VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 26
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Clippers, Rivers try to make sense of Griffin incident — If you missed it yesterday, perhaps the oddest story to date this season came to light when it was revealed that Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin broke his hand after he got into a fight with a team staff member at a Toronto restaurant. The staff member was identified by several media outlets as Griffin’s friend and team equipment manager, Matias Testi and Griffin, as a result of his injury, will be out at least four to six weeks. The team issued a statement about the incident and Griffin took to Twitter to address it, too, but in short, the Clippers’ players, coach Doc Rivers and the organization as a whole are trying to dig out from this situation.
His name was invoked in the Clippers’ locker room after almost every game.
“‘Tias!” center DeAndre Jordan would declare loudly, as if he wanted to make a show of what was coming next. “Where’s ‘Tias at?”
Mathias Testi would appear and Jordan would invariably ask the assistant equipment manager to fetch a piece of clothing or maybe some lotion. Testi faithfully retrieved the item, even if he did occasionally dawdle or mutter something under his breath.
To the uninitiated it might have resembled a mild hazing ritual, but there was always a playful undercurrent between Testi, Jordan and teammate Blake Griffin. Their relationship felt like something out of the buddy comedy “Entourage,” with Testi playing the role of the relative nobody along for the ride with his celebrity friends during dinners and other outings.
That friendship unraveled Saturday when Griffin repeatedly punched Testi during an altercation at a Toronto restaurant, resulting in a broken bone in Griffin’s right hand that is expected to keep the All-Star forward out for an additional four to six weeks at a time when he had already missed a month because of a quadriceps injury.
Testi, 29, returned to Los Angeles, as did Griffin, after the incident and Griffin underwent a procedure on his hand Tuesday morning, the team said.
The altercation started inside a restaurant with a back-and-forth exchange that led the friends outside, with Griffin throwing multiple punches, according to a league executive with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Rivers said he was unsure whether the men were drinking at the time of the altercation but “I don’t think alcohol had anything to do with this.”
It was not immediately known whether Testi would pursue legal action against Griffin or the Clippers. He remained employed by the team.
The altercation put some of Griffin’s teammates in the awkward spot of being caught between allegiances.
“I’m friends with and love both parties,” Jordan said. “It’s out of my control, but hopefully we can figure out something.”
VIDEO: The Starters: Should Clippers be worried about Griffin’s injury?
No. 2: Kobe: Lakers fans ‘didn’t really appreciate’ Gasol — The Chicago Bulls and Kobe Bryant have some things linked between them, what with Bryant’s adoration and early patterning of his game after Michael Jordan, the failed trade that nearly sent him to the Windy City in 2007 and former teammate-turned-Bulls standout Pau Gasol patrolling the middle in Chicago. As Bryant and the Lakers ready to welcome Gasol back to L.A. on Thursday night (10:30 ET, TNT), Kobe says L.A. fans never truly appreciated just how much Gasol meant to the team. Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com has more:
The two will meet Thursday when the Bulls face the Lakers at Staples Center, and ahead of that matchup, Bryant talked about his 6 1/2 seasons with Gasol and especially all the instances in which Bryant defended Gasol when the 7-foot Spaniard was involved in constant trade rumors.
“I thought that it was really silly and I felt bad for him going through all that stuff,” Bryant said Tuesday before the Lakers faced the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. “That’s why I defended him so much.
“I think the city of L.A. didn’t really appreciate what he did and what we had, and so as a consequence, everybody kind of fell in line with the [former Lakers coach] Mike D’Antoni rhetoric of small ball and all this other bulls—. For a guy that has two championships to be treated that way, you don’t do that, man.”
Bryant called Gasol “one of the best post players of all time. Fantastic player.”
Bryant said his main memory of Gasol is a conversation the two had in February 2008, when Gasol first joined the Lakers after being acquired in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I immediately went to his room at the hotel — we were staying on the same floor — [and] I went to his room, we had about a 30-, 40-minute conversation,” Bryant said. “That’s the thing I remember the most because that was the beginning.”
Before Gasol arrived, the Lakers were floundering as a franchise after trading Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004. In the next three seasons after that trade, the Lakers missed the playoffs once, and twice didn’t reach the second round.
Yet with Gasol, the Lakers reached three straight NBA Finals, winning the last two, first against the Orlando Magic and then the rival Boston Celtics.
After struggling with injuries, mixed results and after seeing his name involved in trade rumors almost constantly, Gasol ultimately left the Lakers, taking less money to join the Bulls on a three-year, $22-million deal in the summer of 2014.
Gasol deemed the move to be a much-needed fresh start, and he has thrived with the Bulls, averaging 16.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season entering Tuesday night.
But looking back, when did Bryant think Gasol would have such an impact on the Lakers?
“As soon as he caught the ball and he finished it, I ran back to the bench, I said, ‘Yes, Phil, we’ve got a big that can catch it and finish! We’re going to the Finals!” Bryant said, referencing former Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
“And Phil just looked at me, he started laughing. But I was dead-ass serious. Then Pau, I come back in the timeout, I’m saying, ‘Pau, the defense is playing this way, so maybe you could go here, flash here and then you look to skip [pass], [and] he said, ‘If I could skip it there.’ So he was able to connect the dots himself.
“It was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got the guy that I can really scheme with.’ Then the rest of the guys can kind of fall in line from that. So his intellect was what made him the most dangerous.”
VIDEO: Last season, the Lakers paid tribute to Pau Gasol
No. 3: Lowry not fretting wrist injury — While the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are running away with the best records in the league, no team has been hotter of late than the Toronto Raptors. They topped the Washington Wizards last night to win a franchise record-tying ninth straight game and are two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for No. 1 in the Eastern Conference. There was some concern last night, though, as All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry left the game with a wrist injury but according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, Lowry doesn’t think it is serious:
No one really expected anything else when Kyle Lowry got up from his locker room seat at the urging of DeMar DeRozan.
“I’m fine” were the first words out of Lowry’s mouth. “Thanks for asking, DeMar, I’m fine.”
Lowry had done something to his wrist late in the Toronto Raptors’ easy 106-89 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night and, as he raced back to the locker room in obvious discomfort, fans had to be holding their breath.
He teased everyone by coming back out to the bench almost immediately, spent a few seconds with his teammates before retiring to the locker room — and the X-ray room in the bowels of the Air Canada Centre. The pictures were negative, no structural damage. Everyone could exhale.
“I really thought that it was something worse than what it was but I’m fine,” he said. “I got caught in a screen. I’m fine.”
But would he have said anything to the contrary under any circumstances?
“No. I wouldn’t. Just to make it clear.”
There were no obvious signs of trauma or trouble: no split, no wrap, no ice on the bothersome wrist. It really was as if nothing had happened and the Raptors could get on with congratulating themselves on tying a franchise record.
No. 4: Kings’ Cousins opposes All-Star fan voting — The reserves for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game will be named on Thursday night on TNT (7 ET), a week after the All-Star starters were announced. Those players, of course, are picked solely via fan voting — which has stirred debate among some NBA pundits for years. That discussion isn’t limited to those folks, apparently, as Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (who made his first All-Star team in 2015 as a reserve) told Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears he doesn’t like the fan voting process:
It wasn’t a surprise that NBA fans voted retiring superstar Kobe Bryant as a Western Conference All-Star starter despite his struggles this season.
The oddity is that if Bryant were listed at guard, the position he played for the majority of his career, instead of in the frontcourt, Zaza Pachulia of the Dallas Mavericks would have been voted a West starter.
That’s one of the reasons Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, who scored a career-high 56 points Monday in a 129-128 double-overtime loss to the Charlotte Hornets, told Yahoo Sports recently that the All-Star starter balloting system should be changed for the All-Star Game on Feb.14.
As it stands now, fans are asked to vote for three frontcourt players (regardless of position) and two guards per conference as starters.
“It’s disrespectful to big men,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports. “It’s not really fair. But that’s how it is.”
When asked what changes he would make to All-Star voting, Cousins was quick to respond.
“There definitely wouldn’t be fan voting,” Cousins told Yahoo. “You can’t base it off of who is on TNT and ESPN every night. Of course, it’s going to be most winning teams’ [players], the most popular players [selected]. The other guys that play for the Milwaukee Bucks, and in our case the Sacramento Kings, who are playing just as good basketball, will never be seen. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Cousins has a strong chance Thursday of being named one of the seven West All-Star reserves, chosen by the conference’s head coaches. But it may not be a slam dunk.
“If it were all about talent, he’d be the first big man picked,” a Western conference head coach told Yahoo Sports. “The only question is: Will enough people look past his reputation to give him a chance?”
“My play speaks for itself,” Cousins told Yahoo. “If it was about play, I don’t think there would be a question. There are a lot of politics involved. Popularity has a lot to do with it. … There is a lot of stuff out of my control. That’s just the card I am dealt.
“I’m comfortable with the coaches picking and I believe they will make the right choice. They are more aware and more knowledgeable of who is an All-Star in this game.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Speaking of drama and chaos in Clipperland, here’s a comprehensive timeline of some not-so-great moments in team history … Chicago Bulls center and 2016 free agent Joakim Noah is hoping to stay with the team going forward … San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan won’t play tonight against the Houston Rockets … New York Knicks guard Arron Afflalo thinks the team is ‘a playoff team, period’ … Miami Heat assistant coach Keith Smart is on leave from the team for skin cancer treatment … Is Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker worthy of an All-Star reserve spot?