Shootaround (Dec. 24): Westbrook ends Celtics' long triple-double streak
Westbrook ends Celtics’ triple-double streak | NBA, NBPA ratify new CBA | J.R. Smith out 12-14 weeks? | Middleton eyes return this season
1. Westbrook ends Celtics’ triple-double streak — The Boston Celtics had gone 230 games — almost three full years — since allowing a triple-double from an opponent. And then Russell Westbrook came to town. Last night in Boston, the Thunder and their multi-faceted dynamo came to town, and Westbrook posted his 14th triple-double of the season (45 points, 11 asssists, 11 rebounds), winning a duel against Boston’s Isaiah Thomas on the way to a 117-112 win for Oklahoma City, as Chris Forsberg writes …
Westbrook and Thomas entered Friday’s game as the top two fourth-quarter scorers in the league, and they didn’t disappoint. Thomas scored 10 points over the first 2½ minutes of the fourth quarter and 15 points over a 4:43 span to tie the game at 96-96. Thomas, who caught a quick breather midway through the frame, returned to a tie game with 5:48 to play. But he didn’t have the same fourth-quarter magic after checking back in.
Thomas didn’t just miss his next two shot attempts but, so sure-handed this season, he had a pair of turnovers, including when he was a little soft trying to deliver a behind-the-back feed to Al Horford at the 3-point line. Westbrook swooped in, stole the ball, and broke out the other way for a layup in transition.
In the fourth quarter, Westbrook finished with 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Thomas countered with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, with four assists. Asked what more the Celtics could have done to quiet Westbrook in the final minutes, Thomas could only shrug.
“Nothing,” he said. “That’s the shot we wanted. He hit two dagger 3s that great players make. We got to live with it.”
Westbrook was asked if he feels as though he’s the best player in the NBA at the moment.
“I feel like I come out and compete at a high level,” he said. “I’m not sure about that. I know when I step on the court, I try to be the best player on the court at all times. That’s what I try to do every night.”
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2. NBA, NBPA ratify new CBA — The NBA owners and NBA Player’s Association have ratified the new collective bargaining agreement they agreed to last week, writes USA Today’s Jeff Zilgitt. While all the details of the new agreement have yet to be announced, the new deal promises a dozen years of labor peace.
The NBA players have ratified the collective bargaining agreement, making the deal between the league and NBPA official, a person with knowledge of the agreement told USA TODAY Sports.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was yet to be made public.
Owners ratified the deal earlier this week. The two sides reached a tentative agreement on a 7-year deal that runs through the 2023-24 season with an opt out after the sixth year.
Including the 2011 CBA, this new agreement ensures at least 12 years of labor peace.
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3. J.R. Smith out 12-14 weeks? — While the Cleveland Cavaliers try to get to the postseason with a healthy roster, their path just hit a speed bump. Swingman JR Smith had surgery yesterday to repair a fractured thumb, and according to Cleveland.com, early estimates put Smith’s return to action near the start of the playoffs, as Joe Vardon writes…
The Cavs say Smith’s recovery period is estimated to be 12 to 14 weeks. The NBA playoffs start April 15; Smith could be out until the end of March.
According to the release, Smith’s surgery was performed by Dr. Thomas Graham of Northwell Health of New York, with Dr. T.J. Reilly of the Montrose Crystal Clinic assisting. The surgery was done in Montrose, and team physician Dr. Richard D. Parker was there too.
Early assumptions of a four- to six-week recovery for Smith were obviously way, way off, which speaks in part to the apparent severity of the fracture. Coach Tyronn Lue said the Cavs didn’t know Smith would be out this long until the surgery was finished today.
Smith was injured late in the first half Tuesday in Milwaukee.
Iman Shumpert is the best, healthy shooting guard on the roster, but he is currently playing back-up point guard behind Kyrie Irving because the Cavs don’t have one of those either.
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4. Middleton eyes return this season — The Milwaukee Bucks were counting on swingman Kris Middleton to carry a sizeable load for them this season, particularly on the offensive end. But after a hamstring tear sidelined Middleton, the Bucks planned to take on this season without him. But now Middleton is eyeing a return before the end of the season, which could give the Bucks a huge boost down the stretch, as Charles Gardner writes …
Middleton is confident he will return this season, and although no timetable has been established it’s clear he is making steady progress in his recovery from surgery for a torn left hamstring.
The 25-year-old shooting guard was on the Bucks’ trip to Cleveland this week and has been supporting his teammates during games and in the locker room.
And he has been doing light jogging and shooting under the watchful eye of Bucks trainers and coaches at the Cousins Center, although he is being careful to follow each step in the recovery process.
“I’m making good progress within the last couple weeks but I’ve still got a long way to go,” Middleton said before the Bucks played the Cavaliers on Wednesday.
“A hamstring is definitely nothing to play with. There are chronic hamstring injuries where guys think it is fine and they go out there and try to run and pull it again. That’s something I definitely don’t want to go through.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Goran Dragic says rumors of him wanting to be traded from Miami aren’t true … Dirk Nowitizki felt great in his return from injury … Chris Paul’s status uncertain following hamstring injury … Wilson Chandler has gone vegan … If you win big on LeBron’s new game show, he might deliver your prize himself … J.J. Barea is day-to-day with a leg injury … Klay Thompson doesn’t think he motivated the Cavs’ to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.