VIDEO: Highlights from games played Feb. 3
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Curry breaks out of his ‘slump’, torches Wizards — Entering last night’s road game against the Washington Wizards, reigning MVP Stephen Curry had 21 games of 30 points or more, but hadn’t broken the 30-point barrier in three games. Is that considered a slump when you’re averaging close to 30 points per game in a season? Who knows. What is certain is Curry showed he hasn’t lost his touch, abusing the Wizards for 51 points and 11 3-pointers (one off tying the NBA single-game record) writes, Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Stephen Curry just kind of left this hanging out there: “Maybe next time.”
That’s what he said after he made eight three-pointers in three quarters against the Lakers on Jan. 14, falling four shy of Kobe Bryant’s and Donyell Marshall’s single-game record.
His comment seemed innocuous until “next time” arrived.
On Wednesday at the Verizon Center, the arc opened up enough for Curry to hoist 16 three-point attempts, and because he often made the rim look the size of a hula hoop, he strutted away with 11 three-pointers in a 134-121 victory over the Wizards in front of a national TV audience.
“I missed one too many,” Curry joked. “At the end of the game, I knew I was within reach, and I was kind of searching, without trying to force it. You can’t mess around with the basketball gods, trying to chase records, if the game doesn’t call for it.”
If averaging 16.7 points on 37.9 percent three-point shooting in his previous three games constituted a slump for the MVP, his 51-point game — giving him four 50-point performances in his career — certainly constitutes a slump breaker.
“I didn’t know Steph was in a slump,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Steph is never in a slump. He was just scintillating tonight.”
“I said, ‘Here he goes,’” interim head coach Don Newman said of Curry’s fast start. “I knew it, because that’s what they usually do. I mean, they come out and they just want to kill you.”
Curry thrilled the crowd, then his bench, and finally himself with a flurry of three-pointers in the first quarter. The fans got louder and louder as he made his first four three-point shots. Andre Iguodala bowed to him from the scorer’s table when he knocked down No. 5, and Curry didn’t really know how to react act following his sixth.
Curry swiped a dribble from Wall in the backcourt and corralled the ball about 25 feet from the rim on the right wing. Why not launch it? He tracked the arc of the ball like a baseball player enjoying a towering home run from the batter’s box, and then started spinning into a happy dance.
He finished the first quarter with 25 points — his seventh 20-point quarter of the season. He made 7 of 8 three-point attempts and was well on his way to his single-season record of 10 games with at least eight three-pointers. George McCloud previously held the record with six such games.
“The shots that you know feel good, they go in, and the shots that you think, ‘Oh, that’s off,’ they go in,” Curry said. “It’s a fun feeling, and you want to ride it until you can’t anymore.”
“We watch it on TV every day, and you’re like, ‘Ah, it’s not like that,’” Washington forward Otto Porter said. “But when he does it against you, it’s eye-opening for you.”
No. 2: Nowitzki disagrees with Abdul-Jabbar’s ‘one-trick pony’ talk — Only five players in NBA history have scored more points than Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki. The high-scoring big man could climb the ranks before his career ends, but he has virtually no shot of catching the NBA’s No. 1 all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Despite that scoring prowess, though, Abdul-Jabbar is hesitant say Nowitzki had a dominant career and went as far as to call Nowitzki a ‘one-trick pony’. Nowitzki wasn’t a fan of that talk, but was diplomatic in his response, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com:
“I mean, it’s actually not the first time he said some stuff,” Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, told ESPN.com after scoring 28 points for the Dallas Mavericks in Wednesday’s 93-90 loss to the Miami Heat. “I’m not sure why. I guess he’s not a big fan of my game, which is OK. But I like to think I was dominant at some point — especially on the offensive end — of my career, in my prime.
“It is what it is. People have opinions. He’s one of the greatest ever to play the game, so I’m not going to get in a war of words. I respect his opinion. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it is what it is.”
Abdul-Jabbar, a six-time champion and the league’s all-time leading scorer, made his comments during an appearance at George Mason University this week. He was asked whether there has been an unstoppable shot since his sky hook, with Nowitzki’s one-legged fadeaway suggested as a possibility.
“You asked about Dirk Nowitzki,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Dirk Nowitzki’s shot is very hard to block, but I don’t think that he was able to have a dominant career because he couldn’t do other things. If he could have shot like that and rebounded and played defense and blocked shots, then he would have been all-around, and he would have gotten more credit. He was like a one-trick pony.
“You want guys that can shoot like that on your team. I’m not saying that he lacked value, but he would have been considered at a higher level if he had done more on the court other than just shoot the ball.”
Nowitzki has made 13 All-Star appearances and has also earned league MVP and Finals MVP honors. He was the lone All-Star on two Finals teams, including the 2010-11 NBA champions.
“I don’t want to get into throwing stats around, because his are obviously way better than mine,” Nowitzki said. “But I don’t think you can average 25 and 10 over your playoff career and not be dominant. I don’t think you can get to sixth in scoring in this league over 18 years and not be at some point at least somewhat dominant.”
No. 3: Report: Rockets don’t plan to trade Howard — The Houston Rockets are wont to be a part of trades just about every season. Such is the way of GM Daryl Morey, who already executed one deal this season by re-acquiring Josh Smith in a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Yesterday, pockets of the Internet were buzzing about a report that the Boston Celtics were interested in trading for Rockets center Dwight Howard. But according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Calvin Watkins, that is unlikely to happen this season and also, the Rockets have eyes on a big free-agent fish this summer:
The Houston Rockets are approaching the upcoming trade deadline with the intent to keep center Dwight Howard for the rest of the season, according to sources familiar with the team’s plans.
Sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday that the Rockets, despite recent speculation to the contrary, are not looking to trade Howard before the Feb. 18 deadline even though he has the right to become a free agent July 1 and could thus leave the team this summer without receiving anything in return.
The Rockets’ grand plan, sources said this week, remains making an all-out pursuit in free agency this summer for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. Rockets officials have long believed privately that they will have as good a chance as any team to lure Durant away from the Thunder in the offseason because of his strong relationship with former teammate James Harden and the room Houston has to pay Durant max-contract money while also re-signing Howard.
Sources said Howard, for his part, does not want to be traded and hopes he can indeed finish the season in Houston before entering into his own negotiations with the Rockets.
Although the Rockets’ aggressive nature on the trade market will undoubtedly lead some rival teams to believe that their stance could still change during the final two weeks before the trade deadline, one source insisted Wednesday that the Rockets haven’t held any meaningful trade talks involving Howard since December.
Following Houston’s practice on Wednesday, Howard addressed the trade speculation with more or less a shrug, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Rockets center Dwight Howard said he was unconcerned with a New York Daily News report on Wednesday that the Celtics have reached out to the Rockets about their interest in a deal for him.
Howard can opt out of his contract after this season, but when asked about Howard’s potential free agency, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said last month he is concerned only about this season, rather than the chance of losing him as a free agent.
“There’s always going into be rumors and speculation,” Howard said. “I don’t want to pay attention to it. I didn’t say it. What can I do? There’s nothing I can say. Teams are going to say what they have to say. It doesn’t matter what I say. I’m here now. I’m a Rocket. That’s the only thing that matters.
“People are always going to have rumors and say certain things. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a distraction. Nobody thinks about that stuff. I know my mind is on trying to get better every day. I feel like I was in a good stretch and got hurt. I’m going to try to get back. That’s my mindset. We don’t sit around and talk about what’s going to happen next year because that means you’re really not in it. You don’t want to have those thoughts.”
No. 4: Report: Bulls’ Dunleavy to return this weekend — The Chicago Bulls have been waiting all season for versatile veteran forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. to play. They may finally get a chance to see that take place as soon as Saturday as he’s just about as recovered as he can be from offseason back surgery, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical:
Chicago Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. is set to make his season debut against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, league sources told The Vertical.
The plan for Dunleavy to play on Saturday is dependent on him not suffering any physical setbacks between now and then. Dunleavy will travel with the Bulls to Denver for Friday’s game against the Nuggets.
After undergoing back surgery and a setback during the in-season rehab process, Dunleavy recently returned to full-contact practices and workouts. He spent two days practicing with Santa Cruz of the NBA Development League and flew to meet the Bulls in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday.
The Bulls are desperate for Dunleavy, 35, to make an impact, especially with injuries to Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic. The Bulls are 26-21, holding onto fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
No. 5: Caldwell-Pope injured in loss to Celtics — The Detroit Pistons’ rise back into the Eastern Conference playoff mix (after several seasons of being out of it) in 2015-16 is often credited to the star turn by center Andre Drummond. There’s no doubt the NBA’s leader in double-doubles has been massive in that reversal of fortunes, but don’t overlook the play of shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the equation, either. Caldwell-Pope is averaging career highs in virtually every stats category and is having a great season. However, he took a spill in last night’s road loss to the Boston Celtics and needs an MRI, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
It’s a near certainty that Detroit Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson will receive the second start of his young career Thursday night when the New York Knicks visit the Palace.
But how long will he remain there?
Johnson is the next man up with shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suffering a right groin injury in Wednesday night’s 102-95 loss to the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
An MRI will come today.
Depending on the severity, Caldwell-Pope could miss several games.
That leaves it up to the promising teenager from Arizona
And he said he is ready.
“Yes, I think I’m ready to play big minutes,” an exasperated Johnson said. “What do y’all expect me to say? ‘Nah, I don’t want it?’
“I think I play well with a lot of players on the team and we play well together.”
The need for Johnson’s ascension was caused by wet spots on the TD Garden floor. Such a spot claimed Caldwell-Pope with 3 minutes left in the first half.
Trying to run down an inbounds pass, he slipped. He got up limping and hopped on one leg in an attempt to get back on defense.
A Pistons foul stopped the action and Caldwell-Pope went to the floor. He was helped off the floor and into the locker room where he was diagnosed with a right groin strain.
Point guard Reggie Jackson said he avoids spots on the floor at TD Garden because of the propensity for wet spots with hockey ice beneath the hardwood.
“Very scary,” Jackson said. “You’re just holding your breath. Said a quick prayer for him. Just hope everything’s all right. Just wanted to make sure he was able to get off the court and get back and let the training staff watch out for him. So wishing him the best.”
Several team members spoke to Caldwell-Pope afterward and said he was his normal stoic self.
“That’s my guy,” Jackson said. “We’re one and two in the backcourt. I’m always going to cheer for him. It hurts to see him go down, somebody that plays so hard, a guy that you want in your foxhole with you, a guy who’s definitely a big part of the team, the heart of the team. He has nothing to say.
“He just comes in and competes each and every play. So seeing him go down, it definitely hurt me, and we just want him back as fast as possible. But we just want him to be fully recovered.”
VIDEO: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope injured vs. Celtics
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant says he’s locked in on winning a championship for OKC and not the free-agent talk about him that’s perking up … Mo Williams‘ role has shrunk in Cleveland, but he won’t be asking the Cavaliers for a trade … The Los Angeles Clippers are knee-deep in the Lance Stephenson experience now … Don’t be shocked if the Boston Celtics trade or buyout David Lee … Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons is trying to figure out why he was benched in crunch time last night …