Morning shootaround — Dec. 11


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Feb. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Warriors keep chugging along | Kidd-Gilchrist needs MRI on shoulder | Prokhorov, Nets readying GM short-list | Love (shoulder) not expected to miss time

No. 1: Warriors roll into All-Star break at 48-4 — From the start of the season, the Golden State Warriors have been the story to follow. From a 24-0 start to their dazzling offense to the exploits of reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Golden State is dominating opponents and having fun along the way, too. They head into the All-Star break a game ahead of the pace the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls set when they won an NBA-record 72 games. After last night’s win in Phoenix, the players and coaches talked about how that record is firmly in their sights, writes Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Klay Thompson described the record the Warriors have as surreal, with them rolling at a record pace without any sign of a championship hangover.

Whatever you want to chalk it up to, people saying it was a fluke, yada, yada, you just want to go out and prove that we’ll be here for a long time,” Thompson said.

Despite uncertainty at head coach with Steve Kerr missing much of the first half of the regular season, the Warriors held steady and dominated the competition. They notched 30-point wins against the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs after starting the season 24-0 under interim head coach Luke Walton.

“I think that streak sort of gave guys extra motivation through the first quarter of the season,” Kerr said. “And then since that time, we’ve been on a good run.”

Said Stephen Curry: “We handled a lot of challenges pretty well this first half of the season and kept our high level of consistency.”

In garbage time, rookie Kevon Looney got in on the action and managed to bank in the first 3-pointer of his career.

Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson traveled to Toronto, where they will participate in festivities during All-Star weekend and play in Sunday’s game

The rest of the Warriors will get to rest and focus on what the Warriors have to do in the second half.

“Just play with great focus, because when we do that, we’re almost impossible to beat,” Thompson said.

Kerr was among those who could use time to relax. He didn’t feel well following the Warriors’ win against the Houston Rockets the previous night at Oracle Arena, explaining he was dealing with a headache and he appeared uncomfortable during Tuesday’s brief postgame news conference.

“I still have symptoms from everything I’ve been dealing with, so I wish everything was clear and gone away, but it’s not, so at times I have to deal with stuff,” Kerr said.

Kerr will travel to his home in San Diego for the All-Star break after having won all nine of his games on the bench this season. He missed the first 43 and indicated upon his return three weeks ago that his symptoms were manageable following a leave of absence caused by complications from an offseason back surgery.

“I don’t want to go into detail with all this stuff, but there’s a lot to it in terms of my protocol that I’m going through,” Kerr said. The All-Star break will give me a chance to get through some of that, too.”

***

 

Kidd-Gilchrist reinjures right shoulder


VIDEO: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injures shoulder against Pacers

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Hornets dislocated his right shoulder after hitting the floor Wednesday night in Indiana — the same shoulder that cost him the first 46 games of the season.

There was no immediate word how long Kidd-Gilchrist would be out this time.

He had surgery in October to repair a torn labrum and was expected to miss most or all of the season, only to return Jan. 29. In his first six games back, the small forward known for his defense averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes a night while shooting 52.6 percent.

 

Blogtable: Thoughts on future for Knicks?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Knicks? | Jazz playoff-bound? |
Will LaVine or Curry repeat on All-Star Saturday?



VIDEOPhil Jackson talks about the Derek Fisher firing

> What do you make of the Knicks’ decision to change coaches at this point in the season? And will Phil Jackson still be New York’s GM at this time next year?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Odd, given that no one outside the Jacksonian Bubble had any notion that the Knicks would be anything close to a playoff contender (and I liked their offseason moves, by the way) unless absolutely everything broke right — which, of course, never happens. I don’t doubt Phil will be thorough in his search for the permanent guy but he needs to be clear that he’s willing to seriously consider someone that’s not of the Triangle Tree. I’m not anti-triangle, but no system is a panacea without difference-making talent; the Knicks have more than last year but not near enough to win consistently. As for Phil … I say he’ll be back. I’d be surprised if he walked away from the team of his beloved Red Holzman with the job not even half-done.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: That change seemed rather pointless to me, coming when it did. It’s not as if the Knicks were underperforming this season, winning half of their first 44 after going 17-65 last season. No “name” replacement – like, say, Tom Thibodeau – was going to sign on at this stage of any season. And chasing a playoff spot isn’t what New York needs to be about right now. Will Jackson stick for the long-term? He’s way too inscrutable to make any concrete prediction. I say yes, mostly because of Kristaps Porzingis‘ payoff and the options that will open up in the new salary-cap world.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m less surprised than when Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher in the first place, a guy with no coaching experience taking over in the media capital of the world. This was a pseudo-puppet show with Jackson trying to guide Fisher, but not being fully engaged. If Phil is not going to coach the team — and he’s not — then it’s time he lets go of the insistence on running the triangle and finds a solid coach and gives him the autonomy to run his own program. Having said that, I think he’ll go for another acolyte. Yes, Jackson will still be G.M. at the All-Star break in Charlotte 2017. But if this isn’t a home-run hire, he might be counting down the final months of his stay.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I was a little surprised only because the team had played well earlier in he season. Even if the Knicks had been going bad lately, I thought the previous success would earn Fisher a little more time to fix the problems. Phil obviously saw something going very wrong, beyond what everyone saw going wrong in the standings. That would be the same Phil who will still be on the job this time next year. I don’t think we’re looking at a run as GM that will span the generations, but I figure at least one more full season. (Says the guy who didn’t think Derek Fisher would be gone.)

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: In a word: Weird. Obviously, it went deeper than wins and (many) losses, because the Knicks weren’t projected to do big things this season. Whether it was Fisher’s incident with Matt Barnes or drama on the coaching staff, Phil Jackson saw something he didn’t like and owner Jim Dolan, who has written big checks to get Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown to go away, agreed to flush more millions (it must be nice). Interim coach Kurt Rambis tanked in Minnesota and ditto for Brian Shaw in Denver so I suspect Jackson has someone else in mind.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’ll admit that I was surprised. Fisher was Jackson’s guy, he was less than two years into his job, and the Knicks weren’t really underachieving, especially when you consider Carmelo Anthony‘s latest knee issue. Stability is important in this league and the Knicks are now unstable again. Still, I don’t see Jackson leaving anytime in the next year. He seems a little too prideful to flake out after just two full seasons.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It’s trending, given all of the coaches changes we’ve seen so far. It did catch me a little off guard, what with Fisher’s connections to Phil. But the Knicks’ recent slide coupled with the expectations disconnect and Fisher’s off-the-court issues make it easier to see why Phil felt a change was necessary. I don’t share this view that the Knicks were some playoff lock this season as currently constituted, but they should be performing better than they have recently. And despite rumblings to the contrary, I do think Phil will be on the job this time next year. Something tells me he won’t give up the fight just yet. He believes he can turn it around in New York and he won’t quit before his contract ends.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: It isn’t surprising. Neither Fisher nor Jackson had any experience in their current jobs, which ruined their chances of working together from the start. I don’t think Phil is going anywhere: He’s making too much money, and to run out on the Knicks so quickly would be damning his own reputation. It would suggest that his heart was never really in it, and that would be a terrible thing for him to admit.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWhat’s ironic to me is that for years now, fans and “experts” have called on the Knicks to hand over basketball operations to someone like Phil Jackson, in an effort to find some stability. And now, not even two years into Jackson’s tenure, the Knicks have once again canned a coach and now find themselves in some kind of flux. Here’s the thing: Heading into this season, nobody expected the Knicks to be any good. They’re clearly better than expectations, but they still aren’t a championship team. And changing coaches midseason won’t do anything to change that. And I think Phil is going to stick around — if nothing else we need more of his tweets.

Blogtable: Are Jazz playoff-bound?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Knicks? | Jazz playoff-bound? |
Will LaVine or Curry repeat on All-Star Saturday?



VIDEOHayward powers Jazz to 7th straight win

> With Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors back in the lineup, the Jazz are starting to pile up some wins. Is Utah’s four-year playoff drought about to end?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: As Jeff Weigand said in “The Insider,” most certainly. And I’ll go you one better; I think Utah has a decent shot at getting home court in the first round now, with the injuries to the Clippers (Blake Griffin, Austin Rivers) and Memphis (Marc Gasol). The Jazz have a chance to be real good for a good long while.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Utah is good enough to qualify for the playoffs. It all just comes down to the math of nine teams vying for eight spots (with maybe Denver the best of the rest in potentially climbing up). I say yes, the Jazz get in, because part of bouncing back from injuries is getting adjusted again to the roster’s full personnel – though seven in a row suggests a quick re-orientation. Utah ranks high enough both offensively and defensively to justify its spot among the West’s top eight and I think that holds for the next two months.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It will be a good race for the No. 8 spot with the Trail Blazers, but I’ll give the nod to Utah. The Jazz played strong from the All-Star break to the end of last season and now that they’re healthy again are looking like that rising young team again.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I can’t give a solid “yes” because the entire group going for the final spot is built on sand, but you’d have to like the Jazz’s chances. I had Quin Snyder among the contenders for Coach of the Year in my preseason predictions that never, ever go wrong. Watch him start to pick up votes if Utah stays in the postseason mix after all the injuries.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: It should end, and I think it will. They really missed Gobert. That doesn’t mean the Jazz are ideally built or that Utah is ready to pull a first-round surprise, though. I’m still not sold on Utah having a potential superstar among the batch of young players on the team, and you can’t routinely win 50-plus games a year without one (or two). This summer, I’d seriously think about trading Gordon Hayward for the right price.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Yes. The Jazz are 14-7 with both Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert and have a top-three defense since Favors returned from his back injury eight games ago. They look like the team that went 19-10 after the All-Star break last season. Their offense is still going to have some droughts, but Rodney Hood is evolving into a really good player and they can finish a few games over .500 with how well they defend. The Jazz also have an easier remaining schedule than Houston or Portland, and Marc Gasol‘s injury creates some doubt that the Grizzlies (whose schedule gets really tough after the first week in March) can hold on to their spot.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It’s still a little early for me to be certain that the playoff drought ends for the Jazz this season. There are still things that have to be sorted out by the teams chasing that 8th and final spot. That said, the Jazz certainly have the look of a team ready to give serious chase. Favors and Gobert give them a 1-2 big man punch that could be very valuable down the stretch of this season. They need better point guard play, of course. And maybe they’ll be active at the trade deadline next week and address that issue. But either way, they’re going to be in mix for that playoff spot.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Blazers, who are the other young team racing for the No. 8 spot, are in their first season together after rebuilding on the fly last summer. The Jazz have been investing in this young core for several years, and that teamwork and cohesion should help as the games become more important – even though Utah must play 17 of its those remaining 31 games on the road.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I know they’re hovering around the No. 8 seed right now, but I don’t think that’s going to continue. To me, Portland has more veteran leadership and is probably better suited to a postseason run. If Dante Exum hadn’t gone down, they might be more firmly in the postseason mix. That said, if they can find an upgrade at point guard at the trade deadline, they might be back in the race.

Blogtable: LaVine or Curry more likely to repeat on All-Star Saturday?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Knicks? | Jazz playoff-bound? |
Will LaVine or Curry repeat on All-Star Saturday?



VIDEORelive the 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk Contest

> Shooter Stephen Curry or dunker Zach LaVine? Who is more likely to defend his title on All-Star Saturday?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: How can you pick anyone in anything hoop-related right now and not go with Steph? Anyway, I got a Will Barton kind of vibe for the dunk contest in the Great White North.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s tempting to bail on this and say “both” because those contests have had lots of repeat winners through the years. But I think LaVine is the guy who defends his crown. It’s a bigger deal to him, given what else the Timberwolves don’t have cooking at this point, and he surely has dunks we haven’t seen. Curry deserves to be the favorite but he’s in a tough, tough field. Bottom line: There’s a big difference in a competition that’s judged – LaVine has a little head start with the judges based on last year’s success – as opposed to one that is pure skill, a hot hand and math.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI love to watch Zach LaVine and he put on a show last year. But practically everything Steph Curry has done this season has been better, so why not this too? I’m really hoping he tears a page out of the old Larry Bird playbook, walks into the locker room before the event and asks, “So which one of you chumps is going to finish second?”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Shooter Steph Curry. Because, really, out Anything Steph Curry in front of me right now and I’m on board. Put him in the other contest as well. I can see it now: Dunk Champion Steph Curry. This is not the time to pick against him.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comSince the 3-point contest is absolutely stacked this year, and Curry might not even be the last Warrior standing when it’s all said and one, I’d say LaVine has the best chance. He’s a dunking freak who probably and purposely saved some of his best dunks for this year’s contest.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: LaVine. First of all, there are four dunkers and eight shooters, so the basic odds are with LaVine. And as good a shooter that Curry is, I think LaVine has more of an edge over his competition when it comes to elevation and flair.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The shooters lined up for Saturday night make up one of the best fields I can remember, so Steph, as great as he is, will certainly have his hands full in that competition. And the way he’s played this season, I’d be a fool to pick against him. But Young Mr. Dunkenstein from Minnesota is a heavy favorite to defend his title. The moment his Timberwolves teammate and Toronto native, Andrew Wiggins, decided not to participate, LaVine had the path to a repeat title cleared. No offense to the other participants, but they’re fighting it out for second place.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: If you’re asking in whom should we trust, then doesn’t the answer have to be Curry? No one in the league finds more joy in these kinds of challenges.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogAs awesome as Steph Curry has been all season, to me dunking is a more replicable feat than shooting, with more room for error. What I mean is, LaVine has a little more wiggle room — he gets to shoot from centimeters away instead of feet. And Curry has to go against seven other contestants, while LaVine has to face three. If one other shooter gets hot, he might reel off a few racks of balls and win the contest. dunkers just have to have a few seconds of great performance. So, I’ll say LaVine is more likely to repeat.

Morning shootaround — Feb. 10


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Feb. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Karl staying in Sacramento after all | Report: Evans done for season | Anthony sticking by Jackson, Knicks

No. 1: Divac keeping Karl around after all — Overnight on Monday, news broke that the Sacramento Kings were preparing to fire coach George Karl sometime before the All-Star break. It seemed a near certainty as national media and local media had similar reports on the goings on. But then yesterday afternoon, the Kings decided to reverse field and keep Karl around. Why the sudden change of heart? Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee has the explanation:

Instead of firing his coach as had been reportedly imminent, Kings general manager Vlade Divac began discussions with George Karl on Tuesday about how to pull the team out of its slide.

“We are not firing George,” Divac told The Sacramento Bee. “We have to sit down, work together and figure out how to turn this around.”

The Kings (21-31) have lost four consecutive games and eight of nine. They are in 10th place in the Western Conference and end a four-game trip Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers in their last game before the All-Star break.

Before this slump, the Kings won a season-best five consecutive games and moved into the West’s eighth and final playoff spot. Entering Tuesday, they were five games behind the eighth-place Utah Jazz.

Tuesday’s conversation between Divac and Karl focused on the Kings’ three-point and transition defenses and overall lack of defensive energy – three areas that have plagued the team all season.

Divac does not believe firing Karl is the solution.

“We have some issues, but it’s not that we can’t win,” Divac said. “This is how we are now. It can be painful to watch. I can only imagine what it’s like for the fans.”

The Kings are giving up a league-high 10.7 three-pointers per game and 14.6 fast-break points per game, 23rd in the league.

Players have been unhappy with many of the defensive schemes and what they see as a lack of adjustments to address the problems.

“We’ve just got to take pride in defense,” guard Rajon Rondo said after Monday’s loss at Cleveland.

Rondo noted the Kings have allowed at least 120 points in five of their past eight losses.

“We’re giving up 30 a quarter a night; we’re giving out career highs, season highs, first of whatever. It’s frustrating,” he said. “We just can’t keep laying down. We’ve got to have some kind of fight and find a way.”

The ease with which opponents score has caused many to question the pride of the players and their commitment to defense.

***

 

Marc Gasol breaks foot, out indefinitely


VIDEO: Blazers top Grizzlies in overtime

It’s been hurtful enough for the Grizzlies to drop back-to-back home games in overtime to Dallas and Portland.

Now the pain level goes up with the word that center Marc Gasol has a broken right foot and could miss the rest of the season. The team is currently saying he’ll be out indefinitely.

Gasol has been playing with the injury and it had previously been stated that he couldn’t do any further damage. He started Monday night against Portland, but left the game with a minute left in the first quarter.

Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal spoke to the principals:

“It’s certainly not great for Marc and his family. I know he’s disappointed,” Griz coach Dave Joerger said. “It’s bad for our team. This is a tight bunch of dudes. They care about each other. It hurts everybody. Marc is a guy who lays it out there for his teammates and the fans. We’re going to fight, scratch and claw.”

Gasol is averaging 16.6 points, seven rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game. He’s appeared in all 52 games for the Griz this season.

“I have some issues, but you have to push through it,” Gasol said last Saturday after a home loss to Dallas. “I’m never going to use not being 100 percent as an excuse. It’s just not me. I’m going to push through it and give whatever I have to my team. That’s how I’ve always been, and that’s how it’s going to be.”

Before the pair of losses in OT, the Grizzlies had won nine out of 10 games. They are currently 30-22 and hold down the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

Morning shootaround — Feb. 9


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Feb. 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Karl to be fired before All-Star break | James ’emotional’ over Kobe’s farewell tour | Communication issues dogging Bulls

No. 1:UPDATE, 1:37 p.m.

With the earlier news passing as an almost foregone conclusion all day long regarding coach George Karl‘s future, the Sacramento Kings reversed field Tuesday afternoon and decided they will not be firing Karl anytime soon, per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Reports: Karl to be fired soon — On Jan. 23, the Sacramento Kings beat the Indiana Pacers behind a monstrous 48-point night from All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. That victory was the Kings’ fifth in a row and had them solidly in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. But, oh, how things have changed since then. Sacramento has lost eight of its last nine games and is on a four-game slump, all of which has turned those good feelings a few weeks ago back into turmoil for the Kings. And in the wake of coach Derek Fisher surprisingly being fired by the New York Knicks on Monday, it seems Kings coach George Karl is next in line to be fired. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee has more, as does ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

League sources said the Kings will fire coach George Karl in the coming days amid the team’s worst stretch this season.

The sources said Karl will not keep his job beyond the All-Star break. The Kings’ final game before the break is Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.

A season that looked to be on the upswing last month has gone awry, leaving the players to wonder if they have the fortitude to turn things around.

“I hope that’s the case,” guard Rajon Rondo said after Monday night’s 120-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. “But with optional shootarounds, it’s tough. We’ve lost eight of nine. When three or four guys show up for shootaround (Monday) morning, how can you expect to win?”

Optional workouts are nothing new for the Kings under Karl. But with the team in a tailspin and its defense faltering, players questioned the logic behind making anything optional.

After firing Michael Malone and Tyrone Corbin last season, the Kings hired Karl at the All-Star break to provide stability. But that hasn’t been the case, dating to Karl’s feud with center DeMarcus Cousins last summer. Several players also have been unhappy with Karl’s coaching style.

Assistant coach Corliss Williamson, a former teammate of Kings general manager Vlade Divac and the lone holdover from Malone’s staff, is a logical choice to be interim coach.

Players’ rumblings over the lack of defensive adjustments have grown louder during the current rut as offensively challenged teams like the Brooklyn Nets post multiple season and career highs against Sacramento.

The Kings often look unprepared defensively, leaving shooters open and watching as opponents execute the most obvious game plans against them. They’ve given up 120.8 points per game during their current four-game losing streak.

“We go into the game knowing that we’ve got to protect the (three-point) line, knowing that LeBron (James’) favorite target is J.R. (Smith),” Rondo said. “And what do we do? We come in and let LeBron find J.R. We’ve got to stop making excuses; that’s the bottom line. We make too many excuses as a team.”

A separation between Karl and the players has existed at various levels throughout the season. But it is at its greatest when the Kings are playing at their worst.

As the point guard, Rondo was supposed to be a bridge between Karl and the players. Rondo has even said he believes he and Karl should speak more to each other.

Asked if his talks with Karl still are productive, Rondo said, “After every meeting on a game-day shootaround, we talk. He asks me questions, and sometimes I give him my feedback and sometimes I don’t say anything.”

After Monday’s loss, Karl acknowledged a lot of “mental frustration” was surrounding the Kings.

And here’s Stein’s breakdown of the situation in Sacramento:

The Sacramento Kings are going ahead with a coaching change and plan to fire George Karl in the coming days, league sources told ESPN.

NBA coaching sources told ESPN that the Kings have decided internally that a change on the bench is needed and is likely to happen after Sacramento plays its final game before the All-Star break Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Within the organization, according to sources, concerns have been mounting for weeks that Karl was not providing the stewardship Sacramento expected when it hired the 64-year-old from ESPN during the 2015 All-Star break to replace then-interim coach Tyrone Corbin.

Sources said rising dismay, both within the front office and among players, with Karl’s defensive schemes, practice policies and general leadership have had a demoralizing effect on the players, who have slumped into a 1-8 funk in the wake of a recent five-game win streak that briefly had Sacramento in the West’s eighth playoff spot.

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has made no secret of his hope to see his team reach the postseason and bring a halt to the franchise’s nine-season playoff drought in its final season at Sleep Train Arena before moving into a new building in Sacramento.

Divac, sources said, is seeking only an interim coach for now and wants to take his time with a proper coaching search, in hopes of bringing some much-needed stability to the position and the organization.

The Kings’ next coach will be their league-most ninth since 2006-07, the season that began the postseason drought.

Sources said Ranadive, who took ownership of the Kings in May 2013, has left the decision of whether to fire Karl fully with Divac. The owner twice bucked NBA convention by hiring a coach — first Mike Malone, then Karl — before hiring his GM.

Former Kings guard Bobby Jackson, who played alongside Divac on Sacramento’s best teams in the early 2000s, essentially called for Karl’s dismissal on the team’s local postgame show after the Brooklyn defeat.

Karl has an estimated $10 million in guaranteed money left on his original four-year, $15 million contract with the Kings. His ouster would be the sixth coaching change of this NBA season, which is two shy of the league’s record of eight before the All-Star break, set during the 2008-09 season.


VIDEO: Cavaliers dominate to keep Kings reeling

***

 

Ezeli surgery puts to test LeBron’s remark on Warriors’ health

LeBron James didn’t exactly curse the Golden State Warriors earlier this season when he lauded the defending champions as “the most healthy team I’ve ever seen in NBA history.” But that backhanded compliment might no longer apply, based on backup center Festus Ezeli’s surgery Monday.

Ezeli underwent arthroscopic surgery in Oakland to clean out debris from his left knee and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. The team’s official news release included the phrase “expected to return this season,” but that likely means sometime in April, leaving the Warriors only a short time to re-acclimate the 6-foot-11 backup big man before hitting the postseason.

Add in the 16 games forward Harrison Barnes missed with a sprained ankle and it’s becoming increasing difficult to write off Golden State’s success to injury avoidance. Granted this setback still doesn’t match the short-handedness through which James led Cleveland in the playoffs last spring – what with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love missing or hobble through most of the playoffs – but it will stretch Golden State’s deep roster just a wee bit thin. Marreese Speights and maybe Jason Thompson will pick up Ezeli’s minutes, while starter Andrew Bogut has less margin for mishap now himself.

Of course, the Warriors could just decide to small-ball the opposition into submission. Ezeli’s impact was most noticeable defensively, with teams shooting worse (46.5 percent vs. 47.1) and scoring less (3.2 points fewer per 100 possessions) when he was on the court.

Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com caught some of the initial reaction from the Warriors on Ezeli’s situation:

“Festus is a huge part of our rotation,” head coach Steve Kerr said after practice on Monday. “He’s really had a good year, an excellent year.

“Mo is going to step in and play well for us, but I feel bad for Festus. It’s a contract year and he’s young and he’s already had a knee surgery. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that he’s going to be OK.”

The 6’11” center last appeared in a game on January 25 vs. San Antonio and has missed the last five games due to a sore left knee.

In 40 games this season (11 starts), Ezeli is averaging 7.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.23 blocks in 17.8 minutes per contest.

It’s open season on coaches in NBA


VIDEO: Derek Fisher got ejected for arguing a call earlier this season. The Knicks fired him today.

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Technically, the New York Knicks “relieved” Derek Fisher of his duties as coach today, which is a fancy way of saying they fired Phil Jackson‘s hand-picked choice to lead the franchise.

Kurt Rambis has been elevated to the top job in Fisher’s place, leaving yet another franchise with an interim (or replacement) in place of the coach they started with this season. It’s the latest in a somewhat shocking run of coaching decisions around the league.

And it just goes to show that no matter if you’re winning or losing, when it’s open season on coaches in the NBA, anybody could be on the firing line — just ask George Karl, who is reportedly on the hot seat in Sacramento.

Kevin McHale was the first to go this season, lasting just 11 games in Houston before being shoved out and replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff. Lionel Hollins got the boot in Brooklyn after a dreadful start and was replaced by Tony Brown. David Blatt, fresh off of a trip to The Finals and his team sitting at 30-11 and first place in the Eastern Conference, was next. Tyronn Lue was tabbed as his successor and is 6-3 since making that 18-inch move over to the big chair. And just last week Jeff Hornacek was tossed out in Phoenix and replaced by Earl Watson.

And now comes the news that Fisher, a Phil Jackson disciple but a coaching novice, is out after a season and a half and just 136 games (with a woeful 40-96 record).

With the Knicks mired in a 1-9 slide, including five straight losses, and seemingly no relief in sight, Jackson apparently decided that enough was enough. We’ll find out what the final straw was late today when Jackson addresses the media after practice.

But it’s clear that in New York and everywhere else, if ownership and the front office believe that there is a disconnect (real or simply perceived) between the talent on the roster and the coach responsible for getting the most out of that talent, the coach is expendable.

The five coaching changes prior to All-Star Weekend is the most since the eight coaching changes prior to the break during the 2008-09 season.

The term “crazy season” is usually reserved for the rumors and drama surrounding this month’s trade deadline. It seems a more appropriate title for all of the coaching changes going on this season.

Blatt’s contemporaries, notably Rick Carlisle in Dallas and Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, expressed their outrage when he was fired and Cavaliers GM David Griffin did his best to explain why a coach with a sterling record was out of his league, and ultimately out of a job, trying to coach a star-studded roster.

Carlisle and Van Gundy should know better than anyone how this works, since they were both fired from previous jobs in the league where they were wildly successful.

There is no real rhyme or reason to these things. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling, sometimes it’s the things we can’t see from the outside and sometimes it’s just clash of personalities or philosophies that lead to a coaching divorce.

Fisher had no coaching experience prior to being selected to coach the Knicks. And he wasn’t even Jackson’s first choice, that would have been Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who in hindsight obviously made the right choice.

The most important choice for Jackson going forward is getting it right this time. He’ll have his pick of out-of-work coaches, like Tom Thibodeau, or he can wait on an up and coming assistant like Luke Walton. Whatever his choice, it has to be someone that can get the most out of the Carmelo AnthonyKristaps Porzingis combination and perhaps more importantly, someone with the toughness and resolve to survive the “crazy season” expectations that all of these franchises are caught up in.

Data curated by PointAfter