Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Ezeli surgery puts to test LeBron’s remark on Warriors’ health

LeBron James didn’t exactly curse the Golden State Warriors earlier this season when he lauded the defending champions as “the most healthy team I’ve ever seen in NBA history.” But that backhanded compliment might no longer apply, based on backup center Festus Ezeli’s surgery Monday.

Ezeli underwent arthroscopic surgery in Oakland to clean out debris from his left knee and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. The team’s official news release included the phrase “expected to return this season,” but that likely means sometime in April, leaving the Warriors only a short time to re-acclimate the 6-foot-11 backup big man before hitting the postseason.

Add in the 16 games forward Harrison Barnes missed with a sprained ankle and it’s becoming increasing difficult to write off Golden State’s success to injury avoidance. Granted this setback still doesn’t match the short-handedness through which James led Cleveland in the playoffs last spring – what with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love missing or hobble through most of the playoffs – but it will stretch Golden State’s deep roster just a wee bit thin. Marreese Speights and maybe Jason Thompson will pick up Ezeli’s minutes, while starter Andrew Bogut has less margin for mishap now himself.

Of course, the Warriors could just decide to small-ball the opposition into submission. Ezeli’s impact was most noticeable defensively, with teams shooting worse (46.5 percent vs. 47.1) and scoring less (3.2 points fewer per 100 possessions) when he was on the court.

Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com caught some of the initial reaction from the Warriors on Ezeli’s situation:

“Festus is a huge part of our rotation,” head coach Steve Kerr said after practice on Monday. “He’s really had a good year, an excellent year.

“Mo is going to step in and play well for us, but I feel bad for Festus. It’s a contract year and he’s young and he’s already had a knee surgery. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed that he’s going to be OK.”

The 6’11” center last appeared in a game on January 25 vs. San Antonio and has missed the last five games due to a sore left knee.

In 40 games this season (11 starts), Ezeli is averaging 7.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.23 blocks in 17.8 minutes per contest.

L.A. Clippers player with broken hand? Now it’s Austin Rivers


Your first thought: Who’d he punch?

Because it’s another broken hand, because it’s the Clippers and because the estimated recovery time is identical (four to six weeks) that was projected in Blake Griffin‘s case, it stands to reason that Austin Rivers similarly might have fractured his left hand by punching a team employee.

Turns out, Rivers actually suffered his broken hand on the basketball court, taking a blow in traffic against Minnesota Wednesday in what he and the Clippers initially thought was just a bone bruise. The injury proved more serious than that, however, and now Rivers, son of coach Doc Rivers, joins Griffin as an L.A. player with a clipped wing.

Rivers’ broken hand at least came in the line of duty. Griffin has been called out by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and by Doc Rivers over the unacceptable, extracurricular nature of his injury, the result of punching an assistant equipment manager. Now it’s the coach himself feeling some heat in both his roles.

Things haven’t gone as smoothly as L.A.’s roster and potential would have suggested. The Clippers rack up technical fouls at an alarming rate. And now both an All-Star starter and a helpful role player are out. Griffin was averaging 23.2 points and 8.7 rebounds before he went out, while Rivers is chipping in 8.1 points in 21.6 minutes.

Doc Rivers spoke recently with the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn about the expectations and pressure that’s only getting dialed up these days:

With [Ballmer] paying a record $2 billion for the team prior to last season, there is immense pressure to win. Rivers is still as smooth and savvy as before, but he fully realized the job would be challenging.

Griffin is facing sanctions from the league as well as the Clippers.

“Really, it’s nothing you want to go through,” Rivers said of the Griffin situation. “You learn that they’re still young. They’re still learning. It’s not anything you want to go through as a team but you keep remembering that they’re young guys that are in the spotlight and it doesn’t take but a minute or two minutes and something happens.”

It was supposed to be a smooth transition for Rivers, but he has found himself playing counselor, mentor, and life coach with his new Big Three (Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan).

“You’re probably being all of them at this point,” he said. “You’re being a coach first because your job is still to get the team to function and then you become a life coach. But I don’t have all the answers. I make as many mistakes as these guys. I’m human, too. But I tell them about the mistakes I made, the mistakes I still make. I tell them you’ve got to stay in life and hang in there and good things will happen.”

Pelicans shut down Evans through break


If it’s a Pelicans headline, it almost certainly has to do with injuries. That’s how 2015-16 has gone for New Orleans and, sure enough, that’s the reason for this post: Wing Tyreke Evans, sidelined with right knee tendinitis from the Pelicans’ past five games heading into Saturday, has been shut down at least through the All-Star break.

Evans was unavailable for the night’s game at Cleveland, coach Alvin Gentry confirmed, and won’t participate in the Pelicans’ three other games (at Minnesota, against Utah and at Oklahoma City) before the break. John Reid, beat writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, offered some details:

”It’s just a little tendinitis and it’s always there,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters before Saturday’s game at the Quicken Loans Arena. ”We’re probably going to hold him out until after the All-Star break.

”That gives him a situation where he has almost two weeks where he can rehab and get it back. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break and we’ll be able to play him for the rest of the stretch.”

In all, Evans is expected to nine games before possibly returning for the Pelicans’ first game after the All-Star break ends on Feb. 19 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Pelicans general manager Dell Demps continues to listen to trade offers and the franchise is no longer reluctant to trade Evans, sources say.

After this season, Evans, 26, has only one year left on his existing contract that will pay him $10.2 million. Evans missed the first 17 games this season after undergoing surgery in October to remove bone chips in his right knee. After 25 games, Evans was averaging 15.2 points.

New Orleans – currently without Eric Gordon (fractured right ring finger) and Quincy Pondexter (left knee) – has had 15 different players start at least once this season. Gentry used 13 different starting lineups in the Pelicans’ first 19 games and 22 lineups overall.

Bulls’ Butler heads home from road trip with (only) strained knee

VIDEO: Jimmy Butler injury impact

As bad as it looked, Jimmy Butler, the Chicago Bulls and their fans had to feel relieved that their leading scorer and two-time All-Star selection only suffered a knee strain Friday night in Denver.

“Only” is what you say about an injury that happens to someone other than you, of course. Butler is the one who had to be carted off the floor at the Pepsi Center in the second quarter. He was the one headed back to Chicago even as the Bulls were moving on to the final two stops on their seven-game road trip, at Minnesota Saturday and at Charlotte Monday, without him.

But the way Butler landed under the basket, all his weight coming down on his left leg after taking contact from the Nuggets’ Joffrey Lauvergne, many feared a far worse diagnosis than what the MRI exam Saturday revealed. Something even from (gasp!) the Derrick Rose hospital charts. Yet Butler’s personal reputation for durability continued, and the Bulls’ worst fear were allayed even before the game ended. Their miserable fourth-quarter collapse (getting outscored 42-21 to lose) was their greatest anguish, not Butler’s mid- or long-term availability.

Short-term, Butler will be evaluated further back in Chicago, with his response to treatment determining the timeline for his return. The Bulls’ first home game after the trip is against Atlanta Wednesday.

Rescheduled game throws post-All-Star hurdle at Wizards, Jazz

Imposing some sanity on the schedule was a priority for the NBA again this season, and the league was successful in reducing the number of back-to-back games – and a near-vanishing of the old four-games-in-five-nights grind.

But Mother Nature can be mightier than the agenda at NBA HQ in Manhattan, as the Washington Wizards and Utah Jazz learned Friday the steep schedule price they’ll be paying for the Jan. 23 date that was postponed by the severe winter storm that hammered the East Coast that weekend.

The NBA announced Friday that the Wizards and the Jazz will make up that game on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. ET at the Verizon Center in Washington. As our own John Schuhmann noted on Twitter, there is serious inconvenience awaiting both teams:

So everybody has to cut short their All-Star break by one day, the Jazz have to haul back three-quarters of the way across the country to Salt Lake City for their back-to-back, while the Wizards face the dreaded three-games-in-three-nights that’s been avoided by the schedule makers for decades.

Still, 82 games means 82 games. Playoff positioning could be impacted. And given the limited availability of open dates for two teams and one multi-purpose arena, the Wizards and the Jazz weren’t working from a position of strength in squeezing in their make-up date.

Miami’s Bosh: Long players face long odds in Foot Locker Three-Point Contest


VIDEO: Bosh’s 3-Point highlights

Long thought to be a sport in which height gives one a decided advantage, basketball as put on display at All-Star Weekend tends to come up short, so to speak.

It’s bad enough that centers get thrown into the hopper with the forwards as “frontcourt” players in All-Star balloting. It’s even worse when you look back over past champions of the two most revered side events, the Verizon Slam Dunk and the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest. That’s why Miami’s Chris Bosh isn’t getting his hopes up too much for when he works his way around the arc emptying ball racks on All-Star Saturday Feb. 13.

Only four times since the dunk event became official in 1984 has it been won by a player 6-foot-9 or taller: Larry Nance, 6-foot-10, did it in 1984. Josh Smith, 6-foot-9, won in 2005. Dwight Howard donned his Superman cape in 2008, and Blake Griffin jumped over the Kia in 2011.

The same holds true for big men shooting from long distance, with just four different big men among the winners since the 3-point “shootout” was added in 1986. Larry Bird, at 6-foot-9, won the first three. Peja Stojakoivc, 6-foot-9, won in 2002 and ’03. Dirk Nowitzki claimed the 2006 crown and, six years later, Kevin Love showed off his deep range. Last year, none of the eight contestants stood taller than 6-foot-7.

With the dunk competition, it’s been said for years that it’s harder for a tall player to make his dunks look challenging or artistic enough. There’s no “wow!” factor in how high up the big guys have to get – none of the oohing and aahing Spud Webb or Nate Robinson instantly generated – and generally speaking, wing players in the 6-foot-4 to 6-foot-7 range seem to elevate (so to speak) the act into something balletic.

As for the 3-point contest – which relies on actual scores rather than judging – anatomy and angles seem to disfavor tall guys. Reaching down to grab the ball, then raising it up to proper launch position … that all takes a teensy bit longer for the big guys.

So Bosh is approaching this as something to have fun with, while giving a nod to his fans (current and former) in Toronto, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Selected Thursday to compete, Bosh on Friday reflected on the daunting challenge of shooting against the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson next week in Toronto.

“Look, I have nothing to lose, OK? I’m just going to shoot it. And if the ball goes in? That’s awesome,” he said.

At 6 feet 11, Bosh is three inches taller than any of the seven other participants.

“I’m just happy I’m the only big,” he said. “Bigs are not going to be a part of the All-Star Weekend in a couple of years. I’m just glad I’m one of the last of the guys.”

With the event at Air Canada Centre, if means more jeers from a fan base yet to accept his free-agency departure from the Toronto Raptors to the Heat in 2010.

“Yeah,” he grinned, “it’ll be awesome. It’s like cheers in reverse. That’s what I tell myself, man. If you care to acknowledge me, that’s half the battle.”

Told it seemingly took Toronto fans 10 years to get over the departure of former Raptors icon Vince Carter, Bosh smiled.

“Oh, so just four more years left?” he said. “OK, that’s good. My kids will be in high school by then. That’ll be nice.”

Blogtable: One player you’d love to see in 2016 Dunk Contest?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Rockets? | Player most likely to be traded? |
One player you’d love to see in Dunk Contest?



VIDEORelive the all-time best Dunk Contest jams

> One player you’d love to see in next week’s Dunk Contest?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Besides LeBron? I’ll settle for Jordan Clarkson. He’s violent above the rim and fun to watch.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI could say Steph Curry, just because he’s having a magical season already and it would go against the grain of expectations. Or Derrick Rose, who doesn’t dunk anymore and could use the contest to break through whatever injury anxiety remains. Or LeBron James, just because he hasn’t done one. But I’ll play it straight and say Andrew Wiggins, who needs to have some fun and act his age (20). Wiggins, with Karl-Anthony Towns taking over as the new Timberpup, has been thrust into bigger role as a so-called veteran. But he’s still on his way up – as he could demonstrate from way, way up in the Dunk Contest.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Kobe Bryant. Turn back the clock for old times sake.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comRonald Roberts Jr., but that would mean someone signing him out of the NBA D-League very, very soon. (Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing for non-dunk reasons as well.) Blake Griffin would be a fun watch as well, likely full of theatrics, but this is not possible either. Among available players, Russell Westbrook, Gerald Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo come to mind. Westbrook would be the first choice, but “The Greek Freak” could be amazing with that size.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWell, the defending champ is quite the entertainer near the rim, so give me Zach LaVine. I’m sure Victor Oladipo would like a shot at redemption and perhaps another attempt at rapping on the mic as well, but for my money, LaVine is creative enough to give the event some pop and keep the TV audience fixated.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’d like to see Andrew Wiggins challenge teammate Zach LaVine for the crown, with Andre Miller throwing lobs to both of them.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Andrew Wiggins. What could be better than going home for the Dunk Contest with a built-in advantage in what is sure to be a raucous home crowd? Plus, dunk contests are for young legs and guys who are in their physical primes. Wiggins is a highlight-reel finisher and certainly has all the tools necessary to dazzle the crowd in Toronto. Plus, a dunk off between Wiggins and his Timbwerolves teammate Zach LaVine would make for must-see-TV for anyone that still loves the All-Star Saturday night showcase.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Andrew Wiggins. I’m not the biggest fan of the Dunk Contest, but I would like to see the best Canadian athlete feeding off the energy of his fans in Canada.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: If it hasn’t happened by now it will most likely never happen, but how about LeBron James? The guy has spent the last decade executing awesome in-game dunks, while refusing to compete in the actual Dunk Contest. LeBron has publicly kicked around the idea, though never committing to competing. He has such a unique combination of power and speed, and he’s clearly creative, that I think that even now on the other side of 30, LeBron could still win the Dunk Contest.

Blogtable: Player who is most likely to be traded first is _____?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Rockets? | Player most likely to be traded? |
One player you’d love to see in Dunk Contest?



VIDEORyan Anderson sizzles in a win against the Kings

> Most likely to be traded before the Feb. 18 deadline: Rudy Gay, Jeff Teague, Markieff Morris, Ryan Anderson or Kevin Martin?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Kevin Martin. This league is still about offense and he’s a proven offensive commodity that could help a lot of contenders. And there’s no future for him in Minnesota, which has Andrew Wiggins penciled in at the two for the next dozen or so years. 1A) Markieff Morris. Full dumpster fire in Phoenix, and the Suns have to start cleaning things up. Sending the disgruntled Morris (and his very reasonable contract) anywhere else is a necessity for GM Ryan McDonough, who’s now on the hot seat in the Valley of the Sun.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Markieff Morris. While Gay and Anderson are best equipped to immediately help a playoff aspirant, while Teague would be much-sought as a point guard around whom a team could organize, while Martin doesn’t fit on a young team in “sell” mode, Morris has the added factor of being actively unhappy where he is. Phoenix has let his situation fester too long already.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comMarkieff Morris. If you’re cleaning house, you might as well sweep into every corner and get rid of all the unhappy pieces.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Ryan Anderson. An unrestricted free agent-to-be, on a team that has the chance to make a playoff push to salvage what would ordinarily be a bad season? If the Pelicans were certain Anderson is definitely part of the future, that would be one thing. But this may be the chance to get something for him, and to get something to boost their playoff hopes.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll take Markieff Morris, even though the Suns might not have much leverage, since everyone knows Phoenix wants to dump him. I have my doubts about the perceived demand for Rudy Gay, the asking price for Teague could be too steep (ditto for Ryan Anderson) and the best chance Kevin Martin is moved is if he’s a throw-in since he’s well past his prime.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comRyan Anderson has the easiest contract ($8.5 million expiring) to trade, but the Pelicans are still just three games out of eighth place in the loss column. The Suns may have a high asking price for Morris right now, and there’s some risk in trading for a known malcontent with three more years left on his deal. But at some point, Phoenix will have to take what they can get and some other team will be will to take a risk on a versatile forward who’s still just 26 years old.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Markieff Morris. You saw him on display in Tuesday night’s loss to Toronto, when he made the most out being inserted into the starting lineup and reminded everyone just how devastating a scoring and rebounding stretch big man he can be. The Suns would be wise to continue to showcase him in the lead up to the trade deadline. And I suspect there are plenty of teams interested in adding a player with his, skill, range and brute force to their mix just in time for the playoffs.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comMarkieff Morris. The Suns have already fired the coach and are looking to the future. Morris is not going to be part of that future. Why make a miserable situation worse by holding onto an unhappy player? They should focus on creating positive energy among their young core. Unloading Morris may also improve their position in the lottery.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog I’ll go with Ryan Anderson. He’s got an expiring contract, and he’s on a squad that isn’t going to be a playoff team. Most importantly, though, he’s a power forward who can actually knock down 3-pointers, which is a skill you can’t ever really have enough of. I can think of several teams with postseason aspirations — Atlanta? Dallas? The Clippers? — that could use another outside shooter.

Blogtable: Thoughts on the Rockets?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on Rockets? | Player most likely to be traded? |
One player you’d love to see in Dunk Contest?



VIDEOGreg Anthony and Chris Webber discuss Dwight Howard’s suspension

> More concerning for Rockets fans: The team’s .500-ish record, or Dwight Howard’s on-court protests and propensity to irritate officials?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: The Rockets have been universally disappointing and the record reflects that disappointment. Every time Houston looks like it’s turning the corner, the Rockets fall apart at one end or the other. The defense has been awful lately. Dwight isn’t going to change; neither are Chris Paul or Tim Duncan, and they complain a lot about calls, too. And: Howard does get fouled, a lot. It’s easy to say from a thousand miles away that Howard should keep his head. Either way, that’s not why the Rockets are, basically, .500. He’s a big reason why they have any chance if they hang on and get into the playoffs.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com The record, by far. Dwight has gotten a little sideways but it’s not anything that is chronic; this too shall pass. But the Rockets – after reaching the Western Conference finals last spring – have wallowed in mediocrity all season. Firing Kevin McHale was an impulsive dud of a move, and the team’s defense has fallen off precipitously. But Houston is right where it ought to be, in my view, because I don’t think a serious contender can have James Harden dominating the ball the way he does, any more than the Knicks could thrive when Carmelo Anthony was doing that.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The .500 record. Howard’s rash, temperamental behavior is just a symptom inside the overall breakdown and failure of the Rockets this season. A team that proclaimed itself to be a true championship contender got coach fired, doesn’t play defense and doesn’t come to play with the same level of professionalism every night.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The record. Dwight is Dwight. His personality has been an issue for other teams in other seasons. He is still producing at a decent level (though with a shrinking role in the offense). Potentially careening toward a losing record, though, and maybe missing the playoffs in the strange second half of the West playoff pack is everything. Players have proven what most people knew anyway, that coach Kevin McHale wasn’t the problem. The Rockets struggling to get any traction in the standings is a big deal for this season and will force management into hard decisions heading to the future.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com By far, the break-even record. It’s why the Rockets are the most disappointing team in basketball, ahead of the Washington Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks. Yes, their big man has a history of acting like a fool and getting punished. That said, Dwight Howard‘s immaturity toward the refs isn’t the reason Houston is barely treading water, and anyway, I’ll go on a limb and say he’ll stay in check once the playoffs begin (provided the Rockets are in). The Rockets have issues — defense, Ty Lawson‘s chemistry with James Harden, spotty 3-point shooting — and Dwight’s behavior isn’t that high on the list.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The 26-25 record. Last season, the Rockets went 27-14 without Howard, playing defense at a top-10 level whether he was in the lineup or not. This season, they’re 19-20 with him, playing at a bottom-10 level defensively whether he’s been in the lineup or not. Only one team (Milwaukee) has regressed more on that end of the floor than the Rockets, who consistently break down after two or three rotations. His lack of leadership is a problem, but Houston has bigger problems.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The .500 record in a landslide. No offense to the former best big man in basketball, but the Rockets are perfectly capable of competing without Dwight Howard fully integrated into the mix. Are they better when he’s at his best? Sure. But they don’t get the best from him on a regular basis anyway. They are the most disappointing team in the league for reasons that include Dwight’s performance … but that’s not the most glaring reason. Their inability to find any semblance of defensive consistency is the main culprit. And if they continue to struggle in that area, it could very well lead to them observing the playoffs from a distance this season rather than attempting to shock the world and make a return visit to the Western Conference finals.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com:  The team’s record is much more worrisome. Is Howard’s behavior any big surprise? Probably not – and his outbursts wouldn’t matter so much if he and his Rockets were playing better. They were finalists in the superior conference less than a year ago; now they’re on track to win 15 fewer games. The bigger question is whether the success of a couple of 50-win seasons went to their heads.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’d be way more worried about the .500 record. Sure, Dwight’s relationship with the referees doesn’t seem to be great, but that’s nothing new for Dwight. What’s new is the Rockets not being anywhere near the team they were a year ago that went to the Conference finals. Besides, this isn’t Dwight Howard’s team: If I was a Rockets fan, I’d look at James Harden, who should be leading this team to the top of the Western Conference.

Lue’s big week — from Cavs’ assistant to 2016 East All-Star head coach


Tyronn Lue being named to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars is the coaching equivalent of a player called up from the D-League on a 10-day contract suddenly being named a starter in the NBA’s annual showcase event.

Improbable as it sounds, Lue – who has been an NBA head coach for less than a week – will get to do in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto on Feb. 14 what all-timers such as Jerry Sloan and Bill Fitch, and active veterans such as Dwane Casey and Terry Stotts, never have.

He and the Cleveland Cavaliers staff he inherited Thursday after taking over for fired David Blatt will be in charge, on the league’s biggest stage, of the East’s elite players.

Lue is 2-1 since replacing Blatt, and the most recent of those victories – a 115-93 victory over Phoenix Wednesday – left Cleveland with a 32-12, clinching the best mark in the conference through games played on Sunday, Jan. 31. That’s the cutoff by which the All-Star coaches are named.

Blatt was the coach of record for the Cavaliers’ first 41 games, but was fired with a 30-11 mark. Cleveland general manager David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert came to believe, Griffin said, that the team wasn’t responding to Blatt in a way that would offer its best chance to win a championship this spring.

Earlier Wednesday, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich was tabbed to coach the West All-Stars, by virtue of the rule prohibiting a coach from making consecutive appearances in the event. Golden State’s Steve Kerr handled that duty in the 2015 game in New York.