Deandre Ayton

Injury Updates: Payne, Crowder, Ayton, Gobert, Bogdanovic, LaVine

The Suns will be without one of their key rotation players for at least a couple weeks. Cameron Payne will be reevaluated in two weeks after suffering a sprained right wrist, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. The reserve guard suffered the injury on Saturday against Indiana.

Payne is averaging 10.5 PPG and 3.6 APG as Chris Paul‘s backup. Elfrid Payton will likely absorb some of his minutes and Devin Booker will see more action at the point.

Jae Crowder (wrist) and Deandre Ayton  (ankle) also missed Monday’s game against Utah but are considered day-to-day. Ayton has missed four consecutive games due to a right ankle sprain suffered at Detroit on January 16.

We have more injury updates:

  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert suffered a left calf strain in the late going against Golden State on Sunday, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. “I tried to play through it. But I could feel I wasn’t moving right and I didn’t want to make it worse,” he said. Gobert missed Monday’s game against Phoenix but the strain is considered mild and he isn’t expected to be sidelined for an extended period, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets.
  • The Jazz‘s Bojan Bogdanovic has a left finger avulsion fracture but can continue to play with it, Tony Jones of The Athletic tweets. The injury, which occurred against Houston last week, is a ligament that has been pulled off the bone. He can’t bend it and will require a splint for the next four-to-six weeks. Bogdanovic also didn’t play on Monday.
  • Bulls star guard Zach LaVine returned to action on Monday after a five-game absence, James Collier of ESPN writes. LaVine was sidelined with a left knee injury. He had not played since exiting in the first quarter on January 14 against the Warriors after feeling soreness in his left knee.

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, Lakers, LeBron, Moon, Ayton

Lakers star Russell Westbrook said he didn’t have a response to Magic Johnson‘s recent criticism of his team’s effort, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes.

Johnson recently called out the team for a lack of enthusiasm, tweeting the following: After being blown out by the Nuggets 133-96, we as Lakers fans can accept being outplayed but we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency. Owner Jeanie Buss, you deserve better.” When asked to comment, Westbrook was blunt in his response.

“I do not have a reaction,” he said. “Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion. Regardless of what that it is. You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.

“Magic’s entitled to his opinion. And he’s not here every day. He’s not around us every day. He’s not aware of what’s going on internally with us and trying to figure things out. But I have no response to that. … Like I said, everyone in this world is entitled to their opinion and that’s that.”

Johnson spent his entire 13-year career with the Lakers, making the All-Star team 11 times and winning five NBA titles. He was also the team’s president of basketball operations from February of 2017 to April of 2019.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division:

  • Bill Oram of The Athletic further examines Johnson’s comments on the Lakers, noting that LeBron James has stayed publicly silent. Los Angeles has lost three straight games and owns just a 21-22 record. Anthony Davis has only played 27 games, while James has appeared in just 31.
  • Clippers guard Xavier Moon is showing he belongs on the team, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. As Hoops Rumors first reported, Los Angeles signed Moon to a third 10-day hardship deal last week, choosing to keep him after his impressive play. “I love his pace, he knows how to play … to come to a team like this and perform the way he has, it shows he’s a good player and that he’s definitely making a case that he belongs,” head coach Tyronn Lue said. “So it’s just good to see. He has a skill set and he just needed an opportunity and the opportunity we’ve given him, he’s definitely taking advantage of it.”
  • Suns center Deandre Ayton exited the team’s game against the Pistons early on Sunday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Ayton suffered a right ankle sprain and didn’t return for the second half. It’s unclear how much time he may miss.

COVID-19 Updates: Hachimura, Roby, Grizzlies, Bucks, Robsinon, Suns, Nance, Hawks

Wizards power forward Rui Hachimura has exited the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, though an exact timeline for his return to the court has yet to be determined, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Hachimura, 23, has missed the entirety of the Wizards’ 37-game 2021/22 NBA season thus far, due to a combination of an extended personal absence and subsequently his stint in the protocols. The 6’8″ big man is averaging 13.7 PPG and 5.8 RPG across his two seasons with Washington thus far.

Here are more protocol-related updates from across the league:

  • Young Thunder reserve center Isaiah Roby has entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (Twitter link).
  • Grizzlies wing Dillon Brooks and guard De’Anthony Melton have cleared the NBA’s coronavirus protocols but remain questionable ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Pistons as they continue to re-condition, while forward Kyle Anderson has also cleared protocols but will most likely not play due to back soreness, according to Memphis’s PR team (Twitter link).
  • Bucks forwards Jordan Nwora, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, and Semi Ojeleye have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for a short-handed Milwaukee team tonight against the Raptors, per Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter link). We first mentioned earlier today that that triumvirate of Bucks players was nearing a return. Through the game’s first half, Nwora is the only one of the three that has played.
  • $90MM Heat shooting guard Duncan Robinson has exited the NBA’s coronavirus protocols and will reunite with the team in Portland ahead of its game against the Trail Blazers tonight, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The team has announced that Robinson will play (Twitter link).
  • Suns centers Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, along with starting power forward Jae Crowder, have all cleared COVID-19 health and safety protocols but will remain sidelined for Thursday’s home contest against the Clippers as they work their way back into game shape, reports Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.
  • Trail Blazers forward Larry Nance Jr. has cleared the league’s coronavirus protocols and will be available to play tonight against the Kings, per Aaron J. Fentress of the Oregonian (Twitter link). We had first noted earlier today that Nance had registered an inconclusive COVID-19 test and that a quick return was a possibility.
  • Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and small forward Jalen Johnson have exited health and safety protocols, writes Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Spencer says the two players are expected to consult with Atlanta’s medical staff in Los Angeles ahead of the team’s games against the Lakers and Clippers on Friday and Sunday. Spencer adds that Johnson struggled a bit with the coronavirus and could need additional conditioning time.

Deandre Ayton Enters Protocols; Trae Young Cleared

Suns center Deandre Ayton has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Assuming Ayton has been vaccinated, he will out at least six days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart. He joins teammates Jae Crowder and Elfrid Payton in protocols as well as head coach Monty Williams. Ayton is averaging 17.0 PPG and 11.1 RPG.

On the flip side, Hawks star guard Trae Young has cleared the protocols and will play against Chicago on Monday, Wojnarowski reports in a separate tweet. Atlanta has a 1-2 record since Young entered protocols. He produced a second negative test to exit the protocols, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets.

Young won’t have many of his usual teammates in uniform with him. Atlanta still has 10 other players in the protocols.

In Houston, Rockets players Jae’Sean Tate and Kenyon Martin Jr. have entered protocols, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. That increases the number of Rockets players in protocols to four.

The Wizards, who already had a handful of players in protocols, added Aaron Holiday to the list, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington tweets.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Robinson, Weatherspoon, Ayton, Crowder

In what has become a recurring scene this season, the Kings were ripped by head coach Alvin Gentry following their latest poor performance on Sunday night. As Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee details, the Kings led at the half, but fell behind by as many as 30 points in the second half en route to a 127-102 loss, prompting’s Gentry’s postgame comments.

“This is the most disappointed I’ve been in 34 years in the NBA,” Gentry said. “I can honestly say that. That performance was absolutely ridiculous. We didn’t play hard. We didn’t compete. We gave up 19 offensive rebounds for — I don’t know — 37 points or some astronomical figure. We didn’t guard the ball. We didn’t guard screen and rolls. We didn’t follow the game plan — all of those things — and to be honest with you, it’s the most disappointing game that I’ve been involved with.

“… You can’t get a reputation in this league of being a team where you can come into their home gym and do what they just did to us,” Gentry continued. “I’m just telling you that will stay with you in the NBA if you let teams come in and do what they did to us. They basically toyed with us, and we’re not that team. We’re not a team that people should be able to come in here and toy with us. So, yes, if you ask me if I’m upset, disappointed, you’re damn right I am.”

The Kings have already made an in-season head coaching change, so if the team continues to underachieve, it’s safe to assume that a roster shakeup could be next. While there has been no indication yet that the front office is considering anything drastic, the club’s compete level and leadership can only be called into question so many times before GM Monte McNair has to seriously consider personnel changes.

“I don’t think we lack leadership,” Kings guard Terence Davis said on Sunday, per Anderson. “I just think we lack a leader’s voice, if that makes sense. We don’t really have a leader’s voice. We have leaders. Their voice isn’t being heard enough, honestly. That’s just my opinion.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Kings don’t plan to sign Justin Robinson to a second 10-day contract at this point, a league source tells James Ham of ESPN 1320 (Twitter link). Robinson, whose first 10-day deal expired on Sunday night, logged a total of 15 minutes across three games for Sacramento.
  • Klay Thompson played a part in getting Quinndary Weatherspoon called up to the Warriors, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Weatherspoon, whose 10-day deal runs through January 1, heard from multiple people in the organization that Thompson “sung his praises” to the front office for the way he defended Klay in G League scrimmages.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams says he feels “somewhat responsible” for Deandre Ayton not getting a contract extension this fall after asking the center to sacrifice touches last season, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “From a personal perspective, I feel like I failed him,” Williams said. “Because when we asked you to do all that we ask you to do and you go out there and do it and you still don’t get what you want, that falls on my plate. … I wanted him to get everything he wanted. And I think he still will.”
  • Jae Crowder bounced around the NBA from 2017-20, playing for four teams in the next three seasons. As Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes, the Suns forward says he has learned not to get too attached to a team since finding out about his 2017 trade out of Boston on the same day his mother died. However, Crowder suggested he’d be happy to settle down in Phoenix. “I do want to make a certain spot my home, and this does feel like home – I’m not gonna lie to you,” he said. “From top to bottom, from (general manager) James Jones, to our coaching staff, to my teammates. It does feel like home, it does feel sacred, but at the same time, it’s a business, so I don’t get too caught up into it. I don’t put my heart into it anymore.”

Pacific Notes: Curry, Ayton, AD, Ariza, Holmes

Warriors star Stephen Curry is running away with the early-season MVP race, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Bontemps ran an informal straw poll of 100 media members mimicking the awards ballot run during the postseason, and Curry received 94 of 100 first-place votes.

Curry, a two-time MVP, is averaging 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.8 steals in 24 games (34.2 MPG). He leads the league in three-pointers made and attempts with 5.5 and 13.3 per game, respectively, good for 41.3%. The Warriors have the league’s best record at 21-4.

Rounding out the top five of ESPN’s informal MVP poll were Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Chris Paul.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Suns center Deandre Ayton will miss Friday’s game against the Celtics, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Ayton left the team’s shootaround early with a non-COVID illness.
  • Anthony Davis missed Friday’s game for the Lakers with knee soreness, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN. In an article from McMenamin, Davis say the Lakers need to start playing like underdogs after losing to the Grizzlies 108-95. “These guys already feel like they’re the underdogs when they’re coming in, especially when they’re without their star players,” Davis said of a Memphis team playing without its top two scorers, Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, due to health and safety protocols. “And we got to play like we’re the underdogs. Which, now, at this point of the season, the way we’re playing, a lot of games, we probably are.”
  • Lakers coach Frank Vogel says Trevor Ariza could spent some time in the G League as he recovers from ankle surgery, Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group relays (via Twitter). There’s still no timeline for Ariza’s return.
  • The Kings will be without starting center Richaun Holmes for at least a couple games. He sustained a cut on his right eye Wednesday vs. Orlando which was surgically mended, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. He missed Friday’s game vs. Charlotte and will be out for Saturday’s contest with Cleveland, too. Holmes is expected to make a full recovery.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Westbrook, LeBron, Boston

Suns center Deandre Ayton will be a restricted free agent this summer, but he says he’s focused on working hard and winning a championship this season, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

The 20-4 Suns hold the second-best record in the league, trailing the Warriors by a half-game. Ayton says the key to the team’s success has been maximum effort.

All of it is from experience from the Finals and playing hard,” Ayton said. “We play super hard. We don’t know how to stop playing hard. Ever since I went to the Finals, I don’t know how to stop competing more than 100%. We have to stay at this high level of camaraderie and I have to make sure we win the game.”

In 18 games this season (30.9 MPG), Ayton is averaging 16.3 PPG and 11.1 RPG. He says he has his eye on some individual awards as well.

I want All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year,” Ayton said, per Spears. “I really want that. I want to be on that talk of First-Team Defense.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Russell Westbrook has been steadily improving throughout the season for the Lakers, prompting Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report to wonder whether people jumped the gun on judging the team’s trade to acquire him.
  • The Lakers‘ season may hinge on whether LeBron James and Westbrook can form a winning partnership, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. McMenamin takes an in-depth look at the dynamic between the two players, noting that defensive lapses and turnovers have plagued the team. The duo’s chemistry has been slow to form with James sidelined for 12 games, but they’ve looked much better together recently.
  • Rookie Brandon Boston Jr. had a breakout performance for the Clippers in their 114-111 victory over the Celtics Wednesday night, dropping 27 points and four steals in only 25 minutes and making 9-of-13 shots, including 5-of-8 threes. Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes that Boston is one of the keys to the Clippers’ present and future.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Ayton, Fox, Haliburton, Lakers

Suns players met with head coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones when the allegations against team owner Robert Sarver broke early in November, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Although the players haven’t said much publicly about those allegations, they got information about the situation and discussed it internally during those meetings.

“We have a communicative group,” Suns star Devin Booker said. “We talk to each other a lot. We keep everything in house. It’s a tight-knit group. We speak on everything, and we share with each other how we feel about it, and nobody else finds out how we feel about things.”

The Sarver allegations could’ve become a distraction for a franchise that exceeded expectations in 2020/21 and got off to a 1-3 start this season, but the Suns have avoided letting that happen. They’ve won 12 consecutive games since the story broke, extending their overall winning streak to 14 games. They’ll be looking to push that number to 15 on Friday in New York.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • After not signing a contract extension in the offseason, Suns center Deandre Ayton is focused on continuing to improve and expand his game as he nears restricted free agency. “I saw the flaws and the mistakes and stuff that I should’ve done in the playoffs and Finals, especially the Finals,” Ayton said this week, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I didn’t like the way I performed in the Finals. … Like I said from the beginning of the season, I’m trying to be more of a threat. … I’m trying to make a mark and trying to get used to certain things I wasn’t used to doing.”
  • The Kings made a head coaching change on Sunday, but there’s no indication that a major roster shakeup is around the corner, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears that guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton remain off-limits in trade talks.
  • Lakers head coach Frank Vogel figures to face scrutiny if the team continues to struggle this season, but Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times preaches patience and thinks general manager Rob Pelinka should be careful about how he handles the situation. If Vogel were to be let go, there would be “no one left standing between Pelinka and the firing squad,” Hernandez writes, adding that Vogel is a defensive-minded coach who lost many of his best defenders in the offseason.

Suns Notes: Kaminsky, Ayton, Sarver, Smith

The stress reaction that Suns big man Frank Kaminsky suffered in his right knee won’t keep him out for the rest of the season, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Kaminsky didn’t join the team for its current four-game road trip as doctors are trying to determine the best way to deal with the injury.

“We’re going to miss him for sure, but we’re hopeful he can get back sooner rather than later,” coach Monty Williams said. “He’s a huge part of our team, culture and we just have to wait and see, but just feel for him cause he was playing so well.” 

Kaminsky is coming off one of the most productive stretches of his career. When starting center Deandre Ayton missed six games with a right leg injury, Kaminsky averaged 14.6 points per game in that stretch, including a career-best 31-point outing. He averaged just 6.6 PPG in 15.2 minutes per night last season for Phoenix, but his role has expanded with Dario Saric rehabbing a torn ACL.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Ayton was upset over not getting an extension before the deadline, but he has put aside any hard feelings because the Suns are winning, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype states in a podcast with Rankin on several Suns-related topics. Ayton felt disrespected to be left out while some of his teammates were extended, Rankin reveals, but as long as he keeps playing well, he’ll be in position to demand a huge contract next summer.
  • Also on the podcast, Rankin says the investigation of owner Robert Sarver will likely last for several months. He notes that it’s being done by the same law firm that recently investigated the Mavericks, which took about eight months to complete. Rankin says the players have talked about the allegations against Sarver and are doing their best to prevent them from becoming a distraction.
  • Questions about Jalen Smith‘s work ethic led to the Suns’ decision not to pick up his third-year option, Rankin adds. It’s significant that when Ayton was sidelined, most of his minutes went to Kaminsky instead of the 2020 lottery pick. Rankin notes that Smith has an unusual combination of skills and the Suns don’t have a G League affiliate where he can develop his talents.

Pacific Notes: Westbrook, James, Bridges, Ayton

As the 2021/22 Lakers season threatens to go off the rails, the club is struggling with the offensive production of point guard Russell Westbrook, writes Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register. Goon is skeptical that Westbrook will ever be a great fit for the team, given his lackluster completion percentages at the rim and from long range, and his high turnover percentage.

Goon writes that the Lakers wanted Westbrook to have time to get acclimated to their system, while perhaps covertly hoping he would adapt alongside superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but that the early results appear to suggest Westbrook will be more reluctant to change on the court than the Lakers’ front office may have hoped.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Former Lakers head strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco speculates that LeBron James could miss between two and eight weeks with the abdominal strain that has caused him to miss the last two games, both losses, writes Bill Oram of The Athletic“Especially the way he plays, it’s tough for me to see him getting back under four weeks,” DiFrancesco told Oram. “These are such delicate injuries that can respond to rest with pain relief quickly, but they are highly susceptible to re-injury if returned too quickly.” DiFrancesco was with the Lakers from 2011-17.
  • Suns swingman Mikal Bridges responded to reports alleging potential toxic workplace behavior from embattled team owner Robert Sarver, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (Twitter video link). “Obviously it’s a little bit disturbing, but it’s out of my control,” Bridges said. “The league is investigating and all that, so I think you just leave it up to them and continue what I do every day and try to win games.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams has revealed that, though Deandre Ayton will not partake in Phoenix’s Monday contest against the Kings, an MRI indicated that there is no structural damage in his right leg, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Williams added that Ayton will have to manage the pain in the injured leg.