Morning Shootaround — Dec. 14


VIDEO: The Fast Break — Dec. 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Irving expected back this week | Chandler back, ready to face Mavs | Thunder stars spread the love vs. Jazz | Can Warriors start another run?

No. 1: Cavaliers expect Irving to return this week — The hope in Cleveland was that Kyrie Irving would make his season debut as early as this week, perhaps Tuesday night in Boston. But it turns out that was a bit ambitious. Irving, coming back from June knee surgery, will most likely have to wait until the weekend to see his first game action of the season. LeBron James has waited this long to have his squad at full strength, what’s another week? Chris Haynes of the Cleveland.com explains:

“We’ve still got some things that we want to go through with him before we let him get back out there,” Cavs coach David Blatt said, “but he is looking good and feeling good.”

There’s a chance he takes the court against Oklahoma City at The Q on Thursday, but it’s more likely that next Sunday, Dec. 20 at home versus Philadelphia is the target date. Either way, it pretty much ensures the three-time All-Star will be in the starting lineup Christmas Day against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

Irving is a couple of full practices short of having participated in a week’s worth of sessions. He added one more to his belt on Sunday. His movements and his shot looked good.

Mentally and physically he’s ready to play. He’s built up strength in his legs to where his lower body is stronger than ever. Behind the scenes, he tried to persuade the organization to activate him last week and has been upset with the organization’s response.

The Cavaliers are being cautious. It’s a marathon for a title, not a sprint.

“He still has some testing to do and we’d like him to work a few more days in practice,” Blatt said.

Irving is the final piece to the team reaching full strength for the first time this season.

“It’s great to have bodies,” LeBron James said after the Cavs beat Orlando on Friday. “Coach is going to have a great opportunity to do what he wants to do with the lineups. We’re just missing one more piece and once we get that, we can really start to see what we’re capable of doing.”

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No. 2: Suns’ Chandler returns just in time to fave former teamTyson Chandler‘s presence in the middle for the Phoenix Suns was sorely missed for eight games as he dealt with a hamstring strain. But he returned to the lineup Sunday and helped the Suns knock off the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Suns get their defensive anchor back just in time for Chandler to face his former team, the Dallas Mavericks, (8:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV). Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has more:

Tyson Chandler already was back in the swing of things during Sunday’s game when he rolled off a screen for Eric Bledsoe, who sent an alley-oop pass for him.

Chandler stretched back to catch the pass and redirected the ball to the perimeter while in mid-air. But it was a sign that more than Chandler’s right hamstring might be back for the Suns.

“I feel like if I had my springs, I could make up for that,” Chandler said. “I felt like that was on me. It was just good to see the timing.”

Chandler played 23 minutes in his first game back from an eight-game absence with a right hamstring strain. He came off the bench for the first time since April 2010 with Charlotte to ease back into action while Alex Len continued to thrive, having an 18-point, seven-rebound game with rookie star center Karl-Anthony Towns in early foul trouble and playing only 18 minutes.

Chandler’s return comes just in time for him to play against his former team Monday at Dallas, where he had two one-year stints that included the 2011 championship and last season. He departed each time against his choosing. The latter came after Dallas owner Mark Cuban had intimated that they would not let him go again, only to let him do so for the failed pursuit of DeAndre Jordan.

“It’s not as emotional as the first time in the past,” said Chandler, whose return last season to New York after three seasons there was riper for emotion. “For some reason, it doesn’t feel the same. I’m happy to be in Phoenix. I was blessed to a good situation so there’s really no animosity.”

Chandler already has missed more games this season (nine) than he did last season with Dallas (seven) but his defensive impact was felt immediately upon his return. His opposing man scored once in the paint against him Sunday.

“He’s the anchor of our defense,” Suns guard Eric Bledsoe said. “He picks everybody apart and tells them what we need.”

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No. 3: Thunder stars spread the love to seal fifth straight win — They are more than just a two-man team. Granted, no one should complain when those two men are Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But the Oklahoma City Thunder needed more than just their two superstars to seal their fifth straight win, an overtime thriller over the Utah Jazz. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman explains:

Overtime tipped and Russell Westbrook had already scored four points within 36 seconds — a 15-foot pull-up on the opening possession and a weaving fastbreak lefty layup moments later.

The spurt bolted OKC to 100 points. Utah wouldn’t reach triple-digits. Final score: Thunder 104, Jazz 98, with Westbrook’s two early overtime makes serving as enough late offense.

But to seal a season-high fifth straight win, plenty of other contributors were needed. The two biggest were OKC’s other two most important players, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, who both lumbered through a brutal first half before awakening in highlight fashion.

Ibaka didn’t make a shot in the first 24 minutes. Durant had a career-low two first half points, taking only two shots and committing four turnovers. The Thunder trailed Utah 51-38, with a wild Westbrook second quarter buzzer-beater the only reason it wasn’t worse.

“Just getting a bit frustrated with myself,” Durant said. “Had to calm down. Told myself to calm down.”

When he was younger, Durant’s godfather would pull him aside during in-game struggles and tug on his jersey while looking straight into Durant’s face, sternly telling him to focus.

The past two games, both starting slowly and ending with a flurry, Durant’s morphed that memory into a celebration. After big shots in both wins over the Jazz, Durant strolled down the court tugging on his own jersey and yelling at himself.

He had plenty of chances to do it on Sunday night.

Durant scored seven points in the first two minutes of the third quarter and combined with Westbrook to score OKC’s first 20, erasing that 12-point deficit by the 7:38 mark.

From there, the game tilted back and forth deep into the fourth quarter.

With 49 seconds left, the Thunder trailed 94-91. Durant, who was scorching by that point, had the ball isolated in the post. He had a smaller defender on him, so the Jazz doubled. Durant surveyed the floor, identified a weak spot and made the kind of late-game trust pass coach Billy Donovan can only hope becomes habit.

“I seen them shift all the way over and leave Serge wide open,” Durant said. “That’s a bad move because he can shoot that.”

Durant whipped a cross-court laser right to Ibaka. Derrick Favors tried to recover, sprinting back toward Ibaka and jumping. But Ibaka stayed patient, pump-faked, let him soar by and then knocked in the game-tying three.

“I see him working on that every day,” Durant said. “The pump-fake, fly-by three. Huge shot.”


VIDEO: Russell Westbrook talks about OKC’s comeback win

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No. 4: Do the Warriors have another streak in them? Now that the Golden State Warriors know what it’s like to be a mere mortal team, courtesy of their historic start to the season being interrupted by that loss in Milwaukee Saturday night, they can get back to normal. But do the mighty Warriors have another streak in them? Could they get on another roll and crank out another double-digit win streak this season? With Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson leading the way, Marcus Thompson III of the Bay Area News Group believes the Warriors are built for another wicked run:

So the Warriors lost. Finally. They are just a regular great team again. This must be how Wolverine felt with regular bones.

But let’s get this on the record now. The Warriors have another long streak in them. They aren’t done blitzing the NBA.

What’s so impressive about what they pulled off was how regular it was for them. They didn’t play lights out for six weeks. They ran off 24 wins to start the season without being at their best.

Their system is that good. Their roster is that deep and versatile. Their best player is that special.

And they still haven’t peaked.

“Love competing with my brothers every night!” Draymond Green tweeted. “Now it’s time to focus on getting better each and every day. Let’s get it.”

In the final seconds, Curry — when it was clear the Warriors would lose — stood there and watched Milwaukee party like it was 1999. And the look on his face, a half a smile beneath weary eyes, was one of a star who’d found motivation.

Milwaukee was celebrating as if it had clinched a playoff series. Better believe the Warriors noticed, and will remember that when the Bucks come to Oakland.

Klay Thompson after the game: “We get to see them again Friday.”

But that’s how high the Warriors had gotten. Beating them — even if it was an exhausted, short-handed version of the Warriors — was celebration worthy.

Starting a season 24-0 puts the Warriors on a level we haven’t seen before. Their trajectory defies logic. Saturday’s defeat may be one of only nine this season, if they break the record for most wins in a season.

Judging by what it took to finally beat them, Milwaukee might be in rare air. When it’s all said and done, they might have made the greatest team ever look normal.

And that’s not normal.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame is making major changes to the election process, which could produce a mega class including Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming in 2016 … Thunder fan Shane McKinzie breaks the $20,000 half-court shot drought … ICYMI, the Washington Wizards will be without Bradley Beal for at least two weeks … DeMar DeRozan and the Toronto Raptors own the Philadelphia 76ers like no one else in the league …

ICYMI of the Night: What’s better than an alley-oop? How about a double alley-oop?


VIDEO: Jon Leuer finishes off the alley-oop with a jam

11 Comments

  1. dubsfan says:

    you guys do notice that the cavs haven’t seen the spurs the thunder (or the warriors) and thh other only e spurs and okc have seen each other only once and yet they are loosing games. the only game the dubs lost was the second of a back to back
    at the end of a seven game road trip, apparently no one has ever gone seven for seven on a single road trip still. the spurs lost to the pelicans, the cavs lost to the pelicans and the bucks, okc lost to the knicks and a sad looking rockets, to say that the warriors have only won so much because of an “easy” road heavy schedule seems a little unrealistic. They did set records, they played who was in front of them. a look at the schedule before the season before the season started had it at very difficult against last years playoff teams. as the season goes on we will see but for now the defending champs have the best record, and are at the top of the power rankings

  2. Stephanie says:

    Wohoooo Kyrie!!!!!!!!!!! Can’t wait for our team to get back together and healthy!

  3. Antonio Perez says:

    exactly the same way i see it , they have the easiest schedule ever , they only played against all the easy teams , wait till they get the contenders team , spurs , cavs , okc , everybody know what happened last year , they didn’t played the spurs , no okc either because of the last game lost and the short handed cavs

  4. walker says:

    Warriors will loose to some or all of these teams: CAVS (w/ Kyrie Irving), Spurs, OKC, Bulls present matchup problems for warriors also but bull are clearly not a better team.

  5. walker says:

    Warriors only had to play 1 of the top 5 teams during their ‘Streak’, and that team was the weakest of the bunch in Toronto. Warriors only had to play 4 of the top 10 in the NBA power rankings released this week. Let’s look at the big names the small ball guys did not play. SPURS, THUNDER, CAVS. All teams that present major matchup problems for the warriors. If they had played any of these teams earlier on, they woulda been had lost.

  6. Lovins says:

    Yeah it was pretty funny watching Bucks fan celebrate like they had just won the championship. That will probably be the biggest highlight of their pathetic season.

  7. Johnny Dawson says:

    Sekou, a question for you. In the picture at the top of this section is Durant carrying the ball? I say he is.

    Johnny Dawson

  8. Mr Mxyzpltk says:

    Talk about exhausted and short handed. They just felt how the cavs played last june. Come on the warriors hasn’t face teams like okc, spurs and the cavs.

  9. bodjee says:

    The Bucks played great defence. I think the Celtics could’ve won over the Warriors if the Celtic coach had let Turner take over the offence in the final minutes.

  10. Johnnytc1 says:

    I think since Shumpert has entered the league his grown six inches. It all seams to be from the forehead up. He does have quite a dome. He Shump, did king approve of that hair style you have? You know king never wants to have any distractions.

  11. The Schoowow says:

    Counting their losses : why guess their record VS contenders? They haven’t met any, as of yet. Finals VS Cavs, only zebras prevented it from being a 3:0. Without Love and Irving. Remember? Now this last game in Milwaukee means nothing. They haven’t had Harrison Barnes, after all… They should have lost in Boston. Got help from Mr. Zebra again. Nothing to write home about, champs get these calls, like Curry slipping on the floor, half body behind the line, and they call foul, think it was Bradley’s 6th, not sure. OK back to counting. VS OKC, Spurs, Cavs and Miami, their stats will be 50%. Think it is 5 loses in 10 games yet to come. VS east conference all their games were “close”, including their only overtimes, 1 VS Nets and 2 VS Celtics. Could anticipate 2-3 losses there as well. 2-3 losses VS west teams.
    Conclusion, one could anticipate 12+ losses. In order to match Jordan’s Bulls, they have yet to SURPRISE us. They are more likely to have injuries. Now I’ve been watching their games closely, noticing efforts by adversaries to defend VS Warriors, falling short when double teaming Curry’s penetrations, even collapsing. Barnes would support the final nail in the coffin, with a free corner 3 or dunk. He always looked like his numbers were greater than what actually they were. His points always came in these pivotal possessions. It seemed like he is their ultimate clutch player, second only to Curry.
    Not true. Green and Thompson are. He was only their silent killer, the ex factor. The adversaries blanket was too short, covering all the immediate lethal Warriors’ weapons, he was the one left uncovered. Now could they find a substitute? it looks like they have a whole squadron of 6’7″ players there, With Thompson, Livingstone, Iguodalla, Green, could one missing Barnes mean that much? Last night, it did. How would Warriors survive yet a bigger blow? say Curry, who missed many games early in his career, Green perhaps? They are built to last any mild injuries, either stretching their roster, chasing history, or giving up some games to lottery teams. Is 72 too big for them? Like said, not sure, but they have yet to SURPRISE. Not too much to ask from a team calling themselves “Historical team”.