VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 7
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Cavs’ Williams to get second opinion on thumb — The Cleveland Cavaliers have struggled with injury issues all season long and backup point guard Mo Williams is the latest name to land on that dubious list. Of late, Williams’ right thumb has been troubling him — the same thumb which Williams had two surgical procedures on in the past. According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, Williams is getting a second opinion on what’s ailing him of late:
Cavaliers guard Mo Williams traveled to New York during Thursday’s off day to receive a second opinion on his sore right thumb, a league source confirmed. Williams missed a week in December after reaggravating a thumb that has twice needed surgery to repair ligament damage.
Dr. Michelle Carlson, who practices in New York, performed both procedures — first in 2008 and again in 2013. Williams posted a picture to his Instagram account Thursday of a framed photo of him standing next to Carlson with the caption, “Best hand specialist in the world. New York weather off the chain today.”
Williams had pins inserted in the thumb during the previous procedures and has limited dexterity as a result, but he told the Beacon Journal last month he did not believe this injury was as serious as the two previous times he needed surgery.
Williams missed two months after surgery in 2013. The first surgery was performed following the 2007-08 season.
Williams has fallen out of the rotation with the return of Kyrie Irving, although it’s unclear now if the thumb was also a factor. He has not played in either of the Cavs’ two most recent games and only played during garbage time of last week’s blowout victory against the Orlando Magic.
No. 2: Lakers rookie Russell vows ‘y’all ain’t seen nothing yet’ — Inconsistency both in his role (and in his on-court production) have marked the rookie season of Los Angeles Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell. He’s shuffled back and forth from a starting role to a seldom-used one and all along the way has tried to remain positive. Then came last night’s game in Sacramento against the Kings, which may have been Russell’s official NBA coming-out party. Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com has more on Russell, who was pumped up after a career-high 27-point effort in the loss:
In short bursts, Russell has shown he can be special, but on Thursday, his talents were finally on full display. He scored a career-high 27 points off the bench in a 118-115 loss to the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena, including scoring 19 in the second half to help lead a rally from a 27-point deficit.
Was this Russell’s best game of the season? Of course, but his answer to that very question carried the kind of confidence necessary to own the spotlight for the Lakers, which is exactly where Russell hopes to be when Kobe Bryant departs.
“Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet,” Russell said of his performance. “That’s all I’m going to say. … The world hasn’t seen anything yet.”
What, exactly, does he envision?
“I know what I can do,” he said. “Y’all just got to see.”
Even coach Byron Scott was impressed, though Scott didn’t exactly offer a ton of admiration.
“I thought he played great,” Scott said.
Russell left the game in the final minutes after rolling his right ankle, spoiling a marvelous performance he believed should have included a comeback win.
No doubt, Russell was rolling late, scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter to help lead the Lakers’ charge before suffering his injury. He also steered an offense that included Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle, two promising young players who, like Russell, are considered cornerstones of the Lakers’ future.
Their spirited efforts — Clarkson scored 15 and Randle had six points and 10 rebounds off the bench — give Lakers fans hope for next season and also send a league-wide message that the trio could be quite formidable very soon.
“I’d much rather watch the young guys play,” Bryant said. “They played so well and worked really, really hard. It’s important for them to figure out how to close those games out without me on the floor. Obviously, I’m not going to be there next year, so it’s important for them to learn how to do those things.”
And as for himself, Russell says his confidence continues to grow, as his postgame remarks certainly indicate, but he’s working more to gain his teammates’ trust.
“I feel great. I know the work I’m putting in,” Russell said. “I just really want to build the confidence of my teammates to look at me, and if I make a play call or if I call something, [they trust me].
“Me being young, I’m going to definitely mess up a lot more than I’m going to make the right play, but I want my teammates to be able to trust me and look at me as a veteran guard trying to run the team.”
VIDEO:Coach Byron Scott was impressed by D’Angelo Russell’s play on Thursday
No. 3: Report: DeRozan plans to opt out — Few players on the Toronto Raptors have played a bigger role in the team’s rise from lottery-bound squad to East playoff team than shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. He has turned himself into an All-Star during his seven-season stint in Toronto, leads the team in scoring this season and has a solid case to be an All-Star reserve this season. All that said, DeRozan can also become a free agent this summer and potentially cash in on the lucrative contracts sure to be at his doorstep if he does so. Brian Lewis of the New York Post reports DeRozan will indeed opt out and that the Brooklyn Nets will be in hot pursuit of him if so:
The Nets will have about $40 million in cap space this summer, and they got an up-close look Wednesday at one of their primary expected targets: DeMar DeRozan.
The Toronto shooting guard had 15 points, five assists, four boards and two steals in the Raptors’ 91-74 win at Barclays Center. He has a player option worth just more than $10 million for next season, but a source close to DeRozan told The Post that he will opt out, becoming a free agent. But that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be a Net, or anything other than a Raptor.
“I can tell you he’ll opt out. But how he feels about Brooklyn — or anybody else — I can’t say. Only he can answer that,’’ said the source, who added that DeRozan feels he’s been treated well by the Raptors and “has a trait that’s been lost by so many players. It’s called loyalty.”
DeRozan came into Wednesday 11th in the league in scoring at 22.9 points per game, and averaged 25.0 on 47.1 percent shooting last month, cutting down on his jump shots and getting to the rim or the line consistently. In short, he’d be just what the Nets need.
No. 4: Fredette still hoping for another NBA shot — Say what you want (and plenty of folks have) about Jimmer Fredette‘s time in the NBA. One thing is for certain is that he was a bonafide star as a college player but could never seem to translate those unique skills into a successful stint in the league. As a member of the Westchester Knicks of the NBA D-League, Fredette — like several dozens of other players — is trying to prove to NBA talent scouts he still has game at the D-League Showcase going on this week in Santa Cruz, Calif. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports caught up with Fredette and talked with him about his NBA hopes and more:
The NBA Development League is a long way from the former lottery pick’s beginning in the NBA. But with a chance to be his old scoring self again, Fredette is enjoying playing in the NBA’s minor league.
“It wasn’t necessarily a letdown because I knew I had to do some things to get onto a team where I can thrive,” Fredette told Yahoo Sports about being in the D-League. “That wasn’t going to be the case at the beginning of the year if you get to that 15th roster spot and then you sit there and don’t play much. It was kind of a breath of fresh air to go out and know you’re going to get some playing time, be able to play, do what you do, gain some confidence and get some reps. That was the biggest thing for me when I talked to my agent and my family, was to get reps, get confidence back and be able to show people what I can do again.”
Fredette’s score-at-will perimeter game didn’t translate well to the NBA. He’s played sparingly over five seasons with the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Pelicans and had problems hitting shots regularly when he did play. The San Antonio Spurs waived him during the preseason, but he did re-sign with the Pelicans in November before being waived once again.
“It’s tough for any competitor,” Fredette told Yahoo Sports. “You talk to any guy at the end of any NBA bench, they want to be out there playing no matter what. You still want to be supportive to your teammates and to your team. You are happy for the guys in front of you, but at the same time in practice, you want to show that you want to play and what you can do out there. It can get frustrating, but at the same time you can only control what you can control.”
Westchester president Allan Houston, a former Knicks star, said Fredette’s D-League goals are to be efficient offensively and to improve defensively.
“He came in right away with a lot of humility,” Houston told Yahoo Sports. “Early on, he was trying to figure out the system a little. He has acclimated to his teammates and he knew he would have an impact right away. He put a lot on himself early.
“But as time went on, what I’ve been impressed with is how he’s kind of settled in and not had to do so much. He’s been efficient. He’s been productive. His strength is playing without the ball in his hands as much. He’s competing defensively.”
As of late Thursday morning, the Knicks, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets had open roster spots. NBA teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts, and more roster spots could open because with the Jan. 10 contract guarantee deadline approaching, more players could be waived.
Fredette said he and his agent are keeping a close eye on the NBA roster landscape, and some NBA teams appear to have their eye on Fredette as well.
“Jimmer should be able to provide an offensive punch off the bench for an NBA team,” one longtime NBA scout said. “His defense has improved and he has become a better teammate.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Don’t bother calling the Cleveland Cavaliers with trade offers for Timofey Mozgov — they’re not interested in dealing him … Sacramento sent Kobe Bryant out of town with a rousing ovation and farewell … The funnest guy on the Boston Celtics (or at least the most quotable) is Evan Turner … Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is an investor in a daily fantasy sports analytics web site … Could the Orlando Magic be prepared to part with Evan Fournier this summer? … The Charlotte Hornets are interested in the Brooklyn Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic and the Nets may try to buyout Joe Johnson …Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough plans to ‘aggressively’ explore potential trades