Shootaround (Feb. 8) -- Blazers win, but lose Evan Turner to broken hand
Plus Kevin Durant talks about his return to OKC on Saturday, Brook Lopez address trade rumors, and more
Tough break for Blazers | Durant ready for OKC return | Lopez hanging tough despite chatter
No. 1: Turner breaks hand — Last night the Portland Trail Blazers got a last-second win over the Dallas Mavericks thanks to a shot from CJ McCollum. It was a much-needed win for a team that is struggling to get near .500. But the Blazers also got some bad news, as forward Evan Turner broke his hand, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian:
Before McCollum’s heroics and before there were eight lead changes in the final two minutes, the Blazers lost Evan Turner potentially for several weeks. Turner suffered a fracture of the third metacarpal in his right hand about four minutes into the third quarter, when he collided with Mavericks’ forward Harrison Barnes while trying to fight over a screen.
“I didn’t feel like crazy pain, like numbing a little bit,” Turner said. “I just went back out there and I caught the ball and (Lillard) passed it. I couldn’t feel any type of grip or anything like that. That was pretty much it.”
Turner stayed in the game briefly before he left the court for good with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The win for the Blazers avenged a loss to the Mavericks five days earlier in Portland, but more importantly, it evened the season series at 2-2. The Blazers, who currently sit in ninth place behind the Denver Nuggets, now have a 2.5 game cushion over the Mavericks and won’t have to worry about the head-to-head tiebreaker should the two teams finish with the same record.
“This was a game that we really needed,” Lillard said. “Not just for having the tiebreaker but to get ourselves going in the right direction heading home.”
No. 2: Durant’s return to OKC — It’s still a few days away, but on Saturday night Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors will play at Oklahoma City for the first time since Durant left for Oakland. And according to Durant, he’s been anticipating his return for a few weeks:
Golden State Warriors star forward Kevin Durant said in a Tuesday interview with SportsCenter that he has “been thinking” about Saturday night’s highly anticipated return to Oklahoma City “for the last month” and just wants “to experience it [and] see how I feel once that moment comes.”
In a SportsCenter sit-down with ESPN’s Marc Stein, Durant also insisted that he is prepared for whatever reaction greets him at Chesapeake Energy Arena, saying: “I know what’s important [to Thunder fans] and their team is way more important than just one player. … I’m not going in there acting like I’m going to be praised, I know how it’s going to be.”
“I know they’re going to be rowdy in there, man,” Durant told Stein. “I’ve been a part of some of the loudest nights in that arena. So I know it’s not going to be the friendliest welcome, but, like I said, I can’t wait to see the people that I really built relationships with over my time there and, you know, I’m sure fans that I got to know throughout my time playing there, even though they might not cheer for me out loud, I’ll give ’em a wink and they know what we had deep down inside.”
In excerpts of the interview that aired Tuesday night on SportsCenter, Durant also addressed what he refers to as the “fake drama” of the season-long storyline pitting him against former All-Star teammate Russell Westbrook.
“I realized that earlier on in the season,” Durant said, explaining his contention that it’s “fake drama.”
No. 3: Lopez hanging tough — While the Brooklyn Nets have worked to rebuild, they’ve traded away almost every asset while looking forward. Every asset except for Brook Lopez, their All-Star center, who has somehow survived and maintained his role in Brooklyn. As Brian Lewis writes in the New York Post, Lopez says he’s just keeping his head down and doing his job:
“I’ve talked to [my agent]. But it’s something I’m used to by now. It wouldn’t be comfortable without it,’’ said Lopez, who had 18 of his 20 points in the second half of a 111-107 loss to the Hornets on Tuesday. “I haven’t heard anything. I’m all right. If it were pressing or something was happening, I’d be aware.
“Yeah, I realize there’s a possibility of both things. I’ve said what I’d prefer. They’re going to make their decision, but I would hope that I’d be informed, and I have the confidence they would inform me if they were thinking [of doing] something or something was going down.”
Yahoo Sports reported on Monday that New Orleans had spoken with the Nets about acquiring Lopez, though that move seems unlikely at this point. General manager Sean Marks isn’t actively shopping Lopez, but admits all options are on the table. The Post, ESPN and Yahoo have all reported it could take a pair of first-round picks to tempt the Nets into moving their star center.
“You never know what’s going to happen, nothing’s for certain,’’ Lopez said. “I’ve consistently said I want to see nothing but good things here and I’d love to be a part of that. It’s the one team I’ve played for, the one team I’ve known. I want to see great things happen here and I’d love to be a part of that foundation and that growth. … That said, obviously I only can control what I can control: There are other variables out there.”
Variables like the Nets being an NBA-worst 9-42 entering Tuesday and likely years away from contention. Variables like the fact Lopez will turn 29 this season, has had foot surgeries and may be past his prime by the time any rebuild is complete — a rebuild that would be accelerated if he’s traded.
Those kind of variables have Marks listening, if not shopping.
“That’s every organization. If you’re not trying to improve, that’s part of the business. So, I get that,’’ coach Kenny Atkinson said. “If you asked 30 GMs, they’d all say the same thing: That’s part of their job, to listen. You’re looking every day. How can we improve this team? So I do get that. I do get what Sean’s saying there.”
Still, Atkinson said he hasn’t addressed trade rumors with Lopez — or any other player — and doesn’t plan to.
“Basically, policy is don’t address rumors. Keep it clean. It’s just our policy. We’re going to stick to it,’’ Atkinson said. “My job is to prepare this team for tonight. I just don’t address it.
“I don’t see [the reports]. You guys tell me. I’m blacked-out. It’s not a part of my mindset. My job is to help Brook play as well as he can tonight and the next night. It’s kind of a simple mentality. But it’s part of being in the NBA, rumors. You open up a can of worms if you start talking to players about it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Draymond Green was just using reverse psychology on Kevin Durant … Dwyane Wade is accepting a supporting role in Chicago … And according to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls’ front office jobs are safe … Aaron Gordon missed the second half last night with a sore foot. No word on his status heading into the All-Star break (and dunk contest).