Month: November 2022

Billy Donovan: Lonzo Ball’s Knee Rehab Going “Really Slow”

After sounding optimistic about Lonzo Ball‘s rehabilitation process at the beginning of November, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan struck a different tone on Wednesday evening, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

It’s been really slow,” Donovan said. “I’m just being honest.”

Ball underwent an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee at the end of September and was set to be reevaluated in four-to-six weeks. Today marks nine weeks since the surgery was performed, but there’s still no clarity on when he might make his 2022/23 season debut.

Donovan said that Ball “has not necessarily suffered a setback,” according to Schaefer, but he’s “not even close” to resuming contact or on-court work.

He’s working through more and more. But it’s not like I can give you any report, ‘Hey, he’s running, he’s cutting, he’s jumping, he’s doing individual skill work, the next step is we’ve got to get him some contact.’ To be honest with you we’re not even close to that,” Donovan said.

Him working through the pain he was experiencing before, there has been improvement in that area, but they’re also trying to continue to build up strength because of the lack of time he’s had, so to speak, training. They’re constantly, like, all hands on deck, everyone is evaluating. There’s a lot of people that are involved in trying to help him.”

As Schaefer notes, “everyone” includes Chicago’s medical staff as well as specialists in Los Angeles, where both of Ball’s recent surgeries were performed. He missed the team’s final 42 games of the ’21/22 regular season after undergoing left meniscus surgery in January.

Ball last played on January 14 and obviously has yet to play this season.

One noteworthy point from Donovan’s aforementioned answer is that Ball is still experiencing pain, though he’s shown “improvement.” The coach later expanded on that, per Schaefer.

He is better after the surgery, I will say that, but is he completely pain-free? No, and that’s what they’re working towards,” Donovan said.

Or, at least, if he does have some pain, he’s able to play through some of it, work through some of it. All these guys are dealing with pain as the season goes on in some form of it. But for him it’s the pain that has [prevented him from] getting back to playing.”

The Bulls were the No. 1 seed in the East at the time Ball was injured last season, holding a 27-13 record. They went just 19-23 the rest of the way and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Bucks.

Chicago has certainly missed Ball’s defense, long-range shooting, and ability to push the pace in transition. The Bulls have had a rocky start to the ’22/23 season, currently holding a 9-11 record.

Hawks’ Hunter, Collins Exit Wednesday’s Win With Injuries

8:36pm: Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said Hunter and Collins will undergo MRIs on Thursday, according to Brad Rowland of Locked On Hawks (Twitter link). McMillan also confirmed that Hunter aggravated the same injury he was dealing with heading into the game.


7:32pm: Hawks starting forwards De’Andre Hunter and John Collins exited Wednesday’s game against Orlando with injuries and were ruled out for the remainder of the contest, Atlanta announced (via Twitter).

Collins, the power forward, sustained a left ankle sprain, while Hunter, the small forward, is dealing with right thigh soreness. As Gabe Burns of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets, the Hawks were up 20 points at half time, so it’s possible that may have contributed to the decision to sit both players.

The Hawks announced prior to the game that Hunter was available but dealing with right hip flexor soreness, and considering the hip flexor is located at the top part of the thigh, it’s reasonable to speculate that there could be a correlation (Twitter link via Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The team also announced that reserve wing Justin Holiday had entered the health and safety protocols and was out Wednesday.

Guard Gary Harris was injured during Wednesday’s game as well, experiencing right hamstring tightness that caused the Magic to rule him out for the remainder of the contest (Twitter link). Harris was making his sixth appearance in 2022/23 after offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus caused him to miss Orlando’s first 15 games.

We’ll have to wait for more updates to determine whether Hunter, Collins or Harris might miss more time with their respective injuries.

The 11-10 Hawks had lost three in a row heading into Wednesday’s contest but are in a strong position to snap that skid, currently leading 108-89 with eight minutes remaining. The Magic will have dropped six straight if they wind up losing. Their current record is 5-16, the second-worst mark in the NBA.

NBA Announces Start, End Dates For 2023/24 Regular Season

The NBA informed teams on Wednesday that the 2023/24 regular season will begin on October 24, 2023, and end April 14, 2024, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports (via Twitter).

The ongoing ’22/23 regular season opened on October 18 and will conclude April 9, so next season’s start and end dates will be pushed back nearly a week.

According to Charania, the league also told teams that if and when a proposed in-season tournament is approved, the initial regular season schedule would have 80 games per team instead of the standard 82. In that scenario, the remaining games would be scheduled once eight teams advance to a single-elimination format.

As Charania reported in September, the in-season tournament would have cup games running through November, with eight teams advancing to knockout stages in December. All of the games would be part of the regular season schedule, and the finalists would each have one extra game.

In short, the remaining two games for the 22 teams that don’t advance to the single-elimination rounds would be finalized once the cup games conclude, possibly at the end of November.

The in-season tournament has yet to be finalized and still needs to be approved by the NBA and the NBPA before it can be implemented, but obviously the league is targeting next season for its initial run.

Southwest Notes: H. Jones, Kemba, Mavs, Spurs

Pelicans forward Herb Jones is a bargain on his current contract, which pays him $1.79MM this season. But he’ll be looking at an eight-figure annual salary worth “at the very least” the mid-level exception and “almost certainly above it” on his next deal if he continues on his current path, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst predicted in his most recent Hoop Collective podcast.

Windhorst’s comments stemmed from a discussion of a feature by Marc J. Spears of Andscape on the second-year Pelicans forward. As Spears details in his story, Jones prefers to live modestly and think “long-term” for his family — he still drives his car from college and wears Pelicans gear rather than spending extravagantly on a new wardrobe.

“If he wants to drive a Dodge Charger and keep wearing the team-issued gear, that’s fine, but he will have tens of millions in the bank doing so,” Windhorst said with a laugh.

Jones, who told Spears that he aspires to be named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team, is under contract for one more season after this one, with a minimum-salary team option for 2023/24. He’ll become extension-eligible during the 2023 offseason and would be a restricted free agent in 2024 if he hasn’t signed a new deal by then.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • New Mavericks point guard Kemba Walker said during Tuesday’s TNT broadcast that he aims to bring ball-handling skills and leadership to the franchise, describing himself as a “good locker room guy” (Twitter link via Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News). On Wednesday, Walker told reporters, including Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News, that he hopes to play for the Mavs “sooner rather than later,” adding that he feels “really good” physically. “I feel as good as I’ve felt in a very long time,” Walker said. “I really took my time and made sure I felt better before I really started ramping myself up as well. Yeah, I know I can just say that, but I guess we’ll just have to see for real.”
  • Head coach Jason Kidd said that using the team’s 15th roster spot on players with non-guaranteed salaries will give the Mavericks the flexibility to keep auditioning free agents until they find one they want to commit to. “Some could say we didn’t give (Facundo) Campazzo a fair shot,” Kidd said, per Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “He didn’t play a lot of minutes. But this is the way we want to use this 15th spot – look at different situations or different guys. Hopefully, Kemba is the guy if Luka (Doncic) or Spencer (Dinwiddie) are out that he can play that role as a backup.”
  • Point guard Tre Jones and several of his young Spurs teammates aren’t accustomed to losing as much as they have so far this season and don’t want to get used to it, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “A lot of us come from the background of winning — that’s why we are here,” Jones said. “We talk about it in the locker room. We talk about it every single day, trying to figure out how we can turn this thing around and start stacking some wins again.”

Ben Simmons Out At Least Three Games With Calf Strain

Ben Simmons has been diagnosed with a left lateral upper calf strain and will miss at least three games for the Nets, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Simmons will be reassessed after the third game, which is Sunday against the Celtics. Brooklyn has two days off following the matchup with Boston, so the earliest Simmons could return will be next Wednesday against the Hornets.

The 26-year-old left Monday’s win over Orlando in the second quarter with what was called left knee soreness. Evidently further testing revealed that the injury was actually located in his calf. With Simmons out, the Nets relied more on Joe Harris and Seth Curry, and that will likely continue for the next few games.

The Nets also announced that forward Yuta Watanabe, the NBA’s leader in 3PT% (.571), underwent a second MRI on his right hamstring strain and the results were unchanged — he’s still dealing with the injury. He’ll continue to receive treatment and will be reevaluated in one week. Watanabe has already missed five consecutive games with the hamstring strain and will miss at least three more.

The good news is that forward T.J. Warren is targeting a Friday return, so his presence should help make up for the size lost from Simmons and Watanabe being sidelined. The Nets are currently 11-11, the No. 9 seed in the East.

Injury Notes: MPJ, Hyland, Oladipo, Pelicans, Clippers, Holmgren

Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (left heel contusion) will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday, but Denver will get some reinforcements vs. Houston with Bones Hyland (non-COVID illness) set to make his return following a three-game absence, per Harrison Wind or DNVR Sports (Twitter links).

Hyland last played on November 22 and was hampered by his illness on that night, logging just nine minutes. The Nuggets guard said today that he “couldn’t breathe on the floor” during that game, but is “feeling great” now, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Here are a few more health-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo practiced with the team on Tuesday, but there wasn’t any contact during that session and he won’t play on the current road trip, which runs through next Monday, head coach Erik Spoelstra said today (link via Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel). While Oladipo hasn’t played yet this season due to left knee tendinosis, it sounds like he’s making progress toward a return.
  • Pelicans guard CJ McCollum has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but will remain sidelined on Wednesday as he attempts to get back into game shape, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. New Orleans did get some good news on Larry Nance Jr. — he’ll be available after missing Monday’s game with a right shoulder injury.
  • Still without Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Luke Kennard, the Clippers added Norman Powell to their injury report for Wednesday’s game in Utah due to a left groin strain. Powell is doubtful to play, says Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Thunder big man Chet Holmgren will undergo a follow-up procedure to remove the “hardware” in his right foot from his previous surgery, a team spokesperson tells Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The procedure had been planned and is a sign that Holmgren is making progress, Mussatto adds.

Wizards Among Potential Suitors For Jae Crowder

The Wizards appear to be among the trade suitors for Suns forward Jae Crowder, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest Hoop Collective podcast. Crowder has sat out the entire 2022/23 season as Phoenix has looked to move him, and Washington is in the market for a three-and-D type player.

“There’s been some chatter about them looking at a guy like Jae Crowder,” Windhorst said of the Wizards (hat tip to RealGM). “I’m pretty confident there’s been some discussions between the Wizards and Suns. We’ve been talking about Jae Crowder now for about two months. It’s obvious it’s a hard trade to pull off. The Wizards have a bunch of guys who make decent salaries on their roster that they can use in trades.”

A number of Eastern Conference playoff contenders have already been linked to Crowder, with the Heat, Hawks, and Bucks among the teams said to have interest. There was a sense a couple weeks ago that Phoenix might be on the verge of completing a deal involving the 32-year-old, but nothing has come of those rumors to date.

The Suns are one of the NBA’s best teams and will be looking for win-now pieces – rather than draft picks or prospects – in any Crowder trade, which has made it challenging for them to make a straight-up trade with another contending club. They’ve reportedly explored multi-team scenarios in an effort to get the sort of player(s) they’re targeting.

According to Windhorst, Phoenix would like to acquire a power forward in a Crowder trade. A previous report indicated the Suns have interest in Kyle Kuzma, but the Wizards are presumably looking to supplement Kuzma in their frontcourt rather than give him up, given the year he’s having. Former lottery picks Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija could be trade candidates, as Windhorst observes.

“What Phoenix has been looking for in return for Jae Crowder is a power forward,” Windhorst said. “So you can look at the (Wizards’) roster and you can identify that maybe Hachimura would be a guy. But they haven’t made the deal yet, so there hasn’t been a connection there.

“… To be honest with you, if I was Phoenix – now again, this is me speaking, this is not what I’ve heard, to be clear – I’d be interested in Avdija. I am interested in what he can do defensively. But I haven’t heard that. I’ve just heard that those two sides have talked.”

Crowder ($10.18MM) and Hachimura ($6.26MM) are on expiring contracts, while Avdija ($4.92MM) has one more year left on his rookie deal after this one.

James Harden Targeting Monday Return

Sixers star James Harden is targeting Monday’s game against his former team in Houston for his return from a right foot injury, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported (via Twitter) that Harden is aiming to make it back at some point on Philadelphia’s current three-game road trip, which begins on Wednesday in Cleveland. The team will play in Friday in Memphis before heading to Houston for Monday’s matchup. Charania – like Pompey – says a Monday return is most likely for Harden.

The Sixers have been significantly shorthanded as of late, particularly in their backcourt, where Harden has been on the shelf since November 2 and Tyrese Maxey has been out since Nov. 18 with a foot injury of his own. Star center Joel Embiid also missed some time before rejoining Philadelphia’s lineup on Monday.

Despite the health issues affecting their top players, the 76ers have held their own in recent weeks. They’re 8-4 since Harden went down, including 3-1 in the games that Harden, Maxey, and Emibid all missed.

Maxey’s return is likely a little ways off yet, but the Sixers will be in position to begin solidifying a spot near the top of the Eastern Conference standings if Embiid and Harden are both healthy for the foreseeable future beginning next week. At 12-9, the club currently ranks fifth in the East.

Khris Middleton Nearing Season Debut

Bucks wing Khris Middleton is getting close to making his season debut, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that Middleton could be available as soon as Friday when Milwaukee hosts the Lakers.

A three-time All-Star, Middleton underwent wrist surgery in the offseason to repair a torn ligament and has spent the last several months recovering and working his way back to full health. He has been assigned to the G League multiple times this month in order to practice with the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s NBAGL affiliate.

When Middleton first went under the knife, reports indicated that he might be ready to return around the start of the regular season. On the day before the season got underway, another report suggested the Bucks were hoping to have him back at some point in November.

The 31-year-old has been ruled out for Wednesday’s contest against the Knicks, so a November return won’t happen, but if he’s back on Friday, he’ll be available for Milwaukee’s first December game. Following the game vs. the Lakers, the Bucks will embark upon a brief road trip to Charlotte on Saturday and Orlando on Monday.

Middleton had another productive season in 2021/22, averaging at least 20 points per game (20.1) for a third straight season to go along with 5.4 RPG and a career-high 5.4 APG in 66 games (32.4 MPG). However, a sprained MCL sidelined him during the postseason and he was unavailable when the Bucks fell to Boston in a seven-game second round series.

Milwaukee has gotten off to a good start this season, even with Middleton and offseason signee Joe Ingles (ACL) on the shelf. The club’s 14-5 record is the NBA’s second-best mark.

And-Ones: Henderson, Top Offseason Adds, 2022 Re-Draft

G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson, the consensus No. 2 prospect in the 2023 draft class, has been diagnosed with a nose fracture after entering the concussion protocols and missing the team’s last four games, writes Cody Taylor of Rookie Wire.

Although Henderson has already been sidelined since November 18, the injury isn’t considered a long-term one and he’s being listed as day-to-day for the time being. According to Taylor, there’s a chance Henderson will be cleared to return on Sunday when the Ignite host the South Bay Lakers.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world: