Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Jan. 12) -- Cavs say they need more practice time

Love: ‘Practice time would be great for us’ | Crowder-Wall scuffle marks end of game | Anthony calls Knicks’ latest loss ‘unacceptable’ | Rondo treading carefully in Chicago

No. 1: Cavs players say they need more practice time — After falling last night in Portland to the Trail Blazers, the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost two in a row — just their second losing streak of the season. Cleveland lost three in a row shortly after Thanksgiving, but righted the ship and was rolling until this recent slump, which players are attributing to a lack of practice time.’s Dave McMenamin has more:

The Blazers loss marked two weeks to the day since Cleveland’s last practice on Dec. 28. Since then, the Cavaliers have been upended by a series of events — a hamstring injury for Kyrie Irving, food poisoning for Kevin Love, a roster-shuffling trade to acquire Kyle Korver and a wild travel day to get to Portland — that has left the team pining for a sharpening session on the practice court.

“Not only to get Kyle integrated and comfortable, but we just need a little touch up,” Love said. “Whether it’s some of our shots or some of our plays, getting out in transition, playing with pace. We’re always a better team when we do that. Practice time would be great for us, but it’s just hard to find right now.”

Korver has been particularly put out by the Cavs’ schedule. After joining the team Sunday in Phoenix, he missed two workout opportunities with the group as Cleveland canceled practice in Phoenix on Monday and Korver was held out of shootaround in Utah on Tuesday as he awaited Mike Dunleavy to report to the Atlanta Hawks so the deal would become official.

Korver is just 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3 in his first two games with the Cavaliers.

“Schedule, injuries, sickness, a lot of stuff,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “But I mean it’s no excuse. We know what we’re doing, what we’re supposed to do. Right now it’s like, we’re not going to have assists if we’re not making shots [and] shoot 34 percent [like Cleveland did against Portland]. I mean, how many assists can you really get? Just got to do a better job of making shots but also finishing around the basket when we get in the paint, and get in the paint instead of taking tough shots, kicking it out for open shots. Just got to read and play the game the right way.”

Cleveland will take Thursday off, play Friday in Sacramento, take Saturday off and finally practice again on Sunday for the first time in 18 days to prepare for another Finals rematch with the Golden State Warriors on Monday.

“We get one on Sunday in Golden State,” James said of practice. “We need it. Just to get on the court, just to get re-acclimated on what needs to be done. Get Kyle acclimated on what needs to be done. There’s only so much film [study] and watching film [you can do], and [we] didn’t get an opportunity to have a walk-through [Wednesday] morning because of the situation [Tuesday] night. So we need it.”

In the meantime, Cleveland will try to shake its losing streak — only the second time all season it has lost multiple games in a row — in Sacramento.

“Shootaround and practice are two completely different things,” Irving said. “And you appreciate it more, the practice standpoint, when you’re able to practice things that you’ll eventually [use]. We do an incredible job, T-Lue and our coaching staff do an incredible job preparing us. [Wednesday] there were a few things that we tried to do out there on the floor. It was kind of on the fly. We showed up to the arena, we’re showing [on defense] on the pick-and-rolls, and usually we have some visual guys, some auditory learners and different guys on the team [who pick up instructions through drill work].

“So practice does the mind good and the body good sometimes, and I think we’re in need of it, but we’re on a West Coast road trip, West Coast swing, and we just got to make do with what we have.”

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No. 2: Wall-Crowder scuffle marks end of Wizards-Celtics — The Boston Celtics beat the Washington Wizards last night in large part because of a monstrous fourth quarter by Celtics star Isaiah Thomas. After the final horn sounded, a bit of a scuffle ensued between Boston’s Jae Crowder and Washington’s John Wall as the teams were exchanging postgame well-wishes. J. Michael of has more on what led to the showdown:

The security on the court didn’t appear to be in hurry to calm tensions that bubbled over after everyone left. And before Wizards coach Scott Brooks said a word, he took excpetion to three Boston police officers stationed in front of his locker room rather than that of the Celtics.

It all started because of a spat between Jae Crowder and John Wall. Isaiah Thomas had just lit up the Wizards for 38 points, with 20 coming in the fourth of a 117-108 win for Boston.

“I was just standing there,” said Wall, who was smiling until Crowder confronted him, poked him in the face with his index finger and was slapped in return. “I just said what’s up to I.T. and then I was walking back towards my locker room.”

Marcus Smart, Kelly Oubre, Markieff Morris, Wall’s personal bodyguard, a Wizards team security official and Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe among others got in the middle while no one from the arena security intervened. Moments later, in the narrow corridor in which the home and visting teams are in close proximity, all hell almost broke loose again.

Thomas was oblivious to what was going on as he walked down the opposite end of the hallway in a jubilant mood as the Celtics drew even in the season series 1-1.

“They can’t (expletive) with a real killer,” he shouted, figuratively speaking in the sporting sense.

No other blows appeared to be thrown.

Celtics players wouldn’t talk about it after being instructed by coach Brad Stevens to stay tight-lipped. The Wizards, however, had no problem addressing what took place. They had an issue with Crowder a season ago when he clashed on the sideline with then-coach Randy Wittman.

Otto Porter was one of the first players to rush back to the locker room and didn’t see the spat between Wall and Crowder, but he gladly dished about his feelings on the Celtics.

“We’ve had some past history the last couple of years with those guys,” said Porter, who didn’t appear to be on the court during the exchange. “They’re a physical team. They try to play dirty. They try to take you out your game. Their whole team. That’s just how they try to play.”

“It s always chippy with them. It’s a phsyical team. Neither one of us likes to be punked,” said Bradley Beal, who had a team-high 35 points for Washington. “It’s just a physical game. That’s all it was. It’s not my first time behing tangled up with Marcus. He’s a tough competitor. I don’t think it was a dirty game. There were no crazy fouls or anything like that away from the ball. It was clean. Just a lot of smack talking, trash-talking.”

The usually low-key Morris didn’t want any part of it.

“A lot of woofing going on, for real,” he said. “Guys exchanging words. I (don’t) about the talk so I don’t get around that kind of stuff… As the game went on I felt it was escalating. I didn’t know it would be like that towards the end. It just adds fuel to the fire for the next time we play them. We got to keep it between the lines.”

The Celtics had their side of the story as well, writes Chris Forsberg of, and they downplayed any allegations from the Wizards that they are a dirty team:

Five Boston police officers stood guard between the locker rooms of the Celtics and Washington Wizards after tempers flared following the final buzzer of Wednesday’s game at TD Garden.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, who scored 20 of his game-high 38 points in the fourth quarter, was about to do an on-court interview but rushed over with two Celtics assistant coaches to pry Boston players back toward their tunnel. Shouting appeared to continue between the two teams as players entered their respective locker rooms, which are in close proximity.

“Just some altercation. We knew there was going to be some trash-talking,” Wall said. “We knew it was going to be a physical game. That’s all it was: Just a little trash-talking and a physical game.”

Crowder didn’t care to discuss what flared the incident.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I ain’t got no comment about that,” he said. “You want to talk about the game? Anyone want to talk about the game?”

Washington’s Otto Porter Jr. suggested that the Celtics played dirty. Thomas brushed that off.

“It’s not us. I know that,” Thomas said. “We ain’t gonna be running and telling. That’s what we’re not going to do. But we’re not a dirty team. That’s not what the Celtics are about. We play hard. So if playing hard is dirty, then I guess we are a dirty team. But there was no dirty play. I didn’t see none. It’s just a lot of chatter. That’s what guys do.”

“I don’t play dirty,” Thomas added. “I’ll talk. That’s the name of the game. You talk. You want to compete. You can talk trash. But just as a man, don’t disrespect nobody. And if you don’t disrespect nobody, it won’t turn into nothing else.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he ushered a couple of his players into the locker room when he heard the commotion and simply reminded his team to keep its cool. The police presence quickly defused any escalation, and Stevens arrived at his postgame news conference soon afterward.

“I heard what was going on in the tunnel,” Stevens said. “All I did was walk out. There were only two guys that were walking in from the court from our team, and I just said, ‘Get in the locker room.’ And then I talked to the team about what we represent, and that’s it.”

Asked about the message from Stevens, Celtics big man Al Horford said, “I don’t think I’m supposed to discuss anything, but it was just keep our heads and we’re playing for bigger things.”

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No. 3: Anthony: Knicks’ latest loss ‘unacceptable’ — Philadelphia 76ers point guard T.J. McConnell got to play the role of hero last night, sinking a game-winning buzzer-beater against the visiting New York Knicks in a 98-97 win. The loss marked New York’s third straight and continued a swoon for it that has seen the Knicks lose 12 of their last 15 games. Afterward, the New York locker room was decidedly down in the dumps about both the loss and their tailspin overall, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post:

T.J. McConnell scored on a spinning, off-balance 10-footer after faking out Carmelo Anthony as the Sixers stole a 98-97 victory Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center, setting off a wild celebration after the Knicks blew a 13-point fourth-quarter lead and a 10-point bulge in the final 2:30.

“Definitely embarrassing the way we’re losing games,’’ guard Courtney Lee said. “There’s no excuses. It’s just us. This s–t is definitely embarrassing. We have to find consistency in everything — soon.

“It’s got to be defense first. We got to change our mentality.”

Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, though he was held scoreless in the final period and Kristaps Porzingis shot an airball with seven seconds left to set up the winning scramble bucket by the Sixers.

“Very, very disappointing, giving ourselves a chance to win on the road and to come up short,’’ Anthony said. “We got to learn from this and let it slip away. … We should tell ourselves it’s unacceptable.’

With the Knicks up a point with 27 seconds left, Rose drove and kicked it out smartly to Brandon Jennings, who fed Porzingis. The Latvian airballed a corner 3 and the Sixers, in scramble mode, raced the ball upcourt with McConnell hitting the winner. It gave Philadelphia (11-25) its fourth victory in five games and sent the Knicks to 1-9 in their last 10.

“So much going on, I don’t have a recollection,’’ Anthony said of the final play. “I don’t want to give a wrong answer. I have to go back and look at the tape.’’

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said Porzingis has looked tired of late and blamed it on potential recurring Achilles woes.

“Tough way to lose,’’ Hornacek said.

“It is going to be a tough month for us and it already is starting to get tough and now it’s going to show if we can get out of this or not,’’ said Porzingis, who had a brutal performance with seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.

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No. 4: Rondo calls situation with Bulls a ‘test’ — Chicago Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo is undoubtedly on thin ice with the team’s front office and coaching staff after his well-documented missteps this season. His five-game banishment to the bench for his recent actions ended on Tuesday when he logged 27 minutes in a loss to the Washington Wizards and put up a solid stat line. Still, Rondo is well aware that another misstep in Chicago could be career-changing and he’s trying his best to avoid that, writes Vincent Goodwill of

“Without a doubt. It’s a test for me,” he calmly said to after his one-game reprieve from the dungeon of the bench resulted in a close loss to the Washington Wizards, a game where Rondo acquitted himself well in 27 minutes with 12 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Previous transgressions make it easier to create the optics of Rondo being the problem more than he actually may be, with run-ins in Boston, Dallas and Sacramento being on his rap sheet.

Rondo doesn’t lament where he is, but he certainly knows why things are perceived as such to the general public. But it doesn’t stop the thinker from thinking and coming up with the conclusion that he’s being insulted.

Considering he stays up at night watching games two or three times over, then comes into meetings with coaches the next morning with index cards of suggestions that don’t merely revolve around his teammates’ weaknesses but his own, it’s not hard for him to connect the dots.

“It’s a slap in the face. I’m not the first person to get slapped in the face in life,” said Rondo to “I don’t feel any type of way. Either way, when you put away… I don’t make excuses. This is who I work for, and it’s a job.”

The murky communication with Hoiberg, the lack of communication from the front office about his future in Chicago or potentially elsewhere could make him a ticking time bomb, if he didn’t see it coming.

“Does it bother me? It would bother me if I didn’t expect it, if it wasn’t a surprise,” said Rondo to “My intuition is crazy. It’s a gift and it’s a blessing. I’m able to be in a situation at age 30, playing basketball. My perspective is different, this doesn’t define me. It’s my job.”

Calling it a job is likely a way to detach himself from the situation so that frustration won’t take over.

Carefully choosing Chicago given his reputation and the results of this experiment means he could likely be in the same position in six months — almost tacitly saying what was communicated to him isn’t how things have laid out.

“I was very cautious this summer, where I chose to play,” Rondo said. “What I was told in the meeting, It’s a little different than what I was told in the meeting. Once I learn the system, I can run the show. It’s what I do. I don’t come in like I know it all. I put the extra work in.”

“I’ve been in this game a long time, great players, great coaches,” Rondo said. “What happened to me early is kind of a curse. I expected it would be how it was my early years in Boston. How the veterans were in the locker room. How the players were all for one another.”

“KG (Kevin Garnett) always told me, this isn’t how it usually is around the league. it’s a little surprising I’m going through it but at the same time, I was warned that this is the NBA.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Washington Wizards star John Wall may be dealing with lingering issues in his right pinkie finger and left wrist … Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups and Stephen Jackson are among those who will participate in a new 3-on-3 league … New Orleans Pelicans big man Donatas Motiejunas opens up about the winding free-agency trail he recently traveled … Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton sounds open to having former teammate Lamar Odom join his coaching staff … A dehydration issue that plagued Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson at times last season has resurfaced … Solid Q&A with Mike Conley, aka “Mr. Memphis” …