Posts Tagged ‘Brandon Roy’

Mavs’ Kaleb Canales a true trail blazer

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

Kaleb Canales (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

Kaleb Canales (Sam Forencich/NBAE)

If the name Kaleb Canales doesn’t ring a bell, it likely will soon. Think Erik Spoelstra. No one knew the two-time champion coach of the Miami Heat when he was living in the shadows of the franchise’s video room or as an assistant on the Heat bench.

Now everybody knows his name, as well as the fact that Spoelstra is the first Filipino-American to coach in the NBA.

Two seasons ago, Canales — born in Laredo, Texas and whose father is from Nuevo Laredo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas — became the first Mexican-American to lead an NBA team when he took over the Portland Trail Blazers as the interim coach for 23 games after the team fired Nate McMillan.

In the offseason, a month after his 34th birthday, Canales was one of two finalists to become the next coach of the Blazers. Despite the support of the players, the club passed on Canales’ youth for the experience of Terry Stotts, who had previously been a head coach and just celebrated winning the 2011 championship on Rick Carlisle‘s staff with the Dallas Mavericks.

Canales remained with the Blazers last season as a lead assistant and helped ease Stotts’ transition with his new players. When Mavericks assistant Jim O’Brien decided to step aside last summer, Carlisle hired Canales at Stotts’ recommendation.

The move ended a long relationship with a Blazers organization that gave him his shot and the tools to grow. But it also delivered Canales back to his home state, just a stone’s throw away from where his unique coaching ascension started on the ground floor as a student and then as a coach at the University of Texas at Arlington.

“So when I was in high school, I’m sure like every kid, I had a list of goals I made with a pen and pad — spiritual goals and professional goals and personal goals,” Canales said. “And one of my professional goals was to be a coach in the NBA. Obviously, when I told my friends that growing up in Laredo, it was like, ‘Yeah right,’ you know?”

What do those friends, most of whom live close enough to hop in their cars to come visit, say now?

“They all come to the games and ask me for tickets,” Canales laughed.

Paying his dues

How did a kid from Laredo, Texas, a heavily Hispanic-populated border city of a couple-hundred-thousand, make it to the NBA, and at such a young age? Those who know Canales say his boundless energy and enthusiasm, belief and perseverance paved the way.

“First of all, he has good spirit,” Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. “He’s always into it with energy and he’s wholeheartedly always giving 100 percent. I think he put everybody in a good position and we loved him.”

Like Spoelstra — and, actually, with a little help from him — Canales accepted an internship in 2004 with the Trail Blazers to work in their video room. It was unpaid, but it counted as credit toward the Master’s degree he earned online from Virginia Commonwealth University while coaching at UTA.

“I started doing a lot of research on how coaches were getting opportunities to coach,” Canales said. “I read Erik’s bio, I read a bunch of assistant coaches’ bios, I read John Loyer from Detroit; I saw video coordinator in their background. I knew that was something I could attack. I had some video experience at UTA. My first interview was with the Miami Heat. I know Erik last year [in an article], he was kind of nice because he said I wrote him a letter every week for a year. I think it was almost like every day for a year.”

Canales got an interview with the Heat and nailed it, but they politely told him they decided to hire from within. Impressed with him though, some phone calls were placed and Canales got an interview with, and then an offer from, the Blazers. He would quickly advance from unpaid intern to paid staffer as Portland’s video coordinator. Canales would pore over game film until his bleary, reddened eyes watered.

By the 2008-09 season he was promoted to assistant coach while keeping his duties as video coordinator. And by the next season he was out of the video room and fully immersed in player development as a full-fledged assistant. He was 30 years old.

“It started with Damon Stoudemire and Nick Van Exel for me and became LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy,” Canales said. “And it became Jerryd Bayless, it became Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard.”

From the start, he earned a reputation for having an insatiable appetite for work, practically living at the Blazers’ practice facility.

“He would watch film and work guys out, and at odd times of the night,” Aldridge said. “He wanted to make sure that if anybody came there at any time he would be there, so he would literally sleep at the practice court all the time. So if you came in at 12:30 [a.m.], he would be there. All basketball.

“When you ask him who is girlfriend is, he always says, ‘Spalding.'”

Learning from the best

Whatever free time comes his way, he typically spends it seeking out and studying other coaches. While still with the Blazers he made it a point to contact Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and attend summer workouts. He visited University of Oregon football practices before Chip Kelly left for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

“I love studying coaches because I love studying leadership,” Canales said. “Watching and studying the practices of coach Carroll or coach Kelly, you see the energy from them, you see how they interact with their players and then you see them playing on Sunday. I went to an OTA [Organized Team Activities] in the summer with the Seahawks. I said, ‘Coach, it feels like you have a game Sunday,’ how sharp they were.”

Not much has changed in Canales’ hundred-mile-an-hour approach in his first season with the Mavs, a team that has improved throughout the year and is in a dogfight for one of the final playoff berths in the Western Conference.

Giving back

Canales plans to return to Laredo for a couple of weeks during the summer to visit with his mother, Alicia, his father, Victor, and his sister, Chantall, all of whom have become accustomed to rearranging the calendar to fit Canales’ busy schedule.

“We celebrate all the holidays in the summer,”  Canales said. “It’s like July 9 and we’re celebrating Thanksgiving or something. We try to get creative with that, understanding that this is a passion. It’s definitely a lifestyle and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

When he’s in Laredo, Canales runs a basketball camp for kids. It’s there he shares his stories and encourages the young campers, almost all of whom share a similar cultural heritage, to dream big. Canales said empowering Hispanic kids is a responsibility he takes seriously.

“You can’t be afraid not only to dream, but to dream big,” Canales said he tells the kids. “It’s a big-time responsibility, and I hope that kids can see my blessings and then see through faith and hard work that they can achieve their dream. It’s something I want them to really believe in.”

Before too long, much like Spoelstra’s rise from anonymity in the video room to the spotlight of the Heat’s lead chair, Canales may soon find himself making history.

“Obviously, looking down the road, I would love to have that opportunity again one day,” Canales said of getting another shot at an interview. “But that’s not where my concern is right now. I understand how blessed and fortunate I am, and I don’t take that for granted.”

Throughout the month of March, the NBA is celebrating Latin heritage through its Noches Ene-be-a program. For more information, click here

Timberwolves Dread ‘Next Man Down’ Repeat of Injuries

Luke Ridnour played 82 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves last season – yeah, he was the one – and 206 of a possible 230 in three seasons there, qualifying for some sort of iron-man award.

Owing perhaps to his relative lack of time in the Wolves’ trainers room, the Bucks’ 10-year veteran guard had no theories about that team’s miserable run of injuries and bad luck. But he wasn’t exactly surprised, either, when he learned Monday afternoon that his former teammate, Minnesota forward Chase Budinger, was hurt again.

“When I was in Minnesota, everyone was hurt,” Ridnour said. “I don’t know what the deal is but … we had a good team but when you get banged up, it’s hard to do anything.”

That’s why the latest about Budinger was so potentially demoralizing: The Wolves announced Tuesday that the small forward underwent surgery on his left knee for a meniscectomy, performed by noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. Last November, Budinger suffered a lateral meniscus tear in the same knee and missed 59 games, returning only for the final four weeks of the season. He was thought to be nearly full strength for camp but now will be out indefinitely.

And it’s only natural that, given the recent snake-bit history, other Wolves might be glancing sideways, wondering who’s next. Coach Rick Adelman talked at Media Day Monday about the road – to emergency rooms and operating arenas – that none of them wants to go down, as reported by Mark Remme on the team’s Web site:

On Monday at Target Center, Wolves coach Rick Adelman said Budinger is a tough loss at small forward to start the season. That entire crew projected to play the 3—Corey Brewer, Derrick Williams, Shabazz Muhammad—is either new to the team or to the position. Budinger was the most experienced player at that position within Adelman’s system. Brewer is the favorite for the starting nod.

“I just felt so bad for [Budinger],” Adelman said. “He’s the type of player who can really add to what we do offensively. I feel bad for him, and I really don’t want it to become a trend. With last year it really became a trend.”

To be specific, Minnesota lost 341 “man games” to injuries in 2012-13, led by Brandon Roy‘s 76, Kevin Love‘s 64, Malcolm Lee‘s 63 and Budinger’s 59. Point guard Ricky Rubio missed 24 in his return season from ACL/LCL surgery the previous spring. Even Adelman, who cobbled together 16 different starting lineups, missed games in midseason while attending to his wife Mary Kay‘s medical condition.

High hopes of ending an eight-year playoff drought fizzled into a 31-51 record and 12th place finish in the Western Conference.

“Basketball, [injuries are] part of the game,” said Ridnour, who started all 82. “A lot of ours, they were just freak deals. A broken bone? You can’t do anything about that. Bone spur, you can’t do anything about that. Kevin Love’s [twice-broken] hand – it wasn’t even during practice. So it’s just freak deals.”

Various tongue-in-cheek theories about the franchise’s bad luck have been floated at moments of past breakdowns, such as here and here. Several NBA teams, including the Wolves this season, have bulked up their strength and conditioning staffs, and some are exploring advanced analytics that might apply to training and physiology. But good fortune and pacing might play considerable roles, too.

Said Ridnour: “You look at the teams that do well, they stay healthy. Most of the time – the top seven guys play the majority of the season. It’s a grind. That’s something that’s made San Antonio so successful, knowing how to keep their older guys fresh. You look at ‘em, those guys stay healthy. They don’t care what [resting guys] looks like.”

Some of the biggest storylines in the NBA as camps open involve injury comebacks, from Love and Chicago’s Derrick Rose to OKC’s Russell Westbrook, Boston‘s Rajon Rondo and Lakers star Kobe Bryant. And just for the record, none of the 30 organizations is immune.

Moments after Ridnour talked about the Wolves, an old pal from his first stint in Milwaukee ambled out of the locker room. Small forward Carlos Delfino, who fractured a bone in his right foot during Houston’s first-round series, signed a three-year, $9.75 million contract as a free agent to return to the Bucks. He still was in a walking boot Monday, will miss all of camp and has a return date as indefinite as Budinger’s.

Summer Dreaming: Comeback Player

HANG TIME, Texas – Officially, the NBA has not recognized a Comeback Player of the Year since the 1984-85 season.

But these are the dog days of August, this is just an exercise in summer daydreaming and that means, well, we can pretty much do whatever we want.

Besides, it’s so rare that we have so many big name players on the mend, several with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove.

So grab a seat in the shade and let’s run my top candidates for a make-believer honor — the 2013-14 Comeback Player of the Year:

Kobe Bryant, Lakers – Yes, it’s still all speculation at this point, and even Bryant has said that he’s not sure he’ll be ready yet for opening night. But if, at 35, he somehow gets back onto the court less than a year after tearing his Achilles’ tendon and manages to come close to being the beast of his former self, Kobe will have eclipsed Adrian Peterson as a modern medical marvel and raised his already considerable legacy way past Michael Jordan‘s “flu game.”

Dwight Howard, Rockets – Can a guy who averaged 17.1 points and led the league in rebounding (12.4 rpg) last season really be considered a comeback candidate? He can if he’s this guy, who could only have taken more abuse if he’d played every game with a “Kick Me” sign taped to the back of his jersey. A return from back surgery and an in-season shoulder injury contributed to Howard’s lost season in L.A. A healthy and happy season in Houston could produce fireworks.

Derrick Rose, Bulls – He hasn’t played in an NBA game since April 28, 2012 and he may not return immediately to his old MVP form on opening night. But there are reasons to expect that Rose will want to use this season to make a loud statement about himself as a competitor and warrior. First of all, he is both of those things. Second, he heard all the sideline critics complain that he was soft or afraid or something less than a team player by not returning at the end of last season. If anyone has a point to prove about who he is, it’s Rose.

Kevin Love, Timberwolves – Flip the calendar back 12 months and there was so much for Love to anticipate in the year ahead, especially coming off his success at the World Championship. Not the broken right hand in training camp. Not breaking it again in January. Not the surgery on his left knee that ended any chance of a late return. Love averaged 18.3 points and 14 rebounds in the 18 games he played. Teammates Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger all suffered injuries in a lost season for the Wolves. Now it’s Love who’s champing at the bit to lead the comeback that could get Minnesota into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Rajon Rondo, Celtics – When he gets back out onto the court, should we start calling him “Domino?” After all, think of all the dominoes that fell after he tore his ACL and had to be shut down for the season in January? That’s the way former teammate Paul Pierce views it. Rondo’s injury ended the Celtics’ real hopes of being playoff contenders or at least spoilers. Rondo’s injury likely led to the trading of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets. Rondo’s injury led to coach Doc Rivers wanting out of a rebuilding project. Rondo’s injury brought rookie coach Brad Stevens to Boston. Now Rondo gets to be the big dog who runs his own show and there’s no doubt he’ll bark loud.

Danny Granger, Pacers – On a team that already pushed the Heat to a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals and is feeling more confident from the experience, how much of a boost could they get if the former All-Star forward can return to form? Granger played only five games last season after having surgery for patellar tendinosis. He said he expects to be back in the starting lineup. But even if he winds up coming off the bench, a Pacers team that sometimes had trouble putting points on the board will welcome the help.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder – Sure, it happened in the playoffs. Sure, he had never missed a single game in his NBA career until that night when he had the run-in with the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley. That doesn’t make it any less significant. The loss of Westbrook ended any real hope of the Thunder getting back to The Finals and maybe it quieted some of the carping complainers who love nothing more than to pick at the flaws in his game. Will the torn meniscus slow down any of his freakishly physical play or seemingly superhuman sorties to the rim? Doubt it.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers — With all the attention focused on free agent Andrew Bynum and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett, the return of Varejao to the Cleveland lineup could be just as critical at making a run at the playoffs. The 30-year-old was averaging career highs of 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds in 25 games last season before tearing a quadriceps muscle in January and then requiring further surgery when a blood clot developed in his lung. Coach Mike Brown says the perpetual motion machine might start at power forward and that could get him back to making a run at his first All-Star berth.

Andrew Bynum, Cavaliers – If any player ever needed a comeback, it’s the big man who was a key part in the four-team trade between the Lakers, Magic, Nuggets and Sixers in the summer of 2012. Those chronic knee problems that had always made his future a big question mark in L.A. kept him on the sidelines but not out of the limelight all last season in Philly. He showed off flashy hairstyles. He went bowling. He just didn’t play. Now that Jan. 7 cutoff date to be on the Cavs roster that guarantees the other half of this season’s $12.25 million contract should be some real motivation.

PREVIOUSLY: MVP | Coach of the Year | Sixth Man of the Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year

Kirilenko Opt-Out Leaves Void For Wolves

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Andrei Kirilenko
reportedly informed the Timberwolves of his decision to opt-out of next year’s contract while vacationing in the south of France.

This is not to be confused with South France Ave., a main north-south thoroughfare in the western Minneapolis suburbs where, the locals will tell you, the nation’s first fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping mall (Southdale, 1956) is situated.

There is a reason for the fully enclosed and climate-controlled stuff, which dovetails nicely into the Kirilenko decision.

Having the veteran Russian forward say nyet to the $10.2 million he had guaranteed for 2013-14 technically frees up some salary-cap space for new Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders as the NBA free agent market opens at 11:01 p.m. Twin Cities time. It fuels visions of this-or-that flashy signing, whether it’s O.J. Mayo to address the team’s ongoing hole at shooting guard or some other targeted player.

But there’s a careful-what-you-wish-for aspect to this, too.

After all, this is Minnesota we’re talking about, hardly a magnet market for NBA free agents. Most visiting players who come to town quickly focus on the fully enclosed, climate-controlled skyway system that allows them, if they dare venture off the fully enclosed, climate-controlled team bus, to navigate a few blocks in any direction from their road hotel.

Many players drafted by or traded to Minnesota learn about the reasons behind all that enclosing and climate-controlling and opt to play their basketball elsewhere.

It’s a terrific place to live and raise a family – I lived there for 24 years – but for one reason or another (legacy of mediocrity, coaching changes, Kevin Garnett‘s storm-cloud scowl upon departure), it’s a tough sell to players who can select their destination. Most of the Wolves’ free agent “successes” have come from overpaying (for instance, giving Mike James four years instead of three and $25 million) or doing some other favor for the player. Like paying Brandon Roy to get hurt again.

The idea of having money freed up beyond the league’s mid-level salary exception is intriguing. For Saunders, it’s a chance to wheel-and-deal and perhaps make up a little for a muddied draft night.

But the odds are against the Wolves signing a player for 2013-14 who’ll be more productive than Kirilenko was for them in 2012-13.

A year removed from the NBA after spending 2011-12 in Russia, the former Utah Jazz forward put up numbers remarkably similar to his career stats: 14.0 points on 50.7 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks pro-rated to 36 minutes per game. He ranked second on the team in minutes, was third in scoring average (12.4), blocked more shots than starting center Nikola Pekovic and had more steals than J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour. The Wolves were 26-38 in the games Kirilenko played, 5-13 when he was out.

His abilities to cut and to see cutters were vital to coach Rick Adelman’s system, especially with teammates such as Kevin Love and Chase Budinger missing significant time. Kirilenko, who turned 32 in February, was a steady influence, too, on Russian rookie Alexey Shved and in general a grown-up voice in the locker room. Kirilenko and Shved, frankly, may have been former boss David Kahn’s two shrewdest moves.

It’s possible but not likely he would re-sign with the Wolves, based on Star Tribune beat writer Jerry Zgoda‘s update Saturday:

Kirilenko is seeking a three- or four-year extension because he believes this might be the last chance to negotiate the last big contract of his career.

You can bet Flip Saunders won’t offer anything more than two years, and at a salary considerably less than $10 million.

Still, the Wolves might wind up missing Kirilenko’s versatility and production at both ends of the floor. They could do a lot worse because, well, they have.

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 2

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: That big, annual pro football championship game (I think it’s called the Super Bowl, right?) last night ensured no other games of note took place before the 6:30 ET kickoff. That said, there were only three games on Sunday (all matinees), so our pick of the day goes to Clippers-Celtics. Boston isn’t exactly crying itself to sleep after losing Rajon Rondo for the season as it has gone 4-0 in the Rondo-less stage of the season. Paul Pierce showed of his “Truth-iness” to the Clips — Matt Barnes got a good look in particular — by nailing the game-sealing step-back 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left over Barnes to halt L.A.’s hopes of a last-minute comeback win.

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News of the morning

Howard unsure if he’ll play on Tuesday | Celtics meet with Oden | Pistons fans called out | Bosh gets traditional Toronto greeting | Wolves’ Roy at crossroads

Howard won’t rush backDwight Howard sat out Sunday afternoon’s game in Detroit because of lingering pain in his right shoulder due to his torn labrum. He continues to take a day-by-day approach to his availability for the Lakers, but told the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding he’s not going to hurry back just to get hurt again:

“It feels a little bit better, but still sore,” Howard said Sunday. “Certain movements hurt, and I don’t want to go there in any pain or go out there thinking about it too much.”

Howard aggravated the torn labrum Wednesday in Phoenix. It wasn’t the first time, and the pain fades after each aggravation, but Howard remains leery of another incident.

“It’s still not there yet,” he said. “I’m not going to try to rush myself back and have the possibility of hurting it again. There’s no need for that.”

Howard had a platelet-rich plasma injection into the shoulder Saturday. That treatment isn’t expected to provide immediate relief, but Howard’s shoulder has naturally felt better in days after each aggravation. The tear isn’t going to go away whether he takes a game, a week or the rest of the season off.

“Me and Kobe play two different positions,” Howard said. “The position I play, I use a lot of force coming up — whether that’s going up for a dunk or a shot. Hook shots, all that stuff, is this motion right here. It’s a lot of that. Playing in the post is doing this a lot.

“All that stuff, you need your shoulder stable for it. It’s a little bit different than, I would say, a guard position. You’ve got guys 260-270 you’re holding off. You’ve got to be really strong in your shoulder and all that stuff.”

Howard said it hurts him raising his arm up and especially backwards: “A lot of movements I’d be doing in games, trying to block shots, stuff like that.” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that Howard should try to work on not bringing the ball down so low under the basket, which is how opponents have hurt the shoulder repeatedly. Howard said he needs to be in a “stable” position to decrease the chance for aggravation.

D’Antoni said previously this seven-game trip will be the “telling tale” of the Lakers’ season. About Howard not playing Sunday, the third game of a previously 1-1 trip, D’Antoni said it was “his call.” About the labrum tear, D’Antoni said: “It’s not going to go away.”

Where have all the Pistons fans gone?In the annals of NBA history, one of the more underrated Finals matchups — in terms of on-court play, dislike of each other’s city and so forth — has to be Pistons vs. Lakers. Three Finals matchups (with the Pistons taking two of those) will create some animosity toward each other, but that’s not the case now. As Terry Foster of The Detroit News points out, there were more Kobe Bryant and Lakers fans in yesterday’s Lakers-Pistons matinee at The Palace at Auburn Hills than there were Pistons fans:

We saw another shameful performance at The Palace on Sunday. This time, it didn’t come from the Pistons, who actually played with spirit and nearly stole a game from the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers.We witnessed the annual migration of Kobe Bryant lovers who wore his jersey and cheered his every move. Thanks to Pistons guard Will Bynum it was not a total sham. He ignited the Pistons and even turned Lakers fans into Pistons blue.

Let’s talk about the real losers. They are Pistons fans who turned The Palace into Staples Center East, the Lakers’ home away from home. Many came dressed in Lakers gold and purple and they cheered as loudly for Bryant as anything the Pistons did for much of the game. There were banners and signs for Bryant but few for the Pistons.

I don’t know what ignited the crowd more. Was it the Earl Clark dunk off a Bryant inbounds pass to end the first half? Or was it when Bryant dunked over Brandon Knight and stared at the crowd?

This was a repeat of a few weeks ago when LeBron James came to town for loud cheers. People wore James jerseys and cheered a man this town once said it hated. It wasn’t always this way but the passion for the Pistons changed over the years.

Michael Jordan used to get booed in this building. People hated him and his Picasso-looking sidekick Scottie Pippen. But later in his career, even after Jordan destroyed the two-time champion Bad Boys and said they were bad for basketball, Jordan was forgiven and lauded.

James swept the Pistons in the 2009 playoffs and Piston fans sent him off to “MVP” chants after he scored 36 points against the home team. Even when the Pistons beat Bryant and the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals he refused to credit the Pistons for his subpar series.

So why do you cheer a guy like this?

Celtics meet with Oden — It’s been a rough week or so in Boston, what with Rajon Rondo lost for the season and, then, rookie big man Jared Sullinger (back) out now, too. Sullinger’s agent, David Falk, says his client having surgery now is the best thing for the Celtics’ long-term plans … but that doesn’t make Boston fans feel better today. What might, though, is the notion of former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden in Celtic green. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the details on both Sullinger’s future and the prospect of Oden: 

Sullinger was flagged with back issues during an NBA pre-draft examination, causing him to drop to the Celtics with the 21st overall pick. Falk said Sullinger’s condition was corrected with Friday’s surgery, and he is expected to return to basketball activities in six months.

Sullinger was examined twice by a back specialist in Philadelphia prior to the draft.

“The Celtics knew when they drafted him there was a certain level of risk that required surgery, as did several other teams,” said Falk. “Some teams treated it like he was going to have a heart attack or something. [The Celtics’] Brian McKeon is one of the most confident team doctors I’ve ever dealt with. There were so secrets, nobody was trying to hide any facts. There was a possibility that he could require surgery, but the recovery time is less than an ACL.”

Falk said the Celtics could have delayed the surgery by giving Sullinger anti-inflammatories and treatment, but wanted to take the safer approach.

“Jared’s 20 years old, to try to take a short-term risk could jeopardize his career long term. Having surgery was the most appropriate response,” Falk said. “Had he tried to continue to play and aggravate it six or eight weeks down the road, he would have missed the playoffs and the start of the season. It was a calculated decision.”

The Celtics met Saturday with free agent center Greg Oden at their training facility in Waltham. Oden, who has not played since December 2009 because of recurring knee problems, is expected to return to the NBA next season. He met with coach Doc Rivers, who said the two talked about Oden’s AAU days with the Indy Heat, a team that also featured Josh McRoberts, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook.

“I said hi to him,” said Rivers. “We reminisced about high school days when I watched him on AAU.”

The Celtics have no expiring contracts, so they would likely need to create a salary slot for Oden, who is expected to sign for more than the veteran’s minimum.

Raptors fans never forgetLike Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady before him, Chris Bosh is learning just how good Raptors fans are at holding a grudge. Bosh left Toronto as a free agent in the summer of 2010 to join forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami and Raptors fans haven’t let Bosh forget it. The same greeting was routinely cast upon Carter and McGrady, both ex-Raptors, on their returns to Toronto for many years after their respective departures. Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:

It’s been nearly three years since Bosh decided to leave Toronto, yet the sting remains for the fans. They booed him every time he touched the ball despite this being Bosh’s fourth return to face his former team.

“Yeah, I’m a little surprised,” Bosh said. “They (fans) pay their money. They can do what they want. I hope they just remember the good times.”

Bosh said the jeers served as his motivation, especially in the second half when he scored 22 of his 28 points.

“I was hearing a lot from the fans,” Bosh said. “I thank them for continuing to stay on me and calling me names. That helped my focus a lot. I was like, `I need to get in this game to shut them up.”‘

Roy pondering his futureThe injury bug has been frequent visitor to the Timberwolves, who have seen Brandon Roy, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved (among others) miss valuable time this season. In the case of Roy, who hasn’t played since a 14-minute stint on Nov. 9, the prospects of a return are unclear. He’s still rehabbing after having knee surgery and the process of getting better has left Roy wondering what to do next if his comeback attempt fails. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has the details:

The plan for the Minnesota Timberwolves guard was to make his return to action Feb. 1 against the Los Angles Lakers at Target Center, after having two successful workout days. After that, he would join the team for practices leading up to the game.

Friday’s session went as planned. Saturday’s didn’t.

While performing a move in the first 20 minutes of the workout, he felt something in his right knee that he has felt far too often. He tweaked it, eliminating any possibility of him returning to action before the All-Star break.

“As soon as it happened, in my head, I said ‘I quit. I just quit,” an emotional Roy told CSNNW.com. “That was my first thought, that I couldn’t do this anymore.

“I’m at a crossroad in my career.”

He’s certain that if he can’t get right this season, it will be the end of his career. And he’s fine with that.

“I look at it like this has got to be the last season,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets because I know I tried to give it another season. So me saying this has to be the last season, it’s not as difficult as it was last year. I tried. I gave it that last effort and it’s time to move on. I’m at that range to where I’m at peace with things.”

After attempting this comeback and giving it his all, he realized that he has more to offer than just his physical talents. Roy’s game wasn’t predicated on beating defenders off the dribble or blowing by them with his speed. He was a thinker on the court who knew how to make plays without being the most athletic player in the world.

It took some time for Roy to find himself beyond playing basketball, but he says that thanks to prayer, family and friends, he has received a new calling.

Post-playing career, I now introduce you to Coach Roy.

“Now, I think there’s something in me that I can offer to basketball. There’s a message that I can bring to basketball. I wasn’t the fastest, the highest jumper, but my knowledge of the game helped me be an effective player at a high level,” Roy said. “Coaching at the NBA level is where I see myself. If this season is it for me, I’m not staying away from basketball. I would want to get in as soon as possible.”

On the Trail Blazers’ bench?

“Maybe one day,” he said. “My knowledge of the game and understanding of chemistry, I think that stuff, I can offer. These young kids today are good, but they lack those things.”

ICYMI of the night: Impressive inbounds play there, Lakers, and a great pass from Kobe Bryant to Earl Clark for the buzzer-beating dunk. Still pales in comparison to our all-time favorite version of this play:

Howard Hopes PRP Helps Shoulder Heal

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Dwight Howard is the latest athlete to give PRP –platelet-rich plamsa — therapy a whirl.

The Los Angeles Lakers will play at Minnesota Friday night, but Howard left the team to return to Los Angeles. He will see Dr. Steven Yoon and undergo the PRP procedure on Saturday, the team announced, in hopes of speeding up the recovery of his injured right shoulder.

Howard will then fly to Detroit and rejoin the team, although his status for Sunday’s game against the Pistons is unclear.

PRP has been around for more than a decade, but mostly relegated to athletes or patients with exceedingly deep pockets. Athletes in all sports have undergone the procedure, from golf’s Tiger Woods, tennis’ Rafael Nadal, baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and football’s Troy Palamalu, among many others.

In 2011, Kobe Bryant flew to Germany to undergo what was called a derivative of the PRP procedure on his right knee. Last offseason it was reported that injured 76ers center Andrew Bynum would also undergo PRP in Germany. Brandon Roy, forced into retirement by chronic knee issues, had the procedure, and it helped him decide to attempt a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves, although he has been beset by multiple setbacks.

In Howard’s case, he is seeking to avoid surgery during the season to repair his sore right shoulder, the same injury that kept him out of three games in January. Howard had been playing through the pain until he re-aggravated the injury during the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s ugly loss at Phoenix.

So what is PRP?

The procedure utilizes platelets from the athletes’ own blood to rebuild a damaged tendon. It has been successful in relieving pain and jumpstarting the healing process. The patient’s blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge for 15 minutes to separate out the platelets. The layer of platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the affected portion of the tendon with the guidance of an ultrasound machine.

There is a short recovery period so Howard might not be able to play in Sunday’s game. Obviously the hope is that it will alleviate Howard’s pain and help his shoulder heal enough so that he can continue to play throughout the season as the Lakers fight for playoff positioning.

L.A. had its modest three-game winning streak snapped at Phoenix on Wednesday night. At 20-26, the Lakers enter tonight’s game at Minnesota four games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Although Howard has had an up-and-down season, he still remains the Lakers’ best hope to make a playoff push. He’s a defensive anchor on a team that struggled all season at that end. He’s second on the team in scoring behind Bryant at 16.5 ppg and he leads the team in rebounding at 11.9 rpg.

The Lakers lost all three games that Howard missed in January, losing to Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

While PRP is not a miracle cure by any stretch, it might be Howard’s best — and last chance — to salvage the season.

Kirilenko Invaluable To Wolves, Shved

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DALLAS – Andrei Kirilenko has been a godsend to the Minnesota Timberwolves and Russian rookie Alexey Shved during this strange twist of a season.

It’s a minor miracle that the Wolves are still sniffing playoff contention considering their barrage of injuries. One major reason is Kirilenko, the 11-year NBA veteran who is in his first season with the Wolves after a decade-long run with the Utah Jazz. He spent the 2011-12 season enjoying a one-time homecoming in Russia, playing before family and friends during the NBA’s lockout and shortened season.

The versatile, 6-foot-9 forward was always going to figure in as a major piece to the rotation, but he’s been invaluable in the wake of long-term injuries to forwards Chase Budinger and Kevin Love, among multiple other injuries such as to Brandon Roy and Malcolm Lee that have thrust the surprising Shved into a starter’s role at shooting guard.

“We had some seasons when we had a lot of injuries, but this is something crazy,” said Kirilenko, whose scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounds (6.8) and minutes (34.8) are all his best since the 2005-06, and his 50.8 shooting percentage ranks as a career high. “We never played together [with a full roster] for even one game. It’s tough to play that way, but I guess this is the reality of NBA basketball.”

Then there’s been the big brother role Kirilenko’s embraced mentoring Shved, who turned 24 last month. But with a baby face and a mouth full of braces, some might say Shved could could pass for, well, a 12-year-old. Which is exactly how old he was when he first met Kirilenko and asked Russia’s No. 1 basketball player to sign a picture for him.

“He’s a great guy and he has a lot of bright moments in front of him,” said Kirilenko, who turns 32 next month and beams at Shved more like a proud papa than a big brother. “I think he started the season well and he can really be a great contributor to a team.”

Two-thirds of Russia’s NBA contingent play for the Wolves. Timofey Mozgov, currently buried on the Denver Nuggets’ bench, is the other. Kirilenko and Shved know each other quite well now after playing last season together for CSKA Moscow, and the two fashioned quite a dynamic duo on the Russian Olympic team that put hoops back on the map in their country by taking bronze in London.

They were gearing up for the Games when Shved, signed as a free agent by Minnesota in July, got word that he would continue on as Kirilenko’s teammate in Minnesota.

“He is the best player in Russia,” said the 6-foot-6 Shved, whose game (10.8 ppg and 4.7 apg) has emerged quicker than his grasp of the English language, which he speaks softly and carefully. “He is smart, he plays hard. Everybody wants to be a player like this.”

Just as Spanish-speaking J.J. Barea (from Puerto Rico) aided the Spain-born phenom Ricky Rubio last season in his arrival stateside, having Kirilenko around to show Shved the ropes of the NBA and American life has been invaluable.

And who knows, perhaps soon Shved will serve a similar role to another wide-eyed countryman that makes his way to the NBA.

Sergey Karasev might be the next [one],” Kirilenko said of the 6-foot-7, 19-year-old shooting guard who averages 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for Triumph Lyubertsy in the Russian Professional Basketball League. “He might be joining us soon.”

Love’s Latest Injury Testing Wolves’ Mettle

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – So this is just how it’s going to be for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a season so marred by constant injury that it stands to test their collective sanity as much as their ambitious playoff aspirations.

The Wolves already knew they’re moving ahead without star forward Kevin Love for a second stretch of games after he re-fractured his right hand last week, but Wednesday’s news that he’ll miss more time than expected, the next eight to 10 weeks, severely worsened that blow just one day after the sigh-of-relief return of point guard Ricky Rubio from his second injury stint.

Love initially broke his hand before the start of the season doing knuckle pushups at home. He missed the first nine games of the season and the Wolves, without their two young stars, were pleased to be 5-4 when Love surprised everyone with an early return.

A stunning spat of injuries followed. Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger and Malcolm Lee remain out with knee injuries. Rubio played in just his sixth game in Tuesday’s hard-fought home win over the Atlanta Hawks to push their record to 16-15, just 1 1/2 games out of the West’s final playoff spot. The Wolves played that one without resolute coach Rick Adelman – out for personal reasons — as they will again tonight trying to stay above .500 in a tough road test at Oklahoma City.

Coaches impress on their players all the time that the 82-game NBA grind is about survival. Expected to be without Love, their leading scorer (18.3 ppg) and by far most productive rebounder (14. 0 rpg), until mid-to-late March, the Wolves are truly in the fox hole now.

They’ll carry through the high hopes of its long-suffering fan base and secure the franchise’s first postseason berth since their lone Western Conference finals run in 2003-04 only by sticking together and pushing harder.

Rubio’s return is a good start. He played 19 minutes on Tuesday and finished with four points and eight assists. He missed the previous four games with back spasms, an issue believed to be caused by overcompensation as he learns to trust the surgically repaired left knee. He’s dealt with the groin and back problems since making his debut on Dec. 15 from last season’s ACL tear.

Adelman and the team’s training staff will have to closely monitor his minutes and progress, but the belief is he’s ready to ramp up and burden a bigger load.

To keep within arm’s length of a playoff spot to this point, the Wolves have heavily relied upon stat-stuffing forward Andrei Kirilenko, center Nikola Pekovic, who has eight double-doubles in last 13 games, emerging Russian rookie Alexey Shved and the diminutive backcourt duo of Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea.

But how long can they keep up the fight in a competitive Western Conference that could take 45 wins to get in?

And which team or teams drop off? The top four, barring catastrophic injury — something the Wolves know never to discount — seem like locks. Golden State is playing well enough and for long enough to not expect a collapse in the second half of the season.

Of the next three teams — Houston, Portland and Denver — none are sure bets, yet the trio is currently on a collective 10-game winning streak.

And lost among the crowd currently on the outside looking in is the Los Angeles Lakers. A glorious run back into contention doesn’t appear imminent, but can’t be eliminated as a possibility either simply because of their proven talent.

The Wolves have expended tremendous energy to stay afloat. How much longer can they grind away? Long enough for Love’s eventual return to be meaningful?

We’re about to find out.

Blogtable: Teams Rising, Teams Falling




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


Week 9: The trouble with DeMarcus | What to do with the Bobcats | Teams falling, teams rising


Give us a team that is finally ready to break out? Which team has its best days behind it already?

Fran Blinebury: Assuming Steve Nash stays healthy, it’s got to be the Lakers.  They surely can’t disappoint more.  Though over in the Eastern Conference, when Derrick Rose comes back, the Bulls go from feisty and tough to truly threatening again. As far as the team that’s already peaked, I’m going with the Knicks.  Won’t this be the 40th straight year they’ve let the NY media down by not defending that 1973 championship?

Jeff Caplan: Improvement: How can this be any team but the Lakers simply as a product of their 9-14 start? Steve Nash has a way of putting smiles on people’s faces. Best days behind: NYK. Hey, I still like the Knicks, but the law of averages is catching up. I mean, they weren’t going to make half their 3s all season. It’s an old team and I can’t see them winning at their early season pace. Are they a top 4 team in the East? Absolutely.  Do they challenge the Heat for the No. 1 seed as they have for the first third of the season? Sorry, but no.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Most improvement: For a statistical turnaround, it’s New Orleans. Anthony Davis is back, Eric Gordon appears close to coming back, and that is not a roster that finishes with 15 wins as long as Gordon lasts in the lineup. But for real acceleration, it’s Minnesota. Ricky Rubio is back and likely headed for an increase in playing time, and Brandon Roy may return soon as well in another boost for a roster hit hard by injuries. Best days behind: Sorry to say Houston. Great story with a plus-.500 record amid tragedy and an early roster shakeup, but it’s hard to imagine the pace holding unless the Rockets do better on defense and with taking care of the ball.

John Schuhmann: The obvious answer to the first question is the Lakers. Not only did they just get Steve Nash back, but their point differential (+4.2 per 100 possessions) is that of a team much better than 14-14. Denver is another clear candidate because of the brutal, road-heavy schedule they’ve had thus far. And I think Brooklyn will eventually get things together. For the second question, I can’t help but look at the Knicks, because I really think that Amar’e Stoudemire can only hurt them. I still believe in them as the second best team in the East, but just not as unstoppable offensively as they’ve been.

Sekou Smith: If Steve Nash stays healthy, no team has the room to improve that the Lakers do. There is just too much firepower and so much ground to be made up (14-14 through Christmas is not what the natives had in mind for their beloved Lakers). They have true title-contender talent but have not played up that standard so far, though their five-game win streak is a decent start.

As for the the crew that we’ll see sailing in the wrong direction, and you hate to put this tag on anyone, but the Brooklyn Nets don’t have the look of a team on the rise. Between the rumblings about the offense from the face of the franchise to the fact that every time the Nets are presented with an opportunity to prove they belong on the big stage they fall off the stage (the latest disappointment being their work against the Celtics on Christmas), little has gone well. It just seemed like there was a lot to work with in Brooklyn; the offseason acquisitions, all of the hype surrounding the move to Brooklyn and the fact that, on paper, there aren’t three teams in the Eastern Conference with better raw materials to work with. But the forecast just doesn’t look good from here.

Blazers Face The Aldridge Question

It’s getting late early in Portland.

Of course, the shadows can’t get much longer and the outlook much bleaker than when you’ve become the first team all season to lose to the Wizards.

Still, these things happen. If it were a one-game pratfall, it would be easier for the Trail Blazers to move on up the road and try to work out their frustrations on the soon-to-be-Rondo-less Celtics.

But the trouble is that 15 games into this season, it is already beginning to look a lot like last season. And the one before. And the one before.

“Inexcusable,” is the way guard Wesley Matthews described the loss at Washington and nobody was really sure if he was talking about the way the Blazers shot the ball, rebounded, defended or got off the bus.

Intolerable for their fans is the knowledge that over the past decade, the Blazers have done more rebuilding than FEMA and still have little to show for it. They have the longest current Western Conference drought without winning a playoff series (13 seasons and counting) and are giving little indication that it’s about to end. Enthusiasm for new coach Terry Stotts’ up-tempo, move-the-ball offense is leaking like air from a flat tire.

All of which quickly brings up the question of what to do with LaMarcus Aldridge?

The Blazers official stance is: nothing. That’s what general manager Neil Olshey told Aldridge in an October meeting, asking for patience and promising that the power forward would not be traded.

But how wise is that from both sides?

Aldridge is 27 going on who knows what. He’s previously had a heart condition, was sidelined last season by a hip injury and is now bothered an achy back, probably from having to carry so much of the load. He’s averaging a team-high 38.2 minutes per game and a career-low shooting percentage of 43.9.

On one hand the Blazers need their best player on the floor for his lion’s share of time in order to even dream of competing for one of the lower rung spots on the playoff ladder. But if this is a team that isn’t really going anywhere until rookies Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard develop, Nicolas Batum gets a real clue and then significant free agent additions are made next summer, does it make sense to wear Aldridge out?

The Blazers, with Greg Oden and Brandon Roy as cautionary tales in their recent past, are quite familiar with players that simply break down physically. If it’s going to take Olshey’s two-year window to get Aldridge the help he needs, what state will he be in physically, not to mention mentally? Might there come a time, even this season, when L.A. is ready to flee to L.A. or OKC or any other playoff contender with a need for the kind of firepower he brings? In this NBA era that we live, players are far less likely to commit themselves to a franchise for an entire career. How much longer before those around him, or Aldridge himself, conclude it’s time to start inching him toward the door?

If you’re the Blazers and have seen Aldridge’s game deteriorate into mostly jumpers and fadeaways this season, it could be easy to conclude that he’s past the point — if he ever was — of being a No. 1 option on a championship contender. If you’re already thinking about the next remodeling of the roster, wouldn’t it make sense to move the process along with a deal that could bring in young talent to grow at the same pace with Lillard, Leonard and Batum?

Of course, the trade deadline isn’t till February. But it’s already gotten late early in Portland.