Raptors' resurgence | Paul returns for Clippers | The Magic Show | Wade abides
No. 1: Raptors' resurgence -- The Toronto Raptors were one of the NBA’s most active teams around the trade deadline, making moves to acquire Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker. Last night they made their Raptors debuts, and even with Kyle Lowry out with a wrist injury, the Raptors rallied to beat the Boston Celtics, 107-97. As Bruce Arthur writes, it was a hint of what might be to come:
“Yesterday was the first time when guys made mistakes defensively, and a player instead of a coach said, ‘Let’s do it again. No, let’s get it right,’ ” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, the morning of Toronto’s Friday showdown with the Boston Celtics. “I love it. That’s the leadership, defensive leadership, the take-command-type leadership you’ve got to have from players. That’s what he did.”
Casey said P.J. Tucker, the other forward the Raptors acquired before the trade deadline slammed shut, was the same kind of guy: a veteran, a defender, a player. DeMar DeRozan compared it to getting a new coat of paint on his car, but this was different: this was a car getting a door where before there was howling open space, plus a muffler to quiet the noise. Friday night was supposed to be the first look at the new vehicle.
Except Kyle Lowry hurt his wrist against Charlotte last week. He wore a brace during All-Star parties on Saturday night in New Orleans and golfed Sunday morning according to a source; he iced the wrist during the game Sunday night, missed two practices getting back to Toronto after a Turks and Caicos vacation, and then was ruled out Friday night with re-evaluation pending next week. Lowry apparently thought the injury wasn’t serious, but it didn’t go away. The Raptors medical staff apparently believe the weekend did not aggravate the injury, but Lowry will miss some games.
“I woke up Thursday, and I thought I slept on it wrong,” said Lowry. He said he got treatment during all-star weekend, but it stayed a problem. He tried to shoot Thursday night and lasted one shot before quitting.
“I mean, I thought it would be OK. It was definitely a little bit of pain,” said Lowry. “During the three-point contest I was jumping a little further, and even in the game, it was me jumping forward. But I wanted to enjoy the weekend, didn’t want to take anything away from the weekend, and have fun with it. It is what it is.”
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No. 2: Paul returns for Clippers -- The latest injury the Los Angeles Clippers have dealt with was a thumb injury to Chris Paul -- with Paul out, the Clips have dropped eight of their last 14. Paul returned to the lineup last night, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the San Antonio Spurs. As Paul and the Clippers said, the only stat that mattered last night was the loss, as Broderick Turner writes:
Paul was back in the Clippers’ starting lineup, his return finally making them whole for the first time in just over two months, his presence sorely needed as L.A. enters the stretch drive of the regular season.
He had come from having been sidelined for 14 games recovering from surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb to a game that was a defensive standoff.
Paul, who was out five weeks after his procedure, had 17 points, five assists and six rebounds in 33 minutes. He wore a small wrap around the thumb for protection, but the All-Star still made six of 14 shots, including two of three from three-point range.
“The only thing that mattered is how we did as a team,” Paul said. “I came out unscathed, which was great. It felt great to be back on the court. A tough loss, but it felt good to get through the entire game.”
Blake Griffin was hit in the face by Spurs reserve Dewyane Dedmon. Griffin, who went down on the court bleeding, went to locker room for a moment and came back out with a band-aid beneath his right eye.
Griffin grew angry and then went to work, scoring 29 points, grabbing nine rebounds and handing out five assists.
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No. 3: The Magic Show -- With Magic Johnson now running basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Lakers players have a new boss to impress. And as Baxter Holmes writes, don’t think those players haven’t noticed:
From his perch next to Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss, Magic Johnson munched on popcorn Friday and surveyed his young, rebuilding squad play its first game since he ascended from a nebulous advisory position to president of basketball operations in a dramatic in-house bloodletting earlier this week that shook the franchise's foundation and the NBA landscape.
And the Lakers can feel his presence.
“It’s like you’re starting over and trying to impress,” Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell said after L.A.'s 110-93 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Everybody has to look over their shoulders once again. It’s like coming to a new team. You try to impress the GMs and the guys in the front office with your play and off the court, the way you handle yourself. It’s just all different.”
Midway through the second quarter, Johnson joined the in-game broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet, and after preaching patience with repairing a team that has the NBA’s third-worst record and has missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, he headed toward a nearby tunnel.
But star power of his caliber doesn’t visit Oklahoma on just any day, so nearby fans zeroed in with smartphones and snapped away, screaming, “Magic!” He offered his classic smile in return.
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No. 4: Wade abides -- The Chicago Bulls were one of the most active teams around the trade deadline, moving Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott and reportedly engaging on talk for Jimmy Butler. Which leaves Dwyane Wade, who signed a big contract in the offseason to come to Chicago and help them reach the next level. As Nick Friedell writes, with the Bulls’ future unclear, Wade is just focusing on playing basketball:
"I just want to play basketball," Wade said before Friday's overtime 128-121 win over the Phoenix Suns, his first in two weeks after sitting out two games because of a bruised wrist and a third because of an illness and the injury. "And do my best job as a player that I can do. Then from there, let them look at me and my talent and what I did and let me look where the team's at and on what I did this season and go from there."
Wade's comments come a day after the Bulls traded Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Wade chuckled at the notion the Bulls made themselves worse in the short term.
"We're 28-29. It's not like we're 40-and-something," Wade said. "The guys are going to come in, they're going to have to plug in and do their job and do what they can for this team. It will be different than what Taj brought and what Doug brought. From that standpoint, yeah, we're going to miss those guys. You look at it from the outside in, you can say the guys that came in, a lot of people don't know them from a standpoint of a lot of them haven't played a lot. But at the top, they decided it was a good move. As players, our job is to come in and play with who's on the roster."
Bulls executives Gar Forman and John Paxson made it clear they wanted to make the roster younger in the wake of the deal that brought Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow to the Bulls. Last month, while describing the factors that would lead into whether he picks up his player option for next season, Wade acknowledged that the idea of playing with a group of young players didn't appeal to him at this stage of his career.
"I would be a liar to say that I want to play on a team with all 21-year-olds," Wade told ESPN. "You know what I mean? And be a part of the future building. I would be a fool to say that. But you also want to be in the best position for what you think is for you at that time, too."
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony says he doesn’t understand the Knicks’ direction ... Paul Pierce says he has no beef with Draymond Green ... Kevin Love says he’ll be in game shape by the time the playoffs roll around ... After acquiring Omri Casspi as part of the DeMarcus Cousins deal, the Pelicans will have to waive him to make roster room following a hand injury ... The Pistons unveiled plans for a new practice facility and team headquarters.