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Lakers: Kobe suffers torn rotator cuff


VIDEO: MRI shows Kobe Bryant has torn rotator cuff

The hits just keep on coming for Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, with the team’s announcement Thursday afternoon that the 36-year-old shooting guard suffered a torn rotator cuff Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Initially, it was thought that Bryant had only aggravated a longtime injury to his right shoulder in the second half. But as reported by beat writer Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, an MRI exam done in San Antonio early Thursday revealed the tear.

Bryant, who had taken off the previous two games, was scheduled to return to Los Angeles later in the day and to be examined by team doctors Friday, the club announced. “An update on his condition will be issued at that time,” the news release said.

Kobe being Kobe, he played through the pain and switched to taking left-handed shots. he finished with 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting in the 96-80 defeat.

Bryant had been playing recently on a minutes restriction, so by the time he did re-enter the game, the Lakers trailed by 12 points. He took his final two shots, making one, then sat down with 1:09 left.

He didn’t sound worried about the aggravated shoulder immediately after the game, treating it much the same as he has assorted minor hurts and ailments in recent seasons.

“I feel fine,” he told reporters afterward. “We make a lot of it, but the reality is I’m doing some pretty phenomenal things in 30 minutes. My body is not that [messed] up.”

It looks to be for now, though, possibly taking the whole “Should the Lakers shut down Kobe for the season?” debate out of his or the team’s hands. The roster for the Western Conference All-Stars just got a little looser but the Lakers’ and Bryant’s situations seem to have gotten murkier.

Golden State clinches West All-Star coaching role for rookie Kerr

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Steve Kerr becomes the first rookie coach to earn the All-Star berth since Larry Bird in 1998 (NBAE via Getty Images).

Steve Kerr woke up Thursday as the coach of the 2015 Western Conference All-Stars. He went to bed that way, too, but not everyone realized it late Wednesday.

The NBA officially crunched the numbers Thursday morning, noting that Kerr’s Golden State Warriors already had clinched the West’s best record through games played Feb. 1. That’s the cutoff date for designating the All-Star coaches. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer and his staff had earned the honors with the East All-Stars with the 35-8 Hawks’ home victory over Indiana earlier Wednesday evening.

Kerr’s spot on the West sideline for the annual showcase Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden was assured with the Warriors’ 126-113 victory over Houston in Oakland. It left Golden State with a league-best record of 34-6 with five games remaining through Feb. 1. Even if it were to lose all five, Kerr’s club would sit at 34-11, .7555, at the cutoff.

Portland, at 31-12 with six games before Feb. 1, could get no higher than 37-12, .7551. Memphis would reach 35-12, .744, if it were to win its five games over the next 11 days. Dallas would max out at 36-13, .734, while both Houston and the L.A. Clippers can do no better through Feb. 1 than 34-14, .708.

Had Portland beaten Phoenix Wednesday, the Trail Blazers and coach Terry Stotts might have gotten to 38-11, .7755, pushing the All-Star honor closer to the deadline. But few can quibble with Golden State’s status as the conference’s and the league’s most successful team through the first half of 2014-15.

The Warriors, who won a franchise-record 17th consecutive game, are off to their best start in the Golden State era. They are one of only 10 teams in NBA history to have won at least 34 of their first 40 games. Golden State ranks No. 1 in field-goal percentage (.487), as well as No. 1 in defensive field-goal percentage (.421). Its average margin of victory (11.8) is the fattest since Kerr played with the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (12.2).

Kerr becomes the first rookie coach to earn the All-Star berth since Indiana’s Larry Bird worked the East’s bench in 1998. He will be Golden State’s first All-Star coach since Don Nelson in 1992.

Kerr, a former 3-point specialist for Chicago and San Antonio, general manager in Phoenix and savvy broadcast analyst, downplayed the achievement as he and the Warriors drew close. “It’s more just keep getting better to me,” he told reporters. “Keep improving, keep taking another step forward. And if we do that, there’s a lot of good stuff to come.”

Most head coaches cite their staffs, who join them on All-Star Weekend, and Golden State is no exception, with Ron Adams, Alvin Gentry, Luke Walton, Jarron Collins, Bruce Fraser and Keke Lyles all contributing. The Warriors players seem to value their input, according to a report Wednesday on MercuryNews.com.

 

“They do a great job of preparing us,” center Andrew Bogut said. “Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry and those guys, they do a really good job for us with our scouting reports and their preparation.”

Bogut noted that the biggest thing he noticed with Kerr’s staff members was that they had “no agendas” and didn’t play favorites.

“It happens on a lot of teams, just to try to align themselves with certain guys in case there’s coaching changes or whatever, and that happens I’d say in 80 percent of NBA teams,” Bogut said. “I don’t see that on this team with this coaching staff. They’re comfortable in their own skin. I think that starts from Steve Kerr because he’s told these guys, ‘Do your job. I don’t expect you guys to get involved in politics.’ “

With both All-Star coaching staffs in place, the players come next. All-Star starters will be named on TNT Thursday evening, with reserves coming next week after a vote of conference coaches. Stephen Curry is expected to start for the West for the second straight year, but Kerr called it “criminal” if Golden State were to have just one All-Star. In his view, backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson should go to New York, too.

Said Kerr: “Klay deserves it. To me, the thing with the All-Star game that I’ve always felt long before I came to Golden State is the best teams deserve the benefit of the doubt. Players who put up stats are really good. Players who put up stats and help their team win a ton of games are All-Stars, and that should absolutely put Klay in the game.”

D-League considering Showcase in Vegas

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The D-League is considering Las Vegas as a future stop for the Showcase even though the city does not have a team, commissioner Malcolm Turner said, a move that would deepen ties between the parent NBA and the gambling mecca.

The internal debate as conversations increase after the NBA All-Star weekend in mid-February in New York is clear: Continue the Showcase among the 16 locations with teams as a local marketing tool for the host club and the league as a whole or go to a city with a track record of successfully hosting major basketball events. Las Vegas’ relationship with the NBA as the site of the biggest of the three summer leagues — Salt Lake City will join the established Orlando operation — is an obvious selling point. It just doesn’t grow the brand where the D-League needs to grow.

“It’s one that we’re exploring,” Turner said. “It’s too early to say whether or not that is a strong possibility, but I think there are a lot of reasons why we would find it an attractive market to go to. Obviously that would work counter to … our teams hosting the Showcase. But Vegas is an interesting market for a lot of reasons.

“With NBA summer league in Vegas, we’ve had very good and strong experiences in Vegas. And certainly logistically and infrastructure wise, clearly that’s an easy box to check versus potentially some of the markets where we’re playing the D-League clearly there are some logistical hurdles. Las Vegas is set up to host big and significant events. That takes a lot of that (those hurdles) off the table.”

The gathering of every team for several days of games as the premier regular-season event for the D-League has been in Columbus, Ga., Fayetteville, N.C., Sioux Falls, S.D., Boise, Orem, Utah, Boise again, South Padre Island, Tex., Reno two years in a row and now Santa Cruz for the 2015 session that ended Monday. While Santa Cruz earned high marks as a host and has one of the best arenas in the league, Turner, in his first season as commissioner, prefers to move the Showcase around in the model of All-Star games in other sports rather than consecutive visits to the same city.

Also, Turner said the league expects to expand at some point, but not next season.

The Bakersfield Jam, the Suns’ affiliate, won the inaugural Showcase Cup, a tournament held amid the rest of the schedule here. Jam guard Archie Goodwin, on assignment from Phoenix, was named MVP.

 

Layoff of Bucks’ Sanders compounded by another anti-drug suspension


VIDEO: Latest NBA news from Friday

Larry Sanders‘ saga has had so many twists and turns in his four-plus NBA seasons, it’s hard to know whether his latest violation of the league’s anti-drug policy is at the root of his extended absence from the Milwaukee Bucks, or in addition to it.

Sanders, who has been on leave from the Bucks since before Christmas, was suspended Friday by the NBA without pay for a minimum of 10 games for again violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA drug program.

Sanders’ suspension will begin Monday, with the Bucks’ next scheduled game vs. Toronto at BMO Harris Bradley Center, and “will continue until he is in full compliance with his treatment program,” the league announcement read.

Sanders already has missed 11 games, with the Bucks first listing “illness,” followed by “personal reasons,” for his absence. He last played before Christmas, getting five points and eight rebounds in Milwaukee’s loss to Charlotte Dec. 23. He had averaged 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 27 appearances this season, the first in a four-year, $44 million contract.

When Sanders’ absence stretched beyond the few days typically required for illness and Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd stayed vague on the 6-foot-11 center’s situation, rumors spread that he might have lost interest in basketball in general or the Bucks in particular. Sanders’ track record of technical fouls, locker room altercations and off-court incidents gave weight to just about any and all concerns.

But the fifth-year player did show up to watch, in street clothes from the bench, Milwaukee’s home game against Phoenix Jan. 6. And in comments to reporters afterward, he seemed closer to rather than further from a return, with no known indication of an anti-drug policy violation.

Sanders used the words “my psyche and my physical health” in talking about unreadiness to play for the Bucks. Team president Peter Feigin had expressed the organization’s “1,000 percent” support. Feigin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it wanted to “surround players with the best medical, psychological, emotional and physical support we can possibly have. When Larry’s ready, he’ll be ready.”

Sanders did not travel with the Bucks to Chicago Saturday or to London Monday for their game Thursday against New York.

Under the terms of the anti-drug policy agreed to by the Board of Governors and the players’ union, suspensions typically begin with the first game an injured player is available for action. For instance, when Sanders incurred his “third strike” of the policy last spring to earn a five-game suspension – taking the occasion to talk up the benefits of medical marijuana use – he first had to officially be cleared to play, having been ruled out for the season in March with a fractured bone near his right eye.

The Bucks revisited that prognosis, and Sanders was able to sit out the final five games last season – which he would have missed anyway and which were docked at the per-game rate from a $3 million salary, not $11 million.

There had been no sense, however, that Sanders was expected back in uniform for Monday’s game against the Raptors. Now he definitely won’t be, with his earliest possible return on Feb. 7 when Milwaukee plays host to Boston.

D-League lacking draft prospects in ’15

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P.J. Hairston is the only player from the D-League drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft (NBAE via Getty Images).


SANTA CRUZ, Calif. –
The D-League appears destined to go from the prominent role of having two players chosen in the 2014 Draft, including one in the first round, to no prospects being selected this June, affirmation of the uniqueness of last year in the NBA minor league than a sign of a setback this time.

P.J. Hairston joined the Texas Legends only because the NCAA barred him, after the season started, from playing at North Carolina. The shooting guard was a first-round possibility before the move to the pros and held the spot after stretches of play that showed a shooting touch with range packaged with the strength to get to the rim. The Hornets took him at No. 26, via a trade with Miami.

And, Thanasis Antetokounmpo was with the Delaware 87ers primarily because younger brother Giannis was in the United States, as a rookie with the Bucks. If Giannis had waited to enter the draft or was selected but spent another season in Europe, Thanasis likely spends 2013-14 overseas as well. Instead, he was in the D-League and selected 51st by the Knicks.

There is no sign of the same level of prospect in the minors this season, NBA executives and scouts here for the midseason Showcase, the gathering of every D-League team for five days of games at the home of the Warriors’ affiliate, agreed. That could change in future years, but it will take similar circumstances as 2014 to deliver a draft-eligible player to the D-League.

“I don’t think we’ll see it happen a lot,” one front-office rep said. “But I think it will happen when a guy can’t play in college or has to repair his image. The D-League or overseas would both be options.”

Prospects would typically choose the overseas route because international clubs will beat the D-League pay scale by a million dollars, as was the case this season with Emmanuel Mudiay, a point guard from Texas who planned to play at SMU as a freshman, only to sign in China and do an endorsement deal with Under Armour once the NCAA began to look into his academics.

Mudiay projects as a top-three pick despite an ankle injury that sidelined him in China. Even before that setback, NBA teams were openly speculating he might return to the United States before the end of the season to protect his draft stock.

Other players might chose the D-League as a short-term option, wanting to stay closer to home and avoid living in a different culture.

Reports: Lopez to OKC deal heats up

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One-time All-Star center Brook Lopez is averaging 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds this season (NBAE via Getty Images).

If a rumored three-team NBA trade were to shrink to the more common two-team transaction, it might lose some claim to “blockbuster” designation. But it still could alter conference standings and generate headlines.

At the very least, it could keep social media abuzz. While Tweets a-plenty early Friday noted that the Charlotte Hornets’ involvement in a multi-team trade – center Brook Lopez going from Brooklyn to Oklahoma City, with Lance Stephenson winding up with the Nets – was dead, the Lopez-to-Thunder part remained very much alive as the morning played out.

Either Charlotte didn’t like what it purportedly would have reaped from the alleged three-teamer (guards Jeremy Lamb and Jarrett Jack) or Brooklyn reconsidered the acquisition of Stephenson.

But a deal that lands one-time All-Star Lopez in OKC still was looking probable. As our own John Schuhmann explained, moving Lopez as part of its rebuild while opening opportunities for Mason Plumlee are rock-solid motives for Brooklyn. And the Thunder seem committed to the idea of adding Lopez’s size and offensive game as a formidable third option alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Rapidly, it appeared that the move was getting down to the details, as reported by Yahoo! SportsAdrian Wojnarowski:

The Thunder and Nets are discussing a larger package for the one-time All-Star center that includes guard Jeremy Lamb and center Kendrick Perkins from the Thunder, league sources said. Young Thunder forward Grant Jerrett has also been discussed as part of the package, sources said. More players need to be included to make the deal fit into the salary framework of a trade.
The Nets have been working to find a third-team to take Perkins and his expiring contract, sources said. The Nets are willing to take a player back owed longer-term money whom they believe can help them.

There had been discussions on Lopez with Charlotte, Denver and the Los Angeles Lakers, but those didn’t gain traction, league sources said.

As for third-team options to slide into Charlotte’s vacated spot, Minnesota seemed interested:

Stay tuned. The Yahoo! report suggests the Nets want Lopez offloaded by the end of the weekend.

Update: The Nets seem to have hit the “snooze” button on whatever alarm clock they had set for this one:

Commissioner Silver: European expansion could be in NBA’s future


VIDEO: Commissioner Silver talks to London press

It came as no surprise that NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed franchise movement questions in London on Thursday. This is what we’ve come to expect whenever the NBA puts a game in any foreign market, as the league did with the Knicks and Bucks regular-season tip at the O2 Arena. The foreign press always wants to know when the league will expand to England/Mexico/Japan/Spain, etc.

(The quick answer to that is, not anytime soon, but more on that below.)


VIDEO: Silver talks NBA expansion

This time, however, the topic of the Nets and their possible sale was thrown before Silver. And like the rest of us, Silver is a bit out of the loop in terms of the intentions of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

“In terms of Prokhorov, he’s told us the same as his people have said publicly, that there’s nothing imminent,” Silver said. “He hasn’t determined that he’s absolutely going to sell, but he’s listening to offers. And that’s an ongoing process right now.”

Usually in these matters, the commissioner and the other owners like to be plugged in. When a team is on the market, that could send ripple effects through the league because team values are suddenly at stake. And when it’s a team in New York that might be on the market, you can only imagine the amount of interest league-wide.

Remember, the Clippers last summer sold for $2 billion, which had champagne glasses raised throughout the league office. And they’re the No. 2 team in terms of value in Los Angeles. Likewise, the Nets are considered No. 2 in New York, and while nobody can accurately gauge how much they’d fetch — lots depends on the wealth of the potential buyers and how intense bidding would get — surely they’d get at least half what the Clippers fetched. Remember, teams are rarely sold in the NBA and there are only two in New York. And don’t expect the Knicks to be sold anytime soon (sorry, Knicks fans).

Prokhorov hasn’t spoken publicly about a potential sale but has retained an outside agency to weigh any offers that might be extended. So stay tuned. You’ll be the second to know when something happens. Silver will be the first. Or at least he should be.

As for a possible team in London, Silver seemed to hint that logistics could be a major roadblock in any NBA team based in London. He raised the issues of the schedule; already, the league is trying to reduce the number of back-to-backs in order to preserve the bodies and health of its players.

But if the league did expand, Silver said it might be wiser to put more than one team in Europe. Perhaps one each in England, Spain, Italy and perhaps Greece. That way, Europe could have its own division, which would reduce travel a bit.

“We have a long way to go before we can sustain four franchises in Europe,” Silver said. “On the other hand, I believe it’s our manifest destiny to expand.”

Here’s how his European expansion details were covered by the London-based Guardian


VIDEO: Silver talks playoffs format

Other subjects covered by Silver at his London news conference: He doesn’t see the chance of re-seeding for the playoffs happening anytime soon, although he’s open to ideas; he has no concern about the All-Star Game losing any luster in New York next month just because the Knicks and Nets are struggling; and that sponsorship logos on jerseys is coming.

“Ultimately,” he said, “it will make sense for the NBA.”


VIDEO: Silver talks jersey sponsors

LeBron James expected to play tonight


VIDEO: Righting Cleveland’s ship

LeBron James is expected to make his return tonight against the Suns in Phoenix after missing eight games because of a strained lower back and strained left knee.

The Cavaliers had listed him as a game-time decision. Coach David Blatt said later, after the team got to the arena, that he expected James to rejoin the lineup and play in the low-30s in minutes.

Cleveland was 1-7 in the stretch without their superstar forward.

Earlier in the day, James told a group of reporters that being sidelined was “the most difficult thing I’ve been through,” as reported by ESPN.com, an interesting comment from someone who has been through Finals losses and the heavy criticism from The Decision, his infamous show to announce the move from Cleveland to Miami as a free agent.

 

Celtics, Nuggets trade guards


VIDEO: Nate Robinson had a big night vs. the Clippers in December

UPDATE, 10:15 a.m., Jan. 15

The Boston Celtics have agreed to a buyout with Nate Robinson, making him a free agent, reports TNT’s David Aldridge:

The Nuggets and Celtics are swapping veteran point guards in a trade that sends Jameer Nelson to Denver and Nate Robinson to Boston. The deal was initially reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!

After spending 10 seasons with one club, the Magic, Nelson will be on his third team of 2014-15, after joining the Mavericks as a free agent and playing 23 games for Dallas, then being dealt to the Celtics as part of the return package for Rajon Rondo, and now the Nuggets. In all, Nelson is averaging 6.8 points and 4.4 assists in 24.3 minutes that includes starting for the Mavericks and primarily coming off the bench in Boston.

Robinson, who would be in his second stint with the Celtics after previously playing there for parts of two seasons, is contributing 5.8 points and 2.3 assists in 14.1 minutes in Denver.

The Celtics are expected to negotiate a buyout, Yahoo! reported, saving money while allowing Robinson to become a free agent who would draw interest from playoff teams. The Clippers, who have been linked to another Boston guard, Austin Rivers, would apparently likewise look at Robinson in hopes of upgrading the bench that has been a major problem area the first half of the season.

Jackson rightly owns Knicks’ woes


VIDEO: Phil Jackson discusses Derek Fisher’s patience with team’s struggles

It’s not Derek Fisher‘s fault. It’s not Carmelo Anthony‘s fault. It’s not the other players’ fault, and it certainly isn’t the New York Knicks’ fans’ fault.

Phil Jackson, in a session with reporters Saturday, said the Knicks’ miserable season is his fault, throwing himself in front of the locomotive of crankiness and criticism over New York’s 5-34 record, 14-game losing streak and consistently feeble offensive and defensive performances. From the way he took the blame, you’d think he was the team’s president or something. Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com was on hand prior to the Knicks’ matinee game vs. Charlotte at Madison Square Garden (in which they fell behind 62-31 by halftime):

“This is a mea culpa. I take responsibility for it,” Jackson said

Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he thought the Knicks would be a playoff team this season. Instead, things have gone horribly wrong for Jackson and the Knicks.

Actually, Jackson set himself up for this when he accepted the job (and his five-year, $60 million contract) last spring. There was no way he, Red Auerbach or David Copperfield was going to wave a wand and magically transform the team’s thin talent base and bloated payroll in the span of a few months. That’s what he inherited from chairman James Dolan and the Knicks administrations that preceded Jackson’s arrival by, oh, a couple decades.

When the most successful head coach in NBA history, in one of his early acts as a team architect, doubled down on New York’s commitment to Anthony – signing him to a five-year, maximum salary contract despite ample evidence Anthony isn’t up to the task as a cornerstone, No. 1 franchise guy for a true contender – Jackson became complicit in the problems facing that club.

He didn’t help himself, either, trading away Tyson Chandler with Raymond Felton as first serious move – as far as players, after hiring Fisher as head coach – to “change the culture.” Chandler is a higher-character guy than Jackson realized, dragged down by the losing and drama in 2013-14.

Shedding J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, while waiving what came back in the three-team trade along with center Samuel Dalembert were solid moves, both for payroll flexibility and for addition-by-subtraction. But like the old joke about 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, it’s merely a good start.

As for asking fans not to let Fisher hear the brunt of their frustration or in covering for the players’ slowness in executing his triangle offense, Jackson basically was stating the obvious. Whether “blame” was the right word or not, this all had to be – or should have been – part of Jackson’s vision. Getting worse to get better was the only viable option for the Knicks. It was unrealistic for anyone, least of all Jackson, to think that tweaking last season’s 37-45 team would get New York into contention (even in the East).

Was 5-34 in the cards? Or shutting down Anthony for a majority of the season due to his sore left knee, which remains a possibility? No one should have expected that. Playing below even the meager expectations for this group, some of that certainly is on the players and Fisher. The Knicks turn over the ball too much, get beaten on the boards too often and get to the foul line too seldom. They settle for jump shots, frequently from the wrong shooters.

But this job requires sutures and rehab, not Band-Aids. That means another offseason for draft choice, trade acquisition and (with $25 million or more in cap space) free agents. That came up Saturday too:

Jackson reiterated on Saturday that he is concerned that the team’s record will make it an unattractive destination for free agents.

“We’re all worried about the fact that money is not going to just be able to buy you necessary talent. You’re going to have to have places where people want to come and play,” said Jackson. … “But I do think that New York situation holds a high regard in players and agents that have contacted us. We have no lack of agents that have contacted us for their players. We still think that we have a really good chance to develop a team.”

Finally, in the closest thing to news in Jackson’s chin-wag with the media, he said that surgery might be an option for Anthony, who hasn’t played since New Year’s Eve in L.A. due to his aching knee:

“I think for ‘Melo the last resort is surgery, as it should be for anybody,” Jackson said. “Surgery is basically to repair and to correct. He’s got a situation that could exacerbate, could get difficult, could be better with the surgery, but he wants to really try it again and see where he’s going to be at. The next period of time we’ll assess that and we’ll sit down and talk to him about it. I know the All-Star game (at Madison Square Garden) is important for him down the road in February. I know this trip to London (for the Knicks game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan .15) will be important for him to play. He sees possibilities of helping the team get back and be better.”