VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 30
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Lillard, Paul both leave Monday’s game early — Last night’s Blazers-Clippers game from Staples Center featured a showdown between two All-Star point guards that ended prematurely. Both Los Angeles star Chris Paul and Portland standout Damian Lillard exited the matchup early as injuries shortened both players’ evenings. Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net has more on Lillard’s injury, which sounds like he was more or less sick to his stomach all game:
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard played the fewest minutes of any game in his career Monday night versus the Clippers, and the results were about what you would expect.
Lillard played just 17 minutes Monday night and left the game midway through the third quarter due to “abdominal pain” as the Trail Blazers fell 102-87 to the Clippers in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center.
Portland is now 7-11 for the season and 3-7 on the road.
Though he started Monday night’s game, as he’s done for all 264 games of his NBA career, Lillard looked ill from the opening tip despite not having any flu-like symptom until less than an hour before tipoff.
“I felt fine,” said Lillard. “When I was shooting (pregame) I even felt myself getting a little bit winded, stomach felt a little bit tight, but I thought it was maybe because I took a nap, my body was waking up. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t feel sick. Then the game was about to start and going through warmups I started to feel a little bit sick. That was pretty much that.”
Though he played the entire first quarter, Lillard never looked like his usual self on the way to shooting 3-of-8 from the field for seven points.
“As soon as the game started I just felt weak,” said Lillard, who looked queasy while taking questions from the media postgame. “I played through it just to see if I’d be able to get myself going. I had never felt like that. Turning, running different directions, I wasn’t comfortable, stomach pain. I felt like at some point I was going to throw up on the court.”
Lillard would start the second half but played less than two minutes before calling it a night.
“I don’t know how serious it is but obviously (Lillard) wasn’t himself,” said coach Terry Stotts. “If he takes himself out you know he’s not feeling pretty well cause he’s played through a lot of things.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers head home for the second night of a back-to-back versus the Dallas Mavericks at the Moda Center Tuesday night. Lillard’s status for that game, which is the first time Wesley Matthews will return to the Moda Center since signing as a free agent with Dallas this offseason, is still to be determined.
“If I’m good enough to go then I’ll play,” said Lillard. “But I can’t go out there the way I was tonight. I know I can’t.”
VIDEO: Damian Lillard talks about why he left Monday’s game
As for Paul, he left the game with a strained rib muscle in the third quarter and was done for the night. Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com has more:
It was not immediately apparent how the injury occurred, but Paul was favoring his ribs and left the game early in the third quarter after posting 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes.
Paul will be reevaluated before a determination is made on the length of his absence. Portland point guard Damian Lillard (abdominal pain) also left the game early and didn’t return.
DeAndre Jordan said with Paul out, Blake Griffin has to become more of a passer, but he added that Austin Rivers has proven he can play.
“You can’t replace Chris, obviously,” Jordan said. “But we have to learn to play with somebody down. I may be down a game, Blake might be out. You have to learn to play without guys. That’s why we have such a deep team this year. Injuries happen, things happen, and we want to be able to fill that void.”
After playing all 82 regular season games last year, it’s been a tough injury stretch for Paul. The All-Star point guard strained his hamstring in the playoffs against the Spurs and has dealt with a fractured finger, a strained groin and now a rib issue early this season. The groin injury kept Paul out for three games earlier this year.
Head coach Doc Rivers liked the pace the Clippers still managed to play with when Paul left the game, and he thought Austin Rivers picked up his play defensively. Austin Rivers will have to be counted on to do that, and Doc Rivers said the Clippers will need to look to Griffin more now to handle the ball.
“Austin and Blake, it’s a combination,” Doc Rivers said. “They share the ball. Whenever Chris is out, Blake and the point guard do the ball-handling duties. It’s nice when you have a guy like Blake that can do stuff like that.”
VIDEO: Chris Paul leaves the game Monday against the Blazers
No. 2: Rondo credits bad Dallas experience for his resurgence — By the end of the 2015 playoffs, Rajon Rondo‘s stock on the free-agent market — by most accounts — was pretty low. Once one of the best point guards in the league, a playoff spat with Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle in Game 2 of the first round led to his early ouster in Texas and left him with few suitors over the summer. Yet since signing with the Sacramento Kings on a 1-year deal, Rondo has experience a resurgence of sorts and already has four triple-doubles (the most he’s had since 2012-13). In a telling interview with ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon, Rondo explains how that Dallas experience shaped his 2015-16 surge:
A revitalized Rajon Rondo attributed his resurgence this season with the Sacramento Kings in part to motivation stemming from his disappointing stint with the Dallas Mavericks.
“I think it made me hungrier,” Rondo told ESPN.com on Monday after scoring 21 points and dishing out five assists during Monday’s 112-98 win over the Mavs, the first time he has faced Dallas since his departure. “I never started doubting myself. It made me work a little bit harder. I think I worked the hardest I ever worked in the NBA this summer.
“I’m a competitor. I never doubted myself. All these people have counted me out since I got in the league, so it never made me any difference. I kept myself around positive people, got a great support system and just kept at it.”
Rondo is averaging 12.9 points, a league-leading 10.7 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game for the Kings. He averaged 9.3 points, 6.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds during his 29 games with the Mavs, repeatedly clashing with coach Rick Carlisle and never clicking in Dallas’ flow offense.
“Every relationship doesn’t work,” Rondo said. “It just didn’t work. No excuses. No pointing the finger at anybody. It made me stronger, made me appreciate just playing the game, especially playing at a high level. I never doubted myself. It just didn’t work.
“Try to keep staying positive, but things just didn’t work out for the best for either side. And that’s just part of it. Every player, every coach doesn’t always see eye to eye. Every team doesn’t fit every person’s style of play.”
Rondo left the Mavs in the middle of their first-round series against the Houston Rockets. The team announced the day after Game 2 — in which he played less than 10 minutes, sitting all but the first 34 seconds of the second half — that Rondo had suffered a back injury and would not play the remainder of the season.
Rondo insisted Monday that the back injury was legitimate, the result of hitting the floor while attempting to take a charge.
“What else was reported?” Rondo said. “You didn’t hear from me, did you? I haven’t said a word, so …”
ESPN.com reported in April that the back injury was given as the reason for Rondo’s departure to help the four-time All-Star point guard save face after the sides mutually agreed that it was in all parties’ best interests for him to leave the team.
Rondo acknowledged that he probably could have played through the back pain. However, he said he did not want to be a distraction, as the friction between Carlisle and him was dominating the conversation about the team.
“Both parties talked about it,” said Rondo, who was suspended for a game in February after heated confrontations with Carlisle during and after a comeback win over the Toronto Raptors. “I didn’t want to draw too much negativity to the team. And I may have done that anyway, but I didn’t want to be a part of that. People said what they said about me, but like I said, it didn’t bother me at all.
“It ended up hurting anyway. But me just sticking around, I didn’t want any more attention between myself and Rick, all the media attention it was getting. People were seeing stuff on the floor and making up plays I took off. It’s like, some plays I may take off to this day. I was tired, so you just never know. I just wanted to get out of there and lay low. I had a talk with my agent, but that’s water under the bridge.”
“Like I said, I’ve learned from what happened in the past. Not just Rick, but Brad Stevens, just playing for different coaches. Everyone has different personalities. George and I right now, and I think we will continue to, stay on the same page.”
No. 3: Evans, Cole expected to make season debut tonight — Injuries across the roster have made a mockery of the New Orleans Pelicans’ hopes for contending in the Western Conference playoff chase this season. Perhaps those hopes can get a little more realistic in the coming weeks, though, on the heels of news that combo guard Tyreke Evans and point guard Norris Cole are expected to suit up at long last this season. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:
Guards Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole are both expected to make their long-awaited debuts on Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Smoothie King Center.
Evans and Cole have been out since October. Evans required surgery to remove bone chips from his right knee. Cole suffered a high left ankle sprain when another player inadvertently stepped on his ankle during training camp.
In their absence, Alvin Gentry has tried to make do with a shortened rotation at guard but the Pelicans have lost 13 of their first 17 games.
”I would say that unless bizarre happens or they warmup and feel like they are not quite ready, I would expect for them to play,” Gentry said. ”Just realistically, it’s going to come down to how they feel after they warm up.”
Both practiced on Monday without restrictions and Cole afterwards that he felt great. Gentry said it was one of the few practices in which he could freely substitute players in and out game-like situations because of the improved depth with Evans and Cole returning.
”I was excited coming in today and I’m excited about tomorrow (Tuesday),” Cole said. ”It’s a day-by-day thing, but I felt like today we pushed it pretty hard as a team. I’m able to do most of the things that I’m capable of doing with that being case it’s only right to give it a shot.”
Before Evans was injured, Gentry said Evans would mostly play at point guard. That’s not likely to change, but it could have impact on how Gentry’s distributes minutes to Jrue Holiday and backup Ish Smith, who has emerged this season as a backup. Gentry didn’t indicate if he plans to run a three guard offense that will keep Holiday and Eric Gordon in the starting lineup.
”He’s (Evans) really important to our team, but I also think we got to be realistic,” Gentry said. ”If he plays, he’s not going to be Tyreke of (last) April. It’s going to take him a little while to get to where he is. I want to caution everybody before they start thinking the cavalry has arrived in that we have to give him an opportunity to adjust from a stamina standpoint, his timing and pace of the game.”
VIDEO: Norris Cole talks after Pelicans practice on Monday
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After his recent off-the-court troubles, Sixers rookie Jahlil Okafor is reportedly being accompanied by a security guard everywhere he goes … Mike Dunleavy‘s comeback attempt has hit a snag and now he must see a specialist … Not exactly shocking: ticket prices league-wide are climbing for when Kobe Bryant comes to town … Rasheed Wallace can still make some pretty crazy shots … Kristaps Porzingis is already itching to get Dwight Howard back for his poster dunk on him … Are the Los Angeles Clippers already starting to pursue some trades? … Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle opens up about how poor of a fit Rajon Rondo was with the team last season … Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown has a puzzling task in managing all of his point guards … Michael Jordan was one of the first people Kobe Bryant called about his retirement plans …