HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You couldn’t ask for a better fit … or better results.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is a Hall of Famer, an icon and living legend in his profession. And yet, he’s found a way to step aside and allow the spotlight to shine exactly where it needs to when he’s coaching the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team — on the NBA stars in he leads in international competition.
That’s what makes his return to his post great news for USA Basketball and chairman Jerry Colangelo, who hand-picked Coach K to take over as coach in 2005, and the future of the program. The continuity this dynamic duo brings is what will propel the program for years to come. Sure, it helps having the best talent on the planet to choose from. But the pipeline was full of talent before Colangelo and Krzyzewski got together and the results looked nothing like the 62-1 mark the Men’s Senior National Team has compiled under them.
This is one of those times when the numbers do not lie. There is something special about the bond Coach K has forged with the core members of the program that was on full display at the 2012 London Olympics. He found a way to succeed with superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and others while also continually integrating new and different faces into the mix. Under him, the U.S. won back-to-back gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and London four years later.
He found roles for guys like Kevin Love, Andre Iguodala and even a rookie like Anthony Davis, all stars in their own right and also all guys who might have been marginalized in years past on this stage. Things haven’t always run as smoothly as they have in recent years with the NBA stars involved with the program.
The all-time low point was the 2004 Athens Olympics. During that debacle, an ill-fitted group of NBA stars attempted to rescue the program’s honor on the global stage but ended up disappointing and finishing with a bronze medal. Rock bottom actually came four years earlier at the World Championships in Indianapolis in 2002, when a team coached by reigning NBA Coach of the Year George Karl was humbled on the world stage, becoming the first team with NBA players to fall in international competition while finishing an ugly sixth in the competition on home soil.
I was there in Indy and, as a fan of the international game and the fact that it’s played differently than the NBA style, it was as brutal to watch the U.S. struggle with that adjustment as it was to see them come apart at the seams.
Those back-to-back failures led directly to Colangelo and then Krzyzewski coming on board to help rehabilitate the program, complete with the formation of a robust Men’s Senior National Team roster that included commitments from many of the game’s biggest current stars. And they had to be willing to subject themselves to a grueling tryout process that could bruise plenty of egos along the way.
It wasn’t just about piling up a bunch of stars and throwing them into the unfamiliar international mix, where national teams from Argentina and Spain were gaining major steam. It was about rounding up the right stars that would embrace the team dynamic in ways that the players on the ’02 and ’04 teams refused to or simply could not.
You know the cupboard is stacked when you have All-Stars like Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday and other young stars willing to give up their summers to try to earn a place on the teams that will compete in the 2014 World Championships in Madrid and the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
Things have changed for the better with the power structure USA Basketball employed to help them regain their stature as the best in the world. And there’s no reason to assume they’ll do anything but continue that reign and improve upon that rock-solid foundation for years to come with Colangelo and Coach K at the helm.
Which non-playoff team makes the biggest leap forward next season?
Steve Aschburner: I’m givingMinnesota one more try. Injuries absolutely pole-axed a roster that had “playoff berth” written all over it. It wasn’t just that the losses of Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko, Ricky Rubio (at the start) and the others cost the Timberwolves the 15 victories or so they would have needed to claw into contention – it’s also that they wouldn’t have gone 1-13 against their primary competition (Lakers, Jazz, Warriors, Rockets) for a lower seed. Or 8-32 (with one left) against the 11 teams ahead of them in the West, compared to 22-19 against the rest of the league. Forget Roy, unfortunately, going forward, but Love needs to come back with a vengeance. And assuming they get one more season out of coach Rick Adelman, the Wolves could be revved by the sense that it’s 2013-14 or never .
Fran Blinebury: Of course, it will require the basketball gods to finally grant them good health, but a lineup with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio available to play a full season with Andrei Kirilenko back in the fold and Rick Adelman back on the bench should put the Timberwolves into the thick of the West playoff race.
Jeff Caplan: In the West I think the most obvious non-playoff team to make a major leap next season has to be the Timberwolves. I picked them to finish sixth this season, but injuries derailed that instantly. Given full health (and re-signing Nikola Pekovic), the Wolves are primed for a big move. In the East, give me a healthy, young and talented Cavs squad that still has draft picks to make.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Trail Blazers. It may not be the biggest leap in terms of win total, although they are doing everything possible the last few weeks of the season to make that a relevant conversation as well. But Portland has clearly positioned itself as a team of the future, with a foundation in place, a lot of spending power in the summer to get some much-needed depth, and a smart GM. Whether the Blazers begin 2013-14 with a path to No. 8 in the West depends on moves other teams make.
John Schuhmann: I look at the team with the best young star on its roster, and that’s Cleveland. After a summer of development, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters should all come back as better players next fall. Obviously, it’s hard to count on a full season of Anderson Varejao after he’s played just 81 games over the last three, but a coaching change could help the Cavs take a step forward. This is the only team that has ranked in the bottom five defensively for each of the last three seasons, and they need someone to point them in the right direction. If they can just play average defense next season while taking a natural step forward offensively, they can be at least 10-12 games better.
Sekou Smith: Without an easily identifiable superstar in the 2013 Draft class, it’s hard to hypothesize about the sorts of leaps and bounds a team can make if they acquire the top (or one of the top three to five picks) in the lottery. That said, the Washington Wizards showed me glimpses (once John Wall got healthy and comfortable) of being a legitimate playoff contendernext season if they have all of their main rotation players healthy. The climb’s a little steep in the Western Conference for teams like Minnesota, Utah and Portland. But in the East, the bottom half of the playoff mix should be wide open. And the Wizards, one of the top defensive teams in the league, should have a chance to fight their way into the mix next year if Wall and Bradley Beal are healthy and in attack mode.
HANG TIME HOSPITAL – There is no other suitable dateline, not for the latest casualty report by a team suffering injuries literally upon injuries.
As if the Minnesota Timberwolves weren’t waylaid enough by ailments and maladies to just about every key rotation player, Kevin Love‘s season-long ordeal with a broken shooting hand took an unexpected turn Monday when he was shut down until 2013-14 by a balky left knee.
That’s right. His knee, not his hand.
The Wolves announced that their All-Star power forward would have arthroscopic surgery later this week to remove scar tissue in his left knee. He is expected to undergo the procedure when he consults with Dr. David Altchek in New York, which also is the site of his next check-up on the right hand he has broken twice this season.
Just when Love was getting close to a possible return from his hand injury – he has appeared in only 18 games, none since Jan. 3 – his increased activity in workouts caused the nagging discomfort in his knee to worsen.
“Kevin tried very hard these last few weeks to get back in time to finish the season, and frankly the issue wasn’t his hand,” Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn told reporters in a conference call Monday evening. “He’s been shooting it very well in his workout. The issue has been his knee. It isn’t a big one, it’s something that is easily addressed, but it caused enough concern that the decision we made collectively was to do this procedure now so he can have a better offseason in terms of a return to the court.”
Love, who averaged 22.7 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12 while shooting 45.9 percent from the floor and 39.1 percent from the arc, obviously was bothered by his hand, which he said he initially injured doing “knuckle push-ups.” He re-injured it in a game against Denver. In his 18 games this season, he shot just 35.2 and 21.7 percent, respectively, while averaging 18.3 points.
In search of a silver lining to what has been a very dark injury cloud over his whole roster, Kahn said Love, 24, could essentially have a normal offseason starting in June. Considering how abnormal their season has been – with notable layoffs to Ricky Rubio, Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Andrei Kirilenko, Malcolm Lee, Nikola Pekovic and more – a summer without setback for Love is a start, anyway.
I’m back with seven awards for the fantasy season that was — and still is for the lucky and talented few who are still alive for their league’s title.
MVP- James Harden, Rockets: Harden was drafted late in the first round or more likely in round two, but his 8-cat goodies rank behind only Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Harden has overtaken Chris Paul as the annual #3 guy.
Pickup of the Year – Nicola Vucevic, Magic: Coming into this season, Vucevic was in a position battle with Gustavo Ayon. Six months later, Vucevic is third in rebounding (11.5), and sixth in double-doubles (38), while Ayon was traded at the deadline.
Surprise of the Year – Larry Sanders, Bucks: Sanders rose from a deep, deep sleeper entering the season to a candidate for the reality DPOY and MIP awards. He’s hovering around 10-10-3, vaulting him into the top-50 of the 8-cat rankings.
Disappointment of the Year – Kevin Love, Timberwolves: K-Love broke his shooting hand in the preseason doing knuckle-pushups and then re-broke it during the season, limiting him to 18 games and 35 percent shooting. He’ll never be worse.
Determinator – Stephen Curry, Warriors: Curry has re-injured his surgically repaired ankle multiple times this season, and yet he’s on pace to rank in the top 5 on the 8-cat chart and play close to 80 games.
Fantasy DPOY – Dwight Howard, Lakers: The best combination of blocks plus steals has been authored up by Dwight, who is averaging 2.5 blocks and 1.1 steals for a league-leading defensive total of 3.6. Dwight could have been the Determinator as well for playing through the torn labrum and returning early from back surgery.
Fantasy MOOP (Most Outstanding Offensive Player) – Kevin Durant, Thunder: The MOOP award goes to the player with the best combination of scoring average, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and threes made. This year, it’s Durant, who is leading the NBA in scoring (28.3) for a fourth straight year thanks to 51% FG, 91% FT, and 1.7 threes/game.
It’s been a great year. Thanks for the eyes, good luck in your games, and we’ll see you on the air…
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.
Kobe Bryant has been stellar, but the Lakers still have been a letdown. (Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Name a player, coach or team who has disappointed you this year.
Steve Aschburner: Disappointment doesn’t necessarily require blame, so my choice is the Minnesota Timberwolves. For the first time since about 2004, there was a real buzz in the Twin Cities as the Wolves opened training camp, owing to the improvements in 2011-12 under Rick Adelman, positive updates on Ricky Rubio‘s knee-surgery rehab, some smart off-season roster moves and the continued development of Kevin Love as one of the game’s elite, and highly watchable, power forwards. Then Brandon Roy (predictably, frankly), Chase Budinger and worst of all Love went down – went down hard – with injuries. A rash of others, including rejuvenated Andrei Kirilenko and Bond villain Nikola Pekovic lost time as well. Even Adelman had to miss games while attending to his wife’s health issues. Rubio, after an inconsistent couple months back, has regained his don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it form. But from Love’s opt-out in two years to Adelman’s commitment to Pekovic’s market value this summer and more, the clock be ticking in Minny.
Fran Blinebury: Philadelphia due to the guy in that other question. I didn’t think Bynum would miss the entire season and be on the verge of a career washout. The Sixers’ grand plan to step up into contender’s class has blown up in their faces. Now they have no Iguodala, no NikolaVucevic, no MauriceHarkless … nothing to show for the gamble. It seems the franchise has been set back for years.
Jeff Caplan: This is as equally disappointing as it easy to pick: The MinnesotaTimberwolves. Injuries ruined this team since Day 1 with Ricky Rubio still rehabbing and Kevin Love breaking his hand doing knuckle push-ups. No need to get into the rest of the injury list here, it’s just too long, but before the season I picked the Wolves to finish sixth in the West. I’d have said that they’re 23-42 record would have been reversed had health prevailed.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Removing the injury considerations (Timberwolves, Bynum, others), it’s still the Lakers in what has to be an open-ended question until the end of the playoffs. If L.A. finishes as badly as it started, then we have an answer. If your favorite dysfunctional family reaches the postseason and has a nice run, though, a respectable showing gets the Lakers off the hook. That means reaching the conference finals or a good playoffs before losing in a competitive series to the Spurs or Thunder.
John Schuhmann:The Lakers are still just 36-33 and still very much in danger of not making the playoffs, so they’re obviously at the top of the list. It’s great to see Dwight Howard finally looking more mobile and I understand that injuries have been an issue all season, but this team still isn’t playing the defense it needs to play if the Lakers want to win more than a game against one of the top five teams in the West. In fact, they rank just 15th in defensive efficiency since the All-Star break. This team was supposed to be a title contender, and they’ve never looked anything like it.
Sekou Smith: Nothing but sunshine around here as usual, huh? There are plenty of candidates in each category, as we all love to nitpick the performances of specific players, coaches and teams. Even with a few good weeks since the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Lakersremain one of the most disappointing teams in recent memory. And you could go with the Lakers across the board here, Dwight Howard or Steve Nash in the player spot, Mike D’Antoni at coach and the Lakers as the team. Barring a miraculous playoff run, they’re going to occupy the entire page in the Hang Time yearbook for the biggest flop of the season. The best part, though, is they still have a chance to rewrite the ending to this story. They have the potential to provide the most drama in a first round playoff series, just by showing up in either San Antonio or Oklahoma City.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Nothing can change this lost season for Ricky Rubio and the Minnesota Timberwolves. His first career triple-double Tuesday night reminded what might have been, but more importantly, what’s still to come.
Look no further than Chicago and the ongoing road to full recovery forDerrick Rose to understand the complications and fears associated with a return from reconstructive knee surgery. While Rose still has yet to make his season debut, Rubio is three months into his return from a torn ACL in his left knee that short-circuited the end of his 2011-12 season and the start of this one.
He pulled a rabbit out of his hat and more Tuesday in a blowout win against the San Antonio Spurs, producing season-highs with 21 points and 13 rebounds, plus 12 assists. He was playing with full confidence, dribbling behind his back to beat defenders into the paint, dropping no-look passes, firing baseball passes, lobs and spotting cutters with lightning-quick bounce passes that somehow skip into the hands of his target.
“That’s the first one of many to come in his career,” teammate J.J. Barea said of Rubio’s triple-double.
The first was just a matter of time. Over the last 15 games, Rubio has eight double-doubles. He twice missed a triple-double by two rebounds and once each by three rebounds and one rebound.
“Yeah of course,” Rubio said afterward when asked if it feels good to notch the triple-double. “It’s good to have a triple-double, but especially a win against [the Spurs]. I know they got Tim Duncan, [Kawhi] Leonard and Tony Parker out, so a lot of players, but they are a great team and we played great.”
Before anybody discounts Rubio’s performance and the Wolves’ 107-83 win against the shorthanded Spurs, let’s just remember that this was a Minnesota team playing without Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Chase Budinger as part of an injured list that keeps on going. It’s been a carousel of devastating injuries since the start of the season and the result is a 22-39 record when a return to the playoffs was the predominant offseason forecast.
On Tuesday night, starting along with Rubio was Luke Ridnour, Mickael Gelabale, Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma, mostly a decent lineup of backups on any other team, in fact, on this team with a full roster.
That won’t happen until next season when playoff hopes will again rise. Rubio’s gradual improvement and more recently his sudden leaps are the greatest hope of all. In the last 15 games he’s averaging 13.6 ppg and 9.0 apg to lift his season averages to 9.2 and 7.3.
The most gratifying number, however, just might be 34.9. That’s his average minutes in that span, raising his season average to 28.9 mpg. Since Feb. 1, Rubio has logged at least 30 minutes in 14 of 19 games and at least 35 minutes nine times. Prior to Feb. 1, when he was often limited by a minutes restriction, Rubio hit the 30-minute mark twice (30 and 31 minutes) in 17 games while averaging 23.9 mpg, much of it coming off the bench.
“He is playing with such resolve trying to get us over the hump,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. “He has had that effort but we had so many people step up [against the Spurs]. It really made a big difference. I thought he was going to expire in the third quarter when I took him out. He just played so hard in those first six minutes.”
With this disappointing season winding down, nothing can be more meaningful to the Wolves than Rubio’s rise.
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: The return of Dwight Howard to his old stomping grounds in Orlando had plenty of vitrol, but the Lakers-Magic game itself was lacking in any real on-court spice thanks mostly to Howard’s dominating play. The Heat kept on rolling with an easy victory over the Hawks, sending Miami’s win streak to 19 games. Out West, the Grizz and Mavs are working on their respective playoff pushes (Memphis is now No. 3 in the West; Dallas is only three games behind the No. 8-seeded Lakers). Our pick of the day, though, was the Spurs-Wolves game from Target Center. Yes, this one was a bit of a blowout, but there was a lot worth seeing in the game … particularly the play of Ricky Rubio. The point guard nabbed his first NBA triple-double and gave Wolves fans — who have seen injuries ruin a once-promising season — plenty of the trademark dimes and dribbles we all love Rubio for.
Howard thrives in first return to Orlando — The game much of Orlando had circled on their calendar all season turned out to be a blast from the past. Dwight Howard’s return to Florida as a member of the Lakers was one chock full of boos and ill will from Magic fans still seething over Howard’s trade to L.A. after a season-long “Dwightmare” during the 2011-12 campaign. But by the end of the game last night, despite all the heckling Howard took, it was the Magic’s former star who had the last laugh. He finished with 39 points and 16 rebounds as the Lakers won easily, getting a victory that may spur them on to greater things, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
The Magic tried to prey on all his insecurities, all his fears, and yet, finally, there was no stopping the self-proclaimed Superman. Over and over, the Magic grabbed Howard, slapped him, wrapped arms around those massive shoulders and dared him to immerse himself in the moment, concentrate and make free throws. The Magic played a Hack-a-Dwight, dared him to stand alone in downtown Orlando and make free throw upon free throw.
Thirty-nine times Howard shot them, 25 times they dropped into the net and ultimately 39 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks punctuated the Lakers’ 106-97 victory over the Magic.
“I needed that to learn how to block a lot of things out, despite the boos and all that stuff,” Howard said.
That’s always the issue with Howard: Where’s his mind? Where’s his focus? What’s his mood? Since the All-Star break, those within the Lakers have declared him transformed. After such a reluctance to embrace the burden that comes with this franchise, Howard has “come with an intensity, a ferocity,” Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “He understands that with the Lakers, it’s a championship or nothing.”
From the coaching staff to the players, they think Howard has become a better teammate, more willing to do things big and small necessary to propel the Lakers into contention. Within the Lakers, they believe that Howard is progressing physically because he’s pushing himself harder.
Slowly, surely, his back has provided him with more mobility, explosion. Most mornings, Howard goes for acupuncture on his back, diligently trying to bring it all the way back. Howard has streamlined his personal life, too. He’s leaned on a nutritionist, reshuffled his inner circle with the elimination of a long-time business manager. His circle is tighter, and some think that’s productively narrowed his world.
Before the game, Bryant’s message to Howard was unmistakable: “Kill them,” Kobe told him. What Bryant didn’t want was a conciliatory Howard, the nice guy trying to undo the ill will manufactured upon forcing his departure after eight seasons.
And make no mistake: Bryant tells Howard this, too. That innate desire Howard has to win the popularity contest never works, because ultimately victory will give him all the adulation and affirmation that he wants. These Lakers are a half-game out of the seventh seed in the Western Conference – two games out of sixth – and they’re coming hard now. The Lakers are still imperfect, but they’re coming together because Howard has pulled himself together.
“He wasn’t distracted or down about coming back,” Bryant said. “I think the [free-throw successes] will do wonders for him. For him to be able to make those here, he can make those anywhere.”
Who was the winner in the ‘Melo deal? — It has been more than two years since Carmelo Anthony was sent to the New York Knicks as part of a mega-deal that brought Danilo Gallinari (among others) to Denver. Since then, neither the Knicks nor the Nuggets have gotten out of the first round of the playoffs and neither has even gone as far as to win a division title. The Knicks have star power with Anthony in the fold and the Nuggets boast an exciting, up-and-down style out West. All great points, but the folks at ESPN’s Stats and Information dig deeper to see how each team has fared since the deal:
Including the playoffs, the Nuggets have won 14 more games than the Knicks since Anthony’s departure. However, neither team has advanced past the first round in their conference.
Both teams have improved overall since making the trade. Each have been playoff teams and are playing their best basketball this season since the trade.
Diving deeper into the advanced stats, on a per possession basis, both teams have played similarly efficient defense since the trade, each ranking in the middle third of the league.
Despite having one his best scoring seasons in years, Anthony has essentially been the same player in New York as he was in Denver in terms of efficiency and usage percentage overall.
The glaring difference between the two franchises is age. The Knicks are the oldest team in the NBA with an average age of 32.4 while the Nuggets are the fourth youngest team in the NBA at 25.3 years.
The two teams have been going in opposite directions since the New Year. The Nuggets have the second best record in the NBA at 26-7 while the Knicks have gone 17-14. The Nuggets are 19-2 at home and the Knicks are 7-6 on the road.
Williams finding his groove again — When he hit an NBA-record nine 3-pointers in the first half against the Wizards last week, something seemed to be brewing in Deron Williams’ game. The Nets point guard, who has hardly looked like the game-changing player he was in Utah many seasons ago, seemed to be slowly getting back on track. The stats prove the case as Williams, in his last five games, is averaging 25.4 ppg, 9.0 apg and 3.6 rpg, well above his season marks of 18.0 ppg, 7.6 apg and 3.2 rpg. Stefan Bondy of the New York Post dives into how a mended ankle and some solid performances of late have Williams looking like an All-Star again:
Deron Williams has reached that comfort zone, the same one he enjoyed during the height of his days in Utah.
It’s not just his rejuvenated body and rediscovered explosiveness. It’s also his approach. It’s his awareness. He has become the unquestioned leader of the Nets since the All-Star break, the point man calling out plays and taking control of a flowing offense.
“I think he’s got pretty close to free reign,” interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said.
The prevailing notion is the Nets will go as far as their point guard will take them. And this version of Williams is going places.
For all of the 40 minutes he played Tuesday night at Barclays Center, he was the best player on the court in a 108-98 victory. He had 21 points and 13 assists, picking up the slack while Joe Johnson was inactive because of his sore left heel.
It has been a similar story since the break for Williams, who has regained his All-Star form since dropping weight and undergoing another round of cortisone injections into his inflamed ankles. His leadership had been called into question the last two years, mostly because he sulked his way through losing seasons and was blamed for two coaches getting canned.
But the last three weeks have undoubtedly represented Williams’ best stretch as a Net.
Williams called his own plays in Utah under Jerry Sloan, and he has developed into that same steady, calming force lately in Brooklyn. The benefits showed all over Tuesday’s box score.
Five players, including Williams, scored at least 13 points. The Nets, winners of four of their last five, moved within two games of the first-place Knicks in the Atlantic Division.
Williams was the maestro on offense as his team shot 51%.
“I try to tell P.J., at times he starts calling a lot of plays and we have to all turn and look, and it slows down the game, it slows down our rhythm and we don’t flow as well,” Williams said. “Guys get out of rhythm. I have no problems when (Carlesimo’s) calling plays. But at times, when we get it, just let us push it. And then I know how to spread the floor and get everyone involved.”
Budinger cleared for contract drills — Injuries have effectively derailed what was supposed to be a breakthrough season for the Timberwolves as Minnesota has played significant chunks of the season without Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love and Chase Budinger — all three of whom are starters. While Rubio is back (and had a triple-double last night in an upset of the Spurs), the Wolves have been waiting to get Budinger and Love on the court again, and it appears Budinger may be close to that feat. Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press reports that Budinger has been cleared for contract drills and that the team is also awaiting word on what’s next for Love, too:
The Timberwolves are hoping for a favorable medical report when forward Kevin Love meets Wednesday, March 13, in New York with Dr. Michelle Carson, the physician who performed surgery on Love’s right hand on Jan. 15.
Carson will examine Love’s hand to determine if he’s ready to resume full-contact workouts. Love has been out since refracturing the third and fourth metacarpals in his hand Jan. 3 at Denver. He originally broke the same bones in October while doing knuckle push-ups.
After consulting with Carson, Love is expected to join the Wolves for Friday’s game in Houston.
The Wolves learned Tuesday morning that forward Chase Budinger has been cleared for full-contact work.
Budinger, out since Nov. 10 with a knee injury, received clearance from Dr. James Andrews, who operated on Budinger’s left knee Nov. 13 to repair a torn lateral meniscus ligament.
“I told the doctor what I’ve been doing,” Budinger said. “The knee is progressing well, and I’ve had no swelling or anything like that. He was pleased with that.”
Budinger remained uncertain when he might able to play. He was projected to be out until late March.
ICYMI of the night: You know Brook and Robin Lopez probably did this to each other more than a few times on the NERF hoop as kids …:
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: Fourteen games on the slate all-but ensured plenty of drama around the Association … and that’s exactly what we got. There were several comeback games, but most notably Jazz-Cavs (which Cleveland won), Celtics-Pacers (which Boston won), Lakers-Hornets (which L.A. won) and Magic-Heat (which Miami won). Whew! Lot of great games to pick from just from that slate, and we’re not even getting to Blazers-Grizz (another rally, this time by Memphis) or Kings-Warriors (where Klay Thompson played the hero). Picking one comeback over another is never easy, but that is what we’re here to do: make the tough decisions. All that said, we’re going with Celtics-Pacers as our one to watch this morning. Indiana seemingly had this one in the bag thanks to some clutch baskets by George Hill, but Kevin Garnett showed why he’s a future Hall of Famer with his pinpoint pass to Jeff Green to clinch the win.
Lakers bond stronger after rally — In case you were living under a rock last night (or even this morning) and missed the Lakers’ epic comeback from a 25-point hole in New Orleans last night, our multimedia crew has all the best moments from L.A.’s stunning win. A win like the one the Lakers experience last night not only helped get them closer to the No. 8 spot in the West playoff race, but also created more of a bond amongst the team. Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News has more:
The Lakers’ 108-102 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets didn’t just mark a game in which they overcame a 25-point deficit against a sub.-500 opponent.
This didn’t just mark the first time the Lakers overcame such a large gap since overcoming a 30-point deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. The Lakers’ latest win gave them renewed confidence they can overcome any obstacle.
“Games like this really strengthen the bond between us players,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “That’s really what the playoffs are all about. You have adversity. It’s about who’s going to stick together and who’s not going to break.”
It helps that the win improves the bottom line results, too.
With the Utah Jazz losing Tuesday to Cleveland, the Lakers (31-31) trail Utah (32-29) by only 1 games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Lakers sat in their locker room afterwards eagerly watching the final minutes of Houston’s loss to Dallas.
“Come on, Dallas!” Lakers forward Metta World Peace yelled from his stall. “Do what you gotta do!”
With Houston’s loss, the Lakers are only two games behind the Rockets (33-29) for the seventh seed.
Bryant took over the offense by scoring 18 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard overcame early foul trouble by taking a large defensive role, including blocking Robin Lopez’s layup attempt with 27 seconds remaining. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks posted 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter by making 4 of 5 three-point attempts.
“Dwight played big. When he’s like that and Kobe’s like this, that’s kind of what everybody envisioned it would be,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We hope we can build on this.”
The roles worked out perfectly.
Woodson: Anthony has fluid buildup in knee — After admitting that he should have pulled Carmelo Anthony out of Monday’s game in Cleveland when Anthony asked instead of letting him suffer a knee injury, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said his star forward will get his rest now. An MRI revealed that Anthony has fluid buildup in his injured right knee and will be taking a seat for a few games, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday:
Mike Woodson said the MRI on Carmelo Anthony’s injured right knee showed “some fluid buildup” in there.
“That’s what’s causing the stiffness,” Woodson said. “Rest will probably be the best thing for him.”
Anthony rested Wednesday night, sitting out against the Pistons. Woodson said Anthony would be evaluated again Thursday night and if he feels better, he could play against the Thunder at the Garden. Woodson said it will be Anthony’s decision.
“I’ll do whatever he wants to do,” Woodson said. “Trust me. Players know their own body. If he tells me he wants to play I’m going to play him. I’m not going to fight him on that . . . If he says, ‘Coach, I need to sit down and rest a game or two,’ I’m going to grant that, absolutely.”
The irony is Woodson said Anthony asked out of Monday’s game in Cleveland before he aggravated his knee and the coach didn’t listen to him.
“He just kind of nodded that his knee wasn’t right,” Woodson said. “I kind of ignored it somewhat. Maybe I shouldn’t have.”
After tripping over his own feet, Anthony fell in the second quarter in Cleveland. When he got up, he walked right to the locker room and never returned. The Knicks were down 22 at the time and rallied to win behind a strong game from Amar’e Stoudemire. This was the seventh game Anthony has missed all or part of this season.
“Obviously he was hurting,” Woodson said. “He asked me to bring him out. I kind of ignored it because we were down. I probably should have taken him out and then he took the spill and he left the game because he was hurting. I didn’t heed to it because I’ve seen him banged up and hit and things of that nature.”
Howard’s comments irritate ex-Orlando mates Lewis, Nelson — In the 2004 Draft, the Magic took Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick and, 19 picks later, worked out a savvy trade with the Nuggets to add Jameer Nelson to the fold, too. Three seasons later, with the Magic as a budding young team in the East, Orlando added Rashard Lewis as a free agent. From there, the Magic began a steady climb in the East, culminating in a 2009 Finals appearance as well as three division titles. Nelson and Lewis joined Howard as All-Stars in 2009, but apparently Dwight’s memory of his teammates and his days in Orlando isn’t so clear. His comments to a local CBS affiliate in L.A. about his Magic teammates riled up Nelson and Lewis, who is now with the Heat. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more:
Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis called Dwight Howard’s recent comments about his former Magic teammates “disrespectful” and defended Jameer Nelson, once one of Howard’s closest friends.
Howard told a CBS affiliate in L.A. that “my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.”
Howard, Lewis and Nelson were on the Magic team that defied odds and reached the NBA Finals in 2009.
“It’s disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was,” said Lewis, who signed this summer with the Miami Heat, which faced the Magic on Wednesday night.
“We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them…”
Nelson said after shootaround that he was disappointed in Howard’s professionalism.
“At some point, when are you a gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner,” Nelson told the Sentinel.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.”
Nelson and Howard were close, drafted together in the first round in 2004.
But their relationship eroded after Howard said before he was traded to the Lakers last summer that he would love to play with some of the league’s elite point guards, such as Chris Paul.
Former Magic General Manager Otis Smith said that Howard “threw Jameer under the bus.”
Said Lewis, “Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people. I don’t care. I got thick skin. That stuff bounces off me…but him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends.
“Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time..you hear him (Dwight) say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy, that guy and Jameer Nelson is the one who took us to the Finals, who helped, even though he got injured.”
Nets opt to bench Humphries — Enteringthe season, Nets forward Kris Humphries was fresh off back-to-back double-double campaigns in which he had elevated himself as one of the free-agent gems of 2012. Humphries re-signed with Brooklyn and was the Nets’ starting power forward for the first 18 games, but since then has seen his minutes dwindle. He’s averaging a mere 5.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg this season, with averages of 2.1 ppg and 4.1 rpg since the All-Star break. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that the Nets are going to dwindle Humphries’ minutes even further as they gear up for the playoffs, writes Seth Walder and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
Kris Humphries’ official divorce from Kim Kardashian is fast approaching, but his divorce from playing time will come much sooner. According to a league source, Humphries was informed by coach P.J. Carlesimo Wednesday morning that he will no longer be part of the Nets’ shortened rotation.
Carlesimo has said in recent days that he wants to limit the rotation to nine or 10 players as the Nets head into the stretch run before the postseason.
The 6’9″ forward is averaging 18.4 minutes per game this season, a number that has dwindled substantially since the beginning of the year.
The decision to bench Humphries is curious given how fervently the Nets have worked to keep him. In July, the Nets inked the forward to a two-year, $24 million contract. Two weeks ago, at the trade deadline, the Nets could have traded Humphries to their opponent Wednesday night, Charlotte, in a deal that would have brought back Ben Gordon. And yet, despite their commitment to Humphries financially and the value he could have returned in the trade market, his only spot on the team for the foreseeable future will be on the bench.
Carlesimo has preferred Reggie Evans to Humphries since taking over as coach, despite the fact that Evans essentially offers nothing in the offense department (3.4 points per game). Evans has shot just 46% from under and around the basket, according to NBA.com. Evans has had 22% of his shots blocked this year and 33% blocked in February and March. Though Humphries hasn’t displayed a vast improvement on the offensive end of the floor this year, he has been better, and has demonstrated some talent in that respect of the game in previous seasons.
Humphries hasn’t performed at the level that the Nets presumably hoped when they signed him to a lucrative contract in the offseason.
Carlesimo spoke about the rotation Wednesday morning in Charlotte, saying he wanted to limit it to 10 players and that MarShon Brooks will be part of that rotation.
“I think 10 for now. We’re looking more 10. We want to play minimum four bigs and it would be hard to take one of the smalls out of the rotation,” Carlesimo said. “I’m not hung up on the number as much as, for us, coming off the bench, there’s nights we need defense and there’s nights we need offense.”
Budinger, Love await word from doctors– As our own Steve Aschburner documented on Hang Time last night, the Wolves lost 242 man games through their first 57 games to injuries. Two key names on that list, Chase Budinger and All-Star Kevin Love, have missed a combined 90 games and have been a big reason why Minnesota has disappointed so much this season. Good news may be on the horizon for those two players, though, as they are scheduled to talk to their respective doctors this week, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:
Injured Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger will speak by phone with his Florida knee surgeon Tuesday, hopeful he’ll be cleared to practice again with his teammates soon thereafter.
On Wednesday, two-time All Star Kevin Love will revisit his New York City surgeon seeking clearance to play with a healing right shooting hand he has broken not once but twice this season.
Both could be back playing games within two weeks, three weeks at most for Budinger.
With such similar timetables, could both such long-awaited returns possibly come on the same night?
“You never know,” Love said. “You never know.”
Either way, both hope to play at least the season’s final 15 games, Love perhaps a little more than that.
Love said he’ll join the team in Houston the Friday after his Wednesday’s doctor’s visit. He said he won’t play immediately that night even if he does get doctor’s clearance —like he did when he came back the first time in November — because he had surgery this time, on Jan. 15.
But probably not too terribly long after that …
“It’s really up to the doctor and myself and Glen and David,” he said, referring to owner Glen Taylor and basketball President David Kahn. “But until I see what the doctor says, I just won’t know.”
ICYMI of the night: We aren’t sure if this Jamal Crawford-to-Blake Griffin is the dunk of the year, but it has got to be in the running:
Two ships passing in the night. Two teams headed in opposite directions. Though, you wouldn’t have guessed it from a glimpse of the NBA standings a couple months ago.
When Washington played at Minnesota Wednesday, it was a clash of one of the NBA’s most improved teams taking on one of its most floundering. The hair’s difference in their records overall didn’t tell the story of what’s gone on either team.
Let’s use Jan. 3 as the pivot point. That’s the night Minnesota’s Kevin Love reinjured his right hand, sending him into surgery and rehab that’s kept him off the court ever since. The Wolves were 15-14 then, beating Denver and feeling reasonably good about their chances of ending an eight-year playoff drought.
Without Love, though, the Wolves have gone 5-23. Teammates injured before and after have been missed, too, and second-year forward Derrick Williams has shown flashes of his potential in Love’s absence. But there’s no denying the W-L numbers.
Since that date, Minnesota has been playing at a .179 clip, a drop of .339 percentage points from its previous .517. No team in the league has nosedived worse in that time.
Playoffs? Yeah … right.
The Wolves are facing their seven consecutive season of winning fewer than 40 percent of their games. In fact, heading into the Wizards game at Target Center, Minnesota would have needed to go 13-12 over its final 25 to avoid that mark – that is, it would have to play above .500 just to reach .400. Not likely.
This 2012-13 season hasn’t just been difficult, it’s been cruel. The Wolves had lost 242 “man games” to injuries through their first 57, with only guard Luke Ridnour appearing in every game. Meanwhile, Chase Budinger (51), Brandon Roy (51), Kevin Love (39), Malcolm Lee (38), Ricky Rubio (24) and Andrei Kirilenko (12) all were in double digits in absences, with Nikola Pekovic (9) right behind. Heck, even coach Rick Adelman missed a number on the sideline while tending to his wife’s illness.
The other ugly number for the Wolves this season has been their 3-point shooting, headed toward historically bad. At 29.7 percent (303-for-1,021), Minnesota is on pace to join Charlotte (29.5 percent last season) as the only teams in the past 10 years to shoot worse than 30 percent from the arc. Losing Love – the 3-point champ at last season’s All-Star weekend – and Budinger have depleted the team’s long-range ranks. Meanwhile, the Wolves’ opponents have been hitting nearly 49 percent from the arc since that dreaded Jan. 3 date.
Washington, by contrast, weathered the worst of its season while John Wall was out with a left knee (patella stress) injury. The Wizards’ turnaround doesn’t exactly coincide with Jan. 3; their point guard played his first game on Jan. 12 and they’ve gone 14-11 since his return.
Still, Washington leads all teams in percentage improvement since Jan. 3, rising from 4-26 (.133) to 15-13 (.536) since. Cleveland and New Orleans, respectively the Nos. 2 and 3 clubs in percentage increases, not coincidentally have gotten healthier too thanks to Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon.
Here are the team’s with the biggest rises and falls since Jan. 3:
.403: Washington (from 4-26, .133, to 15-13, .536)
Continuing through March 4, the NBA family – led by Hoops for St. Jude ambassadors – will engage fans through this unique relationship, designed to advance cancer research and patient care benefitting children and families battling pediatric cancer. One hundred percent of donations to The V Foundation from this campaign will go directly toward cancer research benefitting St. Jude patients. Together they form a powerful force in pediatric cancer research.
March 4 marks the 20th anniversary of The V Foundation, which was founded in 1993 by ESPN and legendary N.C. State basketball coach and ESPN commentator, the late Jim Valvano. As a cancer patient, Valvano worked to eradicate the disease by championing investment in promising young cancer researchers. To date, The V Foundation has helped carry his dream forward by awarding more than $100-million in cancer research grants. This new endeavor will allow the organizations to work together to help make the shared vision of a world free of pediatric cancer a reality.
St. Jude treats some of the toughest cases of children battling cancer and no family ever pays St. Jude for anything.
Center Marc Gasol of the Grizzlies has been a strong supporter of St. Jude since his arrival in Memphis in 2008 and this year has become an official St. Jude Ambassador along with NBA players and coaches Pau Gasol, David Lee, Kevin Love, Lionel Hollins, and George Karl.
After a recent visit to St. Jude, Marc Gasol shared his thoughts on the program:
Question: What made you want to get involved and become a St. Jude Ambassador?
Answer: That’s easy. The kids. To be able to walk through those doors, be able to spend time with them and play with them is one of the best parts of my life. I think I’m very lucky to live here in Memphis where I can get to St. Jude often. It’s a place where you maybe think at first that you’re going to cheer them up by playing with them. But what I find is that they play with me and it makes me happy. One day we might read a book or do drawings. Another day it’s making cupcakes with different toppings. We even have tea parties and, yeah, I get right down there at the those little tables. Sometimes I get to hear the older kids tell their stories. All the time I spend with them is very special.
Q: Has there been an influence from your family?
A: My Mom is a doctor. My father was a nurse administrator in Spain. Pau went to medical school before he focused on a career in basketball. So there has always been a tie to the medical community and an awareness that there was work to be done and opportunities for everyone to do their part. I believe our parents gave Pau and me a great education and a sense of how the real world is. They have never pushed us to do anything, whether it was basketball or our studies. But if we chose something, they have always encouraged us to make a full commitment. Sure, our family has been touched by cancer, like most families. My grandfather and my aunt both passed away from cancer. But that is not the reason for my interest or involvement. I just like to like to be with the kids and to help them and get the message across the world. Any research or discoveries at St. Jude are spread to hospitals everywhere. We have similar research hospitals in Spain and they all share information, discoveries, treatments. I also like to stress that once a child and their family comes through the doors of St. Jude they do not have to worry about money. No one ever pays. It’s only about taking care of the kids. When you see what that means to families who come here, you understand how special this is to so many people.
Q: What was your first visit to St. Jude like and how have the visits affected you personally?
A: I was only about 17 or 18 the first time that I came out with Pau. I can’t say that I have a specific memory of one thing or one person, but what stays with me is that the first time you come through those doors you get a sense of hope and happiness. Of course, when anyone moves to Memphis I think your awareness goes up and it becomes a bigger part of you. You learn and you find out what makes St. Jude different. It’s not a hospital. At least, not the way that you usually think of a hospital. You come here and you see happiness and colors and kids playing and learning and teaching each other. You see a place that is filled with smiles and hope. It’s a place of fun.
Q: What is the reaction of your teammates and fellow NBA players to what you do for St. Jude?
A: I’m not pushy. I don’t try to convince people. I’ll recruit if I have to. But I think once players do come, you don’t have to convince anyone. I tell them how they can help, what they can do. I just had a visit with some of the new guys on our team — Austin Daye, Ed Davis, Dexter Pittman, Jon Leuer – and it always has an effect.
Q: Do you have favorite memories of your St. Jude experiences?
A: I have a lot of memories. I been here living in Memphis now five years. Sadly, some of those memories are of kids who are not here anymore, times when there are not happy endings. But I’ve had those relationships with them and the relationships and experiences will never go away. I’ve had so many experiences of watching kids get better. A lot of them are basketball fans and they love to watch our games and give us their opinions on how we do. We played in Brooklyn the other night and won and a lot of them watched on TV. We had a halftime segment with Coach Hollins that we did at St. Jude. They loved that. They loved seeing themselves. It’s just great to see them so excited, so happy.
Q: What is the message you want to get out from this campaign?
A: The message should be St. Jude. It’s a place of hope. Anything is possible and we need your help. You and your entire family. For the kids.