HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As much as the rest of this season for the Los Angeles Lakers is about Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace, the responsibility for how the Lakers finish sits squarely on the shoulders of one Mike D’Antoni.
The Lakers’ coach lost the cloak of Kobe Bryant, who is recovering from Saturday surgery to repair his torn Achilles and will be out for at least the next six months. D’Antoni no longer has the option of allowing Bryant to answer for the Lakers basketball sins this season. He can’t ease into the background as Bryant explains away one of the great botched chemistry experiments in pro sports history.
All of that internal security from doubters, both near and far, evaporated with just over three minutes to play Friday night at Staples Center, when Bryant’s season came to an abrupt end.
This season’s defining moment will come without Bryant in uniform, it could come as early as tonight’s showdown with the San Antonio Spurs (9:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV), with D’Antoni clearly at the controls of a team he had no says so in building after taking over for Mike Brown in November.
The style disconnect that has existed all season can no longer be used as an excuse, not with both Howard and Gasol playing their old selves in recent weeks. Nash is a non-factor and has been for much of the season, due to injuries, and World Peace is going to bring the same frenetic energy he always does, regardless of who is and is not in uniform.
D’Atnoni is now the wild card. Can he cajole this team into the playoffs, making good on Bryant’s guarantee, and ensure that they make the noise Bryant swore they would once they got in? D’Antoni’s future with the Lakers depends on it. D’Antoni has a chance to reintroduce himself to this team in ways that he simply could not when Bryant was at the center of all things.
Unlike some, I don’t blame D’Antoni for pushing Bryant too hard, playing him a merciless amount of minutes as the Lakers clawed their way back into playoff contention after the All-Star break. There’s enough of Southland bashing of D’Antoni, Lakers’ owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak to fill every minutes of every day until Bryant returns, and you know he’s coming back from this.
Bryant was in the midst of a seven-game stretch where he was averaging 46 physically taxing minutes a night trying to rescue a team that plenty of us feel has been mismanaged since Bernie Bickerstaff‘s brief tenure at the helm, he bridged the gap between Brown and D’Antoni. Even a freak injury like the one Bryant suffered looks a bit curious to those of us who don’t buy into the conspiracy theories.
I blame D’Antoni for dropping the ball and not being able to reign in Bryant’s wicked competitive streak at a time when it was clear the seemingly ageless wonder was laboring. I blame him for being too stubborn to adjust his own philosophy to fit the talent on the roster he inherited. Game after game Bryant was forced to carry the Lakers in ways that were really unnecessary, given the fact that remain the only team in the league with two elite 7-footers at their disposal.
Lucky for D’Antoni, he has a chance to make it all right. If can guide the Lakers past the Spurs tonight, he could set up a weekend date with Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Spurs. Or maybe it’s Scott Brooks, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
There is room for redemption if D’Antoni can claw his way out of this weekend’s and this season’s mess. But it has to include the Lakers finishing this playoff fight with the Utah Jazz right and following it with a playoff run as spirited as anything Bryant did during his one-man rescue of the Lakers before Friday night.
We can all agree that D’Antoni is an offensive genius and visionary in a league filled with followers. But if he can’t engineer the Lakers’ rise from this latest fall, if he can’t go back to the drawing board and pull out the motivational tactics to inspire this team, then he might very well be devoured by the Lakers’ season on the brink.
But if he wants out of Phil Jackson‘s shadow and wants to write his own chapter in Lakers’ lore, he has to step into the void now and run with it for as long as humanly possible.
It’s a case of can’t live with him, but can he live without him? For Los Angeles Lakers big man Dwight Howard, who has often felt like Kobe Bryant’s picked-on little brother in his first season in Lakerland, this baffling year now falls in the palms of his massive hands after Bryant’s devastating Achilles injury Friday night.
Make no mistake as the Lakers quickly move on with no other choice to Sunday’s critical game against the San Antonio Spurs. This is not suddenly the overly cerebral and emotional Pau Gasol’s team nor is it the injured Steve Nash’s job to keep Lakers’ chins ups. The bionic Metta World Peace? Hardly.
We’re about to find out just how much the 27-year-old Howard, L.A.’s hopeful future rock of the franchise, has grown up in the past year, through the scars and lessons of an implausibly wild ride: His never-ending debacle in Orlando, the trade, the back surgery, the firing of Mike Brown, the head-bumping with Mike D’Antoni, the shoulder injury, the death of Jerry Buss, Bryant’s relentless, often backhanded, tutelage, and, of course, all the losing by a team already declared one of the biggest busts in NBA history.
Just two games stand between the Lakers making the playoffs after an arduous climb or descending into a long, uncertain offseason. Immediately the cycle will begin of will-he-stay or will-he-go questions that will hound Howard and the Lakers all the way to the July 1 start of free agency when Howard can hand-pick a team with enough cap space to sign him.
All indications have suggested that Howard seems headed for a long-term stay in L.A., tabbed as the successor to Kobe’s throne once he calls it a career, perhaps as early as after next season as Bryant himself has suggested now on multiple occasions.
How Bryant’s Achilles injury, which could keep him out as little as six months or as long as 12, will affect the Lakers’ immediate playoff hopes will be known in a matter of days. Less certain is Bryant’s availability for next season and ultimately his longevity now 17 years in, and especially how it might alter Howard’s feelings about re-signing under such circumstance.
The latter is impossible to even speculate. Nothing with Howard has ever been what it seems.
And now Bryant’s absence thrusts Howard into the spotlight like never before, even as he smiled through all those years leading that rag-tag bunch as a sole superstar stuck in Orlando. For the remainder of this season, however long it lasts, and, without a doubt, for at least the start of next season if he chooses to stay in Lakers purple and gold, all eyes will be trained on the 6-foot-11, 265-pound man-child.
D’Antoni, whose offense has failed to integrate Gasol and Howard on the low block, will have no choice now but to slow the game up and put the team’s fate in Howard‘s ability to go to work down low.
With Bryant out, Howard is the Lakers’ best player on the floor. If L.A. is going to take the final steps and achieve the satisfaction of having at least scrapped into the playoffs, they’ll need Howard to lift his team and produce like he is indeed the best player on the floor.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With the Final Four confetti cleared out of the way and the NBA playoffs just a little over a week away, we decided to spend a little time on what we saw from the college kids and what we might see from them in the future … at least from these college stars who are busy declaring their intentions for the NBA’s June Draft.
The list of early entrants already includes familiar names like Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams and Kansas freshman sensation Ben McLemore, among others.
But how many of these college underclassmen are making sound decisions? How many of them are really ready for the rigors that await them in the professional ranks? And are you sure you saw a future NBA sar or two during March Madness?
Michigan’s Trey Burke, the consensus national player of the year, certainly looked the part in the NCAA title game Monday night. And he’s one of four Wolverines who could be headed for the Draft, along with Tim Hardaway Jr. and freshmen Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.
Dortch, who also has a role in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic “42″ (in theaters Friday, April 12) also compares notes with our resident thespian. And we also discuss the wisdom of Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace‘s quick return from knee surgery, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose‘s chances of returning this season from his knee surgery, the Knicks and their hot streak and what happens in the streets of LA if the Lakers miss out on the playoffs?
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are a must-watch down the stretch of this season, for reasons that were ridiculously obvious during a historic (for Bryant) Wednesday night in Portland.
Bryant played the entire game, scored a season-high 47 points and finished with an unprecedented stat line as the Lakers rallied from an early 10-point deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 113-106 and move a full game ahead of the idle Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase with just three games to play.
The Lakers have won four out of five to continue their season-defining playoff stand, a charge led by the wicked Bryant, who torched the Blazers with 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals — filling the box score in a way that no player before him has. (He also outdueled Portland Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard, who was spectacular himself with 38 points and nine assists.)
Whether the Lakers make the playoffs or not, Kobe is going to make sure their final three games are played with an intensity and at a pace that is playoff-worthy. That’s just who he is and has been his entire NBA career. There have been times when his individual drive and focus have been detrimental to his team (early in his career for sure and again later, when he and Shaquille O’Neal battled for control of the team). There’s no Phil Jackson around this time to balance the scales.
All that said, there is no player I’d rather watch under these extreme circumstances. The Lakers’ season goes into the category as one of the greatest crimes against the game if a crew with Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash doesn’t find its way into the postseason.
Would it have been nice to see the same sense of urgency in December that we all saw last night? Of course. In or out the postseason, a CSI crew will be needed to comb through the scattered wreckage of the Lakers’ regular season. There’s no way it was supposed to go down the way it has.
Kobe’s fingerprints will be all over the wreckage, along with those of Howard, Gasol, Nash, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and just about anyone else inside the organization you want to throw in the mix.
“It’s bittersweet,” Pau Gasol said when asked about Bryant’s dominating performance against the Blazers, in which he played all 48 minutes in a non-overtime road game for the first time in his career. “Because, I think it’s spectacular and it’s very impressive and it’s remarkable to be able to play 48 minutes and score 47 points. That’s incredible. On the other hand, I’m a player that likes to see a little bit more ball movement and better balance. I’ve always been [like that]. That’s just how I perceive this game.
“But again, he was incredible tonight. He scored a tremendous amount of points that I never scored in my life. So, like I said, it was very impressive and it’s not something that you do every night, of course.”
It wouldn’t be necessary every night if the Lakers had worked these issues out earlier in the season. They’ve been riding this roller coaster since training camp, with established veterans trying to sort out their roles — first under Mike Brown and since those first five games under Mike D’Antoni. (more…)
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.
World Peace expects to start vs. Hornets — Just a dozen days ago, Lakers forward Metta World Peace was thought to be lost for at least the first round of the playoffs (provided L.A. got in) if not for longer. But the man who always has something to say on Twitter has gone through a miraculous recovery from torn meniscus surgery and expects to play tonight against the Hornets. Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News has more on World Peace, his recovery and his teammates’ reaction to it all:
One teammate uttered the words “bionic nan.” Kobe Bryant has taken to calling Metta World Peace “Logan,” the character in “Wolverine.”
Whatever Metta Madness is flowing through his veins, it looks like World Peace will return to the Lakers lineup tonight, 12 days after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
A medical miracle? Not really, World Peace said. He was itching to play the moment he was asked by Dr. Steve Lombardo if he could put weight on the leg, and he hopped out of bed and did so only hours after the operation.
“As long as he didn’t have to stitch anything together, I couldn’t do anything to (further damage) it,” World Peace said Monday after going through 3-on-3 workouts. “I was in great shape. The doc said he was surprised my knee was in such great shape playing 14 years in the NBA and always in a defensive stance.
“When I heard all that, it wasn’t like I was trying to come back to be a Superman. I figured I’ve just got to play through pain and it will get better as time goes.”
“It’s unbelievable,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s different. I’ve never seen this before.”
World Peace said his recovery was so swift because of his diet and offseason workouts.
“I think the way I eat prepares me for a challenge like this,” World Peace said. “Even when I sprained my ankle most people would have been out a couple games and I came right back against New Orleans.
“You can take a lot of medicine, but when you eat right and you’re injured that swelling is minimized. Right after surgery (Lombardo) was amazed how the swelling didn’t even exist.”
Favors heating up as Jazz find rhythm — When the Jazz opted to part ways with Deron Williams at the trade deadline during the 2010-11 season, they instead changed directions of the franchise as they plucked Derrick Favors from the Nets (as well as a future first-round pick — which became Enes Kanter). Favors has had periods of fits and starts with Utah during his 2 1/2 seasons there, showing flashes of the talent that made him the No. 3 overall pick. Particularly on defense, Favors has always been a steady contributor for the Jazz, but his offense and post moves have lacked behind. But lately, as Utah is making its push for the postseason and the No. 8 seed in the West, Favors is getting it done, writes Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune:
When Derrick Favors arrived in Utah, he was a teenage NBA rookie who had just been traded by a team which repeatedly reassured him that he wasn’t going anywhere.
Favors was confused, bewildered and a little disillusioned after being the centerpiece — at least from the Jazz’s perspective — in the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star Deron Williams to New Jersey.
Coach Tyrone Corbin remembers when the quiet, stone-faced Favors joined the Jazz in 2011.
“Scared,” Corbin said. “He was a scared 19-year-old … that was surprised he got traded and didn’t know what to think of it, what to think of us or where to go next.”
Told of Corbin’s description before Monday morning’s practice, Favors smiled.
“I wasn’t scared,” he said. “I would say I was just mentally exhausted from the whole thing. Everything I went through in New Jersey and then I was traded here, I was just mentally exhausted.”
When he returned to Utah for the 2011-12 season, Favors “started feeling more comfortable because I knew there weren’t going to be any trade rumors. I knew I was going to be here.”
Favors played well, but Corbin continued to bring him along slowly. He made nine starts in 65 games during the lockout-shortened season.
This year, Favors continued to come off the bench as part of Corbin’s big-man rotation that also included Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Enes Kanter, another developing youngster.
Still, Favors averaged only 22 minutes a game — at least until March 27.
In the second quarter of a game against Phoenix, Kanter was likely lost for the season with a dislocated shoulder.
Favors seized the moment.
In the next six games, he averaged 12.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 27 minutes.
In Sunday night’s 97-90 win at Golden State, Favors finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds in 30 minutes. His blocked shot with 40 seconds left helped preserve the critical victory.
“He’s grown all year,” said teammate Mo Williams. “He’s getting to the point where he’s turning the corner. … He’s doing great things for us down the stretch.”
Riley hopes to keep Heat stars together 10 years — Miami Heat president Pat Riley was the man who, back during the 2009-10 season, put together a squad that amassed just 47 win and lost in the first round of the playoffs. After that season, though, Riley constructed the big rebuild of the Heat by re-signing Dwyane Wade while adding in Chris Bosh and LeBron James to create the superteam that Miami has come to know and love. That long-term vision is apparently on Riley’s mind again as he is working on constructing a way to keep the Bosh-James-Wade trio together beyond the summer of 2015-16, which is when all three players have player options on their deal. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald has more:
While the rest of the NBA community is busy speculating about the future of LeBron James and how the Heat plans to navigate the new salary cap, Pat Riley is thinking long-term about how special the run of this Heat team can become.
Speaking with reporters at the Heat’s “Family Fest” on Sunday, Riley pointed to models of success the NBA considers some the best in its history as the ultimate goal for the Heat while also reminding the city to enjoy this “special time.”
“I just want to keep helping them, keep bringing in more pieces that are going to complement them and hope we can have one of those 10-year rides, you know,” Riley said. “You think about every team, through the Celtics in the ’60s and the Lakers in the ’80s and the Bulls and then again the Spurs, those guys have been together eight, nine, 10 years and if we can keep this group together for eight, nine, 10 years, then we’re all going to have some fun.”
And then a piece of advice.
“So, don’t ever take it for granted,” he said.
Thompson taking on more leadership with Cavs — Much was expected from Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 overall pick of the 2012 Draft, last season. But Thompson’s first NBA campaign was mostly a disappointment as he finished as an All-Rookie Second Team member. But this season, Thompson has found more of a groove on the court — the season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao freed up more minutes for the youngster — and has become a true building block for Cleveland’s future. As well as his increased on-court production, Thompson is emerging as a spokesman of sorts for the Cavs, something All-Star teammate Kyrie Irving has shied away from. Jason Lloyd of the Akron-Beacon Journal has more:
The evolution of Tristan Thompson as both a man and basketball player has dramatically progressed over the course of the last week. The Cavs will say he has always been one of the team’s leaders, but never so publicly as recently.
Thompson defended his coach as a father figure last week and called any speculation about Byron Scott’s precarious future “bogus.” Then he responded with two sensational performances in victories over the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic.
As Kyrie Irving continues to shrink away from any public platform, Thompson is embracing his role as a spokesman — and he’s backing it up with his play on the court, too.
“Just being myself, just being a natural leader and speaking up if I see something is wrong,” Thompson said after the victory Sunday against the Magic. “Just recently y’all have been coming to me, and I’ve been speaking, so I guess you can say I’ve been a leader.”
Because of the position he plays and his immense talent, Irving remains the floor leader. But twice in the past week Irving has been given the opportunity to take a stand publicly and twice he declined.
Asked after a dreadful loss to the Brooklyn Nets if the players had given up, Irving passed and said he wouldn’t answer for anyone else, then embellished the point of his recent shoulder injury as proof he hasn’t quit.
Asked prior to the game Sunday against the Magic about the speculation surrounding Scott, Irving again passed on the chance to support his coach.
“Until that time comes, I’m not really worried about it,” Irving said. “To even imagine that, I’m not going down that road. I’m focused on finishing the season with him and that’s all that matters right now.”
Thompson was so bothered by the speculation that he went into Scott’s office last Thursday and explained to his coach why he said, “All the rumors about coach Scott, hot seat and all that crap, that’s bogus. It’s up to us to go out and compete and play hard because we’re the ones out there. When he was out there playing, he won championships. It’s up to us to go out there and play.”
Scott conceded that he was touched by Thompson’s defense but told him to worry instead about his performance on the court.
“I told him, ‘You don’t have to fight my battles,’ ” Scott said. “Any coach would say, ‘I really appreciate the support from a guy like that.’ Then to go out and play the way he’s played has been fantastic. Hopefully he can continue to play that way.”
Nowitzki: ‘Big summer’ looms for Mavs — The Dallas Mavericks’ immense letdown of a season is something that apparently is more than a little on Dirk Nowitzki‘s mind. The Mavs’ superstar chimed in on it yesterday in an interview with USA Today’sSam Amick and, now, is getting the message out to the local writers, too. Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News has more on Nowitzki and his thoughts on what will undoubtedly be a summer of changes for Dallas:
Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t want it to end like this.
Slugging it out for the eighth seed — or more likely missing the playoffs — is bad enough once. Or twice.
In the autumn of his NBA career, he wants more. And while he has no problem putting pressure on ownership to find some high-quality warriors to play alongside him, Nowitzki also is OK taking on his share of the workload off the court.
He’s ready to hit the recruiting trail.
“I’ve said it all year long — this is a big summer for us,” Nowitzki said. “We have to get better. We have to get some guys in that can get us back to the top level. We want to be a top-four seed in the West. That was always our goal, to play for the top. So this is a big summer. If [owner Mark Cuban] needs me to recruit and do all that stuff, I’m more than happy to.”
The Mavericks followed up their championship in 2011 by barely squeezing into the playoffs last season. They will probably miss the playoff this season for the first season since 1999-2000.
“I don’t know if it was necessarily Cuban’s plan to go for eight, nine one-year players,” Nowitzki said. “Once you let the championship team go, there were some consequences and obviously some risks that go with it.”
And Nowitzki has made it abundantly clear to Cuban that another season like this one isn’t something he’s interested in.
“My last couple years, I’d love to contend,” he said. “We’ve been a championship team that one year, and once you smell that victory, you want to smell it again. I don’t want to go anywhere else. [Cuban] knows that. Everybody knows that. I want to be a Maverick for life.”
ICYMI of the night: On the heels of the Hall of Fame announcement on Monday, it’s as good a time as any to relive the greatness that was Gary Payton in his prime …:
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: In a season where we’ve had a 17-game win streak (by the Clippers) and a 27-game win streak (by the Heat), it might be easy to discount the Knicks’ 12-game run as something as ho-hum. But after a win last night in one of the toughest places to play — Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena — we’ve got to give New York some love this morning as our pick of the day. Every time it looked like Carmelo Anthony and company had this one wrapped up, Russell Westbrook would pick up the Thunder and send them charging back. Still, another quality win for the Knicks (to go along with victories over the Heat, Hawks, Celtics and Jazz) as they are hitting their stride at the right time. An extra nod of the head this morning to the Jazz, too, who showed some little-seen resiliency on the road by beating Golden State and taking control of the No. 8 spot out West.
Nowitzki hoping for best in Dallas — After the Dallas Mavericks missed out on landing Deron Williams, a former Dallas-area prep star, and didn’t have the assets to get into the trade mix for Dwight Howard last summer, owner Mark Cuban opted for some cheaper deals on several players. Many of those new faces are on one-year deals, giving Dallas another shot at the free-agent game this summer in hopes of landing a young star to pair with their aging-but-still-effective star, Dirk Nowitzki. To be certain, the Mavs’ floundering about in the West and their longshot odds to claim the conference’s playoff berth is hardly what Nowitzki or the Mavs had in mind this season. But Nowitzki, in a great interview with USA Today’s Sam Amick, talks about his plans for the future and the hope he has for Dallas:
The Dallas Mavericks star may have been critical of his owner’s approach in the past, back when the wounds of Mark Cuban’s cold and calculated roster-building ways were still fresh. But as Nowitzki nears the end of this memorable stretch of 12 consecutive postseason berths and ponders his future, the future Hall of Famer who vowed not to shave until his team reached the .500 mark swears he’s not still upset about the way Cuban broke up the 2010-11 championship team and ushered in all this mediocrity.
But if nothing has changed by next season, if the Mavericks’ imperfect-but-prudent plan to counteract the league’s harsh new collective bargaining agreement backfires because they aren’t able to land an impactful free agent this summer and return to the elite level during the twilight of Nowitzki’s career? Might Nowitzki — who will be a free agent in the summer of 2014 — considering retiring in a jersey other than the Mavs’ one he has always worn?
“Now that I already reached my goal (of winning it all), I really want to finish my career in Dallas,” Nowitzki told USA TODAY Sports recently. “But saying all that, I don’t want another year next year with the same as this year, (with) the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us. (Mavericks general manager) Donnie (Nelson) knows. Cuban knows. We want to get back to the championship level.”
Free-agents-to-be Dwight Howard of the Lakers and Chris Paul of the Clippers are expected by most to remain with their current teams, which may mean the Mavs pursue someone like Atlanta forward and fellow free-agent-to-be Josh Smith or perhaps do a deal for a young, dynamic player like Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins. Nowitzki, said this summer will determine whether or not it was the right move.
“You can’t really judge yet if it was a good move or the wrong move until you see what we get this summer,” he said. “If we end up with nothing again and sign eight or nine (players on) one-year deals, then maybe it wasn’t a good move to let everybody go. But if we can make this team younger and more explosive again and add a superstar, then maybe it wasn’t all bad. I guess the judgment is still kind of out.”
Cuban, who has consistently said he would not trade Nowitzki under any circumstances, is extremely sensitive to the idea that Nowitzki could ever don another jersey than the one he has worn since his rookie campaign in 1998.
“Of course he doesn’t want to fight for an eighth seed in the future; none of us do,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports via e-mail. “Beyond that, like he has told me and the world, he can’t see himself being anywhere else.”
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who has coached Nowitzki since 2008, expects him to be as good as ever in 2013-14.
“(The doctors) did whatever they needed to do in there (during the Oct. 19 arthroscopic knee surgery),” he told USA TODAY Sports. “Now he has the entire summer to cycle up to training camp.
“Mentally, I think he’s looking at playing two or three more years, so as long as he’s mentally locked in, his routine is always going to be consistent. He can keep playing at a superstar level. We’ve got to manage his situation the right way. We’ve got to get the right guys around him, to make sure we’re playing him the right number of minutes, and all those things.”
With the right players, and in the right jersey until the end.
“I’ve got obviously one more year on the contract next year, and by then I’m 36 and I’m sure I’ll play a couple more years,” he said. “It’s kind of tough to say how long (he’ll play). I’m thinking I’m going to sign another two or three year deal, and then slowly ride off.”
“I don’t want to be the guy who does it too long, you know? I want to be a guy who can still do some stuff at the end of his career, like Nashy (Lakers point guard and close friend of Nowitzki’s, Steve Nash) and those guys — (Kevin Garnett) and Tim Duncan.”
Rose not giving up hope on return — Wherever you stand on the Derrick Rose issue — whether it is that the former MVP should play now and in the playoffs or he should just shut it down and wait for 2013-14 — the Bulls’ star has the final say, of course. For a timeline’s sake, Rose first scrimmaged with his teammates on Feb. 18. Since then, there has been a lot of hope and talk that Rose would be returning soon. But the mental side of his rehab – particularly the ability to dunk off his injured left foot — has kept him from a return. But Rose tells the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson that he hasn’t ruled out a return for the season, despite what many may think:
“Oh, no,” Rose said, when asked if he’d announce he’s sitting out this season. “I’m keeping it open.”
After Sunday’s game against the Pistons, the Bulls have just six regular-season games remaining.
“I’m not trying to think about that right now,” Rose said. “I’m just trying to get better. I’m just trying to help my teammates, give them confidence to go out there and play hard. I’ll play whenever I’m ready to play. Who knows when I’m ready to? Right now, all I can do is just cheer on my teammates.”
Playing on a minutes limit wouldn’t bother him.
“I wouldn’t mind at all,” he said. “Of course I want to play more. But it’s not that big. I’m going to play whenever I’m ready. I don’t care if it’s 15 or 40 (minutes). I just love the game too much. Like I said, I’m just waiting and praying about it. And hopefully I’ll be out there soon.”
Since the likelihood of Rose sitting out the season increases with each day, he got asked if having another summer of rehabilitation and drill work would benefit him.
“I think it is where it gives me more time to work out if I don’t play,” Rose said. “But I think I have enough time already knowing I haven’t played in a long time. Just taking that time and getting my body together, it could definitely be big. But I’m going to come back whenever I’m ready.”
Wade likely to rest until playoffs begin — On Saturday night, LeBron James returned to Miami’s lineup after missing three games and looked just like his old self, scoring 27 points as Miami took care of Philadelphia. The same cannot be said for James’ superstar running-mate, Dwyane Wade, who hasn’t played since March 29 as he is resting a balky right knee. Wade tells ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace that he’s likely to ride the bench until the playoffs because he wants to be healthy once the Heat begin their championship defense:
Dwyane Wade won’t rule out missing the rest of the regular season to recover from a right knee injury, but the Miami Heat star said Sunday he hopes to return before the playoffs.
Wade has missed six of the Heat’s past eight games and is still dealing with soreness and swelling in the knee, which he has aggravated twice since initially injuring it a month ago.
“The most important thing is to be healthy,” Wade said Sunday, addressing the media for the first time since he last played March 29. “So when I feel it, then I’ll get back on the court. Obviously, I want to play. But I have to make sure that I’m right. You have to get healthy.”
Chris Bosh, who missed Saturday’s game, is recovering from a hyperextended right knee and said Sunday he wasn’t sure when he might try to return.
Wade, James and Bosh were among Miami’s players, coaches and front-office staff members who attended Sunday’s annual Heat Family Festival. The carnival-style event held outside of AmericanAirlines Arena raised more than $503,000 for local charities affiliated with the Heat.
While the injuries James and Bosh have been dealing with have been considered minor, there seems to be more concern around the team regarding Wade’s situation.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday that all three of his marquee players will be considered day to day for the rest of the regular season. But Spoelstra confirmed that Wade has been held back by consistent swelling in his knee.
“His body will tell us when we’ll play him,” Spoelstra said of Wade on Saturday. “He got hit right on top of his knee twice. He was able to resolve it, then get past it. But in the New Orleans game, he got beat up and was on the floor.”
Wade seemed to downplay the severity of the swelling and the bruise on Sunday, but alluded to areas around the knee that have been the focus of his recent treatment sessions.
Because the Heat have clinched the No. 1 seed in the East and are closing in on securing the best overall record in the league, the team’s approach is that it’s best to be cautious down the stretch and get players healthy now.
“We took care of business so we were able to say, ‘We have these injuries, so let’s take care of it now and be smart,’” Wade said. “I would love to be playing right now. As a player, if you get a couple of days off you, you want to get back to it. But I’m just trying to be smart with my doctors. When I feel like I can get back on the floor, then I will.”
Wade played through soreness in his left knee late last season and had it drained during the second round of the playoffs. He ultimately had surgery on the left knee last summer after the Heat beat Oklahoma City in the Finals.
With six games remaining on the Heat’s regular-season schedule, Wade said he’s hopeful he can get back on the court as early as this week. Miami plays Milwaukee on Tuesday, travels to Washington on Wednesday and hosts Boston on Friday.
“Obviously, the biggest thing is to get your wind back and get your legs back under you,” Wade said. “But I’ve been around the block a few times. It’ll be a little adjustment, but I’m not overly concerned about it. I do want to get back on the court before the playoffs to get a rhythm. Hopefully, sometime this week I can step back on the court.”
Lakers forward Metta World Peace walked down a Staples Center hallway in full stride and was bearing a wide smile.
He insisted he can return when the Lakers host the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday at Staples Center despite having surgery to treat a lateral meniscus tear on his left knee a little more than a week ago.
“I’ve been ready to play,” World Peace told this newspaper following the Lakers’ 109-95 loss Sunday to the Clippers at Staples Center. “I could’ve played today.”
Not so fast.
The Lakers plan to have World Peace run today at 90 percent of his body weight on an elliptical machine before evaluating whether he can run with full body weight Tuesday. It’s likely he’ll then have to go through at least a practice before returning.
Still, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni described World Peace’s progression as “way ahead of schedule.” The Lakers estimated he’d sit out at least six weeks. But World Peace spent the past three days running and the past two participating in shooting exercises.
How did he progress so quickly?
“I’m good,” said World Peace, who’s missed the last six games. “I’m not a (wimp).”
“I was walking a day after (surgery). I only used the crutches because I was lazy,” World Peace said. “I was ready to go.”
Inconsistent defense an issue for Thunder — Back-to-back losses in March to the Nuggets and Grizzlies, two of the NBA’s better teams in both scoring in the paint and rebounding, raised concerns about the defending West champion Thunder, particularly in terms of defense. But since those losses, OKC posted a 6-1 record, including wins over San Antonio and Indiana — both of whom are solid defensive and rebounding teams. Yesterday’s matinee matchup with the Knicks, though, re-exposed some recent issues for the Thunder as they were pounded on the glass by New York, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:
Oklahoma City followed up its best defensive performance of the season with one of its worst. After holding Indiana to eight points on 2-for-18 shooting in the fourth quarter Friday, the Thunder allowed a season high for points, yielded at least 30 points in three quarters (and 29 in the fourth) and allowed 19 offensive rebounds.
The rebounding was the worst of all evils.
That’s because Sunday marked the fifth time in the past 10 games that the Thunder has allowed at least 16 offensive rebounds. The Knicks converted their 19 offensive boards into 23 second-chance points.
“We just gave up too many offensive rebounds,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “When we did make them miss they got 19 offensive rebounds and 23 putback points. That’s not good. We should not be able to give up both of them.”
After out-rebounding the Pacers, the league’s best rebounding team, by 22, Sunday’s showing was the equivalent of five steps back after one step forward.
In its past 10 games, the Thunder has allowed 14 offensive rebounds. By comparison, the league’s high mark is Milwaukee’s 12.3.
“We just have to go back to the basics,” Brooks said. “We’re going to talk about it and we have been talking about it. The basics of rebounding is blocking out. It’s not rebounding. The rebound comes after a block out. If you focus on rebounding there’s too many athletes in this league that it’s a 50-50 ball. You block out first and then you go get the rebound.”
So are the players not blocking out enough?
“It’s a combination,” Brooks said. “Everybody has to think rebound. We’re such a high, explosive offensive transition team that we can’t think about that until we secure the ball. That’s just something that we will brush up on and try to get better at that the last five games.”
ICYMI of the night: It must be nice to be able to take off for a layup, get up in the air, and then decide you want to dunk it anyway …:
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Oklahoma City, Memphis and Miami, feel fortunate, very fortunate, and proceed with caution.
As the regular season churns down to a handful of games over these final 16 days, the three teams above are the only ones of the 16 current playoff teams, plus the desperately-trying-to-get-in Los Angeles Lakers, currently unaffected by injury — or injuries.
Playoff seeding, and ultimately playoff series, could tilt on an injury report that seems to grow with each passing game.
The Grizzlies caught a break with the quick return of center Marc Gasol from an abdomen injury. Initially the team listed him as out “indefinitely.” Later, Gasol said he’d be back for the playoffs. Next thing you know he’s back after missing just two games and right back on his game.
The Heat missed Dwyane Wade for a couple games during their win streak and, of course, he, LeBron James and Mario Chalmers came down with those, ahem, previously unreported injuries prior to Sunday’s game at San Antonio. Speaking of the Spurs, Manu Ginobili‘s most recent ill-timed injury (hamstring) has put the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed firmly in play Thursday night when San Antonio visits a Thunder team as healthy as any can be 70-something games in.
Few are so fortunate, and let’s start with the carousel of injuries that have beset the Lakers. Kobe Bryant continues to play through a sprained ankle and whatever else, Dwight Howard still deals with the sporadic shooting pain from the torn labrum in his shoulder and Pau Gasol is finally back. But Metta World Peace (knee) won’t be back and Steve Nash (hip) is “doubtful” for tonight’s big showdown against the never-say-die Dallas Mavericks (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT).
The Lakers won’t receive sympathy cards from Denver, which could be without spark plug point guard Ty Lawson (heel) until the playoffs. As soon as Chauncey Billups (groin) finally returned he was gone again, and couldn’t the sinking Clippers use him right about now?
Houston’s All-Star James Harden can’t seem to shake a sprained right ankle. Jazz reserve big man Enes Kanter (shoulder), whose March was his biggest month of the season, is out indefinitely. Golden State is essentially healthy, having lost Brandon Rush way back in the opening days of the season.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls shake their heads at any team ruffled by a single injury, or two. The Celtics, having adjusted to life without Rajon Rondo, plus rookie Jared Sullinger are without Kevin Garnett (ankle) and Paul Pierce missed Monday’s loss at Minnesota for “personal reasons,” according to coach Doc Rivers. Meanwhile, Boston is dangerously close to slipping into eighth place and a first-round matchup against the Heat.
In the Big Apple, the injury list goes on and on: Tyson Chandler (neck) remains wait-and-see, Amar’e Stoudemire (knee) and Kurt Thomas (foot), very likely could join Rasheed Wallace (foot) as being shut down for the season. The Knicks, busting through it all with an eight-game win streak, continue to battle for the No. 2 seed with the Indiana Pacers, who have five straight and learned last week that Danny Granger (knee) won’t be making the late-season comeback they had expected just days earlier.
And those scrappy, scrappy Bulls by now must be resigned to a full season without Derrick Rose (knee), and they may have lost Rip Hamilton (back) for the season. They hope to soon get center Joakim Noah (foot) back in uniform, as well as Marco Belinelli (abdomen).
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets, finally with Deron Williams healthy and playing like an All-Star again, would love to say the same about Joe Johnson (heel).
As the playoffs quickly approach, time is running short for players and teams to get healthy.
When Utah won at Portland for its first victory on the road since Feb. 13, it jumped the Jazz over the Lakers and back into the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
According to Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune, the chatter was back in the Jazz locker room after they rallied from nine, 14 and nine down again in the fourth quarter on Friday night.
“Winning does that,” Mo Williams said. “Winning puts you in a good mood, especially when you care. Top to bottom, people care here, when you lose you feel down. It’s not so jolly, it’s not so loose.”
Earlier in the evening, Williams was far from happy. The 30-year-old point guard, in his second stint with the Jazz, was benched by coach Tyrone Corbin in the second quarter. In the final minutes of the game, Williams carried the Jazz to the win, scoring 14 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter and spearheading a 25-6 run in the final six minutes.
“You get pissed off,” Williams said. “Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you come out and be aggressive.”
The Jazz come home to close out a back-to-back tonight against the Nets and there is light again after it had appeared for weeks that Utah was going to do everything except lift the Lakers up onto their shoulders and carry Kobe Bryant & Co. into the postseason.
Now the two teams are in the stretch run and for the first time in a while, the Jazz might have a leg up in getting to the finish.
Let’s break it down for final nine games:
Home — 6
Road — 3
Vs. playoff teams — 5
Back-to-backs remaining: 0
Tonight — vs. Nets
Mon. — vs. Blazers
Wed. — vs. Nuggets
Apr. 7 — at Golden State
Apr. 9 — vs. Thunder
Apr. 12 — vs. Timberwolves
Apr. 15 — at Minnesota
Apr. 17 — at Memphis
The Jazz hold the tiebreaker over the Lakers and if they can take care of business at home, where they’re 26-9 on the season, will be tough for the Lakers to beat out.
Home — 6
Road — 3
Vs. playoff teams — 5
Back-to-backs remaining — 1
Tonight — at Sacramento
Tues. — vs. Mavericks
Fri. — vs. Grizzlies
Apr. 7 — at L.A. Clippers
Apr. 9 — vs. Hornets
Apr. 10 — at Portland
Apr. 12 — vs. Warriors
Apr. 14 — vs. Spurs
Apr. 17 — vs. Rockets
Of the 14 players on the Lakers roster, seven are listed on the injury report for tonight at Sacramento, though Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Antawn Jamison are probable, with Steve Nash questionable and Metta World Peace and Jordan Hill out. Of the Lakers’ three remaining road games, they won’t have to leave their own building to play the Clippers and that next-to-last game against San Antonio could catch them another break if the mercurial Gregg Popovich decides to rest up his veterans for the playoffs.
HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Omar the Barber will be in the house Thursday night as the Dallas Mavericks take on the Indiana Pacers, the Mavs’ first attempt at reaching .500 since they were 12-13 in what seems like an eternity ago.
You might recall — and if you’ve seen Dirk Nowitzki lately you can’t forget — that some of the Mavs made a pact nearly two months ago not to shave until they reach .500. At the time it seemed a futile attempt to drum up motivation. Yet here they are, not only a whisker shy of breaking even at 35-36, but actually surging toward the No. 8 seed, having won nine of their last 12.
After a rousing overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers Tuesday night, Mavs guard O.J. Mayo, whose beard isn’t quite yet Harden-esque but maddeningly itchy all the same mentioned that tickets will be left for Omar, the team’s favored barber, and his shears.
“I want to make sure he does it right. I don’t want to leave no patches,” said Mayo. “I haven’t done anything [to it], just kind of lined my mustache up a little bit, but letting it go. I’ve got hair up here and I’m ready to shave it, man.”
Nowitzki, who hasn’t finished a season below .500 since his second season in the NBA when the Mavs went 40-42 in 1999-2000, has guided Dallas to the playoffs in each of the last 12 seasons. But he was superstitious and not so keen about mentioning bringing in the barber before actually getting the shave-worthy win.
“I don’t really want to jinx it, but I’m ready to get this thing off,” said Nowitzki, who has not even trimmed his neckline. “That’s a big outing for us Thursday against a very good, tough team from the Eastern Conference.”
Nowitzki does have a point. Which team will be more motivated: The Mavs, knowing the barber’s in the building? Or the Pacers, knowing the barber’s in the building?
Indiana (45-27) has its own issues, like a battle for the all-important second seed in the East with the New York Knicks. They’re virtually tied in the standings, but the Pacers have one more loss. Finishing second means avoiding the Miami Heat until the East finals rather than in the second round.
The Mavs know they just have to keep winning with 11 games to go and hope the Los Angeles Lakers (hit with Wednesday’s news that Metta World Peace will miss at least six weeks with a knee injury) and Utah Jazz, both winners Wednesday night and both just a hair ahead of Dallas, lose along the way.
If the Mavs have anything going in their favor tonight it’s that the Pacers — 20-point winners over Dallas back in November at their place — played Wednesday night, beating the Rockets at Houston, 100-91.
The Mavs, a rather pedestrian 21-14 at home, are, however, 12-2 at home against opponents playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and have won eight consecutive such matchups dating to Nov. 24 when Dallas dropped to .500 at 7-7.
With a win Thursday night, Dallas would pull even with ninth-place and idle Utah. The eighth-place Lakers play the second night of a back-to-back at Milwaukee, so a Mavs win combined with a Lakers loss would reduce L.A.’s lead to a half-game over both the Jazz and Mavs.
Of those three teams, the Mavs have played the best in March. Utah, after dropping to 3-12 since the trade deadline with a loss at Dallas on Sunday, has since won two in a row.
Which team has the upper hand down the stretch? A breakdown:
No. 8 LAKERS (37-35)
Home games left: 6 (23-12)
Road games left: 4 (14-23)
Games against current playoff teams: 6
Key game and why: vs. Dallas (Tuesday); critical in standings and would lock up tiebreaker
Toughest stretch: Tuesday – April 10 (vs. Dallas, vs. Memphis, at Clippers, vs. New Orleans, at Portland)
No. 9 JAZZ (36-36)
Home games left: 6 (26-9)
Road games left: 4 (10-27)
Games against current playoff teams: 5
Key game and why: at Portland (Friday); would extend win streak to three leading into four-game homestand
Toughest stretch: Wednesday – April 9 (vs. Denver, vs. New Orleans, at Golden State, vs. Oklahoma City)
No. 10 MAVERICKS (35-36)
Home games left: 6 (21-14)
Road games left: 5 (14-22)
Games against current playoff teams: 6
Key game and why: at Lakers (Tuesday); critical in standings and would tie season series
Toughest stretch: Tuesday – April 7 (at Lakers, at Denver, at Sacramento, at Portland)
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: Is there any other choice this morning but that OT thriller between the Mavs and Clippers from Dallas? The Mavs have now won seven of their last 10 games to pull within a game of the L.A. Lakers for No. 8 in the West while the Clippers are struggling a little and lost their long-held No. 3 seed in the West to the Denver Nuggets with this defeat. The Clips might not have been in this position had Blake Griffin‘s amazing shot with :00.4 left counted, but he was called for an offensive foul in the must-see play of the game. Still, credit to the Mavs, who are truly not giving up on this dream of making the playoffs this season and have a healthy Dirk Nowitzki ready to lead them to their goal.
Magic’s Vucevic done for season? — In case you missed it, Nikola Vucevic is fourth in the league in rebounds per game (11.5) and is third overall in total rebounds (780), trailing only Omer Asik and Dwight Howard. Pretty impressive stuff for a player thought of as a throw-in/afterthought in the Howard mega-deal that sent the ex-Magic big man to the L.A. Lakers last summer. While Vucevic has enjoyed a breakout season, he won’t play in tonight’s game against Charlotte and hasn’t played since March 19. Vucevic is recovering after getting hit in the mouth vs. Indiana and has been dealing with concussion symptoms since then. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more on Vucevic, whom the Magic may just keep out of the lineup for a while:
Nik Vucevic, who is recovering from a mild concussion he sustained on March 19, won’t play when the Orlando Magic play the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.
Vucevic said Tuesday he wasn’t scheduled to accompany the team to North Carolina, but he said he expects to play again this season.
“I’m getting better,” the 22-year-old center said. “I’m better day-by-day. I’ll leave it up to the trainer and the doctor.”
Vucevic suffered his injury when he absorbed an elbow to his mouth against the Indiana Pacers. The shot left him a bit dazed and left him wondering whether he had lost any teeth.
In the days that followed, he said he had a headache and some sensitivity to light.
After some tests, a doctor determined he had sustained a concussion.
In Dec. 2011, the league instituted a concussion protocol.
Physician Jeffrey Kutcher, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Michigan and the director of the NBA’s concussion program, consults with all teams on the return-to-play schedules of players who have suffered concussions.
Coach Jacque Vaughn might decide to not to play Vucevic even after Vucevic receives a medical OK to play again. Vaughn has been cautious in putting players back on the court after injuries.
Vucevic wouldn’t speculate on how close he is to playing again.
“I don’t know,” he said. “All that is up to the trainer. I just follow what he says.”
Del Negro not fretting future — A cursory search of this very blog for the term “Del Negro” brings up a smorgasbord of posts about L.A. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and his seemingly always-tenuous future with the team. Del Negro has, throughout his nearly three full seasons on the job in L.A., become a popular whipping boy whenever things go a little bit south in Clipperland. Such is the case again for the Clippers coach. He is operating on the last year of his contract and hasn’t been offered an extension by the team, but Del Negro tells the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turnerthe future is the last thing on his mind:
Del Negro was asked by a member of the media in front of the group about his coaching future with the Clippers.
The Clippers picked up Del Negro’s contract last year, but he wasn’t given an extension. His deal expires when the season is over.
“I enjoy the pressure,” Del Negro said. “That’s what it’s about. I love the competition. Could things be a little bit better in certain areas? Of course. But all those things get answered at the end of the year.
“Our focus is on tonight’s game and on this season and all those things get answered at the end of the season, one way or the other,” he said.
The Clippers are playoff-bound for the second consecutive season under Del Negro. It will be only the third time in franchise history the Clippers have had consecutive playoff appearances.
Del Negro was asked if his future was tied to how far the Clipper go in the playoffs this season.
“No, my future is great,” Del Negro responded. “I’ve got a great future, no matter what. I’ve been pretty fortunate, so I don’t really worry about that stuff so much. Like I said, all those things take care of themselves when we finish.”
Celtics falling fast in East race — With no Kevin Garnett and no Courtney Lee last night against the Knicks, the Celtics were at a decided disadvantage before the game ever began. Throw in a four-game losing streak heading into last night’s contest and mix in the overall sloppy play of Boston throughout its 100-85 beating and the Celtics now sport a five-game losing streak and have fallen to No. 7 in the East. Worse yet for the Celtics is that Milwaukee is just 1 1/2 games behind them and owns the tie-breaker, too. Baxter Holmesof The Boston Globe has more on the late-season stumbles of the Celtics:
For the first time since Rajon Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury in January, it seemed as though the Celtics had finally – if not reluctantly — succumbed to the reality of their limited roster. A 15-point home loss to a shorthanded team will do that.
“It’s been like that for us all season long, it just seems like it gets worse and worse,” captain Paul Pierce said of the injuries. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”
The Celtics have lost five consecutive games, and as Garnett is expected to miss up to two weeks with inflammation in his left ankle, a rather gloomy question looms:
Is this what the Celtics can expect while their defensive anchor is out?
“No,” a defiant coach Doc Rivers said. “Guys, I think you’ve been around me long enough. Kevin’s not playing. I don’t worry about it. I really don’t.
“Somebody else has to play better. A lot of guys. It’s not going to be one guy. But overall, we were pretty bad [Tuesday]. Kevin had nothing to do with that.”
After a tight start, the Knicks, who won their fifth straight, utilized a back-breaking 14-0 run in the second quarter to separate themselves. A J.R. Smith 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer gave New York a 15-point lead entering the fourth.
The fans began to file out midway through the final quarter, having seen enough.
“We just didn’t have it,” Rivers said. “I wish I knew why.”
The Celtics had talked in weeks past that they weren’t concerned with trying to move up in the standings to try to earn home-court advantage.
Now, such a possibility is gone.
If the Celtics end up tied with the Bucks in the final playoff spot, Milwaukee will own the tiebreaker as they’ve beaten Boston in three of their four matchups this season.
Which means the Celtics would be the East’s eighth-seeded team and would face powerhouse Miami in the first round of the playoffs.
“Listen, the decision we’re making with Kevin is the right one,” Rivers said. “But we still want to win games.
“We’re not going to let one game say that we’re not going to win any more games. It’s silly to me to even think that way. We have to get ready for tomorrow and go from there.”
World Peace suffers torn meniscus — Things can’t seem to ever turn around for the Lakers. After a fairly successful start to March, L.A. has lost three in a row and holds a one-game lead over both Utah and Dallas for the No. 8 seed in the West. Now comes word that small forward Metta World Peace, who has started 64 of the 70 games he’s played in this season, has a torn meniscus in his left knee. The injury deals a big blow to L.A.’s hopes of holding on to that last playoff spot and, worse yet, the Lakers have yet to find out precisely how long World Peace will be out. Sean Highkin of USA Today has more:
The Los Angeles Lakers took a serious setback Tuesday, when the team announced forward Metta World Peace has a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. World Peace was injured during the Lakers’ loss Monday to the Golden State Warriors, and the team announced in a news release that an MRI showed a meniscus tear. He will be flown to Los Angeles — the Lakers are on the road to face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday — for further evaluation before a timetable for his return is determined
The loss of World Peace comes at an inopportune time. The Lakers are clinging to a one-game lead on the Utah Jazz for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, and with Pau Gasol finally healthy, coach Mike D’Antoni hoped to use the final weeks of the regular season to get his starting five reacquainted.
The loss of their starting small forward will likely force the Lakers to start Antawn Jamison alongside Earl Clark and Dwight Howard in the frontcourt. Not only will Jamison be playing out of position, but has the potential to take away one of the team’s most consistent scoring options off the bench.
ICYMI of the night: J.R. Smith went wherever he want and did whatever he wanted in last night’s win against the Celtics, as this play shows … :