VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 3
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Irving, Shumpert itching to return for Cavs — Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving participated in his first full practice since suffering a knee injury in The 2015 Finals. While he was hesitant to commit to any kind of time frame or specific return date, he is clearly on the mend (which is a good thing for the East-leading Cavs). As well, teammate Iman Shumpert was at practice, too, and based on a report from Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, both players are looking forward to their 2015-16 season debut:
“I think the biggest thing for me is getting over the mental hump of being able to go out there and still compete,” Irving said Thursday afternoon. “I’ve kind of been itching for the last few weeks, but finally getting my trainers’ clearance as well as our organization to go out there and practice with the guys, have 5-on-5, going up and down, finally being able to hit guys a little bit and have guys hit me, as a competitor, I’ve been itching for that. There’s no better place to be than escaping here with guys that I call my brothers. We’re part of a big family. We definitely have a little ways to go before I get back on the court with the guys, but this week has been great.”
Irving first returned on Monday, going through a moderated session, and will continue to be monitored closely.
Despite the positive steps in his comeback, Irving won’t reveal a return date.
“Just taking it as it goes,” Irving responded. “You’re not getting anything out of me. No percentages, no target dates, nothing. I’m feeling good. Personally I’m in a great place just being able to be out here and practice with the guys, being able to go up and down and continuously, as well. The first time I went up and down it was more controlled. Today, there was a lot more up and down, being able to test my wind, being able to test my knee, going from offense to defense and translating and being able to get out in the fast break and being able to try my moves that I’ve been practicing. Kind of knock off most of the rust I’ve had. This is what this week has been about.”
Iman Shumpert, who has been injured at the same time with Irving, something that has made a lengthy journey go by a little quicker, was also on the court. Having both players back at practice created a noticeable boost.
“Definitely added a little competitiveness and the activity level and energy was good and was high,” Cavs head coach David Blatt said. “Both of those guys practiced pretty well.”
During a portion of the session, Irving and James were on opposite sides, which usually leads to some of the Cavaliers’ best practices, according to Irving.
“The energy was great, Irving said. “Having Shump back there as well as going against Swish (J.R. Smith) and guys, different matchups that we’ve had, that has allowed our practices to be elevated is back to where it needs to be. Hopefully that can continue over the next few weeks.”
Just like Irving, there’s no return date set for Shumpert. A timetable for his recovery originally was supposed to keep him out until either late December or mid-January. But Blatt admitted recently that Shumpert is ahead of schedule, attacking his rehab with the same vigor that he uses to stifle opposing perimeter players.
“When we get back we call ourselves the Hardy Brothers,” Irving said about his friend and backcourt mate, Shumpert. “We’re coming full attack like the Hardy Brothers back in WWF.”
VIDEO: Kyrie Irving talks after Thursday’s practice
No. 2: Bulls’ Gasol ‘very likely’ to opt out this summer — The Chicago Bulls thought they lost out in a sense in the summer of 2014 as their efforts to woo Carmelo Anthony to the Windy City didn’t net the intended result. Instead, they “settled” for big man Pau Gasol and got a monstrous season from him in 2014-15. He was an All-Star, led the NBA in double-doubles and was key to Chicago reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals. He’s off to another great start this season and knows he’ll have some options this summer in free agency, writes Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com:
But after a stellar first year in Chicago and his ramping it up recently after a busy summer, there appears to be very little doubt he can still produce at a high level.
Gasol told CSNChicago.com Wednesday night after his 26-point, 19-rebound, four-block and three-assist performance against the Denver Nuggets that it’s “very likely” he’ll opt-out of his contract this summer and test the market.
“As long as I keep playing like this,” Gasol said. “I know I’ll have some options.”
A two-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Gasol is a sure-fire Hall of Famer due to his exploits both in the NBA and internationally.
Saturday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets will be career game No. 1,000 for Gasol and although he appeared to take things easy at the start of training camp and the preseason due to a busy summer with the Spanish National Team, his production has climbed in recent games.
“I feel pretty good right now physically,” Gasol said in the locker room after Wednesday’s game. “I had to take it easier in the preseason so I started a little slower this season than I would’ve liked but because of how I played this summer I had no choice. I had to refuel somehow so I could have enough gas to make it through the entire season and still get to the end with enough and push through so I can play well in the playoffs.”
With the salary cap rising again this summer and assuming Gasol stays in relative good health, it makes sense for him to again hit free agency for a contract with long-term security and more annual money. By today’s financial standards, Gasol is underpaid for his production, ranking 23rd amongst power forwards in the NBA, according to spotrac.com.
No. 3: Rockets reassure Lawson he’s not on trading block — The Houston Rockets have been a disappointment this season and one reason for that has been a rolling list of injuries the team has dealt with. Another reason — to many — has been how offseason acquisition Ty Lawson has struggled to fit into the team, in particular playing in the backcourt along side James Harden. Trade rumors surrounding Lawson had picked up of late, but the front office let him know he’s safe in Houston, writes Calvin Watkins at ESPN.com:
Things had gotten so bad for Ty Lawson that the Houston Rocketsfront office had to speak to him about trade rumors. Lawson, the point guard who’d lost his starting job, was told the team isn’t shopping him, and those close to him confirmed the rumors weren’t true.
Yet Lawson’s play had earned interest because of how shockingly bad it had been.
Mentally, Lawson has looked lost.
Physically, he doesn’t look the same.
Add the trade talk bubbling around the Rockets’ big offseason move, and it was probably time for a chat.
“They’re pretty honest here and they would come up to me and tell me that,” Lawson said after scoring 12 points in the Rockets’ 108-101 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday night. “When that story came out, they came up to me and told me like there is no truth to it. I’m just playing here every day, go day by day, working hard and if things happen, things happen.”
When the Rockets traded four backups for Lawson, the Rockets figured he would push them to the next level.
It hasn’t happened.
Over the past two games, however, Lawson seems to be finding his way. He’s attacking the basket whether he’s with Harden or not, and seems more comfortable overall.
“I just keep preaching to him to be aggressive,” Harden said. “If he’s being aggressive, making shots and making plays, our team is better.”
“It happens every day, even if you’re playing well, teams are shopping you,” Lawson said. “You just can’t feed into it. Just keep being you.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart is still ‘weeks away’ from returning … Chicago Bulls will be without Mike Dunleavy for another 4-6 weeks … Just Kelly Olynyk, high-fiving fans mid-interview … Sacramento Kings coach George Karl is convinced DeMarcus Cousins will stay with the team long term … Not many folks are asking Kevin Durant questions about his looming free agency … The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t sure if they want to retire Kobe Bryant‘s No. 8 or No. 24 jersey …
ICYMI of the Night: Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (who stands 6-foot-10) gets swatted by Kyle Lowry (who is all of 6 feet tall) …
VIDEO: Kyle Lowry rejects Nikola Jokic