NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Injuries piling up for Raptors, Heat — Entering Game 5 of the Toronto Raptors-Miami Heat series in the Eastern Conference semifinals, both teams were already without their starting centers. The Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) and the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (knee) were both hurt in Game 3 and haven’t played since. Last night, both teams incurred injury again as Miami’s Luol Deng and Toronto’s DeMarre Carroll left the game early. Chris O’Leary of the Toronto Star has more on the injuries and what’s next:
Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll and Heat forward Luol Deng are the latest key players to have their statuses put in jeopardy, after each one suffered wrist injuries in the Raptors’ 99-91 Game 5 win.
The Raptors can close out the series with a win in Miami on Friday.
Deng told The Miami Herald that he hurt himself falling into a cameraman and that he left the game after the wrist swelled. He’s awaiting the results of a MRI to determine his fate.
Carroll is in the same boat, but fortunately he can paddle opposite of Deng. Carroll suffered a left wrist contusion when Miami point guard Goran Dragic stepped in front of him in the second half to try to take a charge.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey only repeated the team’s announcement on the injury to his top defensive player. “A left hand contusion. X-rays were negative and we’ll see how he is come next game,” the coach said. Carroll left immediately after the game to get further testing on his wrist. He left the court clutching it and appeared to be in a significant amount of pain.
On Wednesday, Dragic was just as physical, not shying away from any kind of contact regardless of his opponent’s size. He fell on Raptors backup centre Jason Thompson in the second quarter, with his knee appearing to hit Thompson in the breadbasket area.
“That’s how the playoffs are,” he said. “I think my back was turned if there was any retaliation. We’re just going to go hard and that’s our mentality of everyone sacrificing their body.”
No. 2: Hayward says Jazz were ‘in shock’ during Kobe’s finale — A little more than a month or so ago, the NBA and the Los Angeles Lakers bid farewell to an all-time great player and icon, Kobe Bryant. In his final NBA game, Bryant torched the Utah Jazz for 60 points in a farewell fitting for Hollywood. The team on the other end of that moment, the Jazz, and their leader, Gordon Hayward — who defended Bryant most of the game — were stunned by Bryant’s performance as much as everyone else was. At least that’s what Hayward says in a recent post in his blog recounting the season:
I think all of us knew that the season finale in Los Angeles—against the Lakers—was going to be pretty crazy. Kobe Bryant is one of the best players to ever play this game and he is loved by fans across the country. Any time he played on the road this season, it was crazy. We saw that in Utah. But this was different. This was the last game of his career, and it was at home. You knew that there were going to be a lot of people, and the fans really, really showed up.
…We were trying to win, and for a while there we were. But at the end of the game, in the closing minutes, everything that transpired kind of shocked us, to be honest. We were up double digits for most of the second half, and we led by 10 with about three minutes to go. So when Kobe started hitting shots and the game started to get close, a lot of us were in shock.
It was like being a part of a showcase, or being in a video game. There wasn’t really much normality about it. A guy scored 60 points and took 50 shots. There was something different as far as his aggressiveness. I think every time he touched it, you knew he was going to try to shoot it, or try to score, or try to get something going. He’s always an aggressive player, but that night, he was ultra-aggressive and tried to score on every single possession.
That’s harder to defend than you might think, when you’re constantly getting screened. If he’s got the ball, it’s going to be a ball screen. If he doesn’t have the ball, it’s going to be a pin-down or some other screen to get him the ball. I thought for the most part, we played pretty tough defense. There were a bunch of possessions where we forced him into tough shots. But he’s Kobe Bryant.
When he starts to hit shots and the crowd starts to get going, you’re just trying to do what you can to stop him. There comes a point where he is in the zone, and there’s almost nothing you can do. And Kobe kind of got to that, there at the end of the game, where he was hitting everything and the crowd was going wild.
It’s something I don’t ever want to have to defend again—a situation where everybody on the other team is working to get shots for one guy. It was definitely a fairy-tale ending for Kobe Bryant and one the sports world will remember forever. Everyone kind of wanted it to be Kobe’s night. Besides us. But that’s how it goes sometimes.
No. 3: Report: Blazers, Stotts talking contract extension — The Portland Trail Blazers’ surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals came to an end last night in Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors. That loss doesn’t detract from the commendable job Blazers coach Terry Stotts did this season. A team comprised of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and various other role player amassed 44 wins and made the playoffs, exceeding expectations on both fronts. Stotts, who finished as runner up in Coach of the Year voting, has more than earned for a new contract and according to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, talks are underway on such a topic:
After the Portland Trail Blazers closed their season Wednesday with a 125-121 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, the team’s first item of business is to retain coach Terry Stotts, sources say.
The Trail Blazers hold a team option for Stotts’ services for next season, but sources say management and Stotts’ representatives soon will explore a contract extension beyond 2016-17.
During his four seasons at the helm in Portland, Stotts has compiled a record of 182-146, and the team has qualified for the playoffs each of the past three seasons.
After spending parts of two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, Stotts joined Rick Carlisle‘s staff with the Dallas Mavericks in 2008. While on the bench with the Mavericks, Stotts established a reputation as a sharp offensive coach.
When the vacancy opened in Portland in 2012, the Trail Blazers saw Stotts as a logical candidate to sculpt a jump-shooting offense around forward LaMarcus Aldridge, not unlike what Stotts helped construct in Dallas for Dirk Nowitzki. After leading the Trail Blazers to a 54-28 record in 2013-14, Stotts agreed to a multiyear contract extension with the team in May 2014.
No. 4: Crawford wants to stay with Clippers — To call the 2015-16 season a success for Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford is a bit of an understatement. He not only picked up a record third career Kia Sixth Man of the Year Award, but was an integral player for the Clippers as they stayed in the thick of the Western Conference’s upper crust even after an injury to Blake Griffin essentially knocked him out for the season. Crawford is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but wants to stay in L.A., writes Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com:
Kia Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford made it clear he’d like to remain a Clipper while appearing on “The Jump” on ESPN.
Crawford said after Game 6 in Portland he’d like to stick with the team, and the upcoming free agent reiterated his comments on the show Wednesday.
“That’s my first priority, to get something worked out here,” Crawford said.
If the Clippers want to bring Crawford back, they have his Bird Rights and can go over the salary cap to do so. Head coach Doc Rivers said after the season ended that his primary goal this offseason is keeping his own guys, and that sounds like something Crawford would want.
“I hope so,” Crawford said. “This has been like a home for me. My family enjoys it. I feel like we’ve had so much heartache over the last few years. To break through with this group would mean everything.”
The Clippers received another bad break, perhaps the worst they’ve ever been dealt, when they lost both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin in a matter of seconds in Game 4 before falling in six games to Portland.
“It was unbelievable, because we didn’t get a chance to have our whole team healthy the whole season,” Crawford said. “Right when we started getting guys healthy, the playoffs start, we’re trying to work those kinks out, and that happens.”