Morning Shootaround

Shootaround Jan. 19 -- Rudy Gay's season likely finished

Gay suffers torn left Achilles | Embiid: Sixers’ run no fluke | Porzingis, Noah to have MRIs | Report: Middleton may return before All-Star break

No. 1: Kings’ Gay likely done for season — All season long, the Sacramento Kings have remained in the chase for one of the lower seeds in the Western Conference playoff race. Whether that continues after last night’s loss remains to be seen. Aside from giving up a 22-point lead at home to the Indiana Pacers in a 106-100 defeat, the Kings also lost veteran forward Rudy Gay to an apparent Achilles injury. Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee reports the injury ends Gay’s season, although official word on that is expected later today:

Some losses hurt more than others, and Wednesday marked two painful ones.

Rudy Gay suffered a season-ending injury, and the Kings squandered a 22-point lead to lose to the Indiana Pacers 106-100 at Golden 1 Center – their biggest blown lead of the season providing a sour end to a 1-6 homestand.

The biggest loss came when Gay was carried off the court with 14.3 seconds left in the third quarter after falling on a drive to the basket. He was diagnosed with a torn left Achilles’ tendon that will sideline him for the rest of the season. It delivered a figurative punch to the gut of a struggling team before it begins a season-long eight-game trip.

Trainer Pete Youngman and teammates Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere carried Gay, the Kings’ second-leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, off the court to the locker room.

The Kings viewed Gay as vital to their playoff hopes, as shown by their decision to not trade him even though he plans to opt out of his contract at the end of the season to become a free agent.

Gay entered the locker room on crutches and with a walking boot on his left foot. He put on his wedding band and received help with his backpack before leaving with his head down.

“That’s hard to watch,” said Kings center DeMarcus Cousins. “That’s a tough thing to watch. It sucks for Rudy. This is a guy with a family, this is a guy with a career he cares deeply about. This was a big year for him obviously and it sucks that this is how it played out.”

Cousins said he spoke briefly to Gay after the game, but admitted he didn’t know what to say besides offering his prayers and support.

“A guy in that situation, what can you say to him?” Cousins said. “What’s the right thing to say? None of us have dealt with that before. None of us know the pain he’s dealing with. What can you say?”

The Kings led 79-69 when Gay went down, and then Indiana continued to dominate, outscoring the Kings 65-40 after halftime.

By the end of the night, Paul George (24 points) and Jeff Teague (22 points and 11 assists) were back to playing at their All-Star level and Al Jefferson (20 points) was a force in the post off the bench.

“Terrible second half,” Cousins said. “I was the lead culprit in this disaster tonight. I was (expletive) awful in the second half.”

Cousins recorded the fifth triple-double of his career with 25 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. But he also had nine turnovers, including all three of the Kings’ turnovers in the fourth that led to six points. In the second half, he missed all nine of his shots and had six points, two rebounds and six turnovers.

Seeing Gay carried off the court didn’t help. Along with the emotional toll it took on the Kings, Gay was having a good game with 21 points.

“It had some effect on us but guys have been in situations where we’ve had people get hurt and we had to step up and continue to play the game,” said guard Garrett Temple. “I didn’t know the exact extent of it until the end of the game, but that’s tough. This is a business and you worry about winning and losing, but at this point I’m much more concerned about my teammate.”

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No. 2: Embiid says Sixers’ recent run is no fluke — A season that started with an 0-7 mark and a 8-24 record by the start of 2017 has suddenly turned around in Philadelphia. The Sixers are 6-2 in the 2017 portion of this season and have notched wins against Knicks, Hornets, Bucks, and last night, the Raptors, in the last week or so. Behind the play of rookie center Joel Embiid, Philadelphia is rising and to Embiid, the turnaround is not just a flash in the pan. Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:

After Wednesday’s 94-89 win over the Toronto Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center, the Sixers were brimming with confidence and for good reason.

It was the seventh win in the last nine games for the Sixers and it came over a Raptors team that is second in the Eastern Conference with a 28-14 record. Not only that, but it also snapped a 14-game losing streak against the Raptors.

Center Joel Embiid, who had 26 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots in under 27 minutes, says that the Sixers are not accomplishing this winning run with mirrors.

“I don’t think it is a fluke,” Embiid said afterwards. “We are competing, winning games and playing good defense.”

The defense against the Raptors was exemplary. Toronto is averaging 111 points per game, third in the NBA.

“We held them to 89 (points),” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “Think about that.”

“We are competing and winning games by playing good defense,” Embiid said. “We finally found what we were looking for. In the beginning of the season everybody was trying to find themselves, especially me.”

He understands there is plenty of improvement ahead.

“I am still only in the 30th game of my career and I have a lot to learn and I am willing to learn,” he said.

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No. 3: Porzingis, Noah both set to have MRIs — The New York Knicks picked up a key win last night by toppling the Boston Celtics on the road, 117-106, and did so without second-year phenom Kristaps Porzingis and veteran center Joakim Noah. Injuries have sidelined both big men lately and both are set to have MRIs today to determine the extent of their maladies, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Believing all along he’d recover faster, Kristaps Porzingis instead suffered a setback with his Achilles injury Monday, missed his fourth straight game Wednesday, and is now scheduled to undergo an MRI on Thursday.

Porzingis isn’t too concerned about the “pinch” in his Achilles, which he said occurs when attempting to push off his left foot. But in the spirit of caution regarding a sensitive area – and with the threat that soreness might lead to a tear — Porzingis is no longer predicting his return date.

He characterized his recovery at “90 percent.” The Knicks were 1-5 without Porzingis heading into Wednesday’s game at Boston.

“I don’t know (about playing in Thursday’s game against the Wizards),” Porzingis said. “It felt good (Wednesday), but it’s been like, ‘I’m going to play the next game, I’m going to play the next game.’ It’s been like that forever. At this point I have to be smart and when it’s 100 percent I’m back. It feels good but it’s not there yet.”

Porzingis first missed three games because of the Achilles soreness starting on New Year’s Eve. He returned for four games, and hasn’t played in over a week. The 21-year-old said he was prepared to play Tuesday against the Hawks at the Garden, but tweaked the Achilles in warmups.

That made me realize that I’m not ready yet. So it’s just really about how much I do explosive stuff,” Porzingis said. “If I take it step by step it’s fine and I don’t get any pinch or anything. If I try to go to 70 percent to 90, not to 75 or 80, I get a little something. Now I’m being smarter.”

Joakim Noah was also on the inactive list because of a sprained left ankle he sustained Tuesday. Noah said he’ll also undergo an MRI on Thursday.

“Frustrating situation,” he said. “Just try to get back to the court as soon as I can.”

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No. 4: Report: Bucks hoping for Middleton to return befor All-Star break — The story of the Milwaukee Bucks this season has been mostly about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise from good, young player to legit NBA superstar and, perhaps, All-Star starter. He’ll find out his All-Star fate tonight, but the Bucks are hoping the story of the season going forward is about the return of one of their other young stars: sharpshooting swingman Khris Middleton. According to’s Marc Stein, the Bucks are trying to get Middelton back on the court before the All-Star break:

The Milwaukee Bucks are increasingly hopeful injured swingman Khris Middleton could return to the floor in early- to mid-February, according to league sources.

Sources told the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

Widely regarded as the Bucks’ best two-way player before Giannis Antetokounmpo’s breakthrough this season to possible All-Star status, Middleton has begun to participate in portions of Bucks practices.

The Bucks initially projected a six-month absence for Middleton, 25, when he tore his left hamstring in September in a one-on-one drill. ‎He averaged 18.4 points, 4.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 79 games last season, which was his first season after signing a five-year, $70 million contract.

Middleton told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that he always believed he’d be back at some point this season.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Our team-by-team midseason report cards are out … New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee says he will accept his backup role on the team … Kia MVP candidate James Harden got the better of fellow MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo last night … How Rudy Gay’s recent injury may affect the looming NBA trade market at large … Golden State will be without veteran big man David West (thumb fracture) for two weeks … ICYMI, Kevin Durant took some time to reflect on his days with Russell Westbrook and James Harden in Oklahoma City … Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia is holding out hope he’ll get to be an All-Star …