HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Detroit Pistons are a franchise that’s going younger, but might they have found their point guard of the future in 31-year-old Jose Calderon?
Detroit was the third wheel in the trade that made it possible for Memphis to ship Rudy Gay to Toronto. Career-long Piston Tayshaun Prince, the last remnant of Detroit’s 2004 title team, went to Memphis and Calderon, a career-long Raptor, and his $11 million expiring contract landed in Detroit.
The Pistons created additional cap room by taking on Calderon’s expiring deal and sending out Prince, who has nearly $15 million coming to him over the next two seasons. However, Detroit, with young building blocks such as Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler, might not be viewing the eight-year veteran Calderon simply as a money saver before letting him pick his next destination in free agency.
The Calderon trade created even more financial flexibility for the Pistons going into the summer trade and free-agency season but Joe Dumars, the team’s president of basketball operations, has made it clear that Calderon is not just any player on an expiring contract which pays a base salary of about $11 million this year.
Dumars has said he is interested in re-signing Calderon but neither side will discuss much beyond that; the Pistons won’t break the bank to keep Calderon and he isn’t painting himself into a negotiating corner by vowing to stay.
Calderon has impressed his new team with his steady play, averaging 12.3 ppg and 7.8 apg while keeping his turnover rate right about the same as it was this season with Toronto despite playing with unfamiliar teammates and garnering little practice time.
He’s increased his shooting percentages in his first 12 games with Detroit to 50.0 percent overall and 51.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 31.8 mpg and that has pushed Knight, a second-year player, to shooting guard. He received six of Calderon’s 18 assists in Wednesday’s road win at Washington.
Those 18 assists quickly put Calderon in the Pistons’ record books next to Isiah Thomas, Mayo reported, as the only Pistons players with as many as 18 assists and as few as two turnovers in the same game since 1974.
The Pistons, who continue a three-game road trip tonight at the New Orleans Hornets, are 5-7 with Calderon, which isn’t terrible considering Detroit is 23-37 overall and seven games back of eighth-place Milwaukee.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: When the Grizzlies traded Rudy Gay to Toronto as part of a three-team swap, we had our questions before the deal went down as to why Memphis would even ponder such a move. Teams in their pecking order in the West didn’t lose too much sleep over what the Grizz did (the Warriors, in particular, had clear thoughts on the deal) and a 1-3 start to the post-Gay era didn’t engender much hope in Memphis’ future. But as we detail below, Memphis is back to its grit-and-grind self. That makes last night’s Nets-Grizzlies recap as one to watch (particularly if you enjoy seeing Memphis play its unique style of basketball).:
Report: Thunder bring back Fisher — In one of the more surprising trade deadline moves in recent memory, the Lakers dealt stalwart defensive point guard Derek Fisher to Houston last season for Jordan Hill. After Fisher was sent to Houston, the Rockets agreed to a buyout of his contract so he could sign with a contender, which he did, joining the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final 20 games of the season and the playoffs. The Thunder opted not to re-sign Fisher in the offseason and he played nine games with the Dallas Mavericks before being waived on Dec. 22. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Fisher is headed back to OKC and will sign his deal with the Thunder on Monday:
The Oklahoma City Thunder have reached agreement to sign veteran guard Derek Fisher for the remainder of the season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Fisher arrived in Oklahoma City Sunday night and will sign his contract on Monday.
Fisher, 38, signed with the Thunder late last season and helped Oklahoma City make its push to the NBA Finals. He joined the Dallas Mavericks early this season and played nine games in December before suffering a knee injury. He asked the Mavericks to release him, so he could spend more time with his family.
The Thunder have room for another guard after trading Eric Maynor to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday. Reggie Jackson is receiving most of the backup point guard minutes behind Russell Westbrook.
Fisher joined the Thunder last March after the Los Angeles Lakers traded him to the Houston Rockets and he negotiated a buyout. He averaged 6.3 points and 1.3 assists in 20 playoff games for the Thunder last season.
Fisher has remained president of the National Basketball Players Association, which recently ousted Billy Hunter as its executive director.
ESPN.com first reported that Fisher was close to the signing with the Thunder.
Jack praised as Warriors’ leader –For the Golden State Warriors, David Lee is the 2013 All-Star member, Stephen Curry is the thrilling, do-it-all point guard, Klay Thompson is the enticing shooting guard prospect and Harrison Barnes is the high-flying rookie. Although this doesn’t fully encompass the Warriors’ talent base — we’re leaving Andrew Bogut and some others out here — these are the names most think of with the team. But the player who has made the biggest impact for Golden State in terms of leadership, clutch playmaking and veteran know-how is Jarrett Jack. Warriors coach Mark Jackson had nothing but praise for Jack, who was instrumental in Sunday’s win over the Timberwolves, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Jarrett Jack will be praised for giving the Warriors their first fourth-quarter lead with a three-pointer in the final two minutes Sunday and for setting up the bucket 40 seconds later that resulted in a lead they would not relinquish.
Jack actually started leading the Warriors to their 100-99 matinee victory over Minnesota an hour before the game tipped off at the Target Center.
When two of the team’s rookies wanted barbecue sandwiches and fries in the pregame locker room, Jack reminded the first-year players that the game started in an hour. They quietly switched their orders to chicken sandwiches with no fries.
“That’s who he is for us,” Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. “He’s been a leader, and he’s been a no-nonsense guy with a tremendous voice.”
And Jack has been pretty stinking good on the court, too. Jack had team highs with 23 points and eight assists, provided the Warriors with their only energy in the first half, and then made all of the clutch plays down the stretch.
“We try to have resolve, man,” Jack said. “We’ve got resiliency and fight. The one thing we respect above all is effort, and through it all – the turnovers, missed shots and everything that wasn’t going our way – we still played hard.”
The Warriors (33-23) have won three in a row after a season-worst, six-game skid to move 1 1/2 games back of Denver for the fifth spot in the Western Conference. Seventh-place Utah is two games behind the Warriors, followed by eighth-place Houston (three games back) and the ninth-place Lakers (5 1/2 games back).
It’s a good thing for the Warriors that they were playing the Timberwolves (20-33), who have lost 18 of their past 22 games and 18 of their past 23 against Golden State, and it’s a good thing the Warriors have Jack.
Jack is the NBA’s first player to come off the bench to record at least 23 points and eight assists in consecutive games since Clyde Drexler did it for Portland in 1985-86. Jack is the first Warriors reserve to score 20 points in three straight games since Corey Maggette accomplished the feat in 2009.
“Having someone like coach Jackson and these teammates, who have a world of confidence in me, goes a long way,” said Jack, who said he has never experienced a stretch like this in the NBA. “Confidence is the No. 1 thing in this game. I’ve always believed in myself, but they continuously show that they believe in me to handle the ball at the end of games, giving me big shots and putting me in huge situations.”
On-court stuff is way easier than handling the rookies’ eating habits.
Grizz keep on rolling — Talk of the sky falling in Memphis after the Rudy Gay trade was a popular topic and Memphis, for its part, did little to quell that by going 1-3 immediately after the deal. But if you haven’t been paying attention, the Grizzlies boast the NBA’s second-longest win streak (behind Miami’s 11-game run) with a seven-game win streak. Not surprisingly, the Grizz are getting it done with a healthy dose of defense. As well, one of the players they got in the Gay deal – Tayshaun Prince — has fit in well with Memphis’ defense and was crucial in Sunday nights road win against the Nets, writes Ronald Tillery of The (Memphis) Commercial-Appeal:
There were questions when the Grizzlies’ revolving door stopped spinning — doubts about how quickly and how soon a collection of new players would mesh.
A bit of suspicion even crept in as the Griz began to build a winning streak that is now close to their season-best mark established in November. After all, Memphis’ previous five opponents before Sunday own a combined winning percentage of .354.
However, the Grizzlies’ 76-72 victory over the Brooklyn Nets before 17,098 in the Barclays Center provided more evidence that there still is one constant amid change, quality of opposition and venue.
Like a picture in a frame, the Grizzlies’ defense remains the same. The Griz dominated without the ball when it mattered most as their winning streak swelled to seven games.
“This was a test game to see if we are playing well or not, and to come in and beat a very good team on the road says a lot,” Griz point guard Mike Conley said. “It says a lot about our integrity and ability to step up in big games.”
That, and how stingy the Grizzles can be.
The Nets didn’t score in the final 2:50. Griz center Marc Gasol had two blocks, guard Tony Allen added another and Tayshaun Prince grabbed a steal as the Griz closed the game on a 9-0 run.
No play was bigger than Allen’s block on a shot by Nets guard Deron Williams with the score knotted at 72 and 26.9 seconds left. Williams drove by Allen but was met at the basket by Zach Randolph. Allen recovered to reject Williams’ shot from behind.
“I just had my antennas up and was ready to be aggressive,” Allen said. “And I thank Zach for being there to stop his angle. Once he cocked the ball back I was able to get my hand on the ball.”
Stoudemire stepping up more and more — As Amar’eStoudemire recovered from offseason knee surgery and the Knicks got out to an 21-9 start without him, talk in New York and around the league was how he’d fit in to what New York is doing once healthy. Although the Knicks are 6-6 since Stoudemire returned and had a four-game win streak entering Sunday’s game against the Sixers, New York seems to be working their big man back into the mix. He came through with a solid performance in a win last night and is getting more and more into a flow, writes BarbaraBarker of Newsday:
While he sat out the first two months of the season recovering from knee surgery, many wondered if he ever would be a big-time player again. Their fears seemed to be confirmed when he returned from injury and coach Mike Woodson decided that the best thing to do with him — the best thing to do with the fourth-highest-paid player in the NBA — was to bring him off the bench.
Suddenly, however, it appears to have been a wee bit early to throw Stoudemire into the has-been heap. Since returning from the knee injury on New Year’s Day, he has been getting stronger and stronger.
“I thought Amar’e was solid,” Woodson said. “He was catching the ball on the block, he had a couple of offensive putbacks, he made his jump shots. He did a little bit of everything. That’s what we’re going to need him to do the rest of the way.”
It was Stoudemire’s first 20-point game of the season and even featured a very athletic reverse dunk that thrilled the Garden crowd.
It may have been his best game, but it wasn’t his only important one. Since coming back from the knee injury, Stoudemire has averaged 13.7 points and 5.0 rebounds despite playing limited minutes. And he seems to be getting stronger.
“I’m 100 percent. I feel strong in every aspect,” he said after the game. “I think the limited minutes are great for me so far. It’s keeping me fresh and I feel great.”
Stoudemire was careful and diplomatic Sunday, however, when asked if it is hard for him to accept his role as a reserve when he is playing this well. He said he wants to do whatever the team needs him to do.
Stoudemire did admit, however, that it is difficult to be on the bench at the end of games.
“As long as we’re winning, it’s not hard,” he said. “When we start losing a bit, it gets you thinking about it.”
Pistons’ Knight gets some good news — Pistons second-year guard Brandon Knight suffered a knee injury against Charlotte last Wednesday and many around Detroit were hoping that it wasn’t anything serious. The good news for the Pistons, writes Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press, is that Knight’s MRI came back negative. But the Pistons are also expecting Knight to miss a few games while he recovers from the hyperextended knee:
Pistons doctor Ben Paolucci visited Knight before Friday night’s game with Indiana, but coach Lawrence Frank said he’s day-to-day and won’t play again until he’s 100%.
Knight suffered an injured knee and ankle in the victory against Charlotte on Wednesday and missed Friday night’s game. The MRI showed swelling but no damage.
“He has fluid behind his knee,” Frank said. “You can see it. He can’t really jump, and he just doesn’t have total confidence in it. The MRI, like I said, was more for precautionary reasons. It didn’t show anything other than what we already diagnosed. It’ll be day-to-day. He’ll be taking some medication and just kind of see how he does in terms of trying to get the swelling down.”
Knight said he felt fine before the game as he rushed to the court to put up some shots.
There’s no rush to get him back into the lineup, especially with the way the team is struggling.
Knight had one of his better games against Charlotte when the injury occurred. He finished with 21 points.
“He was in the facility all day today getting treatment and shooting some shots to see how he felt,” Frank said. “They’ll give him whatever medication they’ll give him, but until he’s cleared he won’t be doing anything.”
ICYMI of the night: The healthier Ricky Rubio gets, the more we get to see plays like this amazing behind-the-back dime to Andrei Kirilenko on the fast break … :
Spurs miss out on Redick? – As of trade deadline day, the Spurs were one of several teams hot on the trail of Magic guard J.J. Redick. But despite a push to acquire him, it looks like San Antonio can forget about adding another shooter to the league’s best team, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
Small move — or no move at all — likely for Grizz –Unless someone pulls off a major blockbuster between now and the 3 p.m. finish line, the Memphis Grizzlies will be the team on record in 2012-13 for pulling off the biggest trade after they shipped out Rudy Gay on Jan. 30. That said, it doesn’t look likely that Memphis will pull off another big deal, but a minor one may be in the cards. Ronald Tillery of the The Commercial-Appeal has more on what the Grizz may do:
The reality is that Griz brass is trying to be opportunistic today in hopes of getting something for nothing at the 11th hour (Orlando has made it clear J.J. Redick can’t be had for anything less than a first-round pick). As of this morning, the Griz were looking at their exceptions one of three ways: 1) acquiring a guard/swingman they like from the end of another team’s bench 2) grabbing an established big man only if he’s accompanied by a second-round pick 3) not using the exception at all.
The Griz need more size and could always use more shooting. However, they don’t want to acquire a guard who has no shot at cracking the rotation. It’s been difficult enough for Austin Daye to get minutes now that Quincy Pondexter is healthy.
So don’t be too surprised if the Griz did something minor today or nothing at all. But as is the case at the trade deadline, you can always expect the unexpected. Doing nothing would mean the team would likely pick up a D-League player they like to occupy the 13th roster spot. (more…)
HOUSTON –Andre Drummond can’t change the past. He can only change opinions.
Panned in the lead up to the 2012 NBA Draft, Drummond was billed as a big man with superstar talent but a motor that didn’t match. It’s one of the reasons the 7-footer lasted until the ninth pick, where the Detroit Pistons cashed in with what has turned out to be one of the steals of the entire draft.
Drummond’s work through the pre-All-Star Weekend break of his rookie season has been an eye-opener. In addition to that potential superstar talent, he’s shown off a motor that more than matches. In fact, he’s been lauded by Pistons insiders for being even better than they had hoped in terms of his work ethic and the energy he brings to both practices and games.
A stress fracture in his back will cost Drummond at least a month, and that includes his participation here this weekend for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. But it won’t deter him from his goal of silencing those who questioned his character and game before the Draft.
“”I think coming into a situation where the game is as fast-paced as NBA games are was beneficial for me to pick things up and move forward,” said Drummond, who averages 7.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 19.7 minutes a night. “My coaches and teammates helped me move adjust and nip some of that stuff people had against me in the bud. I think Detroit is a great city, the fans are definitely great out there, and having the right environment to g to work in makes a big difference.”
Drummond is just 19 and with his combination of size (he’s just shy of 300 pounds with just six percent body fat) and skill along with the physicality he brings to the floor, the notion of him being a dominant big man in the league alongside the Pistons’ other budding young frontcourt star Greg Monroe.
The injury to Drummond is setback, but by no means the end to what has been a promising rookie season.
“I want to maintain the effort and energy bring every day and continue to get better,” Drummond said. “We have plans on being a playoff team [someday] and I want to be a big part of helping make that a reality.”
Can a team win it all nowadays without an MVP-type superstar?
Steve Aschburner: Don’t want to say “can’t” about a superstar-deficient roster surviving to win the NBA title but I do think it’s a long shot. The ability to ride one (or better yet, two) hot hands and the role that free-throw opportunities can play in pivotal games — built off of star power, in many cases — are the things of which champions are made. It would be fascinating to a lot of hardcore pro hoops fans to see, say, a Nuggets-Pacers Finals, but it wouldn’t thrill the marketing types or maybe even the folks in Olympic Tower. But I don’t see them having to fret beyond the conference finals round.
Fran Blinebury: This is like the old kids’ riddle about how many balls of string would it take to reach the moon? Just one, but it better be big. Of course, a team without a superstar can win it all. But it had better be talented, tough, unselfish and have enough players who could make all the big and little plays in the clutch. The stars have to be perfectly aligned to produce the 2004 Pistons again.
Jeff Caplan: OK, so the star-less Detroit Pistons won it all against the bickering, last-of-the-line Kobe-Shaq Lakers nearly a decade ago. The Chauncey Billups-Rip Hamilton-Tayshaun Prince-Rasheed-and-BenWallace Pistons remain the lone example, an exception to the rule. So, no, I don’t believe a team without a bona fide superstar in today’s NBA can win it all. We’ve seen that it’s nearly impossible for a lone superstar to take his team to the top. Dirk Nowitzki finally managed that task with one of the great postseason runs of all-time in 2011. And let’s be real, those Mavs caught a collapsing Lakers team with Phil Jackson having one foot out the door, a very young Thunder team just getting their feet under them and the Miami Super Friends in their first season together. I truly enjoy watching George Karl‘s squad run up and down the floor, but a team has got to have a go-to-guy who can create his own shot when the game turns into a halfcourt grindfest and when crunch-time demands an isolation takeover.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Possible, but it makes the odds much longer. The team does not have to have an MVP-type superstar, but it needs to have a player able to beat coverage to hit a pressure shot coming out of of a timeout in the final seconds. It also needs to have the player strike a fear in defenses, enough to create an opening for a teammate if Player X himself does not take the shot. That usually describes a superstar.
John Schuhmann: I think so. It would take great defense (like what we’ve seen from the star-less Pacers and Bulls) and an offense with shooting and ball movement (like the Spurs in Chicago on Monday). Of course, I don’t think the Nuggets have what it takes. They’re not good enough defensively, not good enough on the road, and not good enough from behind the 3-point line to thrive in at a slower, playoff-like pace.
Sekou Smith: It’s only been done once in my time eyeballing the league, by the 2004 Detroit Pistons. And they did it with one of the most meticulously crafted rosters I can remember seeing that was didn’t have a true MVP-type anchor (Chauncey Billups or Ben Wallace came close). I love the Nuggets and the way they are playing this season. The committee approach only goes so far in the NBA playoffs these days. Sooner or later you run into a team built around a superstar player (or players, in most instances).
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: How about the Spurs last night? Taking care of one of the East’s elite — Chicago — without any of their Big Three (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker)? Impressive stuff, no doubt. However, our pick this morning is the Nets-Pacers game. Deron Williams sat this one out while undergoing treatment for his bothersome swollen ankles. The Nets could have folded up shop after being down 76-72 with 1:38 to go. But Joe Johnson came up with a big shot to force overtime and Brook Lopez showed his All-Star stuff as Brooklyn won in one of the NBA’s toughest places to do so, Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Media to blame for Kobe-Dwight rift? — Before the 2012-13 season, most of us thought the Lakers might be a daily part of the conversation about a run at the championship. Instead, the Lakers have been a daily part of the conversation as we all attempt to figure out why they can’t even reach .500, let alone talk about a title. From Mike Brown‘s firing to Mike D’Antoni being hired, from Steve Nash‘s injury to Pau Gasol‘s injury and from Dwight Howard‘s back woes to conflicts between Howard, Kobe Bryant, Nash and others on the team, what’s happening off the court has been much-discussed in Lakerland. According to Bryant, though, any drama that exists between Kobe and Howard is something that the media has made up. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more from Bryant on this issue and more:
If Bryant wanted to call out Dwight Howard for resting his injured shoulder for three games last week despite being medically cleared to play, he would’ve just done so. Instead, Bryant claimed his call for “urgency” was misinterpreted as a call-out and turned into a “manufactured conflict.”
“I didn’t say anything wrong. I didn’t say anything to hammer him over the head or take a run at him,” Bryant said before the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice Monday. “That was actually manufactured. I’d own up to it if I took a run at somebody.
“Urgency is something we’ve been trumpeting, we’ve been beating that drum since the beginning of the season when we started struggling.”
The comments Bryant is referring to came from an interview he gave to ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan before the Lakers played the Boston Celtics last Thursday. Howard had sat out the previous three games, and the Lakers had just learned they would be without injured forward Pau Gasol for at least six to eight weeks.
Bryant did not say the quotes in the story were taken out of context. Rather, he took issue with the controversy that spiraled from them and the perception of a rift between himself and Howard.He said that he reached out to Howard to make sure he understood it wasn’t his intention to call him out.
Bryant has been with the Lakers for 17 seasons and has grown somewhat immune to the noise generated by Los Angeles’ media. But even when he hears it, Bryant said he’s learned it doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
“It actually helped us keep our edge, keep our intensity,” Bryant said of the controversy that always hovered over his championship runs with Shaquille O’Neal. “It gave us something to kind of build towards. But like I said, there was actual conflict though.
“At least the Shaq stuff was actually warranted. This is just comical.”
The situation escalated over the weekend, however, when Howard’s father took exception to the comments, as well as coach Mike D’Antoni’s handling of the the issue.
Asked Monday whether he could’ve done a better job handling the situation, D’Antoni said:
“We’re not going to play out what we do in the locker room or how I should coach in the media,” D’Antoni said. “That’s been our problem. Everybody wants a story. Everybody wants to give a story. The story is whether we win or lose and how we play.
“We will sit down with a player, we sit down with players all the time. I’m not going to play it out through the media. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think any team I’ve been on has ever done that, and I’m really surprised here in L.A. that seems to be the norm. … That’s not good.”
D’Antoni bluntly stated that he doesn’t believe the Lakers have a “communication problem.”
“Most of the time when there’s a communication problem, it’s because the message being received is not the message you want,” D’Antoni said. “It’s not that they don’t know what they need to do, how we need to act as a team, whatever. If you don’t like the message, then you go say there’s a communication problem.”
If the Mavericks don’t make a trade before the Feb. 21 deadline, Mark Cuban insists it won’t be due to a lack of effort.
President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coach Rick Carlisle have both gone on the record recently with predictions that the Mavs will stand pat. Cuban acknowledges that could be the case, but he continues to actively search for opportunities to upgrade the roster of a 22-28 team while keeping the Mavs’ future in mind.
“It takes two teams to trade,” Cuban said Monday evening. “There’s a lot of deals we would make [laughs], but nobody seems willing to do what we want to do. You never know, but nothing imminent. The bank’s still open.”
The bank is still open, but Cuban will be very judicious when determining whether a deal is worth sacrificing space under the salary cap this summer. Tampering rules prevent Cuban from coming out and saying it, but the Mavs aren’t bowing out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes unless they can acquire a building block in the next week and a half.
“It’s gotta be something really, really, really good,” Cuban said. “It’s got to be a futures type player that we can build around or really adds a lot.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean an established All-Star. It just has to be a player the Mavs project to become an All-Star, or at least one of their top three players. Cuban points to the Mavs’ acquisition of Steve Nash back in the day as an example.
“There’s been lots of players we picked up over time that weren’t All-Stars that turned into cornerstones,” Cuban said. “We’d take those. They don’t have to be proven. They’d have to be someone we think it’s just a question of time or system or coaching or whatever.”
Bynum switches timetable on return — The Sixers have done an admirable job of hanging around the Eastern Conference playoff picture (they’re three games behind Milwaukee for the No. 8 seed) despite not having Andrew Bynum all season and recently losing Jason Richardson for the rest of the season. Hope had come to Philly once Bynum finally started working out with the team recently and going through some drills. A post-All-Star break return was penciled in just a few weeks ago. But Bynum’s return is apparently being pushed back — again — as pain in his left knee is growing, writes Jason Wolf of USA Today:
Andrew Bynum has eased up on his workouts after experiencing “a lot of pain” in his left knee and is unsure if he’ll make his Philadelphia 76ers debut this month.
“I think I worked well for two days on the court and then I got a lot of pain,” Bynum said Monday, “so we backed down a little bit today. I’ll probably go on (the anti-gravity treadmill) tomorrow.”
There is no official target date for Bynum to join full-team practices, or for him to play in a game. But earlier this month, the one-time all-star center told reporters that he was hoping to appear in his first game with the Sixers “around the all-star break.”
Bynum was asked Monday whether he was still planning to play in a game this month.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “It’s all going to depend on if we get a setback or not. Right now, I think things are going well. I’m losing weight and staying on the court for as long as I can.”
But he also said the pain in his left knee “limits me from continuing to go.”
“I don’t know if it’s normal soreness, or if I’ll have to play with it,” Bynum said. “I don’t know what it is. It’s not anything that I haven’t felt, so it’s not new. And it continues to kind of go away over time, so it’s all good stuff. No swelling.”
Pacers can’t wait to see Granger again — Indiana is in the thick of the upper half of the Eastern Conference thanks to a 13-8 stretch since Jan. 1 and the emergence of Paul George as an All-Star. Still, Indiana has fallen on a little bit of hard times, losing two straight and seeing its 15-game home win streak come to an end after an upset loss to the Raptors on Feb. 8. Good news is on the horizon with Danny Granger expected to suit up for the first time this season on Wednesday. He’s expected to resume his role as a starter, displacing Lance Stephenson. While there’s a tendency among Pacers fans to not upset the apple cart, writes Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, this is the best move for Indiana long term:
This idea that Granger should be a high-scoring sixth man, this notion that the Pacers shouldn’t mess up a good thing by moving Lance Stephenson back to the benchd…
An hour before the Pacers’ 89-84 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night, Vogel said he’s initially going to use Granger off the bench in order to get his legs back under him, but once he’s in basketball shape – that should take a week – he’ll be back in the starting lineup.
And that’s that.
Because the stats here don’t lie: Once George Hill took over the point guard spot late last season, the Pacers had the most productive starting five in the NBA. They’ve been very good with Stephenson – check out my new favorite website, 82games.com, to see the numbers – but they were the best in the league with the old starting five.
“Obviously, there’s some merit to having one of those guys coming off the bench, much like with San Antonio and Manu Ginobili or Oklahoma City when they had James Harden, but that (original lineup with Granger) was dominant,’’ Vogel said. “That’s something we’re looking forward to getting back to.’’
Pacers fans should be forewarned: It’s going to take some time. For one thing, Granger hasn’t played in months. He is a notoriously slow starter, even when he’s healthy, and it’s going to take a couple of weeks before he’s fully re-acclimated back into the team. My guess is, as soon as Granger struggles – and he will – there will be a hue and cry to restore Stephenson to the starting lineup and relegate Granger to the bench.
And no, they won’t.
For two years, Stephenson looked like a lost cause, an immature kid with little hope of finding his way. He wasn’t getting it done on the court, and he was no treat as a teammate in the locker room.
Then, the light came on.
And just in time, given Granger’s injury. Would the Pacers be where they are now without him?
“He was finding his way early in the season and finding it well, but I’m not sure if he really understood he belonged,’’ Vogel said. “When he struggled a couple of games on the West coast, we sat down and I reiterated and illustrated to him how important he is to being a big part of our success. That may have been the moment when the light came on for him, and he’s been on a tear since then.
“I think he’s being smarter with his passing. He’s a homerun passing kind of guy. That’s his DNA, that’s what his instincts are. But now, more than in the first two years, he’s reined it in and kept it under control. If he makes a fancy pass, it’s a safe, fancy pass, which is something we welcome. And defensively, he’s continuing to grow. He’s staying disciplined in our defensive scheme. He’s chasing guys, he’s negotiating through screens; he’s still a work in progress, but he’s much better than he was the first two years.’’
Granger can’t return quickly enough. After a nice run of 15 straight home victories, the Pacers have now lost two straight home overtime games, the latest one to a Deron Williams-less Nets team playing the back end of a back-to-back. Paul George and David West, their two best players, shot a combined 3-for-21. This was the kind of game the Pacers couldn’t afford to lose, not with so many Eastern Conference bunched up around the 3-4-5 seed.
Irving gets first Three-Point Contest challenger — Cavs All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is going to be mighty busy during All-Star weekend. He’s not only in the league’s showcase event, but he’s on Team Shaq in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge on Friday evening and will also participate in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Saturday evening. Irving’s coach, Byron Scott, wants to get a preview of sorts of how Irving will do in the Three-Point Contest, so he’s challenged him to a post-practice 3-point shootout, writes Bob Finnan of the News-Herald:
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said he challenged point guard Kyrie Irving to a 3-point shootout after practice on Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Scott wouldn’t say if the media would be invited to this must-see event.
Irving has been invited to the Three-Point Contest during All-Star weekend in Houston. Scott competed in the event twice — a last-place finish in 1987 and a third-place performance in ’88.
“I challenged him today,” Scott said. “We’ll go around twice. He’s talking a lot. I think I have a good shot at (beating him). My only problem is if I get tired.”
It’s almost turned into an endurance test. Sixty seconds of constant shooting is more than people realize.
“We’ll have fun,” Scott said. “Basically, it’s to show him how the contest is done.”
Irving said he read where Scott challenged him.
“That’s something a third-place winner would do, go behind my back and challenge me,” he said. “The challenge is supposed to be tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. I’m getting up early and doing my pushups.”
They have nothing riding on the contest — yet. By the time they get to the end of practice on Tuesday, trash talk could escalate. Don’t be surprised if some cash is bet.
Pistons get creative with Drummond’s rehab — Detroit’s standout rookie, Andre Drummond, is going to be out a month after suffering a back injury. Leave it to Detroit’s longtime trainer, Arnie Kander, to come up with an innovative way to get the Pistons’ big man back on track. The method of choice? Beating a drum during practices, which will serve a two-fold purpose, writes Terry Foster of The Detroit News:
Andre Drummond beat the drum slowly and softly Monday before the Pistons game against the Charlotte Hornets at The Palace.
And that wasn’t good enough for strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander.
“You got to work now,” Kander told Drummond. “Let’s go.”
Drummond saw that Kander was serious and pounded on his drum a little quicker. But he was not the second coming of Buddy Rich.
The Drummond drum beat served two purposes. It is helping his sore back get better and it also is a way for Drummond to keep connected with his team. He will be with teammates every day during his rehabilitation. Step one was beating on a drum that he carried with him throughout the game-day practice.
The idea is to strengthen his core by keeping his back straight while he taps on the drums. Drummond injured his back last week and is expected out four to six weeks.
“He is our Ringo Starr,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “I think it is very important that when you are injured in all professional sports to remain engaged. Sometimes in sports when you are injured, you become invisible. I think it is important that we integrate him in everything we do and he integrates himself. Mentally you are preparing like you are playing, but physically you can’t play. So you prepare yourself as best you can.”
Drummond’s spirits were up Monday. He joked with teammates in practice and poked his head in during a media scrum with guard Will Bynum. He also participated in a simple drill that helps stretch teammates.
Frank said the injury is especially rough on Drummond because it is his first injury — and he might not be able to handle things as well as a veteran who has been injured before.
“This is his first time going through anything like this,” Frank said. “A veteran guy kind of understands the nature of it. But when you are 19 years old and this is your first injury you can become invisible sometimes. You know that happens sometimes. You not only can become invisible but it is easy to not just take care of yourself 100 percent. When you are young guys don’t know.”
ICYMI of the night: So many great dunks by the Clippers last night … thankfully, we’ve got them all in one tidy highlight that is a must-watch:
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: That big, annual pro football championship game (I think it’s called the Super Bowl, right?) last night ensured no other games of note took place before the 6:30 ET kickoff. That said, there were only three games on Sunday (all matinees), so our pick of the day goes to Clippers-Celtics. Boston isn’t exactly crying itself to sleep after losing Rajon Rondo for the season as it has gone 4-0 in the Rondo-less stage of the season. Paul Pierce showed of his “Truth-iness” to the Clips — Matt Barnes got a good look in particular — by nailing the game-sealing step-back 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left over Barnes to halt L.A.’s hopes of a last-minute comeback win.
Howard won’t rush back — Dwight Howard sat out Sunday afternoon’s game in Detroit because of lingering pain in his right shoulder due to his torn labrum. He continues to take a day-by-day approach to his availability for the Lakers, but told the Orange County Register’s Kevin Ding he’s not going to hurry back just to get hurt again:
“It feels a little bit better, but still sore,” Howard said Sunday. “Certain movements hurt, and I don’t want to go there in any pain or go out there thinking about it too much.”
Howard aggravated the torn labrum Wednesday in Phoenix. It wasn’t the first time, and the pain fades after each aggravation, but Howard remains leery of another incident.
“It’s still not there yet,” he said. “I’m not going to try to rush myself back and have the possibility of hurting it again. There’s no need for that.”
Howard had a platelet-rich plasma injection into the shoulder Saturday. That treatment isn’t expected to provide immediate relief, but Howard’s shoulder has naturally felt better in days after each aggravation. The tear isn’t going to go away whether he takes a game, a week or the rest of the season off.
“Me and Kobe play two different positions,” Howard said. “The position I play, I use a lot of force coming up — whether that’s going up for a dunk or a shot. Hook shots, all that stuff, is this motion right here. It’s a lot of that. Playing in the post is doing this a lot.
“All that stuff, you need your shoulder stable for it. It’s a little bit different than, I would say, a guard position. You’ve got guys 260-270 you’re holding off. You’ve got to be really strong in your shoulder and all that stuff.”
Howard said it hurts him raising his arm up and especially backwards: “A lot of movements I’d be doing in games, trying to block shots, stuff like that.” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged that Howard should try to work on not bringing the ball down so low under the basket, which is how opponents have hurt the shoulder repeatedly. Howard said he needs to be in a “stable” position to decrease the chance for aggravation.
D’Antoni said previously this seven-game trip will be the “telling tale” of the Lakers’ season. About Howard not playing Sunday, the third game of a previously 1-1 trip, D’Antoni said it was “his call.” About the labrum tear, D’Antoni said: “It’s not going to go away.”
Where have all the Pistons fans gone? — In the annals of NBA history, one of the more underrated Finals matchups — in terms of on-court play, dislike of each other’s city and so forth — has to be Pistons vs. Lakers. Three Finals matchups (with the Pistons taking two of those) will create some animosity toward each other, but that’s not the case now. As Terry Foster of The Detroit News points out, there were more Kobe Bryant and Lakers fans in yesterday’s Lakers-Pistons matinee at The Palace at Auburn Hills than there were Pistons fans:
We saw another shameful performance at The Palace on Sunday. This time, it didn’t come from the Pistons, who actually played with spirit and nearly stole a game from the resurgent Los Angeles Lakers.We witnessed the annual migration of Kobe Bryant lovers who wore his jersey and cheered his every move. Thanks to Pistons guard Will Bynum it was not a total sham. He ignited the Pistons and even turned Lakers fans into Pistons blue.
Let’s talk about the real losers. They are Pistons fans who turned The Palace into Staples Center East, the Lakers’ home away from home. Many came dressed in Lakers gold and purple and they cheered as loudly for Bryant as anything the Pistons did for much of the game. There were banners and signs for Bryant but few for the Pistons.
I don’t know what ignited the crowd more. Was it the Earl Clark dunk off a Bryant inbounds pass to end the first half? Or was it when Bryant dunked over Brandon Knight and stared at the crowd?
This was a repeat of a few weeks ago when LeBron James came to town for loud cheers. People wore James jerseys and cheered a man this town once said it hated. It wasn’t always this way but the passion for the Pistons changed over the years.
Michael Jordan used to get booed in this building. People hated him and his Picasso-looking sidekick Scottie Pippen. But later in his career, even after Jordan destroyed the two-time champion Bad Boys and said they were bad for basketball, Jordan was forgiven and lauded.
James swept the Pistons in the 2009 playoffs and Piston fans sent him off to “MVP” chants after he scored 36 points against the home team. Even when the Pistons beat Bryant and the Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals he refused to credit the Pistons for his subpar series.
So why do you cheer a guy like this?
Celtics meet with Oden — It’s been a rough week or so in Boston, what with Rajon Rondo lost for the season and, then, rookie big man Jared Sullinger (back) out now, too. Sullinger’s agent, David Falk, says his client having surgery now is the best thing for the Celtics’ long-term plans … but that doesn’t make Boston fans feel better today. What might, though, is the notion of former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden in Celtic green. Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the details on both Sullinger’s future and the prospect of Oden:
Sullinger was flagged with back issues during an NBA pre-draft examination, causing him to drop to the Celtics with the 21st overall pick. Falk said Sullinger’s condition was corrected with Friday’s surgery, and he is expected to return to basketball activities in six months.
Sullinger was examined twice by a back specialist in Philadelphia prior to the draft.
“The Celtics knew when they drafted him there was a certain level of risk that required surgery, as did several other teams,” said Falk. “Some teams treated it like he was going to have a heart attack or something. [The Celtics’] Brian McKeon is one of the most confident team doctors I’ve ever dealt with. There were so secrets, nobody was trying to hide any facts. There was a possibility that he could require surgery, but the recovery time is less than an ACL.”
Falk said the Celtics could have delayed the surgery by giving Sullinger anti-inflammatories and treatment, but wanted to take the safer approach.
“Jared’s 20 years old, to try to take a short-term risk could jeopardize his career long term. Having surgery was the most appropriate response,” Falk said. “Had he tried to continue to play and aggravate it six or eight weeks down the road, he would have missed the playoffs and the start of the season. It was a calculated decision.”
The Celtics met Saturday with free agent center Greg Oden at their training facility in Waltham. Oden, who has not played since December 2009 because of recurring knee problems, is expected to return to the NBA next season. He met with coach Doc Rivers, who said the two talked about Oden’s AAU days with the Indy Heat, a team that also featured Josh McRoberts, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook.
“I said hi to him,” said Rivers. “We reminisced about high school days when I watched him on AAU.”
The Celtics have no expiring contracts, so they would likely need to create a salary slot for Oden, who is expected to sign for more than the veteran’s minimum.
Raptors fans never forget — Like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady before him, Chris Bosh is learning just how good Raptors fans are at holding a grudge. Bosh left Toronto as a free agent in the summer of 2010 to join forces with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami and Raptors fans haven’t let Bosh forget it. The same greeting was routinely cast upon Carter and McGrady, both ex-Raptors, on their returns to Toronto for many years after their respective departures. Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:
It’s been nearly three years since Bosh decided to leave Toronto, yet the sting remains for the fans. They booed him every time he touched the ball despite this being Bosh’s fourth return to face his former team.
“Yeah, I’m a little surprised,” Bosh said. “They (fans) pay their money. They can do what they want. I hope they just remember the good times.”
Bosh said the jeers served as his motivation, especially in the second half when he scored 22 of his 28 points.
“I was hearing a lot from the fans,” Bosh said. “I thank them for continuing to stay on me and calling me names. That helped my focus a lot. I was like, `I need to get in this game to shut them up.”‘
Roy pondering his future — The injury bug has been frequent visitor to the Timberwolves, who have seen Brandon Roy, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved (among others) miss valuable time this season. In the case of Roy, who hasn’t played since a 14-minute stint on Nov. 9, the prospects of a return are unclear. He’s still rehabbing after having knee surgery and the process of getting better has left Roy wondering what to do next if his comeback attempt fails. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has the details:
The plan for the Minnesota Timberwolves guard was to make his return to action Feb. 1 against the Los Angles Lakers at Target Center, after having two successful workout days. After that, he would join the team for practices leading up to the game.
Friday’s session went as planned. Saturday’s didn’t.
While performing a move in the first 20 minutes of the workout, he felt something in his right knee that he has felt far too often. He tweaked it, eliminating any possibility of him returning to action before the All-Star break.
“As soon as it happened, in my head, I said ‘I quit. I just quit,” an emotional Roy told CSNNW.com. “That was my first thought, that I couldn’t do this anymore.
“I’m at a crossroad in my career.”
He’s certain that if he can’t get right this season, it will be the end of his career. And he’s fine with that.
“I look at it like this has got to be the last season,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets because I know I tried to give it another season. So me saying this has to be the last season, it’s not as difficult as it was last year. I tried. I gave it that last effort and it’s time to move on. I’m at that range to where I’m at peace with things.”
After attempting this comeback and giving it his all, he realized that he has more to offer than just his physical talents. Roy’s game wasn’t predicated on beating defenders off the dribble or blowing by them with his speed. He was a thinker on the court who knew how to make plays without being the most athletic player in the world.
It took some time for Roy to find himself beyond playing basketball, but he says that thanks to prayer, family and friends, he has received a new calling.
Post-playing career, I now introduce you to Coach Roy.
“Now, I think there’s something in me that I can offer to basketball. There’s a message that I can bring to basketball. I wasn’t the fastest, the highest jumper, but my knowledge of the game helped me be an effective player at a high level,” Roy said. “Coaching at the NBA level is where I see myself. If this season is it for me, I’m not staying away from basketball. I would want to get in as soon as possible.”
On the Trail Blazers’ bench?
“Maybe one day,” he said. “My knowledge of the game and understanding of chemistry, I think that stuff, I can offer. These young kids today are good, but they lack those things.”
Jose Calderon has only known one city, Toronto, in his NBA career. That all changed last night with his inclusion in the three-team Rudy Gay trade that put the Raptors’ all-time leader in assists and free-throw percentage in Detroit now as part of the deal.
Understandably, Calderon was doing his best to hold it together as he addressed how he found out about the trade and what’s next for him:
ATLANTA – The aftermath of draft night and the night of a big trade in the NBA involve similar routines for the executives whose fingerprints are all over the selections and deals. Study your own handiwork hard enough and it becomes easier with each passing second to justify whatever was done in the name of the greater good.
That’s also why front office types are fond of this theory that you can’t just judge draft picks or trades on the spot. They both require a little extra time before being examined.
But that’s only in the insulated world of said front office types, the men whose jobs are on the line each and every time a draft pick busts or a prized acquisition doesn’t live up to the hype.
Raptors general manager Bryant Colangelo (in the video above and here) has coveted Gay since the 2006 Draft, when the Raptors selected Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 overall pick, the same Bargnani they are also trying to deal before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace gushed about veteran forward TayshaunPrince and Austin Daye, acquired from Detroit, and promising young big man Ed Davis snagged from Toronto:
“We are excited to add three players who bring with them a tremendous amount of value to our team and have achieved incredible success on the pro, college and Olympic levels,” Wallace said in a statement. “In these players, we welcome NBA Champion and Olympic gold medalist Tayshaun Prince, as well as up-and-coming athletic forwards Ed Davis, who won an NCAA title at North Carolina, and Austin Daye.”
Pistons boss Joe Dumars was just as effusive in his praise of Jose Calderon, the veteran point guard with the expiring contract who relocates from Toronto to Detroit with his coveted expiring ($10.5 million this season) contract:
“We are pleased to welcome Jose Calderon, knowing that he fits our mold as a high character individual who is a great competitor,” Dumars said in his statement. “Jose is a great facilitator at the guard position and a player that we feel gives us tremendous flexibility on the court when added to the core of guards we have on the roster.”
And in that regard, all three of these teams can and will walk away claiming victory.
The Raptors got their man in Gay, 26, a dynamic wing player from a Western Conference contender whose contract (two years and $37 million after this season) forced the Grizzlies’ financial hand more than anything. Gay is hardly the only member of the top 20 salaries list who would not make your top 20 players in the league list, but he’s far from a bust. He just hasn’t reached All-Star status (yet?).
In the Eastern Conference, the road back to respectability is often just the right player or two or one big summer away. On the other hand, the Grizzlies were forced to weigh the long-term sustainability of a salary structure that doesn’t support coming up short of the Western Conference finals.
They reduced their payroll with this deal and also shed some $6 million in payroll after completing a multiple-player deal with the Cavaliers last week. Prince, 32, whose best days in the league predate Twitter, still pays immediate dividends with his experience and leadership. Davis provides a huge development chip for the future and Daye, the No. 15 pick in the 2009 Draft, serves as the wild card, depending on how he adjusts to his new city and new role.
But the question will linger well into early spring for the Grizzlies: did they move up a spot on the Western Conference food chain, stay the same or take a step back by breaking up their promising (but expensive) core four of Gay, All-Star power forward Zach Randolph, former All-NBA center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley?
“The Thunder, Clippers and Spurs are loving this deal,” an Eastern Conference assistant general manager said late Wednesday night. “Rudy would have been someone they had to worry about if they saw Memphis in the playoffs. Tayshaun was a great piece in his prime. But he hasn’t been that guy for a few years now. The big winners in this deal are the Thunder, Clippers and Spurs.”
Perhaps it’s best to give the final word to a man whose statistical value has often paled in comparison to some of the other, tougher to quantify benefits he brings to his own particular situation …
Wow that was 1 crazy trade today. Are you serious Rudy Gay is right there under KD, Lebron, Kobe, and Melo. #badtrade— Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) January 30, 2013
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
Rondo seeking second opinion on ACL — A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com reports that Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who was found to have a torn ACL on Sunday, will meet with several other doctors — including the famed Dr. James Andrews — as well as players from other sports to get a second opinion on the severity and recovery process from his injury:
“He (Dr. Andrews) is one that we’re definitely considering,” Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, told CSNNE.com. “If he’s No. 1, there’s a couple 1As and 1Bs we’re looking at as well.”
Duffy said the second opinion on Rondo’s knee will not be made for at least another four or five days in order to allow the swelling to go down.
In addition, Duffy said they are in the process of setting up meetings with other athletes who have had similar injuries.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is among those that Rondo’s camp hopes to speak with very soon.
Peterson suffered a torn left ACL and MCL injury on Christmas Eve in 2011, and was back on the field for the season opener in September – less than nine months after the injury.
Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose suffered a torn left ACL injury during the first round of the playoffs against Philadelphia on April 28th last year, with his return likely to be shortly after the all-star break next month.
Duffy said Rondo’s trying to be as positive as he can about his injury.
“He’s distraught but he understands what he has to do,” Duffy said. “We have to have him channel all that energy into getting stronger and healthy as soon as possible.”
“I’m a competitor, I’m a guy that thinks I bring a lot to the table, and not being on the floor is something that I don’t like, I don’t appreciate,” Gasol said.
Gasol had seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 21 minutes as the Lakers built an 83-73 lead through the first three quarters.
“It’s a challenge,” Gasol said when asked about toeing the line and accepting D’Antoni’s decision so that he doesn’t take away from the team while still defending his personal ability. “We’re challenged every day, and I’m challenged every day to keep my calm and keep my peace and not let my emotions take over my words.”
Speaking out after a win against the Hornets might seem like poor timing from Gasol, but even while begrudgingly accepting a bench role, he stated his desire to continue to play in crunch time.
“I think the finishing is more important (than starting),” Gasol said recently. “I think the best players should finish off games. That’s just the way it’s got to be. When the game is on the line, you want to be on the floor. That’s more important.”
It was the same sentiment that led Gasol to be upset Tuesday.
“It’s fun to win but when a team comes back on you the way the Hornets did tonight and you are not there as a high-quality player and as a competitor, it’s frustrating,” Gasol said.
Aldridge always happy to see Dallas — Not surprisingly, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s phone was blowing up after his game-winning turnaround shot to sink the Mavs last night. What’s interesting, as The Columbian’s Candace Buckner points out, is that the former prep and college standout from Texas seems to particularly enjoy tormenting his hometown team:
LaMarcus Aldridge, a Dallas native, saved his best to down his hometown team, hitting the game-winning jump shot as time expired for the Trail Blazers’ 106-104 victory.
With a well-executed inbounds play, a flick of the wrist and a perfect jump shot, the Blazers (23-22) shook off a large second-half deficit after the Mavericks pulled ahead by 21 points. So by the time Aldridge returned to the Blazers locker room, his phone had over 20 messages on it. Just a glance and he could tell that his mother, Georgia, was about to make his cell phone battery die.
“She’s watching (the game),” said Aldridge, who finished with a game-high 29 points and also contributed 13 rebounds. “She texted me like five or six times.”
The family celebrated, the 18,888 in the Rose Garden rejoiced and even Aldridge – who so often just describes this whole NBA thing as a “job” – beamed broadly as teammates bum rushed him near the Dallas bench.
“He was smiling like a rookie after his first NBA game,” Nicolas Batum said, describing Aldridge.
He seems to be happiest devastating the hometown team.
Last April at the American Airlines Arena, Aldridge carried the Blazers to the 99-97 victory over the Mavericks with a step-back jumper at the buzzer. Then, Terry Stotts watched from the other sideline as a Dallas assistant coach. Surely, from Stotts’ perspective, this Aldridge game-winner felt a bit better.
“People can think what they want to think, but LaMarcus, there’s no question in my mind that he’s an All-Star,” Stotts said. “He didn’t have to make that shot to prove he’s an All-Star. He proves it every night.”
He also happens to prove it whenever he plays against Dallas.
Aldridge scores 21.2 points per game against the Mavericks, according to basketball-reference.com and the figure ranks as second highest in his career against any NBA team. Through the last four games versus Dallas, Aldridge has averaged 26.7 points and 11 rebounds.
Oden wants back in NBA; Cavs next? — Former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden is readying himself for an NBA return and the Heat and Cavs are reportedly on the top of his destination list. How likely is it he’ll be a Cav? Doug Lesmerises of The Plain Dealer digs in:
Former Ohio State star Greg Oden is confident he will return to the NBA after his many knee injuries, but he would not venture a guess about whether he’ll wind up in Cleveland.
“I’m worried about the knee,” he told The Plain Dealer when asked if the Cavs could be a destination for him. “That’s it.”
Oden was in Columbus to take in the Buckeyes’ 58-49 victory over Wisconsin. He has been living in Columbus and taking classes, but he said now that he’s working out in his hometown of Indianapolis and splitting time between the cities.
Asked if he was playing at all, Oden said, “I’m just getting my knee ready so when things do happen I’ll be ready to play next year.
“I’m still in the rehab process, but I’m it taking slow. I could possibly be playing at this point, but I’ve done that before and I got injured before, so I’d rather take everything I am doing slow. Right now I’m just doing strength stuff with my knees.”
He said he was confident he would return to the NBA.
“I like how my knee is going, the way it’s going,” he said. “I still like the time I’m taking, just to make sure nothing happens. You can’t predict the future. But if it doesn’t happen, I’m happy.”
Stuckey, Frank mend fences — Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey and coach Lawrence Frank have had a touch-and-go relationship the last few days. But Terry Foster of the Detroit News reports that’s all behind both men now:
There’s peace again at The Palace. That’s if you believe Pistons coach Lawrence Frank and reserve guard Rodney Stuckey.
Frank ended the one-game benching of Stuckey in time for Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Palace. But Stuckey was a non-factor during the Pistons’ 117-90 blowout loss to the Bucks at The Palace. He played 27 minutes and finished with just seven points.
Stuckey admitted the men clashed before the Pistons’ game Sunday in Orlando. Frank punished Stuckey by benching him for that game and refused to tell the media why. Frank was mostly close-mouthed again but he equated to a family squabble.
“Things happen every single day,” Frank said. “You deal with it and you move on. There are no grudges. Made a decision and we move on today. During the course of the season you are going to have a bunch of disagreements.”
Neither man would say what happened but it is believed they had a disagreement during practice.
Jazz corner market on youth?– The West-leading Oklahoma City Thunder often get a lot of credit for the way their youthful, lottery-picked duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook has helped them develop into a contender. But you’d likely be surprised to learn that the Thunder don’t have the most under-25 ex-lottery picks on their roster. According to Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News, that honor belongs to Utah:
Remember the NBA list of the 50 greatest players ever that came out about 15 years ago? Of those 50 players, all but a handful were top-10 selections and 32 of them were top-5 picks. Of the players who have played since that list came out, those that would be considered among the all-time greats — James, Duncan, Kevin Durant — most have been high draft picks.
That brings us to the Utah Jazz.
While five teams have more total lottery picks on their rosters (New York has the most with nine, but four are 38 years or older), no team has more under the age of 25. And the Jazz has the most under the age of 22 with Gordon Hayward (22), Derrick Favors (21), Alec Burks (21) and Enes Kanter (20).
One of the teams closest to the Jazz in terms of young, high lottery picks is Wednesday night’s opponent, New Orleans, which has three under the age of 22 in 19-year-old Anthony Davis, 20-year-old Austin Rivers and 22-year-old Al-Farouq Aminu.
Other teams with three lottery picks under age 22 include Washington (John Wall, Bradley Beal, Jan Vesely), Charlotte (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Bismarck Biyombo) and Cleveland (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson).
Walton takes on mentoring role — Ex-Laker Luke Walton wasn’t sure what his role would be when he was traded to the Cavs at last season’s trade deadline. But it’s become clear that the one-time starter in L.A. is embracing his role as a coach of sorts for Cleveland’s young big men Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller, writes Stephen Brotherson of HoopsWorld.com:
“At the beginning of the year, the coaches [told] me, you got to [help Thompson and Zeller],” Walton said. “So I knew that was going to be part of my role this year whether it was while I was playing or while I was not playing. I had a lot of good vets that had taught me a lot about this game, so when I am out there playing with these young talented big guys, if I see something that they are doing or I see something that would be more effective for them during a timeout, I will let them know or if we are in the game together, I will try to point it out so we can do it because if we do it in a game, it will reinforce it. They are both such great kids. They want to learn. They want to get better. It has been a lot of fun doing that.”
Thompson and Zeller have enjoyed playing with Walton this season. The veteran has been showing them how to be a facilitator and setting them up when they get open.
“[Walton is] fun,” Zeller said. “You know he is going to find you if you are open and he can make a lot of great plays. We have a lot of confidence in him that he can score, pass and defend. He is really a great all-around player.”
“He is a great passer,” Thompson said. “He keeps the offense flowing. He sees the court. He might not be the most athletic big guy or the tallest guy, but he is so smart that he knows where the ball needs to go, what works and what doesn’t work. We are blessed to have him on our team.”
“It’s awesome,” Walton said. “Obviously losing is very hard, but just being back out there on the court and being able to help some younger players, now having the opportunity to play again and play the way basketball is meant to be played with sharing the ball and passing, I am having a blast right now.”
ICYMI of the night: Before we all get a little too excited over the Lakers’ three-game win streak, let’s not forget there are still more kinks to work out … as this play below illustrates: