Posts Tagged ‘Chris Paul’

Warriors End 2015 As Real Winners


VIDEO: GameTime: Top 10 Plays of 2015

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It was a good year for the Golden State Warriors. They won their first championship in 40 years, showing the league that you can win at a fast pace along the way. Then they began their title defense by setting an NBA record with 24 wins to start a season.

In total, the Warriors went 88-17 in 2015, including the postseason, falling just short of the record for most wins in a calendar year.

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It was a good year for Warriors individual accomplishments, too. Stephen Curry earned the regular season MVP award, Andre Iguodala was Finals MVP, Draymond Green was the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year, and Klay Thompson earned his first All-Star selection.

Curry ranked in the top 10 in points, assists, steals and 3-pointers for 2015. Green ranked in the top 10 in total rebounds and steals, and came three assists short of the top 10 in that category. Thompson ranked fifth in total points and second in 3s, while Andrew Bogut ranked ninth in blocks.

Here are the statistical leaders for the 2015 calendar year. All stats include the postseason…

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20151231_15_rebounds

20151231_15_assists

20151231_15_steals

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Curry may have led the league in total points in 2015 had he played the last two games. Instead, James Harden topped the list, scoring the most points in a calendar year since Kevin Durant scored more than 3,000 in 2012.

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Blogtable: Will LeBron finish Top 5 in assists and points?

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: NBA Person of the Year? | LeBron in Top 5 in two categories? |
Your All-Star starters are …?



VIDEORelive LeBron James’ career milestones

> LeBron James turns 31 today and is rising fast in the NBA’s record books for career points and career assists. Will LeBron end his career as the only player in the top 5 in both categories?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Points? Yes. That won’t be a problem. But LeBron James isn’t even two-thirds of the way to the No. 5 spot on the all-time assists list (Magic Johnson, 10,141). To get there, at his career pace of 6.9 per game, he would need to log another 530 or so games, which would move him into fifth all-time in that category too. That would also take him deep into the 2021-22 season — assuming no lockouts or strikes — by which time he’ll be 37. Can he maintain that career rate till the end? The great Oscar Robertson averaged 7.6 assists over his final five seasons – but at a rate 20 percent less than his career average (9.5 apg) and 27 percent less than his rate through his first nine seasons (10.5). Maybe he gets there because Magic and Oscar (No. 6 on the assists list at 9.887) provide great targets and motivation, but if he tapers off at all, the assists list will be too steep for him to scale.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s more likely that James makes it into the top five in points than assists. At his career rate of seven assists per, in 10 years he would still be short of No. 5 Magic Johnson on the assist list. I just don’t see LeBron pushing his career well into his 40s.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Doubtful, even coming from someone who doesn’t put anything past LeBron. That’s still a lot of years at a high level, especially with the assists. It’s a haul even if his game changes in the seasons to come and he turns into much more of a distributor than a scorer, and then a lot will depend on his health or simply whether he wants to keep playing at 35 or 36. Seeing him make a run would be nice, though, because passing has been one of the underrated aspects of his game. James has great vision and can deliver the ball.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I don’t see LeBron maintaining the scoring pace. I don’t think points mean that much to him, at least in the regular season, and though I don’t have reason to suspect his body will begin to wear soon, he is flesh and blood. And if Kyrie Irving can stay healthy, I also see LeBron’s assists falling soon.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: He shouldn’t have any problem catching Wilt Chamberlain in points, but catching Magic Johnson (or Chris Paul, who could pass Magic first) in assists will be difficult. It’s hard to see LeBron playing eight or nine more seasons when he’s played more minutes than anyone in NBA history at this age and is starting to show signs of wearing down.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: LeBron will have to play at least another decade at his current level to climb into the top five in both categories, which would be an amazing accomplishment. That’s 23 years of grinding away on a body that even by LeBron’s own otherworldly standard, should not be capable of such a feat. If he captures two or three more NBA titles before he reaches 20 years of NBA service, I can see him walking away instead of chasing a milestone that no man before him has attained.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He’s probably going to need an additional seven years to reach the top 5 in assists. Will his back enable him to play until he’s 38, in spite of his mileage? I know their sports are entirely different, but it is shocking how quickly Tiger Woods has been diminished by his back problems. And Larry Bird’s career was cut short by back issues too. My own hope is that LeBron will continue to thrive so that we can see him adapt his game as he ages – health permitting, he could extend his career well into his late 30s as a bullying back-to-the-basket power forward.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m guessing it’s going to be close. LeBron currently has just over 25,000 points, and he’ll need about 6,000 more to make it into the top five. Figuring he averages (conservatively) 20 point per game going forward, that’s 300 more games, or about 5 seasons, which certainly seems within reach. To me, it’s the assists that might be problematic. LeBron currently has 6,473 assists, and would need 3,668 to reach the top five. Assuming he averages 5 assists per game, that’s about 733 games, which is almost 9 more seasons. To me, if anyone could continue playing at such a high level, it’s LeBron. It’s more of a question of whether or not he wants to do it.

Stats preview: Clippers at Lakers


VIDEO: GameTime previews the matchup between the Clippers and the Lakers

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the final game of the night, when the Clippers and Lakers meet for the first time this season (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Los Angeles Clippers (16-13)

The stat: The Clippers have attempted just 39 percent of their shots in the paint, the lowest rate in the league.

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20151224_lac_basicsThe Golden State Warriors are often called “a jump-shooting team,” but their Pacific Division rivals are much more of a jump-shooting team than the champs are. This is the second straight season that the Clippers have led the league in percentage of shots that come from outside the paint.

DeAndre Jordan has taken all but one of his 162 shots from the paint. But the rest of the Clippers’ roster makes up for that with a lot of jump shots. Blake Griffin ranks sixth in the league in points in the paint, but has taken more than half his shots from outside it for the first time in his career. In fact, the percentage of his shots that Griffin has taken from outside the paint has increased every season since he entered the league.

The thing is that the Clippers have been the best shooting team inside the paint. Among 140 players who have attempted at least 100 shots from the paint, Jordan (70.4 percent) and Griffin (65.7 percent) rank first and third in field goal percentage there.

The Clippers still have a top-five offense. And around the league, the teams that take the most shots from inside the paint tend to rank lower in the lower half of the league in offensive efficiency.

But league-wide, paint shots yield more points per attempt (1.06) than shots from outside the paint (0.93). Only three teams have attempted a greater percentage of their shots from mid-range than the Clippers.

And only one team has regressed more offensively than the Clippers, who have scored 5.9 points per 100 possessions fewer than they did last season, when only the Warriors and Hawks had a higher effective field goal percentage from outside the paint. This year, L.A. ranks 20th in effective field goal percentage from outside the paint.

They’re not a great defensive team, so when those jump shots don’t go in, they don’t look like much of a title contender.

More Clippers notes from NBA.com/stats

Los Angeles Lakers (5-24)

The stat: The Lakers’ defense has allowed 7.2 points per 100 possessions more than the league average, the biggest differential of the last 10 seasons.

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20151224_lal_basicsThe Lakers are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons. This is also the fifth straight season that Byron Scott has coached a bottom-five defense. And this, so far, is the worst defensive team he’s coached.

Roy Hibbert was a big reason the Indiana Pacers were the best defensive team of the last three years. Indiana allowed 98.1 points per 100 possessions over those three seasons and just 97.3 with Hibbert on the floor. But Hibbert hasn’t been able to make a defensive impact with the Lakers, who have allowed 111.6 points per 100 possessions with him playing center.

The Lakers rank 20th or worse in all four of the defensive “four factors,” opponent shooting, defensive rebounding, opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate. The Sixers are the only other team that has been below average in all four.

L.A. and Philadelphia are also the only two teams that rank in the bottom three in both offensive and defensive efficiency. While there may be a lot of parity in the middle of both conferences, there’s very a clear No. 15 team in each.

More Lakers notes from NBA.com/stats

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Data curated by PointAfter

Curry says he’s the best in the world

They say it’s not bragging if you can do it.

Well, it’s also not bragging if it’s patently obvious to everybody from the up-closest patron in a courtside seat to a faraway fan leaning in an squinting to see on a tiny antique black-and-white Philco TV.

Stephen Curry merely agreed with the rest of Planet Earth — outside of Ohio — when he told TIME magazine’s Sean Gregory in a Q & A that he’s the No. 1 baller in the game today:

Are you the best player in the world right now?

Curry: “In my mind, yes. That’s how I have confidence out there that I can play at a high level every night. I don’t get into debates, arguing with people about why I am versus somebody else. I feel like anybody who’s at the level I’m trying to be at, if you don’t think that when you’re on the floor, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

The piece in the “Year Ahead” issue of TIME touches on a variety of topics, from Curry’s offseason training regimen to his friendship with Clippers point guard Chris Paul to his rivalry with Houston’s James Harden to his admiration for professional golfer Jordan Spieth and even the celebrity of his now 3-year-old daughter Riley, who stole the show last June at the NBA Finals.

Curry also addressed the issue of the next round of collective bargaining between the National Basketball Players Association and the league, which could potentially lead to a work stoppage for the 2016-17 season.

The NBA had lockouts that shortened the 1999 and 2012 seasons. What’s your message to fans who really don’t want to see another one?

Curry: “Players don’t want to see a lockout either. We want to play. Guys have such a short window, you don’t want to waste time sitting on the sidelines talking about bargaining agreements, things like that. We’re working hard to present out issues and hear the NBA’s issues, what may or may not be right or wrong and work it out hopefully. We will fight for what we feel is right.”

Blogtable: Christmas Day Gift

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: Who is the best frontcourt? | Butler’s desire to lead is __? | Christmas Day Gift



VIDEOScott Howard-Cooper Christmas Day essay

> Your nameplate says Santa Claus, Joyous Gift Giver. So tell me Mr. Claus, what NBA gift will we be receiving on Christmas Day?

David Aldridge, NBA.com: The gift that keeps on giving: Warriors and Cavaliers, with everyone finally healthy. I’ll be really interested to see how David Blatt attacks Golden State’s defense with Kyrie Irving back on the court.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I don’t like tipping my hand pre-chimney, but here goes: Two stocking-stuffer games to get things going, nothing that will interfere too much with a lot of NBA fans’ pesky family traditions. Then a main event — Cleveland at Golden State, LeBron James‘ ultra-competitiveness vs. the Warriors’ home mastery — that lives up to expectations, whetting folks’ appetites for one rematch in January and then six or seven don’t-open-till-June classics in The Finals. I’m going to follow that with a happily intense Spurs-Rockets clash, pitting Dad’s team against one favored by the kids. Finally, I’ll cap it off with some vintage Kobe Bryant — Father Time might be looking past the Lakers star to his big day next week — against everyone’s favorite lump-of-coal team, the Clippers. Don’t expect Santa to stay awake for the second half of that one, though. I’ll have earned the snooze.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comTen Chris Paul’s a-diming, nine Anthony Davises a-blocking, eight Spurs a-sharing, seven Butlers a-griping, six D-Wades hitting floaters, fi-i-i-i-ve ol-l-lden Kobes … four Warriors on LeBron, three Beards gunning, two Russ and K.D. turtle doves, and a sleigh full of Stephen Curry 3s!

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comCavaliers at Warriors in more than a Finals rematch. This will be more about this season than last, mostly as a big test for Golden State. The Warriors haven’t faced top competition yet, either the best of the East (Cleveland) or the best of the challengers from the West (San Antonio). The Dubs we have seen so far are motivated for big challenges, even aiming for them, whether it’s the start of the season or the end. While the Christmas outcome won’t determine the direction of 2015-16, they know this is one of those challenges.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com Ho, ho ho. I’ll give you the NBA Finals game you didn’t see last June: A healthy Cavs team against a spunky Warriors team. As you elves might recall, the Cavs were missing a pair of All-Stars last time. It was such a lump of coal for The King to swallow. And so, my gift to you is Kyrie and K-Love and Kerr and Klay; LeBron and Steph and J.R. and Dray.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI’m bringing you an important game for the hanging-on-by-a-thread Pelicans, Russell Westbrook looking to put on a show against a top-five defense, the Warriors’ first game against a fellow title contender, a matchup between the two most improved teams in December, and the final Christmas Day game for the all-time Christmas Day scoring leader.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Five Golden Games! First up is the Brow and his boys trying to get it right against the Heat in Miami. Then it’s the reeling Chicago Bulls on the wrong end of a Russell Westbrook jab and a Kevin Durant left hook in Oklahoma City. The main event is a rematch of Game 1 of The Finals with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love healthy and alongside LeBron James against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the mighty Warriors at Oracle Arena. Then there’s a splendid study in contrast with the Spurs machine rolling down the road to shine a light on James Harden, Dwight Howard and the perplexing Houston Rockets. And the finale provides the latest stop on the Kobe Bryant farewell tour, as the Lakers host the Clippers at their shared home. As always, NBA Santa delivers the goods (and the drama) on Christmas!

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com The Golden State-Cleveland rematch will be craved not only by its large audience but also by the performers themselves. Curry’s Warriors love a good challenge, especially from the opponent that might have won The Finals last June if Kyrie Irving  had been around; while LeBron James will be encouraging his fellow Cavaliers to match the champs’ intensity and focus. The old Shaq vs. Kobe rematches on Christmas Day were about resolving their past differences; this game is going to be focused on the future title hopes of both teams.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogHey, no coal in the Stance socks in Oakland from me. Thus far this season it’s been all about the Golden State Warriors, so on Christmas Day, why wouldn’t I gift you a delightful matchup between last year’s NBA Finalists, the Warriors and the Cavs? And not only that, but make it a fantastic game that is well worth your watching? Also, it’s a season of dreams coming true, so let’s hope we get a turn-back-the-clock night from Kobe Bryant, in this final Christmas Day that we get to spend with the Mamba.

Morning shootaround — Dec. 20


VIDEO: The Fast Break — Dec. 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Bulls’ ‘transition’ game in crisis | Welcome back, Kyrie | Tweaking the Trail Blazers | Taking Celtics from solid to super

No. 1: Bulls’ ‘transition’ game in crisisJimmy Butler‘s criticism Saturday night in New York of new head coach Fred Hoiberg‘s work style seemingly peeled back the curtain on an issue that is costing the Chicago Bulls chemistry and ultimately victories. If, as Butler alleges, Hoiberg hasn’t been tough enough on the Bulls in practices or on game nights, the responsibility for that falls … everywhere in the organization. Certainly it’s on Hoiberg to do whatever it takes, even if riding herd on grown men isn’t what earned him this job via his success in college at Iowa State. It’s on the Bulls players, who have been less than professional in their preparation and focus on multiple nights, whether they’ve won or lost. And it’s on management – chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, VP of basketball John Paxson and Gar Forman – for giving the locker room the license to drift sideways last season during the Cold War with since-fired Tom Thibodeau, and still sees the team saddled with some of the bad habits that produced. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com analyzed the team’s plight overnight:

First and foremost, it’s not every day that an NBA player calls out his head coach so publicly. Former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau was a taskmaster, and the relationship between his players, including Butler, frayed last season before he was fired at the end of the season. But despite all the friction, no player ever called out Thibodeau publicly. They couldn’t stand him at times because of his domineering ways, but they always respected him because of his work ethic. Twenty-five games into Hoiberg’s tenure, he has to face the reality that his best player just called him out on a public stage.

While it has been clear to many around the team that the Bulls are struggling to adjust to Hoiberg’s style after five years under Thibodeau, that storyline, at least in the short term, will ride shotgun next to this one: How will Butler’s comments be received within the organization?

It’s possible that Butler might face some disciplinary action for calling out his coach in the media. But it’s also possible that Butler was speaking not just for himself, but for other teammates who also feel that Hoiberg’s style isn’t working for them. Either way, the foundation for Butler’s future as the face and voice of the Bulls will either be cemented or crushed by his comments on Saturday. They might serve as a turning point for a player who desperately wants to be seen as the focal point of the organization — a final vocal push to get out from underneath Derrick Rose’s long shadow.

Or, Butler’s comments may become the beginning of the end for a talented player who bit off more than he can chew within the organization. To say that Hoiberg has the full support of the front office would be an understatement. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive VP John Paxson have supported Hoiberg both publicly and privately at every turn. He signed a five-year, $25 million contract six months ago and is entrenched as the coach for the future.

But that’s where this saga gets tricky for the Bulls. Butler was supposed to be the future king of the roster, the player they would build around, after signing a five-year extension worth over $90 million in July. Along with Hoiberg, Butler was supposed to be at the forefront of everything the Bulls did. Now, those questions will be left under a microscope for the rest of the basketball world to see.

So with Monday’s game against Brooklyn looming before a couple days of practice and the Christmas date at Oklahoma City, the Bulls and their fans are waiting for the next shoe to drop like…

***

No. 2: Welcome Back, Kyrie! — As excited as NBA fans are for the Christmas Day slate of games, with Cleveland at Golden State as the holiday’s centerpiece, they ought to be at least a little jazzed about the Philadelphia at Cleveland matinee today. OK, the Sixers will be responsible for 50 percent of the basketball offered up at Quicken Loans Arena, but the game marks the 2015-16 debut of Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Back finally from his recovery from knee surgery, which ended his playoffs in June in Game 1 of the Finals, Irving hardly could be more eager. “I’m pretty [expletive] excited to be back out there,” he told reporters Saturday. Our man Shaun Powell wrote about Irving’s comeback challenge and so did Jason Lloyd, the Cavs beat man for Ohio.com:

It has been a long time coming.

He fractured his kneecap in Game 1 of June’s NBA Finals after fighting knee problems throughout the postseason. The Cavs and Irving remained cautious and conservative during his rehab. He was finally cleared for full practices a couple of weeks ago and he kept building for this moment.

It has been clear for about a week Irving would make his debut against the 76ers. Realistically it’s an easier opponent to begin against since they’re the worst team in the league and it will serve as a way for Irving to ease back into competitive basketball. He’ll be on a minutes restriction to start, but doesn’t anticipate problems falling back in rhythm with his old teammates.

“There is no specific reason on why now,” he said. “Just wanted to take the doctor’s precautions as well as our team’s precautions. Obviously, as a competitor, you want to get out there. But for me, I let go of all my selfish, inside emotions and just put them aside and did what was best for my body and did what was best for the team.”

The Cavs went 17-7 in Irving’s absence and remain atop the East despite not having a full roster for any game this season. They ended the Oklahoma City Thunder’s six-game winning streak Thursday night despite missing Irving, Mo Williams and Iman Shumpert.

That just reiterated to Irving a team that finds ways to win regardless of who is on the floor.

“There’ll be an adjustment period, but knocking the rust off is something I’m looking forward to,” Irving said. “It’s not like I’m coming in and just trying to take 15 to 20 shots right after I come off injury. It’s just trying to gel back in and continue to play the right way. My basketball knowledge, I’m pretty confident in coming in and not trying to overdo it in any single way and just be aggressive.”

***

No. 3:Tweaking the Trail Blazers — There was some player-on-coach criticism in Portland, too, though it didn’t rise nearly to the level of Butler’s comments about Bulls boss Hoiberg. Big man Mason Plumlee had made a plea after Friday’s loss in Orlando for the team to add variety to its 3-point-heavy attack. So by Saturday, Blazers coach Terry Stotts was responding to Plumlee’s remarks and the player was rephrasing some of the things he said or meant, as reported by Jason Quick of CSNNW.com:

After Saturday’s practice in Miami, Plumlee clarified that he wasn’t taking a shot at Blazers coach Terry Stotts and his offensive system, but rather pointing out the Blazers have to do more than just shoot threes.

“We have guys who are really shooting the three well, but you can’t live and die by the shot,’’ Plumlee said in Miami. “We have to add to it. I’m not being critical. Guys like Dame, CJ and A.C. do that very well, and we have to complement that in some way.’’

When the notion of broadening the offense was later brought up to Stotts, it was apparent the coach had heard Plumlee’s suggestion.

“Is that Mason’s interview?’’ Stotts interjected before the question was finished.

When told it was, Stotts had an answer ready.

“I’m open to expanding the offense, but the truth is we’ve been in the top 10 most of the year in offense, and offense has not necessarily been a problem,’’ Stotts said. “We are in the top 10 in 3-point field goal percentage … that’s a strength of ours. Our passing, moving and cutting has been good, so my biggest concern … obviously I’m always concerned about both ends of the court … but my biggest concern is where we are defensively and how we improve defensively.’’

Plumlee’s answer in Orlando was generated from a question asking whether the Blazers have figured out their identity. He noted on Saturday that his answer Friday suggested the Blazers could make defense one of their traits.

“I guess when I was saying that, I’m thinking offensively and defensively,’’ Plumlee said. “We got our butts kicked in the paint last game and it puts pressure on those guys to be perfect from three-point range. You can’t do that.’’

Plumlee also noted that he could help the Blazers in forging a more well-rounded offensive identity by becoming more consistent inside. He pointed to his last two offensive games –- 4-for-14 at Oklahoma City and 2-for-6 at Orlando – as evidence.

“As a big guy, you should be around 50 percent,’’ Plumlee said. “So, speaking to myself, I’ve got to convert better, because I’ve had opportunities. Just finishing plays and getting more second shots. Getting offensive rebounds. But we have to find some kind of presence other than three’s … I guess that’s what I’m saying.’’

***

No. 4:Taking Celtics from solid to super — The rebuild in Boston has gone well, fairly smoothly and relatively quickly. The Celtics are admired for the energy and teamwork they bring on most nights, and coach Brad Stevens already is considered one of the league’s best despite his modest tenure. But good doesn’t stay good for long, not in an NBA market so accustomed to great. Writing for SBNation.com, Paul Flannery looked at the challenges facing Boston as it tries to take the next, ambitious step:

When they play well together they can beat anyone in the league and when they don’t, they can get “exposed,” to use Stevens’ word from the Atlanta loss. One can look at their net ratings and other exotic measures and say that they’ve underachieved a bit, but it’s hard to look at their roster and reach the same conclusion.

The Celtics have a lot of solid players, but with the exception of [Isaiah] Thomas, they lack the kind of scorers who can take over games. Thomas has been great this season, but he’s the only one who is truly capable of creating his own shot in their halfcourt offense and his size limitations are an issue when teams switch taller defenders on him in the closing moments.

That’s not to say they have a bunch of scrubs. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder are both having wonderful seasons, arguably the best of their respective careers. Every team in the league would love to have them on their side. Evan Turner has become a valuable and trusted reserve. Amir Johnson has been everything they hoped when they signed him in free agency and Jared Sullinger has put his career back on track. Marcus Smart was playing well before a knee injury kept him out of the lineup and Kelly Olynyk has had a breakthrough year defensively. (Seriously, he’s been very good on that end of the floor.)

That’s a solid team most nights, and Stevens has consistently said that he’s happy with the team’s progress. He hinted on Saturday that a lineup change may be coming and one possibility would be limiting David Lee’s minutes in favor of Jonas Jerebko and playing more smallball. Lee is the only regular with a negative net rating and the C’s have been more than five points better when he’s off the floor.

But that’s tinkering on the margins. If the Celtics are going to move beyond this stage then Danny Ainge will have to make a move. There’s been speculation for months — years even — about Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, but that seems unlikely at this juncture. There has never been universal agreement in the team’s front office that Cousins is the player to go all in for and it’s not even certain that Cousins would be available at all.

A knockdown shooter would definitely help matters, considering their woeful 33 percent mark from behind the arc, but there aren’t many of them available right now. Denver’s Danilo Gallinari, for example, can’t be traded until February. Not that the Nuggets have shown any interest in moving him either. The NBA’s version of parity has produced a number of interesting side effects and one of them is the notion that with more teams competing for playoff spots, there are fewer sellers than usual.

As it stands, the Celtics’ best chance to land a game-changing player is in this summer’s draft where they own Brooklyn’s pick without protection as the latest installment of the KG/Paul Pierce heist. In addition to their own choice, they also have Dallas’ first round selection (top-7 protected) and Minnesota’s first rounder if it falls out of the top 12 picks (doubtful, but not out of the realm of possibility). They’ve also got a bunch of second rounders with protections too numerous and complex to list here. Suffice to say, they’ve got a lot of picks coming and more on the way in the future from Brooklyn and Memphis.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Look out, rest of the NBA! LeBron James has a new obsession and all you can do while he pursue it is to line up and stand idly by: he’s working on his free throws. … No one needs to worry about the L.A. Clippers, according to point guard Chris Paul, except maybe the Clippers and their fans. … Kevin Durant, an unabashed Kobe Bryant fan, had a whole new batch of raves about the Lakers guard after their dinner together Friday night in OKC. … Trevor Ariza was just a local kid when he met Bryant, who eventually would become a teammate and rival, and he lauds the Lakers’ retiring star as well. … The Miami Heat have taken strides this season but aren’t quite ready to say “kumbiya!” … John Wall had to play a whole bunch of minutes to get Washington past Charlotte, but if the Wizards aren’t careful, Wall might join their long list of injured players.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 12



VIDEO: Friday’s Fast Break

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry, Green rescue Warriors in Boston | Shumpert’s return sparks Cavaliers’ defensive effort | Aldridge finding his groove with Spurs | Report: D’Antoni set to join Brown’s staff in Philadelphia

No. 1: Curry, Green rescue Warriors in Boston No Klay Thompson. No Harrison Barnes. No problem for the Golden State Warriors. As long as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are in the lineup, it’s going to be extremely difficult for anyone to stop the Golden State Warriors and their historic march. They improved to 24-0 Friday night in Boston, outlasting the Celtics in a double-overtime thriller with Curry and Green coming to the rescue. They are one win away, tonight in Milwaukee (8:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV) from completing the first 7-0 road trip in league history. Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group explains how the Celtics escaped Boston with the streak intact:

The Warriors won despite missing starters Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, who were both nursing sprained ankles. The Warriors won despite shooting a season-low 39.3 percent and Curry committing a season-high eight turnovers. They won despite trailing by five points with less than two minutes left in regulation.

“We never get rattled,” Draymond Green said of what he learned about the team. “We continued to fight. We believe in ourselves. We believe in each other, and we trust each other. So, nothing new. The same old, same old.”

Green thumped his chest and wrecked the Celtics with 24 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, five blocks and five steals, playing a career-high 50 minutes and with five fouls during the overtime periods.

Andre Iguodala scored nine of his 13 points in the two overtime periods — including the go-ahead putback layup — and added 10 rebounds in 44 minutes.

Curry exhausted himself playing 47 minutes, going 6 for 13 from 3-point range and scoring 23 of his points after halftime despite finding little room to operate without Thompson on the court.

Avery Bradley and Evan Turner made things difficult, but Curry outlasted the Celtics. He was the one on the free throw line, capping off his night by going 14 for 14 from the charity stripe with two of them giving the Warriors a three-point lead with 13.4 seconds left in the second overtime.

“In my opinion, he’s the best player that this game has right now,” Warriors interim coach Luke Walton said. “He can score in so many different ways. They did a phenomenal job on him, and he scored 38. But that’s how superstars are in this league. I played with Kobe (Bryant). I know what that’s like.”

Ian Clark’s first career start came at shooting guard alongside Curry. Leandro Barbosa played through an illness with Thompson, whose ankle was not yet 100 percent, sidelined.

The Warriors still extended their streak to 28 straight regular-season wins dating back to last season, making it the second longest in league history. They did it in the sixth game of their seven-game trip.

“I think the beauty of our team is when we get out there, nobody’s thinking about if we lose, the streak’s over,” Curry said.

“I think that’s why we are where we are. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, (we’re) staying in the moment. We’re having a blast chasing history.”

***

No. 2: Shumpert’s return sparks Cavaliers’ defensive effort LeBron James did his part, as always, to make sure the Cleveland Cavaliers handled their business against the Orlando Magic. But he had plenty of help, including a welcome spark from the season debut of Iman Shumpert, whose attention to detail on defense had been sorely missed. Shumpert kicked off his season in typical style (his hair was a showstopper, per usual and he made an immediate impact on both ends of the floor). Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com has more on Shumpert’s opening night:

Shumpert didn’t start the game. Cavs head coach David Blatt went with Jared Cunningham, hoping to ease Shumpert back and get him some more practice time before he takes back his previous role as starter, one he excelled in during the Cavaliers’ playoff run.

At the 6:05 mark of the first quarter, Shumpert entered, making his presence felt immediately.

I remember having a conversation about Shumpert last year with Cavaliers general manager David Griffin when I was trying to pinpoint Shumpert’s value after the trade.

Griffin explained how Shumpert not only provided the Cavs athleticism on the perimeter — something lacking while the team was giving minutes to worn-down veterans Shawn Marion and Mike Miller — but Shumpert gave Cleveland an edge.

They needed a player like him, one who gained a reputation early in his career as a hard-nosed defender.

That edge, an intangible quality, became clear on Friday night.

He finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 25 productive minutes. He also helped hold the Magic to 28-of-72 (38.9 percent) from the field. That’s his true impact, which can’t always be measured by the box score.

Shumpert is a rare defensive playmaker who brings much-needed toughness.

The schedule didn’t help Orlando, playing at home for the first time after an exhausting five-game Western Conference road trip that ended in Phoenix on Wednesday night. But it isn’t a coincidence that the Cavs played their best all-around defensive game on the night Shumpert debuted.

In the previous four games, Cleveland had allowed 102.5 points per night.

***

No. 3: Aldridge finding his groove with Spurs Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge needed a little time adjust to life in an ensemble cast in San Antonio. But now that he’s comfortable, the rest of the league will have to deal with him. And that’s a daunting challenge, as the Los Angeles Lakers (one of his many suitors during free agency over the summer) found out Friday night and the Atlanta Hawks will find out tonight (8 p.m. ET, League Pass) at Philips Arena when the Spurs battle their Eastern Conference doppelgänger. Our very own Fran Blinebury examines Aldridge’s all-business adjustment:

Aldridge scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and did not play the fourth quarter in the Spurs 107-89 win over the Lakers on Friday night.

“I’m getting into a rhythm now and feeling more comfortable,” Aldridge said. “I’m starting to feel like myself.”

The Spurs keep cruising along with the second-best record in the NBA, while the Lakers are now 3-20 and left to wonder how things might look if they’d have landed Aldridge to be the key cog in their offensive attack.

“It is a big what-if,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott.

Scott said the Lakers received the same feedback after their first meeting with Aldridge last summer and changed their strategy when given a second chance.

“The second meeting was just myself and (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak)…It was all basketball,” Scott said. “I think the first presentation, I think we probably looked at it more as a business presentation more than basketball and that’s probably where we made our mistake.”

Right from the start, the Spurs’ approach that eventually landed Aldridge to a four-year, $84-million contract couldn’t have been more different than L.A.’s.

“We don’t try to convince people, very honestly,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “I think it’s overblown, like we’re going to have some kind of salesman deal. We tried to sell Jason Kidd (2003) and it didn’t work. We had mariachis and everything. We had all kinds of stuff and after that I decided never again. If they come, they come. If they don’t, I don’t care.

“It’s as simple as that, especially for a guy that’s been in the league for nine years. You know what he can do. You know what he can’t do. You know what you like. You know what you don’t like. Whatever it might be.

“But more importantly, he knows who you are and he knows what team he would like to go to for whatever reason. So everything is pretty much out there on the table. If a guy had been in the league for a split second and then he had to make some decisions, it’s different. But he’s seen a lot. He’s been around a long time and we just did the polite thing. We met with him. Our guys talked to him. He talked to us and asked a few questions, he and his agents and that was that.”

Aldridge came into Friday’s game averaging 15.4 points, lowest since his rookie season. He’s also struggled with his shot, making a career-low 45.5 percent. But the Spurs aren’t making a peep of complaint.

“He’s been great,” Popovich said. “It’s a totally new system. When you’re playing with a whole group of new players, it takes time to understand where your place is. Sometimes I think he’s deferred too much because he’s trying to fit in and usually that’s the right thing to do when you enter an organization. Any of us who has a new job defers in the beginning and tries to fit.”

***

No. 4: Report: D’Antoni set to join Brown’s staff in Philadelphia — The extreme franchise makeover in Philadelphia that began with the hiring of Jerry Colangelo as chairman of basketball operations earlier this week could get another high-profile addition, and soon. The Sixers are reportedly in talks with Mike D’Antoni to join Brett Brown‘s staff as an assistant coach. Brown’s two-year contract extension was announced Friday afternoon and soon after word of the possibility of D’Antoni coming on board began circulating. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer provides some context:

It turns out that Jerry Colangelo doesn’t have to be in Philadelphia to have an influence on the 76ers.

The team’s recently hired chairman of basketball operations is in talks with Mike D’Antoni to become an associate head coach with the Sixers, according to Yahoo Sports. The website said that Colangelo and coach have spoken to D’Antoni about a role on the Sixers bench that could be filled in late December.

The Sixers introduced Colangelo as chairman on Monday. The former four-team executive of the year for the Phoenix Suns flew back to Phoenix on Tuesday.

D’Antoni and Colangelo have a relationship that dates backs to the Suns and USA basketball. The 64-year-old spent five seasons as the Suns head coach.Colangelo owned the Suns when D’Antoni was named their coach in 2003.  he coached four teams in a total of  12 seasons.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: There was a Kevin Durant takeover in the fourth quarter for the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night … Kyrie Irving is getting close to his return for the Cleveland Cavaliers … The confidence in D’Angelo Russell’s game is growing in Los AngelesNick Stauskas is struggling with his shot and all of the losing in Philly … The Hornets unleashed the Jeremy Lin-led bench mob on the Memphis Grizzlies … Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett notches another career milestone …

 

Morning shootaround — Dec. 6


VIDEO: The Fast Break — Nov. 5

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Steph Curry, the biggest entertainer of this generation? | Jerry Colangelo not ready to hand Kobe a Team USA spot | Paul Pierce speaks on the struggling Clippers

No. 1: Steph Curry, the biggest entertainer of this generation? Steph Curry is on the verge of winning back-to-back MVPs (and maybe championships) if this keeps up, as the Warriors rolled into Brooklyn for Sunday’s game riding a 21-game winning streak to start the season. And Steph is the league’s leading scorer — he had 44 against the Raptors on Saturday — and doing plenty to keep the Warriors in the win column. Question: Would you put him into the Hall of Fame right now if he suddenly retired? I had that discussion with a few writers the other day. Another question: Where does he rank, right now, in this generation? From an entertaining standpoint, Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News is ready to elevate Curry at or near the top:

That’s the unique power of what Curry is doing these days with the 20-0 Warriors — it’s far beyond his team affiliation or the normal demographics of this sport.

He’s NBA Elvis. Today’s Jesse Owens. He’s the new thing that blows away all existing limits and boundaries.

So yes, the victories are important. Last season’s championship and Curry’s MVP award were crowning milestones, no doubt.

And Curry’s poise and grace throughout it all — his connection to his teammates, coaches and fans — serve as the largest exclamation points to his ascension.

But as a cultural barometer, the specific Curry Moments — most recently, his incredible 28-point third-quarter performance Wednesday in Charlotte — are essentially stand-alone landmarks.

We watch. He plays. The night turns electric.

Brent Barry, a 14-year NBA veteran and now a national TV analyst, says his 9-year-old son asks him one thing every afternoon: “Is Steph playing tonight?” And on Wednesday they were another witness for Curry.

“He won’t miss games,” Barry said of his son, “just like Steph won’t miss shots.”

The NBA, of course, is not lacking for immense, compelling talents — starting with LeBron James and continuing through Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green and James Harden, among others.

But there is something different about Curry right now, in his prime (27, in his seventh NBA season) and accelerating his game well past even last season’s MVP dominance.

As future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett suggested a few weeks ago, Curry is treading upon sacred NBA territory — where only Michael Jordan recently has tread.

With Curry and the Warriors at the forefront, lethal long-distance shooting has become basketball’s most potent force, and Curry proves it every game. “Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing,” Garnett told reporters Nov. 12. “It’s beautiful for basketball.”

Curry, who scored 40 points in only 30 minutes on Wednesday, now has six games of 40 points or more this season. The last player to do that in his team’s first 20 games: Jordan in 1986.

But this is not close to the same thing, because Jordan and Curry represent different levels of NBA invincibility.

In his prime, Jordan attacked the rim and defied gravity; Curry seems to exist in a dimension without it.

He just calmly places himself and the basketball wherever he wants while all other players whirl and tumble haphazardly around him.

NBA legend Jerry West, a Warriors executive, said the most notable part of Curry’s career track is that he works so hard in the off-season and keeps taking enormous strides.

“I think he’s going to create a new kind of player to be honest with you,” West said. “I think before it’s all said and done, here’s a guy that’s going to make his own place in history in a completely different manner than these other players have done.”

****

No. 2:   Team USA boss Jerry Colangelo not ready to hand Kobe a spot — You would think there would be lots of sentiment to put Kobe Bryant on Team USA in Rio next year purely because, from an accomplishment standpoint, Kobe has earned the right to be seriously considered. Call it a career achievement award, and also, as an American, Kobe has been at the forefront of international basketball from an active player’s standpoint. Anyway, not so fast. Jerry Colangelo said Kobe must earn a spot, which is hard to imagine Kobe doing at this stage of his career. Sam Amick of USA Today sat down with Colangelo about Kobe:

Colangelo, who barely missed his chance to take Bryant in the 1996 draft when he was running the Phoenix Suns, certainly has a soft spot for the future Hall of Famer. He discusses not only the Olympic decision here, but their relationship and a few memories inspired by Bryant’s retirement announcement.

Colangelo on Bryant’s interest …

“When I was approached originally about Kobe’s interest in potentially playing in the Olympics — this goes back early last summer, I guess, or spring — and the concept being that it would be great to end a career, win a gold medal and ride off into the sunset. That was just thrown my way by his agent, Rob Pelinka. I just took it in and I said, ‘Rob, I don’t rule anyone out, but it has got to be based on performance because there’s so many people who want (to be on the team) — everyone wants to be on the roster.’ So he says, ‘Well, absolutely, and that’s how Kobe feels. He wants to earn it.’ Well then a month later, the two of us were in New York at an NBA function, and Kobe and I had a chance to visit, and we talked about the same thing. He reiterated his interest, but also the fact that he didn’t want any gifts, that he wanted to — if he wasn’t capable of earning it, by his performance, then that was that.

“So just recently, with his announcement of retirement, some people have come back to me (on the topic). Nothing has changed for me. Again, the same criteria exists, which is (a player’s performance) this season. So we’ll just look at this season. And I know where he has struggled, and it’s not the same…but there are some people having really outstanding years.”

On sacrificing a spot for Bryant based largely on the sentimental component and the fact that a) the 12th man won’t play much and b) Team USA will be heavily favored to win gold regardless of who fills that spot …

“Let’s just put it this way: on one hand, you have what you just proposed. On the other hand, if someone is left off the team, like Kawhi Leonard or Paul George — and I’m just using names — for that purpose, then you have to weigh that fairness, to some degree. That’s all. So it’s not an easy call, and it’s one that I don’t have to make for quite some time. And I’m going to stick to that. I’ve got plenty of time. With out further ado …

****

No. 3: Paul Pierce says the Clippers need time — We’re all surprised by the Clippers struggling in the West. This is a veteran team, one with a dynamic duo in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, one coached by Doc Rivers. And yet, Paul Pierce, the championship-tested forward who was brought in to add a killer mentality to the locker room, says the Clippers need time to get it right. Um, OK. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has more from The Truth:

The Clippers were 10-9 through Friday, 9½ games behind the undefeated Warriors. What’s more troubling is that the Clippers’ struggles have occurred despite a home-heavy schedule. Los Angeles has played the most home games in the NBA, yet it can’t gain any consistency, getting drubbed by Indiana on Wednesday after a three-game winning streak.

Pierce has seen this before. The 2009-10 Celtics were the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference before making a run to the NBA Finals. He is hardly one to panic, but there appears to be so much pressure on Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan (none of whom have played in an NBA Finals) to carry the Clippers to unprecedented heights.

“I know we got the talent in here, we got all the pieces to put it together,” Pierce said. “People don’t understand we put together eight, nine new players. So it’s not always going to be easy like the team we put together where the chemistry is there right away. We’re still trying to find our chemistry but we know that the talent is here and what we’re capable of.

“I think everybody understands that we’ve got the talent that could do something special.”

Pierce has been a team leader and voice of reason, attempting to hammer home the message that championships aren’t won in November and December, and slow starts are sometimes indicative of a team that needs more time to develop cohesion.

“We’re experiencing [tough times] but the key is not getting frustrated,” he said. “Not getting bored, not getting tired of one another. Just keeping everybody’s spirits up. It’s a long season. We’re going to be a different team in another month or two months from now and a different team once playoffs come. Understand that it’s a process.

“These guys are who they are but I’m still going to be me, get to practice early, get my shots up, get my weights in, that’s going to be me until I’m done.”

As in his previous two stops after 15 years in Boston — Brooklyn and Washington — Pierce is off to a slow start. He is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and averaging a career-low 4.8 points. Murmurs that Pierce was done could be heard last year with the Wizards before he warmed up in the second half of the season and became their best clutch shooter.

“Physically I feel great,” Pierce said. “Doc does a really good job; I haven’t played a lot of minutes. I haven’t had to really deal with the physical grind of the practices. My body feels good. I just want to be able to leave this game on two feet, walking straight.”

****

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Wizards center Marcin Gortat will miss some time due to his mother’s illness … The Blazers are doing something bold and going with Noah Vonleh, who once was a lottery pick, as the starting power forward … Here’s a name to remember for Sixth Man of the Year candidate: Will Barton, who is turning heads in Denver … Meanwhile, the guy who might be the best at coming off the bench, Isaiah Thomas, has a big fan in Celtics coach Brad Stevens

Morning shootaround — Dec. 1


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lillard, Paul both leave game with injuries | Rondo: Failed Dallas stint ‘made me hungrier’ | Evans, Cole expected to debut tonight for Pelicans

No. 1: Lillard, Paul both leave Monday’s game early — Last night’s Blazers-Clippers game from Staples Center featured a showdown between two All-Star point guards that ended prematurely. Both Los Angeles star Chris Paul and Portland standout Damian Lillard exited the matchup early as injuries shortened both players’ evenings. Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net has more on Lillard’s injury, which sounds like he was more or less sick to his stomach all game:

Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard played the fewest minutes of any game in his career Monday night versus the Clippers, and the results were about what you would expect.

Lillard played just 17 minutes Monday night and left the game midway through the third quarter due to “abdominal pain” as the Trail Blazers fell 102-87 to the Clippers in front of a sellout crowd at Staples Center.

Portland is now 7-11 for the season and 3-7 on the road.

Though he started Monday night’s game, as he’s done for all 264 games of his NBA career, Lillard looked ill from the opening tip despite not having any flu-like symptom until less than an hour before tipoff.

“I felt fine,” said Lillard. “When I was shooting (pregame) I even felt myself getting a little bit winded, stomach felt a little bit tight, but I thought it was maybe because I took a nap, my body was waking up. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t feel sick. Then the game was about to start and going through warmups I started to feel a little bit sick. That was pretty much that.”

Though he played the entire first quarter, Lillard never looked like his usual self on the way to shooting 3-of-8 from the field for seven points.

“As soon as the game started I just felt weak,” said Lillard, who looked queasy while taking questions from the media postgame. “I played through it just to see if I’d be able to get myself going. I had never felt like that. Turning, running different directions, I wasn’t comfortable, stomach pain. I felt like at some point I was going to throw up on the court.”

Lillard would start the second half but played less than two minutes before calling it a night.

“I don’t know how serious it is but obviously (Lillard) wasn’t himself,” said coach Terry Stotts. “If he takes himself out you know he’s not feeling pretty well cause he’s played through a lot of things.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers head home for the second night of a back-to-back versus the Dallas Mavericks at the Moda Center Tuesday night. Lillard’s status for that game, which is the first time Wesley Matthews will return to the Moda Center since signing as a free agent with Dallas this offseason, is still to be determined.

“If I’m good enough to go then I’ll play,” said Lillard. “But I can’t go out there the way I was tonight. I know I can’t.”


VIDEO: Damian Lillard talks about why he left Monday’s game

As for Paul, he left the game with a strained rib muscle in the third quarter and was done for the night. Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com has more:

It was not immediately apparent how the injury occurred, but Paul was favoring his ribs and left the game early in the third quarter after posting 10 points, six assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes.

Paul will be reevaluated before a determination is made on the length of his absence. Portland point guard Damian Lillard (abdominal pain) also left the game early and didn’t return.

DeAndre Jordan said with Paul out, Blake Griffin has to become more of a passer, but he added that Austin Rivers has proven he can play.

“You can’t replace Chris, obviously,” Jordan said. “But we have to learn to play with somebody down. I may be down a game, Blake might be out. You have to learn to play without guys. That’s why we have such a deep team this year. Injuries happen, things happen, and we want to be able to fill that void.”

After playing all 82 regular season games last year, it’s been a tough injury stretch for Paul. The All-Star point guard strained his hamstring in the playoffs against the Spurs and has dealt with a fractured finger, a strained groin and now a rib issue early this season. The groin injury kept Paul out for three games earlier this year.

Head coach Doc Rivers liked the pace the Clippers still managed to play with when Paul left the game, and he thought Austin Rivers picked up his play defensively. Austin Rivers will have to be counted on to do that, and Doc Rivers said the Clippers will need to look to Griffin more now to handle the ball.

“Austin and Blake, it’s a combination,” Doc Rivers said. “They share the ball. Whenever Chris is out, Blake and the point guard do the ball-handling duties. It’s nice when you have a guy like Blake that can do stuff like that.”


VIDEO: Chris Paul leaves the game Monday against the Blazers

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Davis expected to start for Pelicans

VIDEO: Anthony Davis injures knee on Friday night at the Clippers.

In an already injury-plagued season for the Pelicans, it was a hold-your-breath moment when Anthony Davis had to be helped off the floor with a knee injury Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles.

But now the team has listed Davis in the probable starting lineup for Saturday night’s game in Utah.

Pelicans medical staff checked with the All-Star forward after he limped to the bench and did not schedule additional testing. Davis was diagnosed with a bruised right knee as the result of a collision with the Clippers’ Chris Paul in the third quarter. He went to the locker room and did not return to the game.

When the Pelicans released the projected starting lineup for the game with the Jazz, Davis was in his usual spot at power forward along with small forward Alonzo Gee, center Omer Asik and guards Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday.

The Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans (injured knee) is listed as doubtful.