Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Cavaliers’

Morning shootaround — Jan. 25


VIDEO: Highlights from Saturday’s NBA action

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Aldridge 1, injured thumb 0 | Pistons fear Achilles worst for Jennings | Waiters believes he has grown | Lakers didn’t treat Bryant properly?

No. 1: Aldridge 1, injured thumb 0 — Black was going to be the color of the night heading toward the Portland Trail Blazers’ home game against Washington Saturday, the proper attire for the sort of mourning already going on over forward LaMarcus Aldridge‘s injured left thumb and the six-to-eight weeks Aldridge likely was going to miss recuperating and rehabbing. But then Aldridge surprised Blazers fans by announcing that he would postpone surgery and try to play with the torn ligament. And he did just that in Portland’s 103-96 victory, putting the “triumphant” into his return with 26 points, nine rebounds and one splint. Here’s some of the quotage from the Blazers’ locker room:

Head coach Terry Stotts: “Well it was a win that we needed to get. Understatement: it was good to have LA back. I’m glad he had a good game with the thumb and the splint. It was very encouraging.”

Blazers guard Wesley Matthews: “He was big time. Even if he didn’t have the monster game that he did, I think just his presence and his sacrifice of his own body and for him to recognize how special this season is and can be and continue to be, for him to give that up to be out there with us in the trenches, it speaks volumes. … He can’t sit out. He doesn’t want to sit out. He loves this game and figures if he’s got something to give, he’s going to give. I can relate to that.”

Aldridge: “I felt okay. There was a few moments where I got it hit or whatever, and it was kind of tender. But for the most part, it was okay. … I was just trying to work with it. I kind of figured it out as the game went on, how to use it or whatever, and I kind of played with it.”

More Aldridge, on the Moda Center crowd reaction: “It was humbling. I thought they definitely showed me love and they respected what I was doing at that moment, trying to play through it, so that was humbling.”

 

Not all was sweetness and light on the injury front in Portland, however. Wing Nicolas Batum sat out Saturday’s game after aggravating a right wrist injury Thursday against Boston. He initially hurt it when he took a spill in Milwaukee Dec. 17. Here is an update from The Oregonian:

Batum missed the next game, Dec. 19 at San Antonio, then played in the next two games before sitting out the Dec. 23 game at Oklahoma City. He said he has aggravated the injury several times – usually when he falls to the court. On Thursday against Boston, it was a third quarter fall that took him out of the game and ultimately led to him missing Saturday’s 103-96 victory over Washington.

Batum, who is wearing an immobilizing brace, said he is unsure whether he will rest and let the wrist heal, or continue playing through discomfort during the Blazers upcoming trip at Brooklyn, Cleveland, Atlanta and Milwaukee.

He is averaging 9.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 38 games. He is shooting 38.7 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from three-point range, figures he largely attributes to his ailing wrist.

“It’s my shooting wrist,” Batum said.

***

No. 2: Pistons fear Achilles worst for Jennings — The pain in which Brandon Jennings writhed on the court at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee Saturday night — you could almost feel it. The way the Detroit Pistons’ point guard grimaced and banged the floor with one hand, while grabbing at his left ankle with the other, was palpable. Jennings, who had been rejuvenated along with the Detroit Pistons since they reconfigured their attack in a post-Josh Smith world, suffered a serious injury when he took a defensive step back on an inbounds play, and most who saw the replay and its aftermath immediately began to think of a torn Achilles tendon. That included teammate Caron Butler, as chronicled by the Detroit News:

“I saw him in pain, just the way he was. It was the second time I’ve seen something like that,” Butler said after Saturday’s game.

If Jennings didn’t know exactly what it was at the time, Butler had a good enough idea, remembering a former teammate Pistons fans should be familiar with.

Chauncey Billups,” Butler said, his face cringing at the memory of Billups’ Achilles tear in 2012 when both were members of the L.A. Clippers.

“It happened in Orlando. We were playing good basketball, Chauncey was playing great. I was right next to him. He asked, ‘Did you kick me?’ I said, ‘Nah, I didn’t touch you.’ He was on the ground grimacing so he got up and went back down because he couldn’t move. He just started hopping.”

The Pistons know how important Jennings has been, averaging 19.8 points since Smith was released. They were expecting a medical update Sunday, with backup D.J. Augustin poised to step into a bigger role again this season the way he did in Chicago when Derrick Rose got hurt early last season.

Like a quarterback, Jennings touched the ball every single play he was on the floor, the most improved player in the last 15 games. Averaging 21.3 points and 7.5 assists on 44-percent shooting tells only part of the story.

“He’s tapped into a part of his DNA that says he’s a star and he’s got to that place,” Butler said. “And we were riding him out. Greg and Andre and everybody’s gonna have to raise the bar.”

“He’s been the guy who’s been our catalyst offensively,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He’s been averaging 20 a game, high-assist, low-turnover, playing at the highest level of his career. Was a huge factor in the previous 15 games so, it’s a major, major loss.”

A Pistons teammate who suffered a shared his experience with the Detroit Free Press:

Jonas Jerebko, who tore his Achilles in 2010 in the first preseason game of his second season, said he had a chance to talk to Jennings.

He wouldn’t say what was discussed, but recalled his injury.

“It was like learning to walk again,” Jerebko said with a slight chuckle. “You really started off there, but you know we have the best in the business with [physical therapist] Arnie Kander.”

***

No. 3: Waiters believes he has grownDion Waiters was back in Cleveland with his new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, in anticipation of Sunday’s clash with the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. He’s the shooting guard traded a couple of weeks back in the deal that delivered New York’s J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland, part of a roster makeover credited – along with LeBron James‘ spa-shutdown of two weeks to heal and invigorate – for the Cavs’ boost in play. Waiters didn’t sound like an eager participant but he did submit to and answer questions from the media, including ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, on topics such as being scapegoated and his rapport with star teammates past and present.

“I ain’t really care what nobody say. It ain’t affect me. I slept good every night. I slept good every night. So, I mean, that’s what comes with the territory. That’s what comes with it when you got somebody like LeBron who brings all that attention around the team when we wasn’t used to having that. So the littlest things that you do, they be like the biggest. It’s so crazy. But it is what it is. I’m not in that situation anymore. Over here it’s still the same situation, but it’s different. I’m happy, I’m comfortable already two weeks in and I feel like I’ve grown. I’ve grown in a short period of time as a player and off the court.”

Waiters is averaging 11.4 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.8 steals on 39.8 percent shooting from the floor and 25 percent shooting from 3-point range in eight games with the Thunder. His production is nearly identical to the 10.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals on 40.4 percent from the field and 25.6 percent from 3 that he averaged for Cleveland this season before the trade.

The difference is in the win-loss column. The Thunder are 5-3 since acquiring Waiters. The Cavs are on an upswing as well, winners of five in a row.

“Both teams are doing great — winning,” Waiters said. “Everybody seems at ease now and that’s what it’s about, just being happy, being comfortable and having fun, getting an opportunity. That’s what it’s about.”

While his relationship with James has apparently ended, Waiters explained why reigning MVP Kevin Durant has embraced him.

“From the outside looking in, he probably saw how things were looking or how I’m always the odd man out and things like that. How it was going, how my name was always in something and half the time it probably never was me,” Waiters said. “I was that guy who you point the finger at, but I was fine with it. I could take it. I didn’t have no pressure on me. I didn’t have no pressure on me. My job is to go out there and play basketball, get as many wins as we can as a unit and unfortunately, it didn’t work out. And I think the organizations made great decisions on the moves and it’s helping both teams.”

***

No. 4: Lakers didn’t treat Bryant properly? — We return now to our regularly scheduled injury news – notice a trend in these daily reports? – and to the suggestion by ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Baxter Holmes that the Lakers, and specifically coach Byron Scott, could have handled the early days of Kobe Bryant‘s shoulder injury better. Instead, by letting Bryant continue to play after an overload of early-season minutes, Scott’s decision might have contributed to the torn rotator cuff on which they’ll all be updated Monday.

In hindsight, these issues appear greatly troubling, because just as Bryant must treat every aspect of his health, training and diet so seriously at this age just so he can perform, so too must the Lakers, and especially Scott, be ever so cautious with him.

That’s all the more true because Bryant is the Lakers’ sole attraction during an awful season, the lone reason for fans to tune in or attend games, all they really have to look forward to until the draft lottery. From a business sense, Bryant is their cash cow — their extremely well-paid cash cow — and thus missteps are extremely costly.

Where does blame lie? Certainly some falls on Bryant. He’s as powerful as any figure within the Lakers’ organization and as powerful as any player within any NBA franchise. If he wanted to play fewer minutes, he could have. If he wanted to get his shoulder examined earlier, he could have. The only person who could’ve stopped Kobe was Kobe, but he didn’t, because Kobe is Kobe. He believes he will overcome.

So the blame truly falls on Scott, who hasn’t been shy about admitting his fault in the issue. And, to a greater degree, the blame truly falls on the entire organization for not stepping in at some point earlier on when Bryant was playing all those minutes.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Washington’s John Wall wants Ray Allen to join the Wizards, but the All-Star point guard is busy enough without adding recruiting duties. … Brooklyn’s players and coaches admit they were shocked to learn of forward Mirza Teletovic’s season-ending condition … Houston’s Jason Terry still intends to play until he’s 40, and he’s surprised Shawn Marion won’t. … The photographer who first snapped Michael Jordan in that iconic, soaring pose is suing Nike over its use of the Jumpman logo. … Charlotte’s Marvin Williams did suffer a concussion when he took that elbow from New York’s Jason Smith.

 

Morning shootaround — Jan. 24


VIDEO: All the highlights from Friday’s NBA action

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Amazing Klay | Hawks soaring | Here come the Cavs? | Teletovic out for the season

No. 1: Amazing Klay — Last night against the Sacramento Kings, Golden State’s Klay Thompson did something last night nobody in the history of the NBA had ever managed to do: He scored 37 points in one quarter. He was so hot that nothing slowed him down, not double-teams, not timeouts. Thompson didn’t miss a shot in the period and scored 37 of Golden State’s 41 in the third, effectively ending the Kings’ chances with each increasingly improbable three. Diamond Leung, the Warriors’ beat writer from the Bay Area Media Group, writes that after the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr even compared Thompson to another wing player who was known to get buckets

He delivered the most electrifying game of his career, going 16-for-25 from the field and 11-for-15 from 3-point range in 33 minutes to lift the Warriors to their 35th win of the season at the midway point and a franchise-record 18th straight victory at home.

Thompson was 9-for-9 from 3-point range in the third as the rest of the Warriors kept passing him the ball in a quarter when he scored 37 of their 41 points.

“As many spectacular things as Michael (Jordan) did, which he did nightly, I never saw him do that,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who won three NBA championships playing with Jordan.

“It was reminiscent of Michael because it’s sort of otherworldly.”

The Kings as a team scored 22 in the third, and their hopes for an upset were dashed after Thompson began flicking his wrist.

Thompson made a steal, stepped back and made a 3-pointer to put the Warriors ahead 63-60 before hitting another to make it 66-64.

Stephen Curry fed him on a one-handed alley-oop after which Thompson continued his barrage. He even got a shooter’s roll on one of the 3-pointers.

Thompson brought down the house going it alone against the Kings defense with a jumper that gave the Warriors an 89-70 lead. Another 3-pointer made it 95-71.

“I was taking a lot of bad shots out there, but I was taking one until I missed, and I just got lucky,” Thompson said.

With 4.9 seconds in the third, Thompson hit two free throws that gave him 50 points for the game to become the 12th player in franchise history to score at least that number. His previous career highs were 41 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in November and eight 3-pointers at Sacramento last season.

Thompson hit two free throws in the fourth before checking out of the game to an ovation with 9:28 left.

“He was typical Klay,” Draymond Green said of Thompson on the sideline. “Just sitting there. His favorite line: ‘It’s crazy.’ That’s all he said.”

His third quarter had set the NBA record for points, and falling with it was a significant franchise mark. Wilt Chamberlain in his 100-point game in 1962 held the previous record with 31 points in a quarter.

“It’s that number 37 in a quarter that’s unbelievable. I thought I’d never see that,” Curry said after using his phone to watch video of Thompson’s performance again.

Up until Thompson began hoisting shots into history, the Warriors were struggling to put away Sacramento, which entered the game having lost five in a row.

Kerr was angry at halftime, telling his players he wouldn’t be calling plays in order to let them figure things out themselves. The Warriors had led by 18 points in the first quarter, but the Kings grabbed the lead after halftime.

“Get the ball to Klay, and Klay get the ball,” Kerr said. “Those are the two plays they ran.”

Said Thompson: “They just kept wanting to see the show. That’s what they kept telling me. When your teammates have confidence in you like that, you can do extraordinary things.”

***

No. 2: Hawks Soaring — Meanwhile, on the other coast, the Atlanta Hawks just keep winning. They entered last night’s game against Oklahoma City with a gaudy 35-8 record, winners of 14 in a row and 27 or their last 29. But that streak got put to a serious test last night as they hosted a potent Oklahoma City Thunder team hungry for a win. And through one half, after a dozen turnovers, the Hawks looked like they didn’t mind if their win streak came to an end. But that turned around in the second half, and the Hawks won going away, 103-93, for a franchise-record 15th win in a row

The Atlanta Hawks romped to their 15th straight victory, the longest streak in franchise history.

Don’t expect them to savor it for long.

This team is focused firmly on what’s in front of them.

Paul Millsap scored 22 points, Jeff Teague added 17 and the Hawks broke the record with a 103-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

“It’s a good accomplishment,” Millsap said, sitting in a rather somber locker room. “But it’s just another win.”

The wins keep piling up for a team that no one expected to be a title contender at the beginning of the season. Before a raucous sellout crowd, the Hawks came out on top for the 29th time in 31 games to extend their Eastern-best record to 36-8.

As usual, pretty much everyone chipped in.

Four starters were in double figures and backup point guard Dennis Schröder led a spurt at the start of the fourth quarter that helped the Hawks pull away. He finished with 13 points and five assists, igniting the arena with a towering finger roll that dropped gently through the net.

“Give me five really good guys,” Millsap said, “and I’ll go out there and win with ‘em.”

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 22 points, but it wasn’t enough to extend their four-game winning streak.

Kevin Durant added 21 points, while Serge Ibaka with 13 was the only other Thunder player in double figures.

The Hawks were much more balanced. Al Horford had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while DeMarre Carroll chipped in with 13 points. Kyle Korver was the only starter who didn’t reach double figures, but even he chipped in with a play that had everyone talking: another dunk in the waning seconds of the first half that sent the Hawks to the locker room with a 48-47 lead.

They never trailed again, strolling off the court at the end with the public-address announcer screaming “15 in a row!”

“It’s cool to get your name in the record book,” Carroll said. “At the same time, we’ve got bigger tasks at hand. That’s making it to the playoffs and bringing an NBA championship to Atlanta.”

The crowd of 19,203 marked the third sellout in Atlanta’s last four games. In a sign that the attendance-challenged city is really getting behind its team, most of the crowd came to cheer for the home team rather than to see an out-of-town star.

“They’ve jumped on the bandwagon now,” Durant said. “The crowd was great tonight and really helped them out.”

He’s also impressed with what Atlanta is putting on the court.

“They’re a really good team,” he said – over and over again.

***

No. 3: Here come the Cavs? — It’s been a rough start for the Cleveland Cavaliers, marked by losing streaks, coaching questions, trades and injuries. But last night, with all the principles healthy and on the court together, the Cavaliers swatted the Charlotte Hornets, 129-90. It was Cleveland’s fifth straight win, and exactly the kind of dominant performance LeBron James and the Cavs were looking for when they constructed this team, writes the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Joe Vardon

That’s five wins in a row for the Cavs after losing six straight. They limited the Hornets to 40 percent shooting and caused 12 turnovers.

“Right now, I feel like this is the team that I envisioned,” James said.

In the middle of a long season, there really isn’t anything more important James could say than that.

It’s been a turbulent return campaign for James in Cleveland, and even with these last five victories the Cavs are only 24-20 and in fifth place in the East.

James admitted his team is just one losing streak from all the progress, all the good feeling, unraveling again. He sounded, and looks, like he plans to guard against that.

A three-minute, 20-second stretch in the second quarter said it all.

Cleveland was already up by 22 when James came charging into the lane before pulling up for a short floater. Thirty-seven seconds later, he drove in for a finger roll and was fouled.

Then, a steal. After that, another layup. Next possession, two free throws.

Oh, there’s more.

James stole the ball again, this time dribbling down for a left-handed windmill dunk that sounds easier than it looked. [Kyrie] Irving drained a three and then he stole the ball. Four seconds later, [J.R.] Smith tossed a half-court alley-oop to James that he might not have even tried to catch a few weeks ago.

Still not done. James stole the ball, again, and the Cavs scored on a lob, again. James passed (from halfcourt, no less) and Kevin Love caught it for a layup.

At the end of that sequence, it was 62-27 with 5:48 to play in the half.

“This is the style of basketball I envisioned,” James said. “Obviously the points we put up I don’t envision that every night, but how we share the ball, how we defend, that should be our staple.”

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford was asked before the game if James looked different on film recently than when the Hornets last played him on Dec. 15. The reason for the question – James’ obvious progress athletically since his two-week rest from nagging injury.

“He always looks pretty good,” Clifford said. “So yesterday when I started, he’s always fun to watch. And then as you get closer to the game time and making decisions about how you’re going to try to stop him, it’s not nearly as much fun.”

***

No. 4: Teletovic out for the season — It hasn’t been a great season for the Brooklyn Nets, who’ve had to deal with injuries to Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, trade rumors, and talk that their owner wants to sell the franchise. And now they’re out another player, as forward Mirza Teletovic has been diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, ending his season as he seeks treatment, writes Andrew Keh of the New York Times

Teletovic, a 29-year-old forward from Bosnia and Herzegovina, left Thursday’s game in Los Angeles after experiencing a shortness of breath and was transported to the California Medical Center.

The Nets on Friday morning said Teletovic would remain hospitalized to undergo further examination and begin treatment with blood thinners.

“Our first thoughts are with Mirza and his family,” General Manager Billy King said in a statement, praising the team’s medical staff and the emergency room doctors for their work. “I have visited with Mirza this morning and he is in good spirits as he begins his treatment and recovery.”

Blood clots can form for a variety of reasons, with long travel and surgical procedures among the most common risk factors. Blood clots near the lungs carry an increased risk of sudden death, said Dr. Alexis C. Colvin, a sports medicine specialist at Mt. Sinai Hospital, who was speaking generally and not about Teletovic’s specific case.

Teletovic posted a message on Twitter late Thursday night that read, “I had a small problem, but now everything is ok… Thx all fans from Bosnia, Spain and USA for support.”

The struggling Nets will miss Teletovic, who was averaging a career-high 22.3 minutes per game this season. They lost by 39 points to the Clippers, and their record dropped to 18-25. They had already been missing point guard Deron Williams, who fractured a left rib earlier this month.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Lakers and Kobe Bryant should get some clarity regarding the options for his injured shoulder after a meeting with doctors on Monday … Dallas’s Rajon Rondo sat down the stretch last night against Chicago, but Rondo and coach Rick Carlisle say it’s no big dealMark Cuban says the All-Star voting process is “absolutely, positively broken” … The Brandon Jennings/Brandon Knight trade is one of those rare deals that worked out well for both teams … Could the Clippers be free agent Nate Robinson‘s destination? …

Morning shootaround — Jan. 23


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Blazers try to hold it together | Popovich, Rose stick up for Thibodeau | Riley not itching to make deals | Report: Wizards interested in Allen, too

No. 1: Blazers trying to hold it together now — Without a doubt, there have been better weeks this season for the Portland Trail Blazers than the one they’re in right now. Yesterday came news that All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge will miss 6-8 weeks following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. Then came last night’s game against the Boston Celtics (which Portland lost, 90-89), sending the Blazers to their fifth loss in six games. Within that game, starting small forward Nicolas Batum injured his wrist and did not return. All of this has Portland circling its wagons, writes Sean Meagher of The Oregonian:

The Portland Trail Blazers will be without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge for the next 6-8 weeks as the three-time All-Star will havesurgery on a torn ligament in his left hand.

The Blazers, who have lost five of their last six games following Thursday’s 90-89 loss to the Boston Celtics, refuse to feel sorry for themselves despite a rash of injuries (which included Nicolas Batum re-aggravating a sore wrist) over the last month.

“I don’t want to get into not having LaMarcus and I don’t want to get into having Nic out there,” head coach Terry Stotts said after the game. “Everybody knows what Nic can bring and what LA brings, so we have to figure out different ways of scoring and sometimes different ways of playing.”

“We’ve got to hold down the fort,” added guard Wesley Matthews. “We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to find ways to win and continue to play basketball the right way.”


VIDEO: Terry Stotts talks about the Blazers’ myriad of injuries

(more…)

New faces, new places for All-Star starters

VIDEO: Stephen Curry is the leading vote-getter for the NBA All-Star Game starters

NEW YORK CITY — The 2015 All-Star Game will feature several first-time starters, as well several players making return All-Star appearances while representing new places. But perhaps the most surprising news from the All-Star voting results is a changing of the guard atop the polls.

NBA All-Star 2015Cleveland’s LeBron James, last season’s overall vote-getting leader while a member of the Miami Heat, led the voting through each of the initial voting updates this season. But a late push from Golden State’s Stephen Curry made the Warriors guard the overall leader, with 1,513,324 votes to James’ 1,470,483.

The other big surprise in final voting totals was the rise of Toronto’s Kyle Lowry. In the first voting totals, announced on Christmas Day, Lowry was in fourth among Eastern Conference guards, behind Washington’s John Wall, Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving. Irving started last season’s game for the Eastern Conference and went on to win the All-Star Game MVP.

In the most recent results, announced two weeks ago, Lowry had leapfrogged Irving to move into third place but was still over 100,000 votes behind Wade, with 406,974 votes to Wade’s 507,326 . But the Raptors campaigned hard for Lowry, with social media support from people like hip-hop star Drake and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which apparently rallied enough support to push the 28-year-old Lowry, who has never been an All-Star, into the starting lineup. Lowry finished with 805,290 votes to Wade’s 789,839.

Last season’s second-leading vote-getter was Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, with 1,396,294 votes. Durant went on to win his first NBA MVP award. But Durant has missed 23 of OKC’s 42 games this season while recovering from a foot fracture, while his teammate Russell Westbrook, himself a three-time All-Star, has missed 14 games with a hand injury.

For the second year in a row, forwards and centers were lumped into one frontcourt category. Each conference’s starting five will include one of the Gasol brothers — Memphis’ Marc for the West and Chicago’s Pau for the East, in his first season as an Eastern Conference player. New Orleans big man Anthony Davis, who one year ago made his All-Star debut as a Western Conference reserve, will join Marc in the Western Conference starting lineup, giving the West plenty of size along the front line.

Some players are noticeable by their absence. Despite winning the NBA title in dominant fashion a season ago, no San Antonio Spurs players were named to the starting lineup in the West. And in the East, no Atlanta Hawks charted among the top five, even though the Hawks currently are 35-8 and have a six game lead atop the Eastern Conference.

Houston’s James Harden probably has the best claim to a starting spot among those not voted to the starting fives. Harden currently leads the NBA in points per game at 27.2 per night. This year he was the only player over a million votes (1,069,368) not to make the starting lineup.

But could history repeat itself? Last season Harden was selected as an injury replacement for Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference starting lineup, and the announcement earlier today that Kobe Bryant suffered a torn rotator cuff last night puts his participation this year in doubt. If Bryant is unable to play, the Western Conference All-Star coach, Steve Kerr, will select his replacement in the starting lineup from among the players selected as reserves, where Harden would seem to be a lock. The reserves will be announced next Thursday night, Jan. 29.

Golden State’s Kerr will be the first rookie coach to coach in an All-Star Game since Larry Bird in 1998. Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, who is just in his second year as an NBA head coach, will coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be exclusively televised on TNT from Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Feb. 15.

THE EAST

Frontcourt

LeBron James, Cavaliers — No surprise that the league’s reigning best all-around player made the cut. After flipping from Miami to Cleveland in the offseason and a slow start with the Cavs, James recently sat out 8 games to recuperate from nagging injuries. In five games since returning, King James has averaged 30.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 6.0 apg.

Carmelo Anthony, Knicks — This must be a high point in an otherwise rough season for Anthony, who has averaged 24 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 33 games for the woeful Knicks, who are just 7-36 on the season. Anthony will likely be the only New York or Brooklyn representative in the game.

Pau Gasol, Bulls After 13 seasons in the Western Conference with the Grizzlies and Lakers, a move East to Chicago has vaulted Gasol into his first All-Star game since 2011, and the first All-Star start of his career. It’s well-deserved: At 34 years old, Gasol is averaging 18.7 ppg along with a career-high 11.4 rpg.

Backcourt

John Wall, Wizards — After making his first All-Star appearance one year ago as a reserve, this season Wall was voted in as the leader among Eastern Conference guards. The 24-year-old Wall is having a breakout season, leading the Wiz to a 29-14 record while averaging 17 ppg and leading the NBA at 10 apg.

Kyle Lowry, Raptors In his ninth NBA season, for the last few seasons Lowry has been the Eastern Conference player probably most deserving of an All-Star nod that never came. This season, Lowry is averaging 19.8 ppg, 7.5 apg and 4.9 rpg, career highs across the board.

THE WEST

Frontcourt

Blake Griffin, Clippers — All-Star Weekend is nothing new for Griffin — he’s been a participant every year since 2011, the same year he won the Slam Dunk Contest by leaping over a car. But his game has evolved over the years, using less power and more touch. This season Griffin is averaging 23 ppg and 7.6 rpg for the 28-14 Clippers.

Marc Gasol, Grizzlies — The younger Gasol brother has made just one previous All-Star appearance, in 2012. But Gasol was named the Defensive Player of the Year last season, and this season has assumed a central role in the Memphis attack, posting 8.2 rpg along with a career-high 19.3 ppg.

Anthony Davis, Pelicans – The Unibrow is officially among the NBA elite. After a summer anchoring the gold medal-winning USA Basketball team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Davis has continued his strong play into the season. The versatile 21-year-old seven-footer, in just his third NBA season, is currently averaging a double-double, with 24.3 ppg to go with 10.4 rpg, as well as leading the league with 2.9 blocks a night.

Backcourt

Stephen Curry, Warriors – Thus far this season, Curry has been the best player for the league’s best team. In his sixth NBA season, Curry is averaging 23.2 ppg and 8.1 apg for the Warriors, who began the season 16-0 and are currently 34-6 overall.

Kobe Bryant, Lakers — After sitting out last year’s game while recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, the Mamba was again selected an All-Star starter, although like last season, an injury could curtail his participation. Even at 36 years old, the 16-time All-Star has remained effective, averaging 22.3 points per game this season in 35 appearances.

All-Star starters announced tonight on TNT

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Can the King stay on top?

The race between Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry to be the overall leader in voting for the 2015 All-Star Game looks to be coming down to the wire.

NBA All-Star 2015We will discover the winner tonight with the announcement of the 2015 NBA All-Star Game starters, which airs live on TNT at 7 p.m. ET.

LeBron has led in both the Eastern Conference and overall voting since initial totals were announced, totaling 971,299 votes in the most recent returns. Right on James’ heels was Curry, with 958,014 votes.

Sandwiched around the announcement of those voting totals, James missed eight games to rest injuries. Whether that absence will cut into James’ overall vote total remains to be seen. Since returning, he’s played in five games, averaging 30.6 ppg, 7.o rpg and 6.0 apg.

With attention focused on Curry and James at the top of the charts, it’s probably also worth keeping an eye on New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, who at last count was third overall with 922,381 votes, nearly 50,000 behind James but making Davis the only player besides James and Curry with over 900,000 total votes.

There haven’t been any changes in either Conference’s starting five since the initial voting totals were announced, but a significant surge happened in the last announcement totals. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry leapfrogged Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving to move into third among Eastern Conference guards behind John Wall and Dwyane Wade. The Raptors have mounted a significant social media campaign to get out the vote for Lowry, though at last count Lowry was still well behind Wade (406,974 votes to Wade’s 507,326).

If voting patterns hold, joining James, Wall and Wade as starters for the Eastern Conference should be Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol.

For the Western Conference, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Marc Gasol look to hold on to their spots alongside Curry and Davis in the starting lineup.

With last night’s Atlanta win over Indiana, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer clinched the job of coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars and Golden State’s Steve Kerr will helm the Western Conference. Yet aside from Curry, no other players from either team were in the top five at any position in either conference in the most recent voting.

The starting lineups will be revealed during a special one-hour edition of the Emmy Award-winning pregame show “Inside the NBA,” featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the Spurs at the Bulls (8 p.m. ET) and the Nets at the Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET).

The 64th NBA All-Star Game will be played in New York City’s iconic Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Knicks, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night — including the Sears Shooting Stars, Taco Bell Skills Challenge, Foot Locker Three-Point Contest and Sprite Slam Dunk — will be held at Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 22


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bryant hurts shoulder | Report: LeBron talks Cavs with Allen | Karl wants one more NBA coaching gig | Anthony blasts ‘tanking’ talk

No. 1: Bryant injures shoulder, but is worried about Lakers’ free agency — Kobe Bryant has appeared in 35 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 43 games this season, including last night’s eventual loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. During that game, Bryant suffered what the team termed right shoulder soreness in the third quarter after a two-handed dunk. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports that Bryant will need an MRI on the shoulder, but the Lakers’ star was more worried about the team’s offeseason plan than his injury:

Kobe Bryant slung a designer backpack over his shoulders — both of them, it was important to note — and talked about something eminently important to him.

He left a game because of a sore right shoulder from a third-quarter dunk, unable to finish in the fourth after firing up two shots, both with his left hand, in a 96-80 loss Wednesday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Lakers said there would be an MRI exam Thursday, but Bryant didn’t seem concerned. He was more interested in discussing his pitch to would-be free agents in July.

“It’s a pretty simple message. It’s the best organization in the world, best brands in the world,” he said, reluctant to name names because of the NBA’s tampering rules. “We win championships. That’s what we do. It would be much more than … Xs and O’s and style of play, things of that nature. There’s no place like winning in Los Angeles, man.”

But Bryant lauded the ability of Lakers General Mitch Kupchak.

“It’s phenomenal, so much so that the league had to protest a trade that he made,” Bryant said, referring to the vetoed Chris Paul deal in 2011. “When you pull that off and save money, what other GM could pull that off? You’ve kind of got to lean on the track record of the front office and the decisions that they make. He makes really solid ones.”

Meanwhile, there was a game Wednesday and a baseline dunk by Bryant against a surprised Dante Cunningham. But as Bryant said, “I felt fine when I went up, didn’t feel too good when I came down.”

He added that the shoulder “came out a little bit. It’s been bothering me a lot but right now it’s a little achy.”

When Bryant re-entered in the fourth, he quickly made a 14-foot turnaround with his left hand but then airballed an eight-foot hook shot, also with his left. He dribbled and passed almost exclusively with his left hand.

Bryant walked off the court and straight to the locker room after the Lakers called a timeout with 1:09 to play. He didn’t rule himself out of Friday’s game against San Antonio.

“I’ve played with a torn labrum before,” Bryant said, adding he played with a separated shoulder earlier in his career.

Earlier in the day, Bryant filmed a scene for a movie with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg called “Daddy’s Home.” Bryant shot it with the two stars in his Lakers warmups at the Pelicans’ arena.

Later, at halftime, fans were encouraged to stay in their seats as Ferrell came out and made a mockery of a halfcourt shooting contest in two takes. After the cameras turned off, Ferrell, a frequent courtside presence at Lakers games, hugged Jordan Hill and Nick Young before leaving the court.


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant tries to play solely with his left hand after his injury

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Blogtable: Biggest midseason surprise (and disappointment)?

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: Midseason surprises? | Texas playoff showdown? | What to do with Austin?



VIDEONBA TV’s crew takes stock of the league at midseason

> We’re halfway through the season. Who or what has been the biggest surprise these first 41 games? And biggest disappointment?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Anyone around the league who claims they saw the Atlanta Hawks doing this should be selling cars or running for office. No bleeping way. Year 2 under coach Mike Budenholzer, Jeff Teague‘s blossoming, Kyle Korver‘s outlier first half statistically and a pass-first, ensemble approach is one of the NBA’s best stories. As for disappointments, I’m looking at the Brooklyn Nets. Even though they’re reaping what they sowed with big talk, overspending and acquiring some wrong guys, it’s disheartening to see the Brooklyn honeymoon fizzle so fast.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Two words nobody ever expected to be typing before the season began: Atlanta Hawks. Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, et al have risen under the brilliant coaching job of Mike Budenholzer to become a stylistic clone of the defending champion Spurs and the best team in the Eastern Conference. To lift what has been a moribund franchise for more than three decades, is positively breathtaking. When it comes to disappointments, all conversations will begin and end in Cleveland, where LeBron James returned home to acclamation and promptly found himself knee-deep in team-wise cluelessness. But let’s not let Lance Stephenson off the hook for all he hasn’t done in Charlotte. Possibly the worst $27 million anybody has ever spent.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Surprise: Hawks. I thought they would be good. But like fourth-in-the-East good. Capable of winning a series or two, not at the elite level yet. This, though. To be 10-2 against the West along with 17-5 on the road, not to mention the long win streak of the moment, is filled with positives for an organization that really needed good news. Disappointment: Cavaliers. Easy call. I’m also disappointed in the 76ers. That roster should have the fewest wins in the league. Come on, Philly, don’t let the Knicks out-bad you. You worked too hard to be the worst.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Surprise to the Hawks, disappointment to the Knicks. Well, yeah, I can hear folks now: What about the Cavs? And that’s valid. However, I had a hunch the Cavs would need time (though not this much time) after blending in a new coach and three stars and also losing Anderson Varejao. LeBron said as much last summer. The Knicks are flat-out an embarrassment and, unlike Cleveland, have given up. As for the Hawks, they may be based in the East but they’re beating up good teams from the West. Unreal for a team that won 38 games last season and didn’t add anyone.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: My first answers are the Hawks and Cavs, for obvious reasons. But I’ll add the Bucks and Pelicans to mix things up. Milwaukee has taken advantage of the relative weakness of the Eastern Conference and doesn’t have a lot of quality wins, but I’d assumed that they would be one of the teams being taken advantage of (again). Jason Kidd has taken a young cast without a star and turned it into the most improved defensive team in the league. That was supposed to be New Orleans, with the addition of Omer Asik and development of Anthony Davis. But New Orleans has taken only the smallest step forward on defense and still ranks in the bottom six of that end of the floor. I didn’t think that they would make the playoffs, but with that frontline, I thought they could at least make a big jump defensively.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Until someone slows them down the Hawks remain the obvious and easy answer for the biggest surprise. No one saw this coming. NO ONE! But I think you could make just as strong an argument for the Portland Trail Blazers. Those 19 home wins and the way Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both played throughout the first half of the season certainly fueled this team. They have some of my favorite role players (Nic Batum and the ridiculously underrated Wesley Matthews) on their roster, too. They didn’t add any star power over the summer or do anything to suggest they were ready for a leap into the top two or three of the West. Coach Terry Stotts has done a great job, but sustaining this flow becomes the challenge for the second half of the season. It’s tough to get up there to the top of the standings. It’s even tougher to stay there for the long haul. The biggest disappointment … the options are endless. Based on my own internal expectations, it would be hard to top the New York Knicks. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were going to struggle with the transition. But the worst team in basketball, worse than Philadelphia or Minnesota? I didn’t see this face-plant coming.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Hawks are absolutely the biggest surprise, so much so that the other unforeseen performances – by the Warriors, Grizzlies, Rockets and Bucks – don’t seem so surprising by comparison. The biggest disappointment has been the Cavaliers: Not so much for their record as for the way they’ve reacted. I figured by now they would be showing more camaraderie and character and leadership, especially at the defensive end. And if there is any hint that their failure to pull together is the fault of the coach then further shame on them.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The Atlanta Hawks have been nothing short of shocking. I say that as a native Atlantan and former Hawks season-ticket holder who watches every Hawks game and even wrote the NBA.com Hawks season preview. If I didn’t see a 33-8 start coming I don’t expect anyone else to have suspected it either. On both ends of the floor, night after night, the Hawks have been a total delight to watch, and they deserve every watt of the spotlight they’re receiving. As for the flip side of the coin, it’s not altogether their fault, but the Oklahoma City Thunder’s start to the season has been brutal. And sure, significant injuries to your two best players are always trouble, but the Thunder have to start winning consistently right now just to have a chance at making the playoffs. 20-20 is supposed to be the result of Russell Westbrook‘s fashion glasses, not OKC’s record halfway through the season.

 

Biggest Surprise of 2014-15For more debates, go to #AmexNBA or www.nba.com/homecourtadvantage.

Waiters’ more touches are in his head


VIDEO: GameTime: Dion Waiters

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – In five games with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Dion Waiters has shot much better than he did in Cleveland this season.

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It’s just a small sample size, and it’s possible that Waiters’ shooting would have improved had he not been traded. His 3-point shooting, in particular, had regressed quite a bit from last season.

But if you ask Waiters, the trade has put him in a better place. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman spoke with Waiters about fitting in with his new team

Waiters doesn’t hesitate to disclose the difference between his experience in Cleveland and Oklahoma City. After a 16-point performance Sunday at Orlando in which he made seven of nine shots, Waiters was asked what he’s learned so far about where his shots will come from and how he fit into the offense.

He chuckled.

“Listen,” he said, “they give me the ball. Like, I touch the ball. Like, I actually, like, you know, touch the ball.”

There’s a great Vine post of Waiters getting visibly frustrated waiting for LeBron James to pass him the ball with the Cavs. But the whole thing about the Thunder letting him touch the ball more may just be in Waiters’ head.

SportVU is here to tell us the truth. Its player-tracking cameras can tell us just how many touches Waiters has gotten and how much he’s had the ball with each team.

And the data refutes what Waiters says. Waiters got more touches and had the ball more with the Cavs than he’s had with the Thunder…

20150120_waiters_top

Furthermore, SportVU tells us that LeBron James passed the ball more to Waiters than Kevin Durant has per 36 minutes on the floor together. And Kyrie Irving passed him the ball more than Russell Westbrook has.

20150120_waiters_passes

With the Cavs, Waiters attempted more shots per 36 minutes than both Irving and Kevin Love. With the Thunder, he and Durant have attempted the same number of shots per 36 minutes.

It’s early in Waiters’ time with the Thunder and he may indeed feel more comfortable in Oklahoma City than he did in Cleveland. But so far, the numbers don’t support his theory that he’s touching the ball more in OKC.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 16


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Nets’ Lopez, Hornets’ Stephenson at heart of three-team deal | Rivers: No favoritism for son Austin | Blatt calls timeout issue ‘nonsense’ | Report: Kings willing to deal Stauskas

No. 1:

UPDATE, 10:44 a.m. ET: Per Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nets didn’t want to take on Lance Stephenson and so, Brooklyn and OKC may be working on a straight-up swap for Brook Lopez

UPDATE, 10:27 a.m. ET: Chris Broussard of ESPN.com, who first broke news of the proposed three-team swap involving Brook Lopez, Lance Stephenson and others, is dead

And here’s more from Broussard on why the deal broke down and what’s next:

The Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder are involved in discussions about a trade involving Brook Lopez and Kendrick Perkins, according to sources.

The two sides had been engaged in talks about a three-way trade that would’ve also involved the Charlotte Hornets shipping out Lance Stephenson, however sources said the Hornets are no longer involved in the deal.

Sources Thursday night confirmed a USA Today report that Oklahoma City would send Perkins could go to the Nets in a potential deal. In earlier trade discussions, the Nets and Thunder had talked about a potential deal involving Lopez and Perkins, among other players, according to sources.

UPDATE, 9:40 a.m. ET: Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that the proposed three-team deal may be dormant … for now

A trade that would have sent Charlotte Hornets shooting guard Lance Stephenson to the Brooklyn Nets has been put on hold, an informed NBA source told the Observer early Friday.

The Hornets, Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder were discussing a deal that would have sent Stephenson to the Nets, Brook Lopez to the Thunder and various parts to the Hornets. It appeared close Thursday night, but the Nets pulled back Friday, putting any discussions on hold.

The Nets have multiple options involving Lopez. It’s still likely they will move him.

The Hornets signed Stephenson in July to a three-year, $27.4 million contract with an out after the second season. It has been an awkward situation, where Stephenson has struggled to collaborate with new teammates. Both he and point guard Kemba Walker need the ball extensively to excel and that has made for an awkward situation.

Reports: Nets’ Lopez to Thunder in three-team deal; Perkins may move to Brooklyn, too — Oklahoma City is struggling to gain traction in the Western Conference playoff chase, but they can’t be faulted for standing pat. After acquiring Dion Waiters from the Cleveland Cavaliers roughly two weeks ago, the Thunder are in talks to try and land former All-Star center Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets. The deal would also include the Charlotte Hornets, who would send Lance Stephenson to Brooklyn and would receive veteran guard Jarrett Jack from Brooklyn. OKC’s Jeremy Lamb and Grant Jarrett would head to Charlotte and, Thunder center Kendrick Perkins could be shipped out to Brooklyn, too.

Multiple outlets reported on the deal last night, but we’ll start with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, who details the Nets’ intense desire to move Lopez:

The Brooklyn Nets have intensified trade discussions for center Brook Lopez and want to move him soon, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Charlotte Hornets began to gather traction on a three-way trade late Thursday afternoon, and planned to continue to discussions on Friday morning, league sources told Yahoo Sports. For the Nets, the biggest hurdle remained their willingness to take on combustible Charlotte guard Lance Stephenson, sources said.

Oklahoma City has been the most aggressive in its pursuit of Lopez, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn has tried to find teams willing to move the expiring contract of Kendrick Perkins for an established player, sources said.

The Nets have delivered indications to teams they would like to settle on a trade by the weekend, league sources said.

The Hornets have a strong interest in making a deal for Lopez, but league sources believe the Nets are focused on dealing Lopez to the Western Conference, league sources told Yahoo.

Brooklyn officials have been re-canvassing the league for intel on Hornets guard Lance Stephenson, trying to measure the risk-reward of bringing him back to his hometown, league sources said. Charlotte and Brooklyn talked several weeks ago, but discussions cooled when the Nets were reluctant to acquire Stephenson as part of a broader package, league sources said.

The Nets have three max-contract salaries on the roster – Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson – and are motivated to shed two of the three before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, league sources said. Brooklyn has lost seven straight games to drop to 16-23, and owner Mikhail Prokhorov is pursuing a sale of the team.

Brooklyn has been unable lately to find any traction in talks to move Williams, league sources said.

The Nets have had discussions with Oklahoma City on Lopez, but the best chance for bringing back value on the former All-Star center could be gambling on the talent of Stephenson. There’s support for a Stephenson homecoming to Brooklyn on the ownership level but rival teams believe the front office is more cautious about taking on the volatile player.

USA Today‘s Sam Amick provides more on the Perkins angle, as well as what the trade means for Brooklyn and Charlotte:

If the deal remains in its current form, the person told USA TODAY Sports that Thunder center Kendrick Perkins likely would go to the Nets as well. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of trade talks.

The Nets clearly would be taking the biggest gamble in this deal, as Stephenson comes with a high-risk, high-reward quality that hasn’t panned out in Charlotte. After signing a three-year, $27 million deal (with a team option for the third) with the Hornets, he has been extremely inefficient (38.6% shooting overall and 15.1% from three-point range while averaging 10.1 points, 4.7 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game) and is widely known to have been a challenging presence in the locker room.

Still, the Nets badly wants to part ways with Lopez and his contract ($15.7 million this season, $16.7 million next season), and taking on Perkins and his expiring contract as part of the deal ($9.4 million) would certainly help their battered bottom-line.

The Hornets, meanwhile, are eager to part ways with Stephenson and would shore up their backcourt depth by making this move. Lamb, the third-year player out of Connecticut who was taken 12th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2012, has shown some promise but is the odd man out in the Thunder rotation right now. Jack, 31, would give them a productive veteran presence (10.8 points, 4.3 assists and 28.5 minutes per game this season) who — unlike Stephenson — would be a leader in the locker room.

ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, who first reported the trade, says the Miami Heat have also shown interest in landing Lopez:

Sources confirmed a USA Today report that Oklahoma City center Kendrick Perkins could go to the Nets in a potential deal. In earlier trade discussions, the Nets and Thunder had talked about a potential deal involving Lopez and Perkins, among other players, according to sources.

The Hornets, who have been trying to move Stephenson for more than a month, want to make the deal, and Oklahoma City has agreed as well, leaving the Nets as the only holdout, according to sources.

Brooklyn also has had trade talks with the Miami Heat about Lopez, sources said.

The Nets made it known to other teams in early December that Lopez, point guard Deron Williams and swingman Joe Johnson were available via trade, and they recently had talks with the Sacramento Kings about Williams, according to sources.

The Nets (16-23) have lost seven straight games, and general manager Billy King has been active in looking to shake things up.


VIDEO:How might this proposed mega-trade help the Thunder?

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Morning shootaround — Jan. 14


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cavs way off course | Miller wants to stick with Wizards long term | Wade day-to-day (hamstring)

No. 1: Cavs remain way off course – When the Cleveland Cavaliers revealed on Jan. 1 that LeBron James would miss two weeks with soreness in his back and left knee, the hope was the team’s other stars would find their rhythm and get the squad on track. Instead, the Cavs went 1-6 during James’ absence and even after he returned to the lineup last night in Phoenix, they still lost. Now sporting six straight losses and defeats in nine of their last 10 games, the Cavs are clearly a mess. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst digs in on where the problems lie:

One day it’s an offensive quote, such as when David Blatt, in the midst of attempting to belittle a reporter Gregg Popovich-style without the cache or depth of knowledge of the CBA, tripped on his own snark when inaccurately referencing Love’s salary this week. Another day it’s LeBron James’ moving Blatt aside in the midst of an argument with a referee in the first half against the Suns, a move that unfortunately for the Cavs fit way too easily into a shareable social media clip.

It’s fun to be first in team merchandise sales, be on national television 30-plus times and play in sold-out houses every night, but there sure are downsides that come along with it. And when you’ve lost 9 of 10 games to fall to 19-20 on the season as the Cavs have, there’s very little fun.

When the casinos were making the Cavs the favorites to win the title last summer, the idea of a prop bet that the Cavs would be under .500 39 games into the season was so ridiculous, no sports book would’ve taken action. You’d have had a difficult time getting anyone to take such a bet even if they were a pessimist who was a Miami Heat fan who just wanted to make a self-gratifying revenge wager.

It isn’t just the casinos that are agape at how this is playing out — the Cavs were 4-15 in their past 19 games against the spread coming in to Tuesday — so are league scouts, executives and rival players.

They see players appearing to run different plays than the bench calls, see assistant coach Tyronne Lue calling timeouts literally behind Blatt’s back during games, and hear Cavs players openly talking about coaching issues with opposing players and personnel. Not once, not twice, but frequently over the past several months.

For weeks now, the small talk when league personnel run into each other at college games, airports or pregame meals has frequently started with: “What the hell is going on in Cleveland?”

There is a common perception that James is the de facto general manager of the team. His role in getting Love traded to the Cavs in July and talking Mike Miller, among others, into signing in Cleveland only bolstered that.

But over the past few months, the Cavs didn’t come to terms on a contract extension with Tristan Thompson, who is close to James and represented by the same agent, and then issued a strong public backing of Blatt despite what has been an obvious disconnect with veteran players, including James.

Meanwhile, the Love situation continues to befuddle. In the preseason there was a little bobble when Love complained about not getting the ball as much, but after that he’s said nothing but team-supportive things. That includes Tuesday night after Blatt decided to play James Jones ahead of him.

“If you told me I was going to sit out the fourth quarter, maybe I would have thought it would have been tough. But we had a great rhythm going,” Love said. “I thought the group that we had out there was doing a great job of getting us back into the basketball game, and more than anything, they gave us a shot.”

This was just after Love told Cleveland.com that he was not planning to opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer, something that was deemed a foregone conclusion when he signed the deal three years ago. Not only is it remarkably supportive of the team, but odd considering opting out makes significant financial sense even if his intention is to immediately re-sign in Cleveland. Anyone giving Love objective advice would recommend opting out under any circumstance other than devastating injury.

When the Cavs executed the trade to get Love last summer, they were granted a rare pre-trade. What was said or promised in that meeting has been kept secret because any deal struck about contractual provisions would be against NBA rules. Whatever was said, the Cavs traded the past two No. 1 overall picks and a future first-rounder.

Like everything else done in July and August, Love couldn’t have foreseen all these contingencies. His defense has been predictably shoddy much of the time, but as a team, the Cavs’ transition defense and overall communication are routinely abysmal. The Cavs got down by 19 against the Suns before making a comeback, mostly without Love, but James and Kyrie Irving‘s combined 13 turnovers were more of a culprit than Love’s defensive issues.

On offense, where Love should be a monster, he hasn’t been very often.

“I’ve seen Kevin fall down with the ball more times this season than the rest of his career combined because he’s always in positions where he’s uncomfortable and he’s forced into trying to make some sort of move to get a shot, and that has never been his game,” said one veteran NBA coach. “They almost never put him in position to get the ball that he did in his last few years in Minnesota and I can’t figure out why.”


VIDEO: How will Kevin Love’s benching Tuesday in Phoenix affect the Cavs?

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