Kevin Love suffered a dislocated left shoulder in Sunday’s game against Boston and will be evaluated further, the Cavaliers announced. The incident happened in a first quarter skirmish between Love and the Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk. Love immediately headed for the locker room and did not return. The Cavaliers said Love will receive “examination, imaging and evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health over the next 24 hours.” His status for the rest of the playoffs will depend on the results of those tests. Love was wearing a sling after the game, but said his shoulder was feeling better and he hopes to be ready for Game 1 of the next series, tweets Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Love wasn’t forgiving toward Olynyk, tweets Dave McMenamin, saying, “I thought it was a bush-league play … I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose.”
There’s more from the Central Division:
- Jimmy Butler has emerged as the ideal complement to Derrick Rose in the Bulls‘ backcourt, according to Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Heading into free agency this summer, Butler has left behind his “role player” days and has become a full-fledged star, Friedell writes. “We have a very strong backcourt right now,” said center Joakim Noah. “Both him and Derrick, it’s very good. I’m very happy to have them as teammates.”
- After upgrading at point guard with the trade for Reggie Jackson, the Pistons now face the challenge of improving at other positions, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. He praised coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy for being willing to part with depth and three-point shooting to acquire Jackson, who is very much in the team’s future plans despite being a free agent this summer. He also noted that the Pistons seem likely to bring back Anthony Tolliver, who has a $3MM contract, with only $400K guaranteed.
- The Pacers‘ Solomon Hill took advantage of the opportunity given to him when Paul George broke his leg, writes Andrew Perna of Real GM. The second-year player was given increased court time and responded by being the only Pacer to appear in all 82 games. He is under Indiana’s control through the 2017/18 season.
Projected 2015 lottery pick Kristaps Porzingis indicated that he withdrew from last year’s draft because he felt he wasn’t yet ready to compete in the NBA, Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype relays. “As soon as I declared for the draft, I knew that I wanted I to stay one more year in Spain to get better,” Porzingis said. “Now looking back I think we made the right decision. I had a bad start of the season – individually and as a team. I could have played much better, but I think I have improved my consistency and I have picked it up since the bad start of the season. This season has been tough, but I want to say thanks to coach [Scott] Roth for the work he did with me in Seville. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and I wish him the best.” The seven-footer also indicated that he no longer had doubts regarding entering the NBA, Sierra adds.
Here’s more from around the league:
- According to Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter links), two assistant coaches who will be in play this offseason for available head coaching vacancies are the Pacers‘ Dan Burke, and the Hawks‘ Kenny Atkinson.
- Celtics coach Brad Stevens has his team ahead of schedule in its rebuilding process, which is a testament to his abilities as a leader, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. Stevens stressing unselfishness and creating opportunities for teammates appeals to Boston’s players, Zillgitt adds. “All these guys are in the NBA for a reason, and they’re really, really good at something,” Stevens said. “If you can separate yourself at being one of the best at the things you do well, then you always have a spot where people are going to value you. It just makes sense to a be a superstar in your role.”
- Former NBA GM and current coach of the Turkish club Eskişehir Basket Brad Greenberg has high praise for Wolves‘ draft-and-stash pick Nemanja Bjelica, David Pick of Basketball Insiders writes. While Greenberg believes Bjelica is ready to play in the NBA, he’s not sure if the big man will head to the U.S. to play in the near future, Pick adds. “Can Bjelica be on an NBA team? Sure. Will he? I don’t know,” Greenberg said. “Like all high-level Euroleague players who make a lot of money overseas, it has to be a situation that makes sense financially, and where he gets an opportunity to play. Europeans don’t want to give up something that is comfortable, good and financially rewarding for a ‘what if?’ situation. Bjelica is talented enough to be in an NBA gym and not look out of place. That’s for sure.”
Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star looks at each of the soon-to-be free agents on the Pacers, pegging Rodney Stuckey and Lavoy Allen as the most likely among them to return, C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland as unlikely to be back, and Luis Scola and Donald Sloan somewhere in between. President of basketball operations Larry Bird said they’d all like to be back, but Scola, while praising the Pacers organization, doesn’t seem quite ready to commit, as Buckner relays.
“We’ll see what happens. We didn’t have our exit meeting yet. I’m hoping to get some type of feedback there and some type of impression of what they want to do in the future and move on from there,” Scola said last week.
Buckner suggests Stuckey, who drew praise from Bird, wants a multiyear deal with his wedding planned for mid-July. While we wait to see if the Pacers have something picked out for him on his registry, here’s more from around the Central:
- Greg Monroe isn’t ruling out a return to the Pistons, but Reggie Jackson has spoken of communicating with other Pistons over the summer so everyone stays motivated for next season, notes MLive’s David Mayo, pointing to the dichotomy between Detroit’s two main soon-to-be free agents. As for other free agents on the team, the Pistons are unlikely to offer Tayshaun Prince a chance to return, and John Lucas III probably won’t be back with the team next year, Mayo writes.
- Several NBA executives say that they expect Khris Middleton to wind up signing a deal with $8MM annual salaries this summer, reports Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times. That figure is somewhat lower than the $10MM estimate that Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops heard from several GMs and other executives recently. Woelfel points to numbers that don’t suggest much improvement from Middleton this season, though he grants that the Bucks combo forward’s value could escalate with a strong playoff performance.
- Former Bucks center Larry Sanders still doesn’t have a desire to return to the game, Woelfel notes within the same piece.
The Pacers won a random draw with the Jazz today that gives Indiana the 11th lottery position and Utah the 12th, reports Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). The teams finished with identical 38-44 records this season. Indiana will have an eight-in-1,000 chance at the No. 1 overall pick, and Utah will have a seven-in-1,000 chance, but while the extra chance the Pacers have probably won’t matter, the Pacers are in line to pick one spot in front of the Jazz if, as is most likely, neither team wins any of the top three picks.
The Lakers, who hold Houston’s first-rounder, won a random draw with the Celtics, who have the Clippers’ selection, for the 27th pick, so Boston will pick 28th, Washburn also reports (Twitter link). The Mavericks have the 21st pick and the Bulls the 22nd after winning the random draw between those teams, and the Grizzlies won their draw with the Spurs for pick No. 25, leaving San Antonio pick No. 26, according to Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk.com. We’ve updated our post showing this year’s draft order and lottery odds with the latest news.
The procedure for two teams tied for lottery spots dictates that they split the odds for the two positions they occupy, and that the winner of the tiebreaker receive the extra chance if there’s an odd number of them. But since the 11th team in the lottery receives eight chances out of 1,000 and the 12th gets seven chances out of 1,000 to win the lottery, the Pacers simply take over the odds of the 11th spot. There’s less than a 10% chance that either team will move up or back in the lottery.
The tiebreaker comes with a slight financial consequence for next season, since the Pacers will have the rookie scale amount for the 11th pick instead of the 12th counting against their cap, and the Jazz the opposite, a difference of nearly $100K. That difference will be slightly larger once the draftees sign for the usual 120% of those scale amounts. The teams could remove those respective cap hits if they and the players they pick agree in writing not to sign next season, but that’s an unlikely outcome.
Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird spoke today of shifting toward a small-ball approach and said that it would be the plan regardless of what Roy Hibbert does with his $15.514MM player option for next season, as Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star relays (Twitter links). Coach Frank Vogel said Hibbert’s role will be “diminished” and wouldn’t dismiss the idea that he’ll bench the center, Buckner notes (All four Twitter links). It’s forboding news for the slow-footed Hibbert, Buckner observes (on Twitter), and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com wonders if Bird’s remarks are intended to try to convince Hibbert to opt out (Twitter link). Bird said he has “no clue” what Hibbert will do with the option, Buckner points out (on Twitter). Windhorst finds it difficult to envision the big man turning down that much money, though Hibbert’s agent, David Falk, has had no shortage of success in finding the right deal on the market for Hibbert and his other clients, the ESPN scribe notes (on Twitter). There’s plenty more from the exit interviews in Indiana, and we’ll sum up the most relevant information here:
- Bird said he didn’t know what David West would do with his $12.6MM player option, though he added that West had made references to next year when they spoke earlier, Buckner tweets. Vogel said that he has a gut feeling that West will opt in, but while he expects Hibbert will also do so, he emphasized that it’s just his speculation about the center, Buckner notes (Twitter links).
- All of the Pacers who are set to become free agents expressed a desire to re-sign with the Pacers, Bird said, adding that whether that happens for all of them remains up in the air, as Buckner relays (Twitter link).
- It’s important for the Pacers that soon-to-be free agent Rodney Stuckey re-signs, Bird believes, and he’s optimistic they’ll get a deal done, according to Buckner (on Twitter). “We need guys like Rodney,” Bird said.
- Bird expressed hope that the team would re-sign Luis Scola, too, but the exec doesn’t think the Pacers will retain C.J. Watson, Buckner notes (Twitter links). It’s unclear whether Bird simply doesn’t intend to pursue a new deal with Watson or if he thinks the point guard will command more on the market than the Pacers will be willing to pay.
Unrestricted free agent C.J. Watson would like to return to the Pacers next season, Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star relays (Twitter link). “I don’t even know yet,” Watson answered when asked if he would return to Indiana.”Hopefully I’ll be back here. I like it in Indy. I love the team and the atmosphere of the city. We’ll see what happens. It’s not really in my hands. So we’ll see.” The 30-year-old appeared in 57 games for Indiana this season, averaging 10.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists in 24.9 minutes per night.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Pistons owner Tom Gores says his belief in coach/executive Stan Van Gundy has only grown since he brought the veteran coach aboard, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. “I believe in Stan more today than the day I hired him,” said Gores. “Stan is his biggest critic. I’m very happy with him as a coach. I’m also very happy with him as president of basketball operations. We had the bad start. I think we’ve done what we need to accomplish this year.”
- Gores also relayed that remaining in Detroit should be appealing to free agent Greg Monroe, Langlois adds. “He’ll have ownership and a coach that is behind him and a real base for his life going forward,” Gores said. “He has the ability to establish a foundation for us. But he’s a professional. Whatever Greg does, it’s going to be up to him. But he’s a real pro. He’s been with us a long time. I’ve never seen him do the wrong thing. He always does the right thing and I hope we can land Greg. And if we don’t, whoever lands him will be a very lucky franchise.“
- While he’s excited at the prospect of free agency, Monroe would have preferred the scenario where he was settled in with the Pistons for the long haul, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press writes. “You guys have been around here for the past couple of years,” Monroe told Ellis. “I much rather would have been settled in here. That didn’t happen, and I’m in this position.” Monroe is referring to Detroit failing to offer him an extension back in 2013, and not the contract he reportedly turned down last offseason.
Pistons president of basketball operations and coach Stan Van Gundy has not soured on Jodie Meeks despite Meeks’ inconsistent season and expects the shooting guard to be much improved next season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com reports. Meeks suffered a stress fracture in his back during training camp and it affected his conditioning even after he returned on December 12th, Langlois continues. Meeks, who was signed to a three-year, $18.81MM contact as a free agent last summer, has shot 34.5% on 3-point attempts after making 40.1% of his long-range attempts with the Lakers last season. “With a good summer, there’s no reason he can’t get back to the level that we thought he could play at,” Van Gundy said to Langlois.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- The Pistons have some tough decisions to make on a number of players whose contracts are non-guaranteed next season, Brendan Savage of Mlive.com writes. “We know some that fit into the long-term plan,” Van Gundy said. “Others, we have to figure out where they fit into the long-term plan. We know we’re going to draft two people, at least, in June. And then free agency starts and that also brings trade responsibilities. So we will not come back with the same roster.” The contracts of Caron Butler, Anthony Tolliver, Shawne Williams and Quincy Miller contain non-guaranteed salary for the 2015/16 season.
- Van Gundy is impacting the team more as an executive than as a coach, Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press opines. Sharp cites the Reggie Jackson trade as one that will shape the team for years to come, provided he re-signs with Detroit.
- Paul George played a significant behind-the-scenes role for the Pacers while he recovered from his broken leg, according to Jessica Camerato of Basketball Insiders. George, who has played three games since returning to action, gave his teammates insights on how to defend certain opponents and the optimal ways to score against them. “He’s always giving input on how to guard people,” center Roy Hibbert told Camerato. “His IQ is pretty high just because he’s been able to excel at a high level on both ends.” George also gave advice to his teammates through in game observations, Camerato adds. “He’s out there teaching us, in huddles, and it’s important,” guard Rodney Stuckey said in the story.
Dana Gauruder contributed to this post
Paul George is looking at the remaining games on the Pacers‘ schedule as a “test drive” to see how well he has recovered from the devastating leg injury he suffered last summer while scrimmaging for Team USA, Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com writes. “That’s exactly what it is [a test drive], it’s just seeing where I’m at and then getting ready for more rehab this summer and getting ready to build off these last couple of games of the season,” George said. “It’s been tough. There were days when I told myself I wanted to shut it down and get ready for the summer. But it’s great having the staff that we have here to push me here and keep my going. I’ve had days when I’m sure they hated me. And I hated them. But we got through it and they did a great job with being in my corner.”
Here’s more out of the Central Division:
- Veteran big man Nazr Mohammed has been making his presence felt on the Bulls with his vocal leadership, Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com writes. Mohammed’s spark and guidance was integral in snapping Chicago out of its stupor after a terrible second quarter against the Heat last night when the Bulls were outscored 33-12, Friedell adds. “I think you got to be accountable and you got to play for each other,” guard Aaron Brooks said. “I think one thing that Naz brought up was you’re letting your teammate down when you’re not getting back or you’re not helping. You’re not letting the coach, you’re not letting the fans. You’re letting your teammate down, and you got to have your brother’s back.” The center is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
- The Pistons are likely to target a forward in the first round of this year’s NBA draft, David Mayo of MLive.com opines in his weekly mailbag. Detroit currently is in line for the No. 8 pick, according to Hoops Rumors’ reverse standings. Potential targets at that spot for the team could include Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, and Frank Kaminsky, Mayo notes.
- Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy hopes to go to Spain after the NBA season ends to get a first-hand look at guard Mario Hezonja and power forward Kristaps Prozingis, both of whom are projected top 10 picks this year, Mayo adds.
Chris Copeland is intensive care in a New York hospital and will remain there for the next two or three days, a source tells ESPN’s Josina Anderson (Twitlonger link). The Pacers combo forward and soon-to-be free agent was the victim of a stabbing early Wednesday morning, and the attack left him with a punctured diaphragm, according to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star. He also suffered lacerations on his left hand, Anderson hears. Copeland didn’t engage in an argument or initiate any altercation, a source tells Buckner. While we hope for the best for Copeland, here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- Knicks owner James Dolan expressed continued faith in team president Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills and again insisted that he wouldn’t meddle with the team as he spoke in an interview with Matthew Belloni of The Hollywood Reporter. “You got to believe, baby!” Dolan said, when asked if Jackson is still worth his $12MM annual salary. “I believe, I believe!”
- The Nets want Brook Lopez back, as owner Mikhail Prokhorov on Wednesday made clear to reporters, including Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. Still, the owner acknowledged the primary choice rests with the center, who has a player option worth more than $16.744MM, as Bontemps relays. “We need him,” Prokhorov said. “I think the Brooklyn Nets, it’s his home.”
- Brooklyn would pay the repeater tax if they’re a taxpayer again next season, and the return of Lopez would make that a strong possibility. Still, Prohorov said he’d be willing to do so, Bontemps notes. Prokhorov also insists he never sought to sell a majority stake in the Nets and said that while he’s been approached by 10 people with interest in buying a minority share, there’s nothing on the table for now, notes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
- The Cavs have some interest in Salah Mejri, a center playing for Spain’s Real Madrid, as Chema de Lucas of Gigantes Del Basket hears (translation via HoopsHype). The 28-year-old who went undrafted in 2008 is averaging 4.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in 9.8 minutes per game.
State, county and city leaders continue to bicker over how to raise the public share of funding for a new Bucks arena in Milwaukee even as the team unveiled sketches for the proposed $500MM building today, report Don Walker And Tom Daykin of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Bucks nonetheless have extreme confidence that the project will get done, tweets Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times. The team is facing an NBA-imposed deadline of 2017 to reach a deal on funding for construction, lest the league seize control of the franchise from its owners.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Pacers coach Frank Vogel expressed concern that the nightclub stabbing of forward Chris Copeland will become a distraction to his team, Peter Botte of The New York Daily News writes. “It’s always a shock when you hear something like this. So it’s a big shock,” Vogel said. “Obviously it hurts to see a teammate be injured like this, but we’re trying to remain focused on the game tonight.”
- The Bulls were 10-10 while Derrick Rose missed time due to a surgical procedure on his right knee, and the team hopes that his return tonight can spark a deep playoff run, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com writes. The handling of Rose and Chicago’s other injured players this season has deepened the rift between coach Tom Thibodeau and the front office, Berger adds. Thibodeau has grown increasingly frustrated with management’s involvement with the handling of injuries and return-to-play protocols, which he believes should be the coach’s domain, Berger notes.
- The Pacers have assigned Shayne Whittington to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA D-League, the team announced. This is the forward’s second trip to Fort Wayne this season, and Whittington is the lone player whom Indiana has dispatched to the D-League this campaign.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.