Chris Paul

Chris Paul Set To Return On Thursday

The Rockets are officially listing Chris Paul as questionable for Thursday’s game in Phoenix, but it sounds like the team expects its veteran point guard to suit up. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said today that he plans on having Paul in the starting lineup tomorrow and will likely have him play about 20 minutes, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“He’s ready to go,” D’Antoni said. “I think he’s playing tomorrow. We’ll see. It’s good. Now, what we have done up to now doesn’t count. We have a new team tomorrow. When you put that big of a rock into a pond, there’s big waves. We have to figure out, one, give him a chance to get into game shape, and two, everybody’s rotation is a little bit different.”

Paul’s stint in Houston has gotten off to an anticlimactic start, with the former Clipper appearing in just one regular season game for his new club before being sidelined due to a knee injury. Recognizing that their roster is strong enough that there was no need to force Paul into action in October and November games, the Rockets opted to hold him out until he got 100% healthy.

The Rockets have an 11-4 record so far this season, with Harden playing a point guard role similar to the one he played last year. 2017’s MVP runner-up is leading the NBA with 10.3 assists per game this season, but Harden should still benefit from having CP3 back. Games like Tuesday’s loss to the Raptors, in which Harden went 8-for-25 from the field, turned the ball over nine times, and ran into foul trouble, show that Paul’s ability to share ball-handling duties figures to come in handy for Houston.

In addition to helping the Rockets win games, Paul will also be looking to improve his stock as he nears free agency. He’ll be 33 years old when he reaches the open market in 2018, and no longer seems like a lock for a long-term, maximum-salary contract.

Western Rumors: Paul, Ball, Nurkic, Noel

Chris Paul is ramping up his workouts and could return to action on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. The longtime All-Star point guard has been out since suffering a bruised left knee in the Rockets’ opener. “We’ll see how he feels Tuesday and Wednesday,” coach Mike D’Antoni told Feigen. “That [playing Thursday] is what we’re shooting for.”

In other developments around the Western Conference:

  • Lakers rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is shooting 31.4% but team president Magic Johnson said during a radio interview the coaching staff won’t alter his shooting stroke. Johnson made the comment during an interview on ESPN’s Mike and Mike show, which was relayed by USAToday’s Andrew Joseph. “Let him shoot the way he’s been shooting and hopefully they’ll go in. And so, we’re not gonna mess with it,” Johnson said. “We’re gonna let him shoot and play his game. If after the season, and he’s not shooting well, then we’ll sit down with him and say, ‘Hey, let’s maybe look at different way or let’s try to improve the way you are shooting.'”
  • Jusuf Nurkic isn’t brooding over his lack of crunch-time minutes in recent games, Mike Richman of The Oregonian reports. Coach Terry Stotts has gone with the backup Ed Davis in the fourth quarter the last two games but the starting Trail Blazers center says he’s not upset. “No drama, man,”  Nurkic told Richman. “It’s all about the [next] game.”
  • Nerlens Noel‘s lack of playing time doesn’t mean there’s a rift between him and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. Noel has played just eight minutes over the last three games but he can work his way back in the rotation by playing hard-nosed basketball, Sefko continues. Noel will get a chance to rejoin the rotation in the near future, Sefko predicts.
  • Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler scored 25 points against the Suns on Saturday, and he vows to remain a bigger part of the offense, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Butler had scored 16 points or less in seven of his 10 previous games with his new team.  “I do think I have to start scoring the ball a lot more,” Butler told Zgoda. “I think I’ve come too far to be as passive as I am right now. I’m always going to pass the ball to the open man, but if I feel like I can get my shots off and think I can make it, I’m going to take each and every one of those.”

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Deng, Looney, Kings

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were the Clippers‘ leaders for years, but the two stars weren’t always on the same page, and Austin Rivers acknowledges that the dynamic between the two players was “weird,” as Lee Jenkins of SI.com relays.

“I don’t know why. It was just strange,” Rivers said. “No one knew who the leader was, and if you had something to say, it would turn into an argument. I think people were sometimes scared to say something to Blake, because you didn’t know how he’d react. [Now] he’s a whole different person, more approachable, and I think it’s because we’ve embraced him. We know who our leader is. We’re all-in with Blake Griffin.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • While the Lakers and Luol Deng are both open to getting a trade or buyout done, actually completing a deal will be difficult, according to Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. The trade market for Deng is “non-existent,” a source tells Oram, and unless the Lakers can convince the veteran forward to give back a significant chunk of money, there’s little incentive for the team to release him.
  • After having his 2018/19 option declined by the Warriors, Kevon Looney admits that he wasn’t surprised by the decision, and says he isn’t stressed about it. Logan Murdock of The Bay Area News Group has the details, along with the quotes from Looney.
  • The Kings have multiple young prospects capable of playing center, including starter Willie Cauley-Stein, but the team has performed well when veteran Zach Randolph shifts to the five. As Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes, it will be interesting to see whether Sacramento continues to focus on developing their youngsters and only uses Randolph as an “emergency” option at the center, or if he’ll start to play more consistent minutes at the five.

Southwest Notes: Paul, Leonard, Evans, Pelicans

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni provided an update on injured point guard Chris Paul, who has missed all but one game this season due to a bruised left knee. At this stage, D’Antoni feels his prized offseason addition is closer than he has been to a return (via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).

“He’s probably rounding second and pretty close to third,” D’Antoni said of Paul’s estimated return. Once Paul is cleared for basketball activities, D’Antoni said that Paul needs “five days or so” of practice to get his endurance up to par. The Rockets have been fine without Paul, boasting an 8-3 record, tied for first with the defending champion Warriors.

“I just hope we can get him back quickly so we can start building on what we really have,” the Rockets coach added.

Paul averaged 18.1 PPG and 9.2 APG in 61 games for the Clippers last season. The nine-time All-Star joined Houston in an offseason trade, creating a dynamic one-two punch with last year’s Most Valuable Player runner-up, James Harden.

Check out other news in the Southwest Division:

Texas Notes: Paul, Mbah a Moute, Mejri, Forbes

As much as they would like to get Chris Paul back in the lineup, the Rockets won’t use their new point guard until he is fully recovered, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. After playing on opening night, Paul has been sidelined by a bruised knee. He has been swimming and boxing to stay in shape and went through shooting drills Saturday.

Coach Mike D’Antoni said he hopes to have Paul back around the middle of this month, but there isn’t a definite date for his return. “Every day that goes by we get a little bit closer,” D’Antoni said. “It can’t be close enough. He’s getting there.”

For his part, Paul is anxious to get back on the court, and agrees with D’Antoni’s timeline, as he tells Sam Amick of USA Today.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Free agent addition Luc Mbah a Moute has been a huge bargain for the Rockets, Feigen writes in a separate story. Houston pursued the 31-year-old forward for his defensive prowess, but Mbah a Moute has contributed on offense as well. He is averaging 9.3 points per game and scored a season-high 20 Friday against the Hawks. The Rockets were able to sign him to a one-year, minimum-salary deal thanks to aggressive recruiting from Paul, who recognized the value of his former Clippers teammate.He’s the best-kept secret in the NBA,” D’Antoni said. “… He’s as good as anybody. He’s smart. He can play big minutes. He can shoot 3s. Whatever you want him to do he does it. He’s got playmaking skills. He sees the floor. I don’t know how we all missed it, but we all did.”
  • Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle continues to tinker with his lineup, starting Salah Mejri at center Saturday night instead of Nerlens Noel, relays Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. “He always brings a lot of energy, a lot of fight,” Carlisle said of Mejri, who made his first start of the season. “He brings a certain combative personality to the game, which is something we need right now.” Noel, who is headed toward unrestricted free agency  after accepting the team’s qualifying offer this summer, has been in and out of the starting lineup with six starts in 11 games.
  • Second-year shooting guard Bryn Forbes had his best night of the season Friday with 22 points off the Spurs‘ bench, notes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Undrafted out of Michigan State last season, Forbes seems to have earned a spot in San Antonio’s rotation. “It’s a (testament) to how well he’s been working behind the scenes,” said teammate Patty Mills. “He’s one of those hard workers who never puts his head down and just keeps grinding. So I’m really proud of him because you see it all pay off in the end.”

Texas Notes: Okafor, Barea, Anderson, Paul

The Mavericks may have a long-term need at center, but they don’t plan to pursue Jahlil Okafor, tweets Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Okafor wants to be bought out or traded after the Sixers declined to pick up his option for 2018/19. The Mavs “are not particularly interested in kicking the tires” on Okafor, according to Sefko.

Dallas brought in one former Philadelphia center when it traded for Nerlens Noel in February. Noel wasn’t able to work out a long-term deal with the team as a restricted free agent this summer. He opted to take a one-year qualifying offer and will be unrestricted in July of 2018.

There’s more basketball news out of Texas:

  • Mavericks guard J.J. Barea says the “crazy minutes” he played early last season contributed to a left calf muscle tear that bothered him throughout the season, Sefko relays in a full story. Barea is coming off his first summer since 2011 without international basketball and is playing just 23.3 minutes per game. His average was about 10 minutes higher during the first nine games of last season because of injuries in the Dallas backcourt.
  • Rockets forward Ryan Anderson was in New York tonight after a summer filled with trade rumors involving the Knicks, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Anderson was a key figure in Houston’s quest to acquire Carmelo Anthony, but he says he never believed a deal was close. “I don’t think that was too much of a realistic thought to a lot of people because it was so much of what you believe,” Anderson said. “There were so many different news articles. Maybe in preseason there was a little bit of a thought because it was so fresh, but not at all now, I’m ready to move forward this year. We have a battle tonight. We have to focus on that. That’s 100 percent where my mind is now.”
  • Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni expects Chris Paul to return in about two weeks, Feigen tweets. Paul has been sidelined since opening night with pain in his knees.
  • The Spurs are still waiting for their investment in Patty Mills to pay off, according to Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News. The veteran point guard, who received a four-year, $50MM deal to re-sign with the team over the summer, is averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 assists in a reserve role this season and is shooting just 32% from the field.

Clippers Notes: Offseason Moves, Jordan, Redick

When Chris Paul was set to leave the Clippers this offseason, letting Blake Griffin walk as well and bottoming out as part of a rebuild would have been one option for the club, but it wasn’t one that management seriously considered, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. Without all their future draft picks in hand, the Clippers weren’t well positioned for a rebuild, and the idea went against owner Steve Ballmer‘s philosophy for the franchise.

“You consider all your options,” Ballmer said. “But I don’t want to lose. I like winning. Winning is good. Losing is bad. We think we have a unique opportunity to be a free-agent destination. If you want that, you have to be doing your best every year.”

Lowe’s deep dive into the Clippers includes several more noteworthy tidbits and is worth reading in full. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • DeAndre Jordan‘s future looms large for the Clippers, since he’s eligible for free agency next summer. According to Lowe, Los Angeles has explored trading Jordan, but the only time the team “gained semiserious traction” on anything was at the 2017 deadline. That proposed deal would have sent Jordan to the Rockets in exchange for Clint Capela, players, and picks.
  • The Clippers have discussed a possible contract extension with Jordan, but those talks have stalled for now, says Lowe. Jordan, who is currently negotiating without an agent, remains extension-eligible all the way up until June 30, but would be eligible for a bigger payday if he becomes a free agent next July.
  • Although the Clippers weren’t looking to part ways with Paul this offseason, they embraced the opportunity for a “fresh start” when he decided to leave. Players say the culture wasn’t as toxic as it may have seemed, but Doc Rivers acknowledges – without referring specifically to CP3 – “don’t want to be coached by you anymore.”
  • Rivers suggests that J.J. Redick was “begging to come back” to the Clippers as a free agent, a claim that Redick disputes. “There was never any indication from my agent that I wanted to go back,” Redick said to Lowe. “I didn’t beg to come back. I didn’t want to come back.”
  • Rivers also disputed reports that the Clippers could have traded Austin Rivers and Jamal Crawford for Carmelo Anthony earlier this year, calling that idea a “complete joke.” However, Lowe suggests that Rivers may be playing a “game of semantics,” noting that such a package could have been viable if Crawford was sent to a third team instead of New York.

Texas Notes: Harden, CP3, Noel, Mejri, Nowitzki

Friday marked the five-year anniversary of the Rockets‘ franchise-altering deal to acquire point guard James Harden from the Thunder. Since joining Houston, Harden has evolved into one of the NBA’s top players. In five seasons with Houston entering 2016/17, he has been a runner-up for the Most Valuable Player award twice and made the NBA All-Star team five times.

As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes, Harden, 28, looks back at the trade bringing him to the Rockets fondly.

“Five years go by fast, man,” Harden said. “It’s been a good five years, a great five years, the best five years of my life. This organization has shown me so much love and given me the opportunity to show who I am as a person and as a player. I appreciate it.”

Harden spent his first three seasons in Oklahoma City as one of the NBA’s most potent sixth men, winning the Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2011/12 season. Now, Harden is signed long-term by the Rockets as the face of the franchise. That status was unattainable in OKC with former MVP Kevin Durant and then-budding superstar Russell Westbrook in the fold.

Check out other news from teams in Texas:

  • Feigen writes in a separate article that Chris Paul, who has missed five of the Rockets’ first six games due to a bruised left knee, had no idea he would miss this much time. Paul banged knees with Mario Chalmers almost a week before the Rockets’ season-opener against Golden State and has not played since the team upset the Warriors to open the year.
  • Nerlens Noel was displaced in Philadelphia and traded to the Mavericks last season. While his statistics are not eye-popping, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that his energy and impact while on the floor is the reason why he could be in lime for a major free agency payday.
  • While Noel has been effective, foul trouble has been a concern. Other centers on the Mavericks roster have not been consistent either but Salah Mejri has vocalized his frustration due to a lack of playing time, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes.
  • Dirk Nowitzki is in his 20th season with the Mavericks and he is considered one of the greatest players in team history. However, the 39-year-old may also be taking away playing time from Noel as head coach Rick Carlisle is hesitant to play both seven-footers simultaneously, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News Writes.

 

Latest On Chris Paul

OCTOBER 21, 12:47pm: Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni has confirmed that the Rockets are being cautious with Paul, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle details. D’Antoni said that CP3’s return date remains up in the air, as the point guard’s injury could be day-to-day or “week-to-week.”

“We’re going to make sure it’s 100% well,” D’Antoni said. “It’s hard to put a timetable on it. If it is (a month-long absence), it is. We’re equipped to win, anyway. Obviously, we want him back as soon as he can, but we’re not going to bring him back until he’s completely healthy because we don’t want him limping or not feeling it later on.”

OCTOBER 20, 4:15pm: After a less than stellar individual performance in the Rockets’ season opening win over the Warriors, Chris Paul sat out of Houston’s second game of the season earlier this week. Now, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets, concerns about the guard’s knee could potentially sideline the 32-year-old for as much as a month.

While Stein adds that the Rockets will officially consider their offseason trade acquisition “day-to-day” after announcing that he’ll miss the club’s home opener on Saturday with a knee contusion, it’s expected that they’ll be particularly cautious with the guard considering that they have every intention of making a long playoff run.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Rockets are bracing for a “possible 2-to-4 week stretch” without their playmaker and have inquired with various agents about adding potential point guard support in the interim.

At full health, Paul is an undisputed superstar and enough of a shot in the arm to give Houston a serious chance of making noise in the crowded Western Conference, unfortunately, the veteran has already missed over 10 games in five of his 12 NBA seasons and appears to be on pace to make it six out of 13.

Paul averaged 18.1 points and 9.2 assists per game for the Clippers last season and was brought over to the Rockets in a blockbuster offseason deal.

Pacific Notes: Ball, Paul, Divac, CP3, Randle

Lonzo Ball looked overmatched during his NBA debut against the Clippers as Patrick Beverley aggressively shut him down. Ball, 19, returned last night to post 29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in the Lakers‘ win against the Suns. Team president Magic Johnson spoke to USA Today before Ball’s debut and addressed his mindset before the game.

“He’s nervous,” Johnson said. “But he has a demeanor where you don’t know he’s nervous. But tonight, he has the weight of the world on his shoulders.”

It did not take long for Ball to show a glimpse of why he was one of the most highly-anticipated rookies in recent memory. His near triple-double in the Lakers’ 132-130 win over Phoenix show his potential is off the charts. While one game does not define Ball or what his career will be like, it’s clear that he still has support from Lakers brass and it will stay that way for years to come.

“Last year he was the most efficient college basketball player,” Johnson said. “And now that he’s come to the pros, he’s been — ever since we drafted him — he’s been a great young man, a great teammate. His teammates, they love him. Love him. Those were the things I was looking for (before drafting him).

Check out other news around the Pacific Division:

  • Chris Paul has been mostly silent on why he left the Clippers to play for the Rockets. However, in a recent documentary, Paul said his former team’s “culture” is one reason he left, claiming the team did not do enough to compete with Golden State, Elliot Teaford of The Orange County Register writes. Clippers coach Doc Rivers fired back, saying, “I don’t think you have to try to burn the house down or justify why you left. That’s what I would say to it. I like our culture.”
  • Julius Randle looked lackadaisical on defense and offense in the Lakers’ season-opener, which led to a stern talk from head coach Luke Walton, Bill Oram of The Orange County Register writes. Whether it’s frustration over losing the starting spot or not being in game shape, Randle’s performance on Thursday was alarming.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee spoke with Kings‘ general manager Vlade Divac, who gave his thoughts on every player on Sacramento’s roster.
  • The Kings hired former WNBA coach and player Jenny Boucek as an assistant player development coach, according to the Associated Press.
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