No. 1: Bogut’s injury a major letdown for Cavs — The Cleveland Cavaliers finally got a look at their newest waiver-wire acquisition, Andrew Bogut, last night. Unfortunately for both he and the team, it wasn’t a very long one. Bogut broke his left leg one minute into his first game with the Cavs, a 106-98 home loss to the Miami Heat. Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com surveys the scene for the Cavs after the disappointing news:
Fifty-eight game seconds in a Cavs jersey Monday night. And then his leg snapped. He hobbled, then fell, then hopped near the bench, then rode the shoulders of Tristan Thompson to the Cavs’ locker room.
And that could be all for Bogut as a Cavalier.
Not 75 minutes before the game, Bogut was cracking jokes about how Vladimir Putin put through the transfer of his work visa from Dallas to Cleveland that had held him up from being able to participate in shootaround. He talked about a potential Finals rematch with the Warriors was not why he signed as a free agent with the Cavs last week.
Then, he cracked his left shin against Okaro White’s knee with 11:38 left in the second quarter and landed awkwardly after that. The crack could be heard on replays of the telecast, as can Bogut telling James and Deron Williams he knew it was broken.
“I heard a break,” James said. “As soon as the collision happened I heard a break. When I went over to him and he said it I already knew, I heard it crack.”
Bogut is in his 12th pro season. He’s won a championship with the Warriors. He signed as a free agent with the Cavs last week for $385,000, picking Cleveland over Boston because “it’s the best opportunity to try to win a championship.”
The Cavs needed Bogut’s size, his rebounding and rim protection, and his mere presence. Kevin Love is still working through his recovery from minor knee surgery, and Cleveland was already down a big man on the roster.
The Cavs eyed Bogut all season, targeting him as a likely buyout candidate from his contract. When he was signed, he was to be the final piece of the revamping of the bottom of the roster undertaken by general manager David Griffin.
Cleveland’s championship hopes didn’t ride on Bogut’s back or break along with his leg — he was going to be a fringe rotation player when the playoffs arrived. But the two sides were counting on each other to help them get back to the Finals, even if it was Bogut who needed the Cavs more for that than the other way around.
And then, snap.
An injury like this — fractured tibia — typically takes months to heal. The Cavs didn’t give an official timetable for his recovery, and say they won’t know anything definitive until Tuesday at the earliest, but there is distinct possibility his season is over.
Bogut will be a free agent this season, and the Cavs are restricted in the amount of money they can offer him by salary cap rules.
Then again, at 32 and entering what will be his 13th season, his market value could be limited depending on his prognosis for recovery.
“To have an injury like that to take you out for the rest of the season, possibly, and you really, there’s not much you can say,” James said.
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No. 2: Thomas questions Celtics’ experiments in loss to Clippers — As a two-time All-Star, his team’s leading scorer and the heart and soul of its style of play, Isaiah Thomas is the leader of the Boston Celtics. So it’s not uncommon for a player of his stature to speak his mind when things aren’t going right … and that’s exactly what he did after Boston’s 116-102 road loss to the LA Clippers last night. The defeat was the Celtics’ fourth in the seven games since the All-Star break, one of many things that had Thomas miffed. Jay King of MassLive.com has more:
For minutes after the Celtics’ second straight disappointing loss, Thomas vented to strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo, who pulled up a seat beside the fringe MVP candidate. Gerald Green, apparently curious, wandered over at one point to check in on his teammate, and assistant coach Jay Larranaga tapped Thomas on the shoulder gently before walking out of the locker room himself.
It was beyond clear that Thomas took Boston’s 116-102 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers to the heart. His team had built a 13-point lead late in the third quarter before allowing a stunning 43-14 run, which started with a flurry of Jamal Crawford 3-pointers. Over the final 16:28, the Celtics allowed Los Angeles to shoot 21 for 26 from the field (80.8 percent), including 7 of 10 (70 percent) from behind the arc.
On the heels of a nearly impossible loss to the Phoenix Suns, the second-half meltdown was enough to drive a player mad. Beyond the obvious, Thomas apparently had another reason for the frustration: a distaste for some of the Celtics’ lineup choices in the third and fourth quarters. Though he never openly stated his disagreement with any of the lineups, he hinted at it by saying, “We can’t be experimenting in Game (64).”
“You can watch film,” Thomas replied when pressed on the comment. “You know what it is.”
Asked directly whether he meant the lineups, Thomas met the question with what felt like telling silence.
Without starter Al Horford (elbow) and key reserve Jonas Jerebko (flu), the Celtics were thin in the frontcourt. They started with a small group that featured Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder at the forward slots, but, even against L.A.’s tough frontcourt of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, that group held its own inside. Thomas likely opposed head coach Brad Stevens’ rotation later in the game, which featured some quirky combinations.
In Stevens’ defense, the Celtics were playing without two of their usual frontcourt options. He might have just wanted to steal a minute or two before putting the regulars back in the game, and never could have anticipated the Clippers’ stunning rush. Crawford can go bonkers at any time and the lineup decisions would have been far more obvious with Horford and Jerebko available. But another experiment went wrong for the Celtics early in the fourth quarter.
Down 86-80, Stevens tried Crowder — a 6-foot-6 forward — at center against a Clippers lineup that included the massive Jordan. Over the next 1:29, Jordan went on a one-man stampede over the Lilliputians, putting in two dunks and a layup. Just like that, the Celtics trailed 94-80.
“Obviously we want to stretch them out on one end, but at the same time, we wanted to be able to keep them in front and switch a little bit and those type of things,” Stevens said. “DeAndre’s a tremendous roller and rebounder, but we felt like if Jae Crowder is behind him we can guard him in the post and those type of things. But that probably hurt us more from a transition matchup thing than anything. But, yeah, we’re going to be better when we’re full go, but we’re not. So no excuses there. You’ve got to play.”
With two wins, the Celtics would have pulled within one game of the Cleveland Cavaliers for first place in the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Celtics kicked away both games. They still hold a 1.5-game advantage for the second seed, but are now tied with the third-place Washington Wizards in the loss column. With road games against the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets (and their thin air) next, things could get worse for Boston soon, but the remaining schedule after that is favorable.
“I’m not concerned,” Thomas said. “It’s just the way we lost tonight was unacceptable. We lost the game in the last 15 minutes of the game. We played a really good game up until the last 15 minutes. And that’s the players’ fault, the coaches’ fault, that’s everybody in this locker room’s fault. We could have done a lot better.”
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No. 3: Schroder benched after argument with Howard — To date, the Atlanta Hawks have a fairly solid Defensive Rating (11th), but that number isn’t quite as great since the All-Star break (22nd overall). During last night’s 119-111 loss to the visiting Golden State Warriors, an on-court disagreement during a dead ball situation between the Hawks’ Dwight Howard and Dennis Schroder spilled into live play and Stephen Curry nailed a 3-pointer.
That incident and perhaps other things led Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer to bench Schroder for most of the second half last night, writes Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
On-court words between Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard led to a defensive breakdown in the Hawks’ loss to the Warriors Monday night.
It also led to something much bigger.
In addition to the heated exchange between players, Schroder also had words with coach Mike Budenholzer following the play. Budenholzer then benched Schroder, who played just 3:19 of the second half, in the 119-111 loss.
Budenholzer called it a coach’s decision. Schroder said he didn’t understand the discipline and wanted a meeting to discuss it. Howard said such a conversation would not a bad thing. Several other Hawks players wanted to put the incident behind them and move forward.
“Just us staying together is the bigger point,” Budenholzer said of his decision. “We’ve got to stay together and find a way to move on to the next play. Those things are important.”
The Hawks led 70-69 early in the third quarter when Howard was credited with a turnover on a bad pass to Thabo Sefolosha with 9:42 remaining. As Schroder and Howard argued, the Warriors inbounded the ball and Stephen Curry quickly hit a 3-pointer. Budenholzer was heard to yell at Schroder “That’s what I’m talking about.”
Less than a minute later, Schroder was replaced and spent the remainder of the game on the bench.
“I don’t really know,” Schroder said when asked why he was benched. “I know the 3 from Steph Curry when me and Dwight was arguing was part of it. That can’t happen. I don’t understand coach’s decision. I want to be on the court. Maybe I’m too competitive. I’m just trying to be competitive and win games.”
He added he would like to meet with Budenholzer about the disciplinary action.
“We have to figure it out, me and coach,” Schroder said. “I want to talk about it. Dwight’s got to be in there too. Get on the same page.”
Howard was asked after the game whether he would welcome the meeting Schroder suggested.
“Listen, we are a team right?” Howard said. “It’s OK if we have conversations. It’s not always conflict when you have a conversation with your coach or a team meeting. That’s what you are supposed to do. By him wanting to have a meeting, it’s great. It’s great for our team. It’s great for each other. We’re all open to it. It’s not always bad when you have a conversation.
“We just have to move forward when we have plays like that. I know it’s highlighted but it’s OK. We made mistakes. We are human. Wish it didn’t happen but it did. Hopefully, everyone will just let it go and move on.”
Paul Millsap insisted the Hawks have a “tight locker room.” Sefolosha said incidents occur during the course of a game.
“When you play basketball, especially in a game like this, emotions are high,” Sefolosha said. “We are a team. We have to play as a team. I’m sure things are going to be talked about between the two of them and we are going to be fine.”
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No. 4: Lowry mum on target date for return — The Toronto Raptors are holding down the fort as best they can while All-Star guard Kyle Lowry recovers from wrist surgery he had a little more than a week ago. Toronto is 4-2 while he’s been out and has 18 games to go between now and the start of the playoffs. Lowry talked with local media on Monday and gave and update on his condition but little else about when he may suit up again, writes Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:
Kyle Lowry confirmed something we suspected since he underwent surgery: The wrist problem that eventually resulted in surgery was not something that happened at once.
It was a problem he had been dealing with over time and it got to the point where he was no longer able to be effective playing.
He banged it again on the Wednesday night heading into the all-star break, but it wasn’t something he hadn’t done plenty of times before that.
“From what I’ve been told, it’s a 10-year process,” Lowry said.
Lowry says he has an idea of when he would like to be back in order to be at his best for when the playoffs roll around, but he wasn’t willing to share that date with the writers and broadcasters on hand.
“I have, not a target date, but I know what I would like to do,” Lowry said. “Hopefully we can get it done and we’ll go from there. For me it’s making sure I’m completely healthy. I don’t want to have to be not full Kyle going into any situation. I want to be able to go out and play and not have any hold-back.”
For his part, Lowry is thrilled with what the Raptors have been able to accomplish in his absence.
“They’re doing an unbelievable job, I don’t know what their record is, but I’m proud of this team and I think they’ll continue to get better, they’ll continue to get wins while I’m out,” Lowry predicted. “Unfortunately, I’m not there to take a little bit of the burden off DeMar, Cory and the guys but Delon, Fred, they’re coming in and taking up the challenge.”
Behind the scenes, Lowry is doing what he can to speed the healing process and get back as soon as possible.
“I just basically got to rehab it, get it stronger, full extension,” Lowry said. “Right now there’s still some swelling in there, still some inflammation in there. It’s just a basic rehab, get it stronger get full that flexibility back and do as much as I can tolerate pain-wise. Still I’m going to see my doctor in another week. I’m not even a week out from surgery. Whatever the progress is, I’m optimistic.”
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No. 5: Nowitzki on cusp of entering elite club — Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki has scored 20 or more points in a game 847 times in his career. If he can get log instance No. 848 of that tonight against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers (8:30 ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS), he will enter the 30,000-point club. As he stands on the precipice of that milestone, Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram talked with several NBA legends and former teammates who reflected on Nowitzki’s NBA journey:
The date was Feb. 5, 1999. The place was Seattle. It was Dirk Nowitzki’s first game as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
The game, which came during an NBA lockout season, took on a different flavor of hype because it pitted two native sons from Germany — Seattle’s Detlef Schrempf and the Mavericks’ Nowitzki — going against each other.
Schrempf was entering his 14th season, while Nowitzki was in his first and had been touted by Mavericks coach Don Nelson as the player who would win the 1998-99 season’s rookie of the year award. But after the SuperSonics won 92-86 in overtime, it was clear that Nowitzki wasn’t ready for prime time.
Nowitzki finished the game with two points, no rebounds and four assists, and was 0 of 5 from the field. In the locker room at the Key Center afterward, he also looked like he’d seen a ghost.
“I still remember it was one of the worst games I’ve ever played,” said Nowitzki, now 38 years old.
When the Mavericks (26-36) entertain the Los Angeles Lakers (19-44) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at American Airlines Center, Nowitzki will need 20 points to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) as the only players in NBA history to score at least 30,000 points.
Players such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony have all copied Nowitzki’s famous one-legged fallaway jump shot. But the early years were so tough for Nowitzki that he thought about bailing out and going back home.
“I felt bad for the kid, for one,” said Michael Finley, a teammate of Nowitzki from 1998-2005. “Coach at the time put a lot of added pressure on him, calling him the rookie of the year. “That goes around the league for everybody out there to prove Nellie wrong and to go at Dirk.”
“I think the most important thing that he means to the city of Dallas is that he gave them a championship,” Finley said. “No matter what you saw, the bad days in the 1990s or the pretty good days in the ’80s, at the end of the day he brought Dallas a championship.
“And because of Dirk’s willingness to sacrifice whatever it takes for the team to be a champion, he will always be remembered as the player that brought Dallas its first NBA championship.”
“Early on my recollection is there were a lot of comparisons to Bird, because they’re both great shooters, they both have blond hair and there were similarities,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who played with Bird from 1984-87. “I remember I was on TV (as an analyst) for the Sonics one year and it was Dirk’s second or third year, and in one of our openings we were talking about some of the comparisons and my comment at the time was we’ll see how this plays out over time — this kid’s got some terrific tools.
“It was right around the time he was really starting to show signs of taking the first quantum leap. Today we’re in a different millennium and his accomplishments are gigantic, extraordinary.”
So extraordinary that few remember he averaged 8.2 points per game as a wide-eyed rookie.
“I think it’s important to note that it’s never easy for a rookie to come in and dominate,” Carlisle said. “Very few guys have done that, and so Dirk went through some growing pains, but the great ones adjust.”
Dominique Wilkins, who is 13th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 26,668 points, describes Nowitzki as one of the most “lethal” scorers he’s ever seen.
“He was one of the first big men, especially of this era, to score the ball from outside,” Wilkins said. “Once he went out on the perimeter, and the way he shot the jump shot in traffic, was amazing.
“Then he expanded his game to the 3-point line. He’s just a helluva scorer, period, and he was probably one of the first guys to shoot from the outside consistently for a whole career.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard made a serious case for the Kia MVP award last night … Draymond Green says the Atlanta Hawks paid dearly for not paying attention to him last night … Dion Waiters is perfectly happy with his Miami Heat flying under the radar … Timfoey Mozgov and Luol Deng are tuning out those who want to criticize their lucrative contracts … The Philadelphia 76ers’ brass is still deciding if Ben Simmons and/or Joel Embiid will play in Summer League …