Posts Tagged ‘Houston Rockets’

Morning shootaround — March 5


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played March 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant waiting for pain to subside | Howard on schedule | James takes another hit | Noah working to stop violence in Chicago

No. 1: Durant waiting for pain to subsideRussell Westbrook is tearing through defenses and getting a triple-double every time he takes the floor. But the Oklahoma City Thunder are still in a fight for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, just a game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, who have won six of their last seven games and just got Anthony Davis back. That doesn’t mean that Kevin Durant is in a rush to return from surgery to replace a screw in his right foot. He spoke about his eventual return with Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman

You had a reevaluation yesterday. Were you happy with what you heard?

Um, I’m more so just focused on trying to get this pain out of it and coming back when I’m ready, when I’m 100 percent ready and not trying to force it or play with pain. Just trying to conquer this little stage I’m in right now, which is getting this thing right, working as hard as I can in the weight room and on the court. Yeah, it’s tough, but I just gotta be ready to go.

Was there any relief that the pain you were feeling, there was a reason for it?

Yeah, now I know what happened in that Memphis game, in that Dallas game. I know why I was having so much pain and to have that corrected feels so much better. It’s just a matter of when somebody digs in your foot, you’re going to have some pain. That’s what happened when they reinserted a different screw. The pain that I had before is gone, but there’s still some pain there obviously from them going in there and stitching me up. But I should be fine soon.

You feel very confident you will return this season?

No doubt. No doubt. I’m looking forward to returning this season. No doubt. I’m not packing it in at all.

***

No. 2: Howard on schedule — It’s been a month since Dwight Howard had a “bone marrow aspirate injection” on his right knee. Howard was reevaluated this week and his recovery is “on schedule,” but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be taking the floor for the Rockets any time soon, as Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes

Rockets center Dwight Howard’s “checkup” with the team physician, including an MRI, confirmed the team’s confidence that Howard is progressing “on schedule,” a person with knowledge of the process said, though reports from his workouts remain the most important measures of his progress.

Wednesday marked four weeks since Howard’s bone marrow aspirate injection, but Dr. Walter Lowe said last month that he expected the time out to be the key to healing the edema that had built up on Howard’s right knee, rather than the procedure.

“He’s coming along,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I saw him on the treadmill which is a good sign, but I haven’t seen him on the floor. Until you see him on the floor, who knows.”

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No. 3: James takes another hit — Three days after getting kicked in the groin by James Harden, LeBron James got tackled by Jonas Valanciunas in the Cavs’ win in Toronto on Wednesday. James isn’t the type for retaliation, but he’s certainly getting a little frustrated with the physicality, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes

After being the recipient of a second flagrant foul in his past three games, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James said he might have to take matters into his own hands in the future.

“Maybe I got to protect myself a little bit more, too,” James said after the Cavs’ 120-112 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas wrapped James up around the neck and shoulders as he drove the lane with 18.8 seconds left in the third quarter. The infraction was initially whistled as a common foul before being upgraded to a flagrant foul 1 after an official’s review of the video replay.

“I don’t want to get too much involved in it because I don’t want to cry about it because it’s not like I’m not able to get back up, but it’s a lot of plays that are just not basketball plays,” said James, who was kicked in the groin Sunday by Houston’s James Harden, resulting in a one-game suspension for the Rockets swingman.

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No. 4: Noah working to stop violence in Chicago — Joakim Noah is from New York, but Chicago has been his home for eight years now. He’s been trying his best to help curb violence in his adopted city, and has a new initiative that he talked about after practice on Wednesday. K.J. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune was there

On the direct heels of Noah’s well-received, anti-violence video “You’re Not Alone,” produced by Noah’s foundation and award-winning journalist and author Alex Kotlowitz, Noah has launched another initiative.

“I think the video was very important for people from all shapes of life to look at it as it’s not just a problem that’s just going on the South Side or the West Side. It’s everybody’s problem,” Noah said. “So me and my mother started this movement, it’s called Rock Your Drop: The Drop of Consciousness. It’s a necklace that represents a tear drop. It’s something we’ve been working really hard on. It’s to bring awareness to all the violence that’s going on and also that we’re all in this together, and you’re not alone.

“It’s our movement and we’re very proud of it, and we just hope that it can spread. The more money we raise with these drops, the programs we can put in for these kids.”

The necklaces are available for purchase on www.rockyourdrop.com.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Steve Kerr explains why David Lee didn’t play in the second half of the last two games of the Warriors’ road trip … Kevin Garnett says the Nuggets quit on Brian Shaw … Raptors coach Dwane Casey is using the last part of the season to do some experimentingKelly Olynyk returned from an 18-game absence in the Celtics’ win over the Jazz on Wednesday … and bidders for the Hawks continue to emerge.

ICYMI: Russell Westbrook, Western Conference Player of the Month for February, took an early lead for the same award in March with 49 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in the Thunder’s overtime win over the Sixers:


VIDEO: Nightly Notable: Russell Westbrook

Morning shootaround — March 3


VIDEO: Highlights from games played March 2

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dragic gets revenge against Phoenix | Griffin prepares for return | Harden suspended for kick | Teletovic says Bosh should be fine

No. 1: Dragic gets revenge against Phoenix — After the Phoenix Suns moved Goran Dragic at the trade deadline, both sides publicly took the other side to task in the media. Dragic, for his part, says it was hard to take the accusations of being selfish. Last night, with the Suns’ postseason hopes setting, the Suns went to Miami to take on Dragic and the Heat. Things didn’t go Phoenix’s way, as the Heat not only won 115-98, but the game devolved into a wrestling match. As Paul Coro writes in the Arizona Republic

It was hard enough to see Goran Dragic polish them off in the fourth quarter and fly off the court in glee, pumping his arm in relief after a foul-plagued first half. It was bad enough losing starting big men Markieff Morris and Alex Len to second-half ejections for a Flagrant Foul 2 and a fighting technical, respectively. It was even worse than committing 13 first-half turnovers to make the rest of the night difficult.

The Suns (31-30) just were not tough enough and know it after a 3-10 stretch.

“We have to find out who on this team is going to be tough,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “In terms of going after balls, we are soft going after everything. Teams just take the ball out of our hands. Maybe they grab your arm but you have to be tougher than that. I don’t know what it is but, when teams get physical, we look like a high school team. We have to get tougher and we have to find tougher guys who are going to battle. I get tired of watching us not go after balls. There is nothing worse to me than being soft and not going after a ball.

“In the second half, we showed some fight. We waited three quarters of getting pushed in the back before we decided to do anything about it.”

Some of that fight wound up hurting themselves. In chasing down Dragic on a breakaway, Markieff Morris was called for a questionable Flagrant Foul 2 in a game in which he already had been assessed his 13th technical foul of the season, which ties him for the NBA lead with Russell Westbrook and puts him three away from an automatic one-game suspension.

Morris tried to check on Dragic after the foul but the officials would not let him. After a review, Morris received a Flagrant Foul 2, which is supposed to be for “excessive and unnecessary” contact but it appeared Morris mostly connected bodies on his challenge.

“It was a hard foul,” Morris said. “It was a basketball play, I thought. The refs thought otherwise and kicked me out. Just overexaggerating. I thought he did fall hard. He was in the air and jumped back. My momentum hit him hard. It was a hard foul. It didn’t look intentional like I tried to push him under there or none of that.”

At that point, Miami took a 68-53 lead off the free throws less than four minutes into the third quarter. About four minutes later, Miami center Hassan Whiteside dunked on Suns center Alex Len, as he often did Monday, and came down on Len, who shoved him off. Whiteside tackled Len to the ground and a scrum ensued, leading to fighting technical fouls and ejections for Whiteside and Len.

Len was unavailable for comment after the game but Whiteside said Len was mad “because I just kept dunking on him.” Whiteside, a midseason sensation, had 17 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes.

“You’re not going to come into Miami and just bully us,” Whiteside said.

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Feb. 27


VIDEO: Highlights for games played Feb. 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls hoping for quick Rose return | Paul George returns to practice | Earl Lloyd passes away | Buyouts not working out for Clippers | Rip Hamilton retires

No. 1: Bulls hoping for quick Rose return — When it was announced earlier this week that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose would need knee surgery, many jumped to the belief that he would miss the rest of the season and postseason. But in a press conference yesterday, Bulls management was bullish on the belief that Rose could be back by the end of the season, and be ready for the playoffs, following surgery scheduled for today, writes K.C. Johnson in the Chicago Tribune

The procedure, which team physician Brian Cole will perform, is a removal of part or all of the meniscus. This type of procedure typically is used to address subsequent tears of the meniscus that Rose originally tore in November 2013.

In that surgery, which Cole also performed, Rose’s meniscus was repaired or reattached, and he missed the remainder of the 2013-14 season. A meniscectomy typically involves a shorter rehabilitation period.

The Tribune, citing sources, has reported there is considerable optimism that Rose’s second meniscus tear is small. Until the surgery is performed and Cole determines how much of the meniscus needs to be trimmed, it’s unknown what the timetable for Rose’s return is.

The Bulls said general manager Gar Forman will address that issue after the surgery. At the team’s annual charity event Thursday night, a feeling of hopeful optimism emanated from team officials.

“Nothing’s an easy procedure, but our anticipation is that there’s an area that’s going to get taken care of and the hope is that he will (play this season),” executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said.

Added Forman: “I don’t want to speculate until (Cole) goes in (Rose’s knee), but we’re certainly hopeful.”

(more…)

Morning shootaround — Feb. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rockets on outs for Dragic? | Assessing Reggie Jackson’s worth | Lakers, Clippers slide in ratings | Andrew Young supports Ferry

No. 1: Rockets on outs for Dragic? — Bittersweet might be the best way to describe it, the way the NBA trade deadline follows just days after Valentine’s Day each year. One moment people are flush with romance and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes, the next they’re casting covetous glances at a neighbor’s point guard. Or they’re trading away a player before that player can dump his team, a league transaction as the equivalent of a pre-nup agreement. Then there’s the unrequited love of deals that never actually get consummated, which is what the Houston Rockets were nervous about as Phoenix guard Goran Dragic hit the market this week. The good news for Houston was, Dragic definitely was available. The discouraging news, though, was that the Suns playmaker didn’t have the Rockets on his short list of trade destinations. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle broke down the Rockets’ potential heartache:

With Dragic – who said last month that he would consider all of his options, including the Rockets and Suns – listing the Knicks, Lakers and Heat among teams he would target as a free agent, the Rockets would be considerably more hard-pressed to gamble on a trade deadline move for Dragic.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has previously gone after a deal for a player that had shown no interest in signing with the Rockets when he pursued a deal with Denver for Carmelo Anthony. He also was willing to close a deal with Orlando for Dwight Howard when Howard at the time was interested in signing with Brooklyn, if he opted out of his Orlando contract to become a free agent.

Those deals were never completed, with Anthony going to the Knicks and Howard agreeing to opt in with Orlando, only to be traded to the Lakers the next off-season.

The Rockets were very interested in trading for Dragic with no guarantee that they could keep him. But unlike the seasons in which they pursued Anthony or Howard, they are not lacking in star power and as open to making a long-shot deal to land and eventually try to keep a foundation piece.

The Rockets could still be willing to make a deal centered around the first-round pick they acquired from the Pelicans in the trade of Omer Asik, an asset they primarily picked up to strengthen their position in a trade during the season. But it could be difficult to give up a rotation player, particularly a player signed beyond the season, in a trade for Dragic, who could leave after the season.

***

No. 2: Assessing Reggie Jackson’s worth — Lose a player for nothing or give him away for next-to-nothing. Often, that’s what it comes down to at the deadline for teams whose players can hit free agency in a few months. Whether they’re unrestricted and certain to leave or restricted but likely to fetch a price too high to match, the players’ current teams have to ask the same question a prospective suitor faces: What is this guy worth for two months and whatever playoff run follows? The Oklahoma City Thunder were mulling that in regards to guard Reggie Jackson as Thursday’s trade cutoff approached, as reported by the Daily Oklahoman:

As the clock ticks, Jackson’s name remains one of the hottest on the market. There’s a general feeling that the Thunder, a calculated and forward-thinking organization that has always tried to maximize its assets, doesn’t want to lose him for nothing this offseason when he hits restricted free agency. So a trade would seem likely.

But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

With the Thunder still harboring playoff and title hopes, Jackson remains a key contributor. He is OKC’s best playmaker off the bench and remains capable of taking over and changing games, which he’s done multiple times the past two years. The Thunder’s talent level and championship probability takes a dip without him.

That, of course, changes if Sam Presti can swing a deal that nets the Thunder a contributor in return. But by solely moving Jackson, that’d be tough.

Any franchise interested in Jackson would likely be a non-playoff team needing point guard help — a Knicks or Kings type. It would be a move for the future. But trading for Jackson wouldn’t guarantee he’d be on the roster next season.

Plus, Jackson’s cheap $2.2 million deal complicates things even more. Most of the potentially available rotation players around the league — Brook Lopez, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler — make far more than Jackson. The Thunder would have to add more money (potentially Kendrick Perkins) into that type of deal.

***

No. 3: Lakers, Clippers slide in ratings — The show-biz capital of the world isn’t easily impressed with entertainment that isn’t first class, and that apparently extends to the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers this season. According to the Los Angeles Times, both teams have seen the telecasts of their games dip in the ratings. The NBA is trying to stay in front of technology, including a lot of younger fans’ switch from traditional TV viewing to using their tablets and smartphones to access entertainment, but this still is a trend that bears watching, considering the money at stake in broadcasts rights fees and advertising rates. Here is some of the L.A. Times’ report:

Nielsen ratings for the Lakers in the Los Angeles market are at an all-time low, dipping below a 2.00 rating for the first time, according to the ratings firm.

The Lakers’ 1.95 rating on Time Warner Cable SportsNet is down 25% from this point last season and puts the team on pace to break the record low 2.11 figure it posted for the 2013-14 season.

The Clippers are averaging a 1.10 rating on Prime Ticket, a drop of 13% from the same point last season. The ratings gap between the Lakers and Clippers is the lowest on record.

The Lakers (13-40) are on pace for the worst winning percentage in the franchise’s 66-year history. Making them all the harder to watch has been the absence of veteran stars Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash and rookie Julius Randle.

The Lakers’ TV ratings have declined in each of the three seasons they have partnered with TWC, which is paying the team $5 billion over 25 years. The team’s ratings are down 57% from only two years ago, when it posted a 4.63 during Dwight Howard’s one season in L.A.

The Clippers (35-19) are only one game worse than they were at this point last season on the way to a franchise-record 57 victories. They also had avoided injuries to top players before All-Star forward Blake Griffin was diagnosed last week with a staph infection in his right elbow that required surgery.

“The schedule has presented several challenges thus far, including fewer prime-time games and multiple matchups versus marquee events such as Monday Night Football,” said Steve Simpson, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. “That said, with the exciting brand of basketball the Clippers play, we are optimistic as we head into the second half of the season.”

***

No. 4: Andrew Young supports Ferry — As the Atlanta Hawks continue to have their way in the Eastern Conference as the NBA’s biggest surprise team of 2014-15, their exiled general manager, Danny Ferry, remains M.I.A. due to the controversy last summer over some racially insensitive (and tape-recorded) remarks. Ferry’s sabbatical hasn’t been turned into a pink slip, though, and a number of folks inside and outside the NBA have spoken up in defense of his character. Now Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta and a longtime civil rights leader, has added his name to that list, saying “Hell no” when asked by a local TV station whether Ferry should be fired. Here’s more from ESPN.com:

Asked by WSB TV’s sports director Zach Klein whether Ferry should lose his job, Young responded, “Hell no.”

Ferry took a leave of absence from the Hawks on Sept. 12 after a recording of him making inflammatory comments about Luol Deng on a conference call was made public. Since Ferry’s departure, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer has presided as the head of basketball operations, with assistant general manager Wes Wilcox also active in day-to-day proceedings.

On the call, Ferry characterized Deng as a player who “has a little African in him,” and added, “He’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.”

Young said that were he the decision-maker in the Hawks executive offices, he would’ve encouraged Ferry to stay on. He added that he doesn’t believe Ferry is a racist.

“No more than I am,” Young told the Atlanta station. “That’s a word that you cannot define, ‘You are a racist.’ You can’t grow up white in America without having some problems. You can’t grow up black in America without having some subtle feelings.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: One reason Sacramento’s new hire, George Karl, has been so successful as an NBA coach might be all the games he got to play against the Kings. … It’s going to be a busy day for trade deadline rumors, so add this to the list: Detroit and Brooklyn might be circling a Brandon Jennings-Joe Johnson maneuver. … Milwaukee’s Brandon Knight, another restricted free agent this summer, didn’t squeeze onto the East All-Star squad but is highly valued by the trade-meisters. … The folks at SheridanHoops.com kick around some trade speculation too, including Utah’s Enes Kanter to OKC? …

Report: Dragic won’t re-sign with Suns


VIDEO: David Aldridge on latest trade deadline rumblings

Representatives for Goran Dragic told the Suns on Tuesday that the veteran point guard does not plan to re-sign as an unrestricted free agent, according to a report by Sam Amick of USA Today, putting pressure on Phoenix to deal Dragic by the Thursday trade deadline or likely lose him for nothing in the summer.

The news comes with Dragic having gone from 35.1 minutes a game in 2013-14 to 33.4 this season after the Suns signed another point guard, Isaiah Thomas, as a free agent. That apparently has prompted Dragic to decide he does not want to stay, even if Phoenix were to move Thomas instead before the deadline passes.

From USA Today:

The main issue, according to one of the people [with knowledge of the situation], is that Dragic wants to run his own team with the kind of freedom and support given to someone like Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. The decrease in production this season, as he sees it, is directly tied to the decrease in time spent as the lead-guard with the host of ballhandlers that surround him. Dragic is averaging 16.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 33.4 minutes per game this season.

A team that acquires Dragic now would also have his Bird rights in July, a major bargaining chip in free agency. Several reports say Dragic, through his agent, have given the Suns a list of preferred destinations, but that the Rockets, one of the clubs that had been pursuing him, are not among the places Dragic would stay. That would put Houston in the difficult position of giving up assets for someone who would bolster its playoff hopes, except as a short-term rental who would leave after the season.

The Lakers, Heat and Knicks are among the preferred destinations, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!

Harden, Thompson to start for West All-Stars

Steve Kerr will go with a three-guard lineup during All-Star 2015.

Western All-Star coach Steve Kerr will go with a three-guard lineup during All-Star 2015.

It turns out that Steve Kerr did not need the wisdom of Solomon to avoid splitting the baby.

The solution to his problem about what to do with a logjam in the West backcourt was a simple one: He’ll employ a three-guard lineup that puts the Rockets James Harden and Warriors Klay Thompson alongside Stephen Curry.

The “Splash Brothers” teamed up to score 39 points in the Warriors’ 94-91 win over the Timberwolves in Minnesota on Wednesday night just a short time before learning they’d be starting together in the 2015 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.

As the leading vote-getter in the fan balloting, Curry was set to start, but a bit of debate and dilemma opened when the injured Kobe Bryant was scratched and speculation swirled if Kerr would give the starting nod to his own player Thompson and snub the NBA’s leading scorer in Harden.

But the announcement that the Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin underwent surgery for a staph infection in his elbow and would also miss the All-Star Game gave Kerr the wiggle room he needed.

Thompson and Curry will become the Warriors’ first duo of All-Star starters since 1967, when Rick Barry won the MVP at the Cow Palace and started alongside Nate Thurmond.

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle had the reaction to the decision:

“For our coaching staff to be handling the Western Conference and to be rewarding us for the wins we’ve had in the first part of the season, I think it’s only right that coach gets to pick his guy and reward Klay for what he’s done this season,” Curry said.

“It’s a cool honor for Klay to have with his head coach manning the team and having both of us in the backcourt.”

Kerr has known for weeks that he needed to name replacements, and he said he lied about not considering his options eight straight times before finally making the announcement after Wednesday’s game.

Joining the three guards in the West starting lineup will be center Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies and forward Anthony Davis of the Pelicans.

Blogtable: Thankful for a break

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: Team that needs a break? | Top Popovich memory? | East’s future title team?



VIDEO: Blake Griffin is expected to miss at least a few weeks as he recovers from surgery

> It’s an extended All-Star break this season, with most teams getting at least 7-8 days off between games. Which team needs this break the most?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s easy to look at teams’ records over their past 10 games or so and point to the one(s) limping into the break at 3-7 or 2-8. But there’s no assurance stepping away from the court will fix anything. My answer is Sacramento – the Kings look like they’ll have a new, permanent coach in George Karl, clearing their air and bringing changes for what’s left of this regular season. 

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe Rockets and Clippers in the Western Conference can use the break just to keep the clock ticking on the rehab times of Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin. But the Rockets have demonstrated all season that they’re still capable of riding James Harden to wins and DeAndre Jordan showed the good things that can happen when he stepped up Monday night. But the team that could benefit most is Miami. The time off will help Dwyane Wade’s hamstring recover and to make sure Hassan Whiteside’s ankle is 100 percent. The Heat will need them both healthy for the stretch drive if they’re going to hold onto a playoff spot.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Clippers and Trail Blazers come to mind first. Not because they have hit a bad stretch, although that too, but because of the prominent injuries. Blake Griffin may be back soon and LaMarcus Aldridge gets a few days to rest his injury, too. Being able to heal without missing a game for a week or so is a help. That would be the case anyway, but especially in the cage match that is the Western Conference standings.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Clippers. They just finished up a tough Grammy road trip and when they return from the break, 11 of their next 14 games are against teams with winning records. Oh, and did I mention Blake Griffin needs perhaps three weeks to heal from elbow surgery? Done, then. Doc Rivers needs this time to help them regroup, find a system to use in Griffin’s absence, and also to study who might become available at or after the trade deadline to improve the bench.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWith a lot of guys picking up injuries in the last couple of weeks, there are a lot of teams that could use the break to reduce the number of games those guys miss. And obviously, the most important of those guys is Blake Griffin, not only because he’s a great player, but because the Clippers’ bench is so awful. He’s still going to miss a lot of games after the break, but every little bit helps and seven days off is seven days closer to Griffin’s eventual return.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe rest that comes with this extended All-Star break will be enjoyed by all 30 teams. But no one needs the time to fine tune things more than the Oklahoma City Thunder. They need to take a deep breath before making their second half playoff charge. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook need a little practice time with Mitch McGary, the Thunder’s second-half X-factor, and they need to make sure they get everyone the needed time to recharge their batteries for what is going to be an absolutely wild ride to the finish.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThere must be a dozen title and/or playoff contenders who are going to benefit. But I’m going to focus on the Thunder, who are fighting with the Pelicans and Suns for the final playoff spot and can use these extra days to renew the health of Kevin Durant.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogUm, all of them? Honestly, I can’t think of a team that doesn’t need a break, except for maybe Atlanta and Golden State, who have been so hot they may not want to disrupt their rhythm. I guess one team that may appreciate a rest more than most is Oklahoma City, which faces an uphill task the rest of the way as they try to fight their way not only toward finally getting everyone healthy but also up and into the postseason. And unlike most teams on the outside looking in, the Thunder will the hunted not the hunters, so they’ll have to do this with a target on their backs. Rest up, Thunder. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Star-studded Three-Point Shootout field highlights All-Star Saturday Night


VIDEO: Star-studded field for Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

HANG TIME BIG CITY — Forget East versus West. After two years of NBA All-Star Saturday Night pitting one conference against the other, this time, it’s personal. And for once, long range marksmanship may trump dunks as the center of attraction.

NBA All-Star 2015Conference affiliations will be out the window on Saturday, Feb. 14, for the State Farm All-Star Saturday Night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. This year, it’s every man and woman for themselves in the annual Saturday night showcase.

In the Degree Shooting Stars competition, the two-time defending championship team of Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash will reunite. Although this is a shooting competition, Team Davis, made up of Anthony Davis, Scottie Pippen and Elena Delle Donne, will have unbelievable length. Other participants include Golden State’s Stephen Curry and his father, retired guard Dell.

Eight players will compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, a three-round, obstacle-course competition that tests dribbling, passing, agility and shooting skills. Seven of those players are point guards, including the defending champ, Utah’s Trey Burke, as well as All-Stars Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague and John Wall. The lone non-point guard in the field is Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, an All-Star swingman with well-rounded skills.

The Sprite Slam Dunk field was announced a few weeks ago. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo and Mason Plumlee bring an energetic edge to the proceedings this season. Brooklyn’s Plumlee is the lone active NBA player with New York ties participating on Saturday night.

Yet even with the loaded dunk field, it may be tough to top the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, which is this year stocked with sharpshooters …

Marco Belinelli, Spurs — Last year’s defending champ, Belinelli has played just 30 games this season due to injury. Belinelli has the lowest 3-point percentage (38.2) of any player in the Three-Point Contest field.

Stephen Curry, Warriors — Drained 10 3-pointers Wednesday night in a 51-point performance against the Mavs. Earlier this season, became fastest player in NBA history to make 1,000 career 3s.

Klay Thompson, Warriors — At 44.6 percent, Thompson trails only Korver in 3-point percentage this season. Thompson and Curry are the only teammates ever to combine for 400 3-pointers in back-to-back seasons.

James Harden, Rockets — Fifth this season in 3-pointers made and attempts, and the NBA’s leading scorer at 27 points.

Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers — Other than Belinelli, Irving has the least made treys in the field, with 100. But last year’s All-Star Game MVP has a flair for the dramatic, and he knocked down 11 3s in his 55-point performance a few weeks back against Portland.

Kyle Korver, Hawks — On pace to have the greatest 3-point shooting season in NBA history, currently leading the NBA in 3-point accuracy at 53.2 percent. Korver is attempting to become the first player in history among qualifiers to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from beyond the arc and 90 percent from the free-throw line.

Wesley Matthews, Trail Blazers — Leads the NBA in 3-pointers made (151) and attempted (375). Has had 11 games this season where he made at least 5 3-pointers.

J.J. Redick, Clippers — Has made 114 3-pointers, putting him on track to break his previous high of 165. Currently shooting a career-high 43.2 percent on 3s.

State Farm NBA All-Star Saturday Night will be televised live exclusively on TNT on Saturday, Feb. 14, from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.


VIDEO: All-Star guards highlight Taco Bell Skills Challenge

Howard out at least four more weeks

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Houston Rockets updated the status of Dwight Howard on Wednesday.

This morning Dr. Walt Lowe of the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute conducted a bone marrow aspirate injection on Rockets center Dwight Howard’s right knee. Howard will begin rehabilitation immediately and will be re-evaluated in approximately four weeks.

Houston sits in third place in the Western Conference, but is tied in the win column with the sixth-place Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets are 12-5 without Howard (if you include his last game, in which he played less than nine minutes), but have outscored their opponents by just 1.3 points per 100 possessions with him off the floor.

That’s a point differential that suggests they should have gone 9-8 in those 17 games. Twelve of the 17 have been within five points in the last five minutes, and Houston has gone 8-4 in clutch situations without their center.

Now they’re now about to begin a rough stretch of schedule. From Feb. 4 to March 4 (four weeks), Houston will play 11 of its 13 games against teams currently over .500. Seven games in the loss column ahead of ninth-place New Orleans, they’re probably not in any danger of losing a playoff spot, but they can probably say goodbye to home-court advantage in the first round.

Donatas Motiejunas has filled in admirably for Howard, and the additions of Josh Smith and a healthy Terrence Jones give the Rockets more frontline depth than they had earlier in the season. But the Rockets’ margin for error from game to game will be pretty thin for the next four weeks, because there’s no replacing the impact that Howard makes on both ends of the floor.

Report: Dwight Howard out for ‘weeks’

Dwight Howard's knee problems don't seem to be going away (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports).

Dwight Howard’s knee problems remain a major issue (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports).

Up to this point, the Rockets have been pitching in by committee to replace Dwight Howard in the middle of the lineup and succeeding. They are 11-5 this season without their starting center.

But now the task of battling for one of the top playoff positions in the Western Conference has likely gotten significantly harder as continuing problems with his right knee will keep Howard out of the lineup for weeks.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com says the Rockets are bracing themselves for playing without Howard for an extended period as he continues to get advice on how to best treat the recurring problem with his knee:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Rockets, while confident that Howard has enough time to bounce back for the regular-season stretch run and playoffs, fear their defensive anchor will be lost for a period of “weeks” as opposed to days.

Howard is still in the process of getting additional consultation from various doctors to determine the best treatment course for the knee.

Yet sources told ESPN.com that the Rockets already acknowledge that a period of rest “likely measured in weeks” will be the minimum requirement before their defensive anchor is ready to the return to the lineup. But sources say Houston nonetheless remains confident that Howard will be able to come back “in plenty of time” to ramp up for the postseason, even if the absence stretches into the six-weeks range.

The Rockets dodged another bullet when the NBA’s leading scorer James Harden went to the floor in the second quarter Saturday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills with a bone bone bruise in his left knee. But Harden returned in the second half of Houston’s 114-101 loss to Detroit.

Howard did not accompany the team on the two-game road trip to Boston and Detroit. He is averaging 16.3 points, 11 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots this season, but had a string of eight consecutive All-Star Game appearances end this week when he was not added to the Western Conference roster by vote of the coaches.