VIDEO: Highlights from Monday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Curry questionable tonight vs. Hawks — The Golden State Warriors remain a game ahead of the pace the Chicago Bulls set in 1995-96 for a 72-win season. The Warriors have, of course, been fueled this season by reigning Kia MVP Stephen Curry, who added to his season-long lore with a masterful performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder before a national-TV audience on Saturday. Curry, however, sustained a left ankle injury in that game and is listed as questionable for tonight’s showdown with the visiting Atlanta Hawks (10:30 ET, NBA TV). Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle has more:
Two days after Stephen Curry scorched the Thunder with a 46-point outburst – punctuated by his memorable, game-winning, 32-foot shot in the waning seconds of overtime – Curry rested his sore left ankle as the Warriors returned to work Monday.
Curry sat out practice, and also skipped his customary post-practice shooting session, in the wake of the left ankle injury he sustained Saturday night in Oklahoma City. The Warriors are listing Curry as questionable for Tuesday night’s home game against Atlanta.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “Considering how it happened and how it felt after the game, I’ve made some progress. It’s still a little sore, but hopefully I’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
Curry rolled the ankle early in the third quarter, as Russell Westbrook challenged him on a fast-break layup. Curry hobbled to the locker room, where he had the ankle re-taped; he returned to the game later in the third quarter.
He acknowledged the ankle was “very sore” Sunday.
VIDEO: The Warriors reflect on the win over the Thunder
Several NBA teams are upset by an unusual agreement between the Miami Heat and veteran guard Beno Udrih that will get the team out of paying the luxury tax, sources told ESPN.com.
The Heat agreed to a contract buyout of Udrih, and he was officially waived Monday. The move drops the Heat below the repeater tax line and create a windfall of approximately $2.7 million. It might also help them avoid future luxury-tax penalties because the league punishes repeat taxpayers.
Heat president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg approached Udrih about accepting a buyout after Joe Johnson agreed to sign with the Heat over the weekend, sources said. The Heat, who made a series of trades at the deadline to get out of the tax, were then looking for a solution to add Johnson and remain out of the tax. Signing Johnson pushed the Heat $43,894 above the line.
Udrih, apparently wanting to help the franchise, agreed to leave enough of his $2.17 million salary on the table to help the Heat with their tax situation, sources said. By getting out of the tax, the Heat save about $110,000 in taxes and are now in line to receive a $2.6 million payout from tax-paying teams.
Buyouts are routine at this time of the year, and many players use them to find a different team. What has caused some teams to scrutinize the move is that Udrih had foot surgery last week and is expected to be out at least 12 weeks, essentially the rest of the season. It makes it unlikely Udrih will make up the money he walked away from or sign with another team.
For competitive reasons — numerous teams were after Johnson when he became a free agent — and because nonpayers will see their payouts drop slightly as a result of the move, the Heat’s buyout with Udrih caused some complaining across the league on Monday.
No. 3: James: More adversity likely for Cavs — Coming off a weekend that saw them blow a fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Toronto Raptors and lose on the road to the Washington Wizards, there were concerns about whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers are struggling as the season winds down. A win over the Indiana Pacers last night got Cleveland out of its funk (if you can call it that) and LeBron James said afterward that a two-game slide will be the least of Cleveland’s issues as the season winds down. Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com has more:
The Cavaliers are not, nor will they be, what LeBron James challenged them to be in November.
The Cavs are not a team that’s going to strive for excellence each night during the regular season.
They do take certain things for granted.
There is no sense of perpetual urgency.
Those were the evident truths after the terrible weekend that was for Cleveland, and they were not erased by the 100-96 victory the Cavs forged behind 33 points from James.
This is who the Cavs are going to be until the final buzzer on April 13, when the regular season ends and they’re either the No. 1 seed in the East or they aren’t.
And it’s not a cause for concern for James.
“I’ve been in this so long and I know what’s ahead … this will not be the most adversity that we face,” James said Monday night. “Can you even call that adversity, a two-game losing streak? I don’t think so. You have to just continue to work the habits and play ball and play at a high level like we did tonight.”
Remember, after early losses to Milwaukee and Detroit, James ripped teammates for complacency, for taking for granted their talent and what pundits said was their probable return to the Finals.
What Cleveland has become, James said Monday night, is “a team that, we put ourselves in dark spots and we have to build our way out of them.”
Can it be done?
“Wasn’t nothing but dark in Miami,” James quipped. “That’s how we played though. That’s how we played. We played dark. We could play that way.”
James said the Heat, after losing in the Finals in their first season together in 2011, returned a maniacal bunch that played angry each night until it was crowned champion the following June.
The Cavs didn’t return from last season’s Finals loss to the Warriors that way, and any sense of urgency has been fleeting.
But, as with this team and its tendency to play its best to prevent the roof from catching on fire, Miami had its do-or-die moments, too.
“Well, being down 3-2 in Boston in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals is a way to die,” James said. “You know, or being down 2-1, Game 4 in Indianapolis in the second round. That’s what we did though. We loved it. We loved that. That was our motto.”
No. 4: Report: Raptors waive former No. 1 overall pick Bennett — As the No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft, much was expected from Anthony Bennett when the Cleveland Cavaliers selected him. He played just 52 games in 2013-14 before he was dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Love trade. In Minnesota, he played in 57 games but was cut after the 2014-15 season and was then signed as a free agent by the Toronto Raptors. He hasn’t cracked the rotation in Toronto (he appeared in just 19 games) and according to The Vertical’s Shams Charania, Bennett is being cut again:
The Toronto Raptors will waive former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett on Monday and sign veteran forward Jason Thompson for the remainder of the season, league sources told The Vertical.
Bennett, 22, played 19 games for the Raptors this season after returning to his hometown franchise as a free agent in September. In releasing Bennett and signing Thompson, Toronto will fortify its frontcourt depth and give Bennett an opportunity to seek an increased role elsewhere.
The Phoenix Suns may look into Bennett once he clears waivers, sources said.
Bennett had a strong summer for the Canadian national team before returning to the U.S. and completing a buyout with Minnesota.
Thompson was waived by the Golden State Warriors last week to create roster space for the signing of Anderson Varejao. The 6-foot-11 Thompson has averaged nine points and 6.7 rebounds in eight NBA seasons with Sacramento and Golden State.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari has two torn ligaments in his ankle …Did Dwight Howard want to be dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks at the trade deadline? … Houston Rockets guard Ty Lawson says he doesn’t want a buyout from the team … In an open letter to fans, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gave GM Ryan McDonough a vote of confidence … Shaquille O’Neal tweeted out a photoshopped image of him dunking on Dwight Howard … ICYMI, the Los Angeles Clippers unveiled their new mascot, Chuck the Condor, last night …