Giannis Antetokounmpo

Central Notes: Giannis, Holiday, McDermott, Stanley, Cavs

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was already dealing with a minor right ankle sprain entering Thursday’s game against Houston, aggravated that injury early in the first quarter, stepping on Kelly Olynyk‘s foot and rolling the ankle (link via ESPN). He didn’t return to the game.

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game that there’s hope Giannis’ sprain isn’t too serious, adding that the team will see how it responds to treatment and go from there. Milwaukee has played it relatively safe with the two-time MVP this season as the club focuses on getting fully healthy for the postseason, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Antetokounmpo misses a little time — even if it’s out of abundance of caution.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Within his weekly “10 Things” article for ESPN.com (Insider link), Zach Lowe highlights the play of Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, who recently signed a long-term extension, and Pacers forward Doug McDermott, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Holiday is having arguably the best season of his career, while McDermott has developed into a strong finisher at the rim and deserves Sixth Man of the Year consideration, Lowe writes.
  • Pacers rookie guard Cassius Stanley is on a two-way contract that expires at season’s end, prompting J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required) to wonder if the team should be giving him more playing time to determine whether he’s worth a longer-term investment. Stanley has logged just 54 total minutes in 19 games this season.
  • The Cavaliers have some promising young talent on their roster, but still lack a potential franchise player who can be the centerpiece of the rebuild, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who points out that the Cavs’ recent skid should put them in a better position to draft one of those players this summer.

Central Notes: Vucevic, Bulls, Antetokounmpo, Horst

The Bulls collected a big road win at Boston on Monday but have generally struggled since trading for Nikola Vucevic. Billy Donovan believes the team’s rotation players were slow to adjust to new roles with the addition of the All-Star center, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

“The trade really messed up our team a little,” the Bulls’ head coach said. “I don’t say that in a negative way. What I mean by that is everybody kind of got out of their normal rotation, how they were playing, how they were being used. We lost a little bit of our competitiveness not because we didn’t want to compete and play hard. It was really more of guys had to figure out their roles and what to do in their role.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls will likely open their doors to fans before the regular season ends, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed optimism that “there will be fans in the United Center” in the very near future. Chicago has seven home games remaining.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo missed several games with a knee injury but that’s not why he sat out most of overtime during a loss to Phoenix on Monday, according to Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I just cramped. Got to get more fluids in me. That’s pretty much it,” the Bucks’ franchise player said.
  • Bucks GM Jon Horst feels he accomplished his mission by trading for forward P.J. Tucker and adding point guard Jeff Teague via the buyout market, he told Eric Nehm of The Athletic in a Q&A session. Horst feels they could be the final pieces to a championship puzzle. “I could not be happier the way that we came out of the trade deadline and the buyout market in terms of how we’ve hopefully finished off this roster,” he said.

Giannis Returns From Knee Injury Thursday

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer has revealed that All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is available for Milwaukee’s contest with the Hawks on Thursday night, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. This will be Antetokounmpo’s first appearance following a six-game absence due to left knee soreness.

Antetokounmpo has not played for the Bucks since the team’s 127-109 win over the Trail Blazers on April 2. The Bucks went 3-3 with their two-time MVP sidelined.

Milwaukee played the do-it-all superstar’s health status close to the chest, staying mum on an exact timeline for his recovery from what has been the longest-term injury of Antetokounmpo’s eight-year NBA career.

The five-time All-Star is putting together another MVP-caliber season, averaging 28.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 6.2 APG for the 34-20 Bucks, currently the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Central Notes: Bulls, Temple, Stewart, Antetokounmpo

The Bulls were 3-6 since the addition of Nikola Vucevic entering Monday’s game against Memphis but Billy Donovan isn’t ready to shake up his lineup, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times.

“One of the things we try and do is after like every 10 games maybe sit down and look at the analytical reports. I know with this group it’s been maybe somewhat of a small sample size because there haven’t been a lot of games, but actually that lineup has not been bad starting,’’ the Bulls’ head coach said. “It’s been OK. … I don’t feel like we’re getting out to these starts where we’re digging ourselves out of holes.’’

We have more from the Central Division:

  • There’s some encouraging news regarding Bulls swingman Garrett Temple, who has missed eight consecutive games with a hamstring injury, Cowley adds in the same story. After apparently suffering a setback, Temple has been able to do some straight-ahead running and sprinting pain-free during the past few days. Donovan wants Temple to get through some contact practices this week before he plays again.
  • Pistons rookie center Isaiah Stewart has made great strides defensively and his raw strength has impressed teammate Jahlil Okafor, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “He’s so big and so strong, when opposing big men are in there trying to get position on him, they really can’t,” Okafor said. “They’re usually off balance. The shots are not usually even close to going in because of how strong he is.”
  • The Bucks have been vague regarding Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s left knee injury. There’s still no timetable for the two-time MVP’s return and The Athletic’s Eric Nehm takes a closer look at the origins of the injury and how Giannis’ regular-season absence might impact the club’s chances of going on an extended postseason run.

Health Updates: Rose, Nets, Hunter, Embiid, Giannis

Knicks point guard Derrick Rose has exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the team announced today (via Twitter). However, it remains to be seen when he’ll be cleared to return to action, since he’ll have to rebuild his strength and conditioning following a bout with COVID-19, as Peter Botte of The New York Post writes.

“I was away because I actually had (the virus),” Rose told reporters, including Botte, on Monday. “I felt all of the symptoms, sick and everything.

“… It was completely different. They say everybody is different, but with me, I never felt anything like that before. I’ve had the flu. It was nothing like the flu. You’re drained and everything. It was that times 10. So like I said, slowly getting back, I’m progressing every day and just trying to get back in the swing of things.”

According to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, Rose said that his kids, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s mother all contracted the coronavirus as well, though it didn’t hit his kids as hard.

Here are a few more health and injury updates from around the NBA:

  • The Nets will be without Kyrie Irving and Landry Shamet as they begin their three-game road trip on Tuesday in Portland, writes Malika Andrews of ESPN. Irving isn’t traveling with the team as he attends to a family matter. Shamet sprained his right ankle on Sunday, though an MRI didn’t shown significant damage, per Adrian Wojnarowski.
  • While the Hawks‘ latest injury report lists De’Andre Hunter (right knee) as questionable for Monday’s game vs. the Clippers, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports says Hunter is expected return to action tonight after missing nearly two months. Hunter says he’ll be a game-time decision, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Within that same Yahoo Sports story, Haynes notes that Sixers center Joel Embiid is expected to have his left knee bone bruise reevaluated at the end of the week. Philadelphia will be extremely cautious with Embiid’s return, as the ultimate goal is to have him at 100% for the start of the playoffs in May, Haynes adds.
  • A left knee sprain will sideline Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo for Monday’s game vs. Indiana, per the NBA’s afternoon injury report.

Cuban: Mavs Only Interested In Acquiring Another Star

The Mavericks don’t plan on making any trades before next Thursday’s deadline unless they can acquire a star player, owner Mark Cuban said recently on the Mavs Step Back Podcast (video link).

“Unless it’s a game-changing star, I don’t see us doing anything at all,” he said. “So, if someone decides they’re blowing it up, OK, we’ll talk to anybody about any great player. If it’s just ‘We’ll trade this guy for that guy’ and it’s not really going to move the needle, I’d rather go with continuity.”

Cuban added that the only other circumstances in which the Mavs would look to make a trade are if another team “makes a mistake” or offers a “great player” in a salary-dump deal.

The most significant trade the Mavs made during the offseason was sending Seth Curry to the 76ers for Josh Richardson and the rights to Tyler Bey. They also dealt Justin Jackson, a 2023-second rounder and a 2026 second-rounder to the Thunder and Delon Wright to the Pistons for James Johnson. In terms of free agency, they re-signed Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Burke.

Cuban said those moves – which allowed the team to retain 2021 cap space – had nothing to do with hoping that Giannis Antetokounmpo or other stars would chose free agency this offseason.

“The changes we made, the trades we made weren’t about setting us up for the coming summer,” Cuban said. “Not at all. We wanted defense, we wanted toughness and that’s what we went out and got.”

2021 NBA All-Star Game Starters Revealed

The NBA has revealed its 2021 All-Star Game starters. Here are those names:

Eastern Conference

After missing all of the 2019/20 season while he recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Durant is making his triumphant return to the All-Star Game. In his first appearance as a Brooklyn player, the 11-time All-Star will captain a team, having led the Eastern Conference in fan votes.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern All-Stars]

This is the seventh All-Star appearance for Durant’s teammate Irving. Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, has just made his fifth All-Star game. A frontrunner for the 2021 MVP award, Embiid is appearing in his fourth such contest. Beal will be making his first All-Star start after playing as a reserve in the 2018 and 2019 All-Star contests. The Wizards are the No. 13 seed in the East.

Western Conference

James, who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference and the entire NBA with 5,922,554 fan votes, will again be a team captain. He will be suiting up for his 17th All-Star appearance, the third-most ever behind only fellow Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 appearances) and Kobe Bryant (18). James was previously tied for making the third-most cumulative All-Star contests alongside Hall of Fame Nets and Sixers wing Julius Erving, who was selected into five ABA All-Star games and 11 NBA All-Star games.

Jokic, an early top MVP contender along with James and Embiid, will earn his first All-Star start in his third appearance in the game. Curry will partake in his seventh All-Star contest, while Leonard has just been voted into his fifth All-Star game.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Western All-Stars]

Doncic barely edged out Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to be the second All-Star guard next to Curry among the starters, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Despite extended absences from starters CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins, the Blazers boast an 18-10 record, good for the No. 4 seed in the crowded West, largely thanks to Lillard. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are 13-15, the No. 10 seed in the West.

As was the case during the last two years, the top vote-getters of each conference will captain a team, and will be able to draft players from either conference. The “Elam Ending,” which made the conclusion of last year’s game much more entertaining than it had been in recent years, is set to return again this year.

Earlier today, the league officially announced that the 2021 All-Star Game is set to take place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, as a one-night event on March 7. The evening will also include its three All-Star weekend mainstay events: the Skills Competition, the Three-Point Contest and the Dunk Contest.

A full list of fan voting totals is viewable at this Twitter link, courtesy of Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The complete voting breakdown by position and conference, including media and player votes, can be found at the bottom of this press release.

The league will announce the 14 players who will comprise the All-Star reserves on Tuesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. ET, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).

Western Notes: Giannis, Jazz, Aldridge, Dort, Williams

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo praised the Jazz after losing a 129-115 game to the team on Friday, calling them the “best team in the West” after the contest, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“It just looks fun. Like when I watch them play, it looks fun, it looks easy,” Antetokounmpo explained. “It looks simple. For sure, they look like us last year, and man, when you’re at that point and you’re playing with that confidence, you’re hard to beat for sure.”

Utah has won seven straight contests and 18 of its last 19 games, playing stellar basketball on both ends of the floor. The team is playing without Mike Conley (hamstring), who last saw action on February 5, though it still holds the best record in the league at 22-5.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Spurs veteran LaMarcus Aldridge is without a timetable for his return, head coach Gregg Popovich said, per Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). Aldridge missed his sixth straight game on Sunday as he continues rehabbing a hip injury, with Popovich adding that he’s not particularly close to a return.
  • Luguentz Dort is gradually turning into the best defensive ace the Thunder have ever had, Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman opines. Dort has established himself as one of the league’s better defenders, also averaging 11.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his second season.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams is grateful for the time he spent in Philadelphia as an assistant, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “I was grateful when they first called me to be able to go to a team that was contending for a championship,” said Williams, who was with the Sixers in 2018/19. “You just don’t get those opportunities. … So for them to not only ask me to be apart of it, but take on a huge role is something that allowed me to answer the questions whether or not I was going to be able to do it again.”

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Super Bowl, Trade Restrictions, Jerebko

LeBron James publicly spoke out this week against holding an All-Star Game this year. Several other stars have joined that chorus, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Giannis AntetokounmpoJames Harden and Kawhi Leonard also made their feelings public on Friday after the league and Players Association agreed to hold an All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7.

“I’ve got zero energy, zero excitement,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day, if they tell us we’re going to show up, we’ve got to do our job. … Inside, deep down, I don’t want to do it. I want to get some break.”

We have more from the basketball world:

  • The league is discouraging players and personnel from holding Super Bowl parties, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. They are not permitted to gather outside of their home for Super Bowl Sunday. At home, individuals are expected to watch the game only with household members. Team members that are on the road may host up to four family members or close friends in a hotel with advance testing.
  • Trade restrictions on most free agents that signed contracts this offseason have been lifted, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. A total of 90 players that signed offseason deals are trade-eligible, while 29 others are still restricted in some fashion, Marks adds. However, there haven’t been any trades on the date that those restrictions were lifted in prior seasons, dating back to 2012, Marks adds.
  • Former NBA big man Jonas Jerebko had his contract with BC Khimki Moscow terminated last month and he told Swedish news organization Aftonbladet that his time there was an unpleasant experience, Sportando relays. The dispute began when Jerebko asked permission to visit his family in December. “The day before departure my agent writes me. He told me I could stay at home. Coach said I might not come back. It was not such a difficult decision to stay at home when he said so. Since then, there have been some non-payments and stuff like that.”

Central Notes: Warren, Hayes, Rose, Giannis/Forbes

Starting Pacers small forward T.J. Warren went under the knife on Tuesday, January 5, to repair a small navicular stress fracture in his left foot, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Agness added that there is no timeline for Warren’s return to the floor following his surgery.

In his four healthy games this season, Warren averaged 15.5 PPG (on 52.9% shooting from the field), 3.5 RPG, and 1.3 APG for the Pacers.

There’s more out of the NBA’s Central Division:

  • After starting Pistons point guard Killian Hayes suffered a labral tear in his right hip, Detroit remains open to multiple possibilities with regard to his recovery, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Hayes could try to rehabilitate without undergoing surgery, and potentially return this season in 4-6 weeks if he responds well to non-surgical treatment, or he could go the surgical route, and face a longer-term rehab process that could finish his rookie season. Sources tell James Edwards III of The Athletic that there does not appear to be structural damage in the hip.
  • Luckily for the Pistons, whose point guard corps has thinned out thanks to Hayes’ torn labrum, his backup Derrick Rose is not expected to miss any time with a minor right knee contusion suffered yesterday, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News.
  • Reigning two-time Bucks MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has developed a strong on-court rapport with new reserve guard Bryn Forbes, highlighted by a flashy inverted pick-and-roll action, according to Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “It’s a play that works,” Antetokounmpo said. “If you don’t stay in front of me, I’m going to try to go downhill and if somebody else comes, the corner is wide-open.”