Month: February 2024

Injury Updates: Davis, Ayton, Leonard, Noel

One downside to the Lakers‘ first win Sunday night was continuing back pain for Anthony Davis, writes Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. Davis, who had been listed as questionable for the game, was grimacing and limping around the court, Hernandez observed. Afterward, he admitted being in a “pretty good amount of pain.”

Davis sat out Friday’s game due to lower back tightness, and his health is a constant concern after playing a combined 76 games over the past two seasons. On Sunday, he told reporters that he doesn’t know what to expect regarding his back from day to day, adding, “It kind of just comes and goes.”

An eight-time All-Star, Davis is crucial to any success the Lakers hope to have this season. He’s averaging 23.8 points and 10.6 rebounds through five games, along with 2.4 steals and 2.0 blocks.

“AD’s impact is not only huge defensively, but also very efficient offensively, giving us possessions at the rim, knocking down the jumper, just all around very efficient tonight,” LeBron James said.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • The Suns are grateful that Deandre Ayton‘s sprained left ankle wasn’t more serious, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Ayton got hurt Friday when he landed on the foot of Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas after taking a jump shot. “When you look at the play, just one of those plays that should’ve been called a foul,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “Just kind of go from there, but for me, I’m just grateful it wasn’t worse. We will look at it in another week to make sure he’s ready to go.”  
  • Injury management continues for Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, according to Law Murray of The Athletic. Leonard sat out Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans to protect his surgically repaired right knee and won’t play tonight against the Rockets. He has only played twice this season, coming off the bench both times, and is averaging 12.5 minutes per game.
  • There’s a chance Nerlens Noel could make his debut with the Pistons tonight, tweets James L. Edwards of The Athletic. Jalen Duren didn’t travel with the team to Milwaukee after rolling his ankle in Sunday’s game, and Marvin Bagley III remains out with an MCL sprain. Coach Dwane Casey has said Noel, who is reconditioning after plantar fasciitis, might be available to play in an emergency.

Warriors Notes: Rotation, Thompson, Looney, Wiseman

The Warriors haven’t looked like defending champions in their three road games this season, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State dropped to 3-4 after losing a pair of games this weekend to the Hornets, who were playing without their starting backcourt, and the Pistons, who were 1-5 before Sunday night.

Coach Steve Kerr is searching for answers as he tries to develop an effective bench. James Wiseman committed three fouls in four minutes at Charlotte and wasn’t used in the second half, but he looked better in Detroit. Two-way players Ty Jerome and Anthony Lamb both saw action Sunday, and Jonathan Kuminga logged a season-high 19 minutes.

While Kerr sorts through his reserves, Draymond Green said it’s up to the core of last season’s title winners to make sure the team stays successful.

“It’s not their fault,” Green said of the younger players. “It’s not solely their fault that we’re not playing well defensively or offensively. When you are playing younger guys, it makes it tougher to execute on both ends of the floor. But by no means is it the young guys’ fault. They have a part in it just like we all have a part in it.”

There’s more on the Warriors:

  • Klay Thompson sat out Sunday’s game after playing 32 minutes Saturday night. Kerr doesn’t plan to keep him out of back-to-backs entirely like he did after Thompson returned from his injuries last season, but it will continue until the veteran sharpshooter regains full conditioning, tweets Kendra Andrews of ESPN.
  • One positive sign is the recent rebounding surge from Kevon Looney, notes Monte Poole of NBC Sports. Looney had nine rebounds in 22 minutes against Detroit’s big frontline after pulling down eight against Miami on Thursday and nine in Charlotte.
  • In an interview with Katie Heindl of Uproxx Sports, Wiseman said he’s starting to feel like himself again after the long recovery process from a meniscus tear in his right knee. “When I first got injured, I was crying so hard I couldn’t even get to my mom’s apartment,” Wiseman recalled from when he hurt his knee in April of 2021. “My mom had to carry me to her apartment. I was just crushed. Having a lot of nights where I was crying a lot, like a lot of times where I had thoughts like … I wish this happened differently.”

Central Notes: Turner, LaVine, Bogdanovic, Duren

Appearing on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Pacers center Myles Turner said the Lakers should take “a hard look” at a deal that would bring him to L.A. (Twitter link). A trade rumor that simmered for much of the summer had Turner and Buddy Hield headed to the Lakers in exchange for Russell Westbrook and the team’s unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. The deal reportedly didn’t happen because of the Lakers’ reluctance to part with both draft picks.

“That’s such an intriguing question,” Turner responded when Wojnarowski asked if the Lakers should make the trade. “… We all know picks are so valuable in this league, and someone like myself, I’m heading into the last year of my deal and you want to make sure you’re getting a return for your assets. If I’m the Lakers, I take a very hard look at this with the position that you’re in. I know what I can provide for a team.”

Wojnarowski recently reported that the Lakers don’t expect to make any trades until at least Thanksgiving, so it doesn’t appear a Turner deal will happen in the immediate future. The Pacers have been managing Turner’s return from an ankle injury, and he has only played in two games so far.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls could benefit by creating more motion for Zach LaVine, suggests Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, who notes that LaVine has just seven possessions in four games as a shooter after an off-ball screen, Coach Billy Donovan admits he reduced those situations for LaVine last season in response to lingering left knee pain, and LaVine believes they will eventually return as the offense evolves. “We have to look for them. I have to try to look for them,” LaVine said. “And then everybody off the ball has to recognize who we’re screening, who we’re pinning down on. That’s going to be the process of us starting this offense.”
  • Bojan Bogdanovic‘s two-year extension with the Pistons will pay him $20MM in 2023/24 and $19.03MM in 2024/25, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Only $2MM is guaranteed for the final year, but it will become fully guaranteed in late June of 2024, Marks adds. As we noted in our story on the deal, Bogdanovic remains trade-eligible since his new deal doesn’t exceed the extend-and-trade restrictions (and couldn’t have done so, since he was just traded last month).
  • James L. Edwards of The Athletic examines Jalen Duren‘s journey from a 13-year-old basketball prodigy to a lottery pick in his rookie season with the Pistons.

Cavaliers Notes: Mitchell, Knicks, LeVert, Garland

The Cavaliers knew they were getting a star when they traded for Donovan Mitchell, but so far he’s been better than anyone anticipated, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Mitchell had 38 points and a career-high 12 assists Sunday night as Cleveland won its fifth straight game, topping a Knicks team that spent much of the summer trying to acquire Mitchell from the Jazz. Even though he’s a three-time All-Star, Mitchell is exceeding expectations.

“We already had such a great group, but I think he just elevates us to another place,” Kevin Love said. “A guy that has experience, a guy that is a star in this league is playing some really great basketball right now. … We don’t see any signs of him slowing down.”

Through six games with the Cavs, Mitchell ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 32.2 PPG and is in the top 10 in assists at 7.3 per night. Both numbers would be career highs by a wide margin if he can sustain them for an entire season. Mitchell doesn’t feel like he’s a different player since the trade, but says he was often overlooked in Utah.

“We were in Mountain time. No one really watched us, so you kinda fall under the radar,” he said. “I feel like I’ve just been doing this nonstop, and I just continue to get better and more efficient. … I think this has been my best stretch in my career, but I gotta keep going.”

There’s more from Cleveland:

  • Mitchell, who at one point during the offseason was convinced he was going to wind up in New York, told Steve Popper of Newsday that he wasn’t trying to deliver any kind of message to the Knicks in Sunday’s game. “It’s easy to point to the summer and say that [it was payback], but I’m pretty much friends with everybody on that team, so it’s always good to play against your guys and I have nothing but love for them,” Mitchell said.
  • Caris LeVert impressed Mitchell with his 41-point outburst in Friday’s win at Boston, per Chris Fedor of LeVert won the competition for the starting small forward slot, but is currently being used at shooting guard while Darius Garland is sidelined with an eye injury. “I played against Caris in Brooklyn and nothing against him last year, he had the injuries, but I think this is the Caris we all know,” Mitchell said. “He looks healthy and looks different. He was due. He’s been an animal. He led us by example.”
  • Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the swelling in Garland’s eye has gone down and the team is waiting for him to become more comfortable with his vision, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic.

Lakers Notes: Westbrook, Ham, Mikan, Beverley

The Lakers picked up their first victory of the season on Sunday night, and Russell Westbrook may have finally won over the L.A. fans, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. In his second game coming off the bench, Westbrook seemed to fully embrace the role, posting 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists and displaying more energy and confidence than he has in a long time.

Westbrook also looked like an effective complement to LeBron James, who scored 26 points, and Anthony Davis, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds, giving the Lakers the Big Three they envisioned when they traded for Westbrook in the summer of 2021.

The performance was enough to get the fans on Westbrook’s side, helping to change an atmosphere that has gotten so bad that at one point he asked his family to stop coming to home games. There was plenty of support for Westbrook Sunday night, and the crowd responded when he urged them to stand up and cheer while Davis was at the free throw line.

“I love seeing my teammates flourish, honestly,” Westbrook said. “I get a joy by seeing others do great. My whole career, what lifts me up is to see others do well. And tonight was that night to see guys making shots, competing and that’s all you can ask for.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • When Darvin Ham was hired as head coach during the summer, he promised to unlock the best version of Westbrook, Goon adds, and Sunday’s game suggests that moving him to a reserve role was the right call. “One of the biggest things about me getting this job was for him to get that respect that he deserved because a lot of what went on last year was not his fault, and everything, all of the blame, was placed on him,” Ham said. “And so I told him, ‘Man, just listen to me. Believe in me, bro. I’m gonna put you in a position to succeed with the group. But you have to put the group first. It can’t be about me or I or mine. It’s gotta be us, ours, we.’ And he’s done that.”
  • The Lakers retired number 99 on Sunday in honor of George Mikan, the NBA’s first star center, Goon states in a separate story. Mikan never played in Los Angeles, but he led the franchise to five championships in Minneapolis.
  • The NBA has issued a warning to Patrick Beverley for violating its anti-flopping rule (Twitter link). The league’s announcement included a video of the play in question, which happened Friday against the Timberwolves.

Bulls Notes: Lineup, Dosunmu, Vucevic, Drummond

Following another slow start, the Bulls were defeated by Philadelphia on Saturday. Coach Billy Donovan will consider juggling his lineup after his team fell behind by 19 points in the first half, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes.

“I think I have to look at that,” Donovan said. “I don’t think there’s any question. Obviously, it’s a small sample size with seven games. But we do have veterans in that lineup. I don’t want to throw them (under the bus). All of us, myself as a coach. We’ve got to figure something out to get off to a better start. We have to look at all those things.”

Power forward Patrick Williams appears to be the most vulnerable in terms of losing his starting job.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Guard Ayo Dosunmu cleared concussion protocol, but he’s still out of action. He’s dealing with a “thoracic contusion,” according to Donovan. Dosunmu has discomfort in his neck and upper back and is struggling with his mobility, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.
  • Center Nikola Vucevic has taken the second-most field goal attempts behind only DeMar DeRozan. An assertive Vucevic is essential to the team’s success, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I know how good I am. I know what I bring to the table,” Vucevic said. “I’m a two-time All-Star, so I didn’t get to where I am by chance.”
  • Vucevic played a season-high 36 minutes against the Sixers, in part because backup Andre Drummond was sidelined by a left shoulder sprain.

Sixers Pick Up Options On Maxey, Springer

The Sixers have exercised the fourth-year contract option for starting guard Tyrese Maxey for the 2023/24 season, according to a team press release. They’ve done the same on the the third-year option for Jaden Springer.

Maxey, one of the league’s top young point men, will make $4,343,920 next season. He was the 21st pick of the 2020 draft.

Maxey is one of the league’s biggest bargains right now. He’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension next offseason.

Springer, the No. 28 selection of the 2021 draft, has only appeared in four NBA games, including two this season. He played 19 games for the G League Delaware Blue Coats last season. The 20-year-old guard will take in $2,226,240 next season.

Atlantic Notes: Young, Porter Jr., Maxey, Simmons

Veteran forward Thaddeus Young has played sparingly for the Raptors and he’s surprised by his lack of playing time, he told Josh Lewenberg of TSN.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s definitely a tough situation to be in but I’ve just got to bear with it and continue to be there for my teammates, continue to trust in what I’m doing as a player, and hopefully when the time comes I’ll be ready to go out there and take care of business.”

Young has only appeared in four games, averaging eight minutes when he’s seen the floor. Young is signed through next season but only $1MM of his 2023/24 salary is guaranteed.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors forward Otto Porter Jr. has been ruled out against Atlanta on Monday due to personal reasons, Lewenberg tweets. Porter, who has also dealt with a hamstring injury, is expected to return later in the week. However, he will likely require a full practice or two before making his season debut, Lewenberg adds.
  • Tyrese Maxey has made 46.8% of his 3-pointers this season and Joel Embiid says his Sixers teammate needs to increase his long-range attempts, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “He’s one of the best shooters and he has the potential to be up there. You know, a great stroke,” Embiid said. “He can really shoot the ball, great form and he makes them. There’s a reason I’m always on him to just let it fly. He’s got to get up 10 to 15 threes a game. That’s how good of a shooter he is.”
  • While the Nets are off to an awful start, Ben Simmons hasn’t lost any confidence in the team’s long-term prospects, according to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. “I believe we can be the best team in the NBA,” Simmons said. The former No. 1 overall pick is off to a slow start after missing last season, averaging 6.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Rockets Exercise Options On Green, Sengun, Garuba, Christopher

6:55pm: The Rockets have officially picked up their options on all four players, according to a press release from the team.

6:20pm: The Rockets plan to pick up the 2023/24 contract options of all four players they drafted last season — lottery pick Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba and Josh ChristopherJonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

It was a mere formality that the options of Green and Sengun would be picked up. They are two key building blocks for one of the youngest teams in the league. The option on Green’s contract is $9,891,480, while Sengun will take in $3,536,280.

The other option decisions weren’t quite as obvious. Garuba only appeared in 24 games last season due to injuries and he’s averaging just over 12 minutes in four appearances this season. However, the front office was encouraged by his performances for Spain in the Eurobasket tournament and by what he displayed in training camp and preseason workouts, according to Feigen.

Christopher saw action in 74 games as a rookie, though his playing time has dropped in the early going this year. Garuba’s contract will be guaranteed at $2,588,400, while Christopher will earn $2,485,200.

Southwest Notes: Dieng, Primo, McCollum, Jackson Jr.

Gorgui Dieng was signed by the Spurs on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract. Dieng’s influence in the locker room is the main reason why the team wanted the veteran big man, who has thus far only appeared in three games, Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes.

“We just love Gorgui,” teammate Doug McDermott said. “I’ve been on six (NBA) teams, and you don’t see guys make a connection that quickly in a locker room. It usually doesn’t happen.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • While details regarding the Spurs’ abrupt decision to waive Joshua Primo have leaked out, coach Gregg Popovich refuses to comment on the situation, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “I think under the circumstances, I think it’s inappropriate for me to say anything beyond what we have already put out for our statement,” Popovich said. Primo allegedly exposed himself to multiple women.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum prefers to give his teammates an honest and sometimes blunt assessment of what they’re doing wrong. That’s his style of leadership, he told Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune. “I am going to be very direct. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “I think you can respect that because of how consistent I am.”
  • While the Grizzlies are 4-2, their defense has often been lacking, Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. They have given up more than 120 points in four of their first six games. The absence of Jaren Jackson Jr. during his injury rehab has contributed to the problem, as he’s adept at contesting stretch fours in addition to protecting the rim.