VIDEO: Highlights from Monday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Durant (elbow) questionable tonight vs. Rockets — The Oklahoma City Thunder were not their sharpest right after the All-Star break, amassing a 4-8 mark after March 12 loss on the road to the San Antonio Spurs. Things have picked up a bit lately for the Thunder, though, as they are in the midst of a four-game win streak as the Houston Rockets visit tonight (8 ET, TNT). However, it’s not all positive for OKC as leading scorer Kevin Durant has an elbow injury that may keep him out of tonight’s game. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more:
Late in the third quarter on Saturday night in Indianapolis, Kevin Durant flew in for an acrobatic block, but was undercut and fell hard on his right elbow.
He stayed down for a little while, wincing in pain during a timeout, but remained in and closed out the game. But after an off-day Sunday, he didn’t practice on Monday. Durant was seen walking across the floor with an ice-pack on his elbow.
“Did a little bit on the side,” coach Billy Donovan said. “But in terms of the contact stuff we did, he didn’t do anything.”
Does Donovan expect Durant to be available against the Rockets on Tuesday night?
“Gonna see how he’s doing tomorrow, but it’s nothing too serious, nothing that’s a major problem,” Donovan said. “He’s got some discomfort, but we’ll probably find out (if he’s available) at shootaround.”
VIDEO: OKC gears up for its showdown with Houston tonight
No. 2: Report: LeBron unfollowed Cavs on Twitter, Instagram to prep for playoffs — Just about anything LeBron James does on social media these days is met with speculation that it may be an indicator of his plans as a potential free agent this summer. Such was the case yesterday when James unfollowed the Cavaliers on both Twitter and Instagram. But according to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, James’ move was a calculated one, but not for reasons you may be thinking:
Almost immediately, speculation outside The Q began that this was another cryptic message from James on Twitter – and there’s been a lot of those this month – signaling his intention to potentially leave Cleveland for a second time, which he could theoretically do this summer by opting out of his two-year, $47 million contract this summer and becoming a free agent.
According to a source close to James who discussed the matter with him Monday night, that’s not why James unfollowed the Cavs. He did it as part of his process to prepare for the playoffs.
There is precedence for this. James puts away all forms of social media once the playoffs begin, to cut all distractions and sharpen his own focus on the task ahead. He calls it Zero Dark 23. He did it last year.
James’ unfollowing of the Cavs was sort of a preamble, the source said. He’s starting to pare down some of the “noise” without shutting off his account entirely.
James didn’t just unfollow @cavs – the official Twitter account of the team for which he’s supposed to deliver a championship.
He also unfollowed Allie Clifton, the team’s sideline reporter for Fox Sports Ohio, with whom he’s had a cordial, friendly, professional relationship for two seasons.
James also unfollowed the Twitter account of Austin Carr, the Cavs’ in-game analyst for Fox and a team legend, whom James admires. He parted ways with the account of ESPN Cavs reporter Dave McMenamin, and NBA reporter Chris Broussard, and Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. It was to Jenkins whom James dictated his essay announcing his return to Cleveland in the summer of 2014.
In all, James unfollowed 14 accounts recently – he’s down to 153 from 167. According to the source close to James, most were NBA media types and basketball-related accounts.
At any rate, the Cavs’ front office and fans of James and the organization should be at ease.
He’s not deliberately trying to poison the locker room and the team’s playoff hopes with a few clicks of a button. Of course he isn’t.
Rather, he’s beginning his process to get ready for what could be his sixth consecutive Finals berth. That hasn’t been done since the 1960s.
I asked James near the end of his press conference after Monday night’s game why he unfollowed the Cavs. After three seconds of silence, he said “next question.”
At a time when the noise surrounding the Cavs is nearly unending – there’s chemistry issues, they’ll never beat the Warriors, does LeBron want to go back to Miami, Kyrie hates it here – perhaps everything that happened Monday was the start of James simply trying to get out of his own head.
He surely played like it. Thirty-three points. Eleven rebounds. Eleven assists.
But James has done at least as much damage with his Tweets this season as the unfortunate few he’s unfollowed.
VIDEO: LeBron talks after the Cavs’ big win on Monday
No. 3: Wade to Davis: Be patient with injury — Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade knows a thing or two about being a hard-charging, youthful talent in the NBA destined for great things. He also knows a thing or two about how injuries can slow down a career and derail championship hopes as well. In a chat with ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace, Wade chimed in on the injuries that have forced New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis to be shut down for the rest of 2015-16 and may require extensive offseason surgery:
“It’s going to be a tough road, trust me,” Wade said to ESPN.com of Davis. “When you’re young like he is, you can bounce back from these things, especially with how advanced things are today. He’s got all the talent in the world. I’m sure he’s going to be fine.”
Like Davis, Wade was in his fourth year in the league when a midseason shoulder injury was compounded by a lingering knee issue and forced the Heat’s catalyst to endure surgery for both at the end of the 2006-07 season. The Heat had won the NBA title the previous season, and Wade initially delayed surgery for both maladies until after he returned from a two-month absence to play in a 2007 first-round playoff series, in which the Heat were swept in four games by the Chicago Bulls.
It is unclear when Davis will have surgery for his shoulder and knee, but he told reporters on Monday that he “might as well knock both out at the same time.”
Wade had his procedures done at the same time too, a decision he still cringes to think about.
“It sucked. It was hard, man,” Wade said as the Heat wrapped up Monday’s practice before departing for New Orleans. “I didn’t want to have them both at the same time. I fought it to the very last day. I didn’t agree to do it until I went in there that day to the hospital. For one, I knew how difficult it was already going to be to rehab a shoulder. That’s six months. And then, it’s the knee too.”
The scariest part for Wade came during the initial days after the double surgery.
“My whole left side just shut down,” Wade recalled. “It was a hopeless feeling. I had to be in the bed for 10 days in a row, for 23 hours a day. I got one hour a day to be up. I couldn’t use the bathroom or anything. Everything was shut down. I had to get one of those remote mobile [scooters] to take me around. I built a ramp in my house, and that was my [free] hour, just riding it around the house. That’s how it was the first two weeks. After that, I was able to travel, then able to do small rehab.”
Davis confirmed Monday his recovery is expected to take up to five months, which rules him out to participate with Team USA in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Wade’s recovery nine years ago took him out of action for the USA team’s qualifying tournament the year before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Wade’s primary advice to Davis: Don’t rush back.
“If this is something he’s going to go through, the biggest thing is patience,” Wade said. “It’s not coming back from those procedures too soon. I got those surgeries [in May], and I think I was there trying to do stuff in training camp. But maybe I should have waited longer to make sure I was 100 percent or as close to it as I could be. So it’s more about patience than anything. Eventually, you bounce back.”
It’s been a constant battle, but Wade has endured. Nine years after those double surgeries, he’s added nine more All-Star appearances, four more trips to the Finals and two more titles. Last week, Wade became the 41st player in league history to reach 20,000 career points.
If there’s a manual for overcoming Davis’ current dilemma, it was likely authored by Wade. And if Wade gets a chance to speak with Davis during the Heat’s stop in New Orleans, there’s another pointer he’s certain to relay to his fellow Chicago native.
“Coming off this, he has to learn his body, approach it a little differently and take care of his body — not like a young guy, but like a veteran,” Wade said. “He’s dealt with a lot of knickknack injuries, a lot of things in his career already. He’s got to treat his body like a veteran now. If he does that, he’ll be fine. He’ll be back. And we all know he’s capable of playing a lot of great years in this league.”
No. 4: Hammond gushes over Antetokounmpo’s play — After last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Detroit Pistons on a late tip-in, the Milwaukee Bucks’ playoff hopes are growing dimmer and dimmer. Although 2015-16 has been a disappointment in some ways for Bucks fans, one bright spot has been the continued rise of forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since the All-Star break, he has boosted his traditional stats in just about every category (save for 3-point shooting) and has shown growth in his game while remaining a must-watch player on NBA League Pass. In an interview with Eurohoops.net’s Nikos Varlas, Bucks GM John Hammond extensively praises Antetokounmpo and his development this season:
When are you expecting Giannis to start entering the phase when he’ll reach the peak of his career and the most productive basketball that he can play?
“He’s 21 years old, but he’s been playing regularly and with many playing minutes in the league for three years! That means that, on the one side, he can still be described as inexperienced, because he’s very young, but on the other, he’s already gained considerable experience. They say that players start reaching the peak of their performance and of their career when they’ve been playing in the NBA for 6 or 7 seasons. Giannis got in the league when he was 18 years old. So, in his case, we have to look at a player like LeBron, who played straight in the NBA without playing in college. The general rule says that good players reach their peak between 27 and 29. In cases, however, like the ones of LeBron and Giannis, you can expect it at 26. To try to answer more specifically, there is no definite and certain answer to your question (laughs)! Time is what will give the answer…”
How do you judge the fact that Giannis, when he faces a superstar, often plays amazingly well? Is it a matter of extra motivation?
“On the one side, it’s something positive. From a young age he has proven that he can be competitive and stare right in the eye the best players in this league. On the other side, this is the difference between the good player and the top player. The top player steps on the court every night with the same desire and determination with the aim of dominating the game and defining it. He wants to do it every time, in every game.”
How do you see Giannis and his future? What do you expect to see from him in 3 or 4 years?
“I’ll tell you this. Giannis, at 21, needs two simple things to become an All Star, from this moment that we’re speaking: to score the open jump shots from 15-16 feet and three-pointers from the corners.”
Before the 2013 draft, all the scouts in the NBA were coming to Athens to watch Giannis play in Filathlitikos. But neither then, nor on the night of the draft before his selection, had we heard anything about the Bucks. How… did you do it in the end? How did you end up selecting him?
“We were lucky! I honestly believe that. Many times I hear people saying that, in the case of Antetokounmpo, Hammond saw something that the others didn’t see. Not so. We’re all very good scouts, we all collect the right data and, from there, it’s just a matter of the numbers you pick and which players you can get. I didn’t see anything different from what everyone else saw in Giannis. We were just very lucky to have the number 15. Giannis hadn’t been selected by any other team until we got to 15, and so we got him!”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan has emerged as a strong voice in the NBA labor talks … Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard will reportedly not be fined or suspended for his use of a sticky substance on the ball in Saturday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks … Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Luesays resting his team is the bigger priority over it trying to get the East’s No. 1 seed … Dwyane Wade is really happy with the team Miami is fielding this season … Detroit Pistons sharpshooter Jodie Meeks likely won’t be back in time for the playoffs … TNT analyst Craig Sager says his leukemia is no longer in remission … Great podcast on the new preps-to-pros book by author Jonathan Abrams … The Golden State Warriors can save on their tax bill if Andrew Bogut doesn’t make the NBA’s All-Defensive first or second team …