Central Notes: Merrill, Craig, LaVine, Nembhard, Pistons

In the midst of his best stretch of the season, Cavaliers wing Sam Merrill woke up on Thursday morning with a sore right wrist after falling on it on Wednesday, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required).

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to continue playing an increased role for the banged-up Cavs, Merrill attempted to fight through the pain, but was clearly bothered by the injury and didn’t play in the second half of Thursday’s loss to New Orleans, as Fedor details.

“When it rains, it pours,” forward Dean Wade said of Merrill joining an increasingly crowded Cavs injury list. “It sucks, but we’ve still got to go out there and play a game. We’ve got, I don’t know how many healthy bodies we’ve got, but still got to go out there and fight.”

“It was definitely tough for us. He’s been lights out the last two games,” Jarrett Allen added. “He came in and he tried to pull through, tried to rough it out with the hurt hand. Sadly, he couldn’t do it. But it happens. It’s been the cascade of players going down for us, so we just have to keep going.”

With Ty Jerome, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley sidelined due to longer-term injuries, the Cavaliers could theoretically qualify for a hardship exception if a fourth player goes down. But hardship exceptions are only available to teams with full rosters — Cleveland already has an open spot that the team has thus far been unwilling to fill due to luxury tax concerns.

As we await more details on Merrill’s injury, here are more notes from around the Central:

  • Bulls forward Torrey Craig believes the eight-to-10 week recovery timeline the team provided when announcing his right foot injury is too long, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Craig said on Thursday that he’s a fast healer and that he intends to beat that timeline, assuming his rehab goes well.
  • In other Bulls injury news, Zach LaVine is making good progress in his recovery from his own right foot injury and is expected to start cutting next week, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s going to hopefully start to jump shooting, running, increase the speed,” Donovan said of what LaVine’s rehab. “He’s actually running at a pretty good clip straight ahead, and then moving toward next week is when they would probably start some of that running, changing direction, kind of curve running to see how he responds.” As Cowley details, LaVine could be cleared to resume basketball activities and begin practicing again if he responds well next week.
  • After missing six games due to a bone bruise, Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard returned to action on Friday in Memphis and looked good in his 16 minutes on the court, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.
  • Something has to change for the 2-26 Pistons, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic, who says that “a shakeup needed to happen yesterday” and that everyone – from players to coaches to the front office to ownership – bears blame for this season’s disaster.
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