. However, whether or not Rose actually plays tonight remains in doubt, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.com:

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose will be a game-time decision for Friday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) because of a sprained left ankle.

“He did a little bit,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said after his team’s light Thursday practice. “He didn’t do anything on the floor. It was all just warm-up stuff. So it’s still too early to tell if he’ll be able to go [Friday].”

Rose initially sprained the ankle during the fourth quarter of Monday’s victory over the Indiana Pacers, and he sat out Wednesday’s win over the Phoenix Suns.

“He’s going to try [to play],” Hoiberg said. “There’s no doubt about it. He wants to be out there. He wants to play. But again, we’re going to be smart with it.”

Rose, who hit an overtime winner last year in Oakland, California, to deal the Warriors a rare home loss, is getting a little more movement in the ankle than he did Wednesday.

“He was moving around a little bit more today,” Hoiberg said. “Just doing some lateral slides, but not with a lot of speed right now. He’ll get probably two more treatments today and get a couple [Friday] and then we’ll see where he is.”


VIDEO: Derrick Rose reflects on some of his career game-winners in the NBA

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No. 2: Scott: Lakers’ offense ‘more settled’ with Kobe — This season, the Los Angeles Lakers’ offense ranks 8th in pace and 28th in Offensive Efficiency. Last season, they were 14th and 22nd, respectively, in those categories. There’s been some improvement (and regression) there for the Lakers, even if it isn’t by much. Having Kobe Bryant (more or less) in the lineup most nights may be the cause of that slight rise in things for the Lakers, at least that’s what coach Byron Scott is holding to. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times has more:

On Wednesday, for example, Coach Byron Scott said the Lakers needed Kobe Bryant because he made their offense “more settled.”

Few people would call Bryant’s play this season a calming influence, whether it’s his career-high 7.5 three-point attempts per game or his wildly inaccurate 33.6% shooting percentage overall.

But Scott said the 37-year-old created a more communicative flow on offense, his absence creating in-game chaos Monday in a 120-101 loss to Phoenix. Bryant sat out that game for rest after playing almost 36 minutes the previous night against Detroit.

“Having Kobe out there helps,” Scott said, laughing while remembering the 97-85 victory over the Pistons. “We were able to get the ball moving [against Detroit] and our biggest thing is trying to get three or four passes before we look for shots. We get the defense moving from side to side and then we can look to attack. And I don’t think we did a real good job of that against Phoenix.”

Bryant’s monopolization of the ball has led to legendary debates in the past about whether he’s a ball hog or not. Bryant, in such times, often reminded people his position was a shooting guard, emphasis on the shooting part.

He didn’t talk to reporters Wednesday and didn’t go through a full practice but was expected to return Friday against Toronto.

In the meantime, Bryant a calming influence?

“Absolutely,” Scott said. “He knows the offense extremely well, so he can tell guys where they need to be and how to get to it. It was a lot more settled, and it was obvious to me, watching the Detroit game and then watching us against Phoenix. When he was out there, the offense, it ran more smoothly.”

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No. 3: Deep bond between Westbrook, Durant — However far the Oklahoma City Thunder go this season and, potentially, in the playoffs, hangs on the shoulders of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But know this, too: no matter what happens this season, or in the offseason (when Durant is a free agent), the pair will always be friends. That much is made clear in a story written by Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman after Durant was enshrined in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame on Thursday night:

“We’re like family,” Durant said in an interview with The Oklahoman earlier this week, detailing the evolution of his relationship with Westbrook.

The two first met on draft night 2008. Westbrook was 20, an L.A. native, bolting from relative unknown to solid college role player to sudden top-four NBA pick in a span of two years.

Durant, a D.C. native, was also 20, born less than two months before Westbrook. But his path to that moment had gone a bit more as expected — mega recruit, collegiate superstar and NBA Rookie of the Year before the two had even crossed paths.

In those early years, the franchise’s rapid success mirrored that of its rising stars.

Westbrook was the unparalleled athlete who willed himself into a polished point guard, showing up hours before practice to craft a deadly mid-range game and add touch to his speed.

Durant was the supremely skilled scorer who was obsessed with being complete, staying hours after to bulk up his frame and shore up the rest of his game.

“I was like, Russ don’t work out after practice?” Durant remembers thinking back in 2011. So he asked Mo Cheeks, who told him Westbrook was in every day beforepractice. That was often a tougher, more fruitful time to get in work.

“So I followed Russ,” Durant said. “I kinda took from him doing that.”

It became a race, at least to Durant, a healthy competition. Who would arrive to the facility first? Who would work harder once there?

“When he pulls up and I pull up to the parking lot and his car is there before mine,” Durant shook his head. “I rush in there and if I’m not before him, we better walk out at the same time.”

Life as a high-paid NBA athlete is unique. Being a mega-celebrity has its obvious bonuses. But the stresses can get to you. The attention is demanding. At a young age, you become the financial center that so many rely.

It can be overwhelming. Not many can relate. But for Durant, Westbrook was one of the few that could. Durant said he’d call Westbrook or Kendrick Perkins — a trio that is still in an active three-way group text to this day — and just vent.

“I was vulnerable to him,” Durant said. “It was like, yeah, this is someone I can lean on. It showed me a different side of him. Since then, we’ve been really tight.”

The pair has weathered plenty of media criticism over the years. Whether it’s Westbrook’s shot selection or Durant’s passiveness or a national critic prodding some part of their game or team, they’ve gotten used to the fault-finding.

But there’s a narrative that’ll always irk Durant — that bubbling suspicion that the two don’t like each other just because the on-court pairing may not always fit.

“We don’t like each other because he shot more?” Durant asked. “That don’t make no sense. And it’s really disrespectful to me or to us because you think I’m that selfish of a person? I don’t like this guy because he shoots more than me? That’s disrespectful to me. Because if I’m a friend, I’m genuine. I’m there. No matter what. Good days, bad days, more shots. I’m a real friend.”

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No. 4: Sixers hoping Ilgauskas’ story inspires Embiid — Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers retired the No. 11 jersey of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas for his stalwart career with them. While Ilgauskas is now a franchise legend of sorts in Cleveland, he wasn’t headed on that path early in his career. Multiple foot surgeries sidelined Ilgauskas as a youngster and the Philadelphia 76ers are hoping his tale of overcoming that to become an All-Star and team icon will inspire injured center Joel Embiid. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:

Zydrunas Ilgauskas was the 76ers’ special guest on Wednesday.

The franchise wanted the Cleveland Cavaliers’ career leader in games played, rebounds and blocked shots to spend some time with Joel Embiid.

Ilgauskas missed 202 games and had three fractured navicular bone surgeries from 1998-2001. His final surgery included a bone graph and the reshaping of the first metatarsal and heel bone to relieve stress in his foot.

Embiid will miss the entire season after bone-graft surgery to repair the navicular bone in his right foot in August. The former Kansas standout also missed what would have been his rookie season after undergoing surgery in June 2014 to repair a stress fracture in the same bone. A setback in his recovery led to the second operation.

This was Ilgauskas’ second meeting with Embiid.

“His story is real,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “And it really resonates with Joel on the pitfalls of it all and the mental side of it all and the discipline to take of your body to get back onto the court.”

Ilgauskas was introduced to Brown through former Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry. Brown in turn introduced Ilgauskas to Embiid.

Brown said Embiid is progressing “great” and is “doing fantastic in his mind.”

“He is so determined to do everything that he has to,” Brown said, “everything that people are telling him that he has to do to get it right.

“There was a real progression in his maturity and seriousness to understanding truly what needs to be done for him to give him every chance to get back on the court.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (hip) will miss at least one more game … Sacramento Kings coach George Karl wants Marco Belinelli to get ‘loose’ more on offense … Sacramento Kings swingman Rudy Gay left last night’s game with a shoulder injury … Charlotte Hornets rookie Frank Kaminsky is pretty sure he’d lose a game of one-on-one against 52-year-old team owner Michael JordanJosh Howard is back in the NBA D-League again, hoping to get one last NBA shot … Great look from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski on the Houston Rockets’ new coach, J.B. Bickerstaff

ICYMI of the Night: Like assists? Rajon Rondo handed out 18 of ’em last night in Miami … 


VIDEO: Rajon Rondo’s 18-assist game vs. Miami

 

One Comment

  1. The section of this shootaround on Westbrook and Durant is very intriguing.