VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 15
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Irving to make debut Thursday; Shumpert (groin) likely to miss 1 game — On Monday, the buzz in NBA circles was that Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving would get back on the court sometime this week. Before last night’s game in Boston, Cavs coach David Blatt said he’s taking a cautious approach with Irving as he recovers from his knee injury, that Irving is not yet 100 percent and has overall been hesitant to commit to a return date. Well, something has changed from then until now as ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin reports Irving will make his 2015-16 debut tomorrow night against the Oklahoma City Thunder (8 ET, TNT):
UPDATE, 11:48 a.m.
Irving threw some cold water on the report of him playing tomorrow, sending out a tweet that he will not suit up against the Thunder
Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is set to make his season debut Thursday at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a source familiar with Irving’s plans told ESPN.com.
Irving, sidelined for the first 23 games of the Cavs’ season while recovering from surgery in June to repair a fractured left kneecap suffered in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, was cleared for full contact more than a week ago and has been through a handful of practices since without any setbacks.
Irving’s final hurdle before the team approves of his intention to play will involve a series of physical tests to measure his body’s strength and responsiveness, a team source told ESPN.com. The tests will be similar to the ones administered on Irving before he was allowed to return for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against Atlanta last spring after sitting out Games 2 and 3 with tendinitis in his left knee.
Although the Cavs can apparently look forward to getting Irving back, his backcourt mate, Iman Shumpert, is likely to miss Thursday’s game after suffering a groin strain last night. Cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes has more:
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert, fresh off of returning from a wrist injury, left the game in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 89-77 win over the Boston Celtics with a right groin injury and would not return.
He will be evaluated further in Cleveland on Wednesday. Shumpert just made his season debut in the team’s last game on Friday at Orlando.
“Honestly a little concerned,” head coach David Blatt said of Shumpert’s latest injury. “I got to be honest with you. I have no idea what the extent is. Just given our recent history, I’m concerned.”
The defensive specialist was visibly frustrated after the game and refused to speak with reporters.
After getting his right leg wrapped, he sat at his locker stall quietly with a towel around his waist staring at the ground. He worked feverishly to get himself back on the court and now this. He could undergo an MRI if the training staff feels it’s necessary.
VIDEO: David Blatt talks after the Cavs’ win in Boston
No. 2: Making sense of Heat chatter surrounding Cousins, Howard — Yesterday marked the first day NBA teams could trade players they signed as free agents before Sept. 16, but there was no activity … yet. However, there’s every reason to believe some exploratory calls are going on around the league. SheridanHoops.com had two separate reports surrounding the Miami Heat being in trade talks, the first of which said the Heat were interested (along with the Celtics and Bulls) in acquiring Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins or Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, with either trade likely featuring a package that includes Hassan Whiteside and rookie Justise Winslow. The Sun-Sentinel‘s Ira Winderman, as connected to the Heat’s goings on as anyone in the league, parsed through it all last night:
The Miami Heat generally have been efficient when it comes to the impact of trade rumors on the locker room.
And this time is no different, with the Heat insisting Tuesday there is nothing to the current speculation regarding center Hassan Whiteside.
The latest round of speculation comes from the SheridanHoops website and the back story regarding the possibilities of dealing Hassan Whiteside for either Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins or Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard make sense, at least from a salary-cap standpoint.
Why? Because to retain Whiteside in free agency this offseason, the Heat would have to use cap space, and therefore would be limited to the overall $90 million expected 2016-17 salary cap to fit just about all of the players on the roster.
However, if the Heat acquire a player with full Bird Rights, like Howard, or under long-term contract, like Cousins, they then could use salary-cap exceptions not only to re-sign players such as Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng, but also would have the ability to utilize some form of the NBA’s mid-level exception this coming summer.
Howard has a player option of $23.3 million for next season, otherwise to become a Bird Rights free agent (able to be signed above the salary cap by the team he finishes this season with). Cousins has two more seasons on his contract, including $17 million for next season.
With Whiteside, the Heat would have to be able to fit his contract and a new deal for Dwyane Wade under the cap, all but assuring the departure of Luol Deng, let alone the pipe dream for a Kevin Durant type.
No. 3: Kerr determined to return to bench — The Golden State Warriors host the Phoenix Suns tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN) in their first game back home — and their first game since their 24-0 start to the season ended at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday. That the Warriors have amassed this run and done so without coach Steve Kerr (back surgery) has added to the lore surrounding this squad. As interim coach Luke Walton holds down the fort, how long will it be until Kerr is back on the sideline. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News chatted with Kerr about that and more in an exclusive interview:
So many emotions are running through Steve Kerr’s mind and body right now, and you could hear all of them in his voice Tuesday, almost all at once.
You heard great satisfaction that his Warriors team has started its title defense this season so powerfully under interim coach Luke Walton, Kerr’s hand-picked protege.
And you absolutely heard immense frustration that Kerr is still suffering from complications after two back surgeries last summer and still has no set timetable for a return to the sideline.
But most of all, during our 20-minute phone conversation Tuesday, Kerr sounded fiercely determined to get back, figure out how to deal with the symptoms and start coaching this incredible group of players again.
“It’s funny, last year during the season I would look at the other coaches and say, ‘We’re going to be much better next year,’ and we would sort of laugh,” Kerr told me.
“We would say that, and meanwhile we were 67-15, you know? … It almost sounded like a joke, but I really meant it. Because year two is a year where everything is ingrained, and it feels very natural. …
“It’s great to see. I just really am looking forward to being part of it again, in the grind again, because I miss it.”
“I thought we’d go 25-0 to be honest with you,” Kerr said, cracking up as he said it.
“I sent (Walton) a text after the Milwaukee game; I said, ‘What the hell are you doing? You have no idea what you’re doing, do you?’ Joking!”
Kerr said he figured Walton would do a good job in his absence because of Walton’s relationship with the players and his presence in the locker room.
But, really, 24-1?
“I figured the first part of the season would be tough,” Kerr said. “And I was hoping we would just win enough games where he could get his feet wet and not have to worry about anything.
“And lo and behold he wins his first 24. He’s done a great job. He’s a quick study and has such a great personality and feel.”
“The main thing is I just have to get well and be ready; when I do come back, be ready for the grind.”
So when will that be, Steve?
“There is no timetable — I have to feel well enough to go through the grind,” Kerr said.
“I know what the grind’s about. I know my body. And this will be a good couple of weeks being at home, really being engaged at practice. I’ll have a good feel over the next couple weeks. …
“Can you deal with the symptoms and still grind and have the necessary juice to do the job? That’s kind of the question.”
I asked him bluntly, was there ever a thought that you might skip this season?
“No, I don’t think that way at all,” Kerr said. “I think I’ll be back. I don’t know exactly when, but I think I will be back coaching again this season.
“It’s incredibly frustrating, but it’s part of life, you know? Things happen, people get sick, people get hurt and it’s no fun, but you have to deal with it.”
No. 4: Cousins’ manager tossed for slapping Terry — The Sacramento Kings are 9-8 since their 1-7 start to the season and sit just a game out in the race for No. 8 in the West. But, the Kings have plenty of off-court issues this season and you can add another one to the pile. During last night’s win over the Houston, Rockets guard Jason Terry scored on a breakaway layup and his momentum carried him into the crowd. From there, things got strange, writes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:
Tuesday’s game had its own drama, as DeMarcus Cousins’ manager, Andrew Rogers, was ejected after making contact with Houston guard Jason Terry.
Rogers knocked Terry’s hand away after Terry made contact with him while running past the basket, following a Ben McLemore dunk.
Cousins ran to that end of the court when he saw what was happening, and security was ready to defuse the situation.
“My biggest thing is, I didn’t want the situation to escalate too far,” he said.
Cousins declined to discuss the incident in detail. Rogers is a close friend who he’s known since he played at Kentucky.
“It just shows I’ve got some ride or dies,” Cousins said.
VIDEO: Fan gets ejected for making contact with Jason Terry
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Don’t be surprised if the Cleveland Cavaliers trade Joe Harris in the coming months … J.R. Smith didn’t apologize to Jae Crowder for the hit Crowder suffered in the 2015 playoffs … Speaking of trades, the New Orleans Pelicans are reportedly testing the market again with Ryan Anderson … According to Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford, there’s no timetable for when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will return …
ICYMI of the Night: Patrick Beverley, you just got posterized (by Rudy Gay) .;.
VIDEO: Rudy Gay powers home an and-one dunk