Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 30): J.R. Smith pleads ignorance about in-game greeting with Jason Terry

Smith has unique in-game incident with Terry | Young needs MRI on Achilles | Spurs in midst of home funk | Who steps up next in Memphis? | Horford defends decision to miss game

No. 1: Smith doesn’t cop to Terry incident — Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith entered last night’s road game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the midst of a career-worst shooting slump. Then came the game itself, one the Cavs lost 118-101 as Smith went shot 2-for-7 (all on 3-pointers). During that loss, Smith decided to greet Bucks reserve guard Jason Terry … during the middle of live game action:

Afterward, Smith played coy with reporters about the whole incident, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal:

The strangest play of the night goes to J.R. Smith, who temporarily forgot he was in the game late in the second quarter, then chose to deny remembering he was in the game after the game. Follow along…

When the Bucks were setting up for an inbounds play with 2:57 left in the second quarter, Smith saw Jason Terry on the Bucks’ bench and went over to hug him and say hello. During the game. Tony Snell, the man he was supposed to be guarding, seemed as surprised as anyone. He clapped for the ball immediately, Matthew Dellavedova zipped the pass to him and the Bucks got an easy dunk while Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson stood on the court staring at Smith in disbelief.

Now, there are plenty of ways for Smith to handle this temporary lapse in judgment. He could’ve said he blew it, he didn’t know they were inbounding the ball so quickly and that it wouldn’t happen again. Or he could put on a ski mask and deny knowing he was in the game. J.R. being J.R., he chose B.

Smith obviously knew he screwed up and didn’t want to talk about it. Fine. But he somehow managed to bring even more attention to an already attention-worthy gaffe. The video is better than anything I can write about it.

Why was he wearing a ski mask? Good question.


No. 2: Lakers’ Young to have MRI on Achilles — The Los Angeles Lakers fell behind early in their game last night in New Orleans in an eventual 105-88 loss to the Pelicans. Aside from the pain Pelicans star Anthony Davis inflicted on the Lakers all night long, the Lakers got an additional hurt in the form of the Achillies injury Nick Young suffered early in the game. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News has more:

The pain looked overwhelming as Nick Young stayed on the ground. So did the frustration as two teammates helped him off the court.

After starting his season off on the right foot, Young then landed awkwardly on it. The Lakers determined Young has a strain in his right Achilles tendon, an injury that preceded the team’s listless play in a 105-88 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday at Smoothie King Center.

Young hardly looked upset afterwards. He talked trash with teammates in the locker room as always. He walked around the locker room to put pressure on his foot. He downplayed the severity of his injury in a brief inquiry with Southern California News Group.

And yet…

“He’s always going to be a positive and upbeat guy and not let anything get him down,” said Lakers forward Julius Randle, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds after missing the past three games with a hip protector. “That’s the catch to it all. You don’t know if he’s positive or really hurt, or if he’s positive and will be all right. Hopefully it’s not serious.”

After all, Young jokingly contended he needed surgery last week to treat a sprain in the second toe of his left foot, an injury that actually just kept him out for one game. The Lakers (9-10) will have more answers on Young’s latest injury when he receives an MRI on Wednesday before playing in Chicago.

Lakers coach Luke Walton said the training staff has not ruled out Young playing against the Bulls. The Lakers can only hope considering they already missed starting point guard D’Angelo Russell, who traveled with the team on its four-game trip to rehab a sore left knee that kept him out for the past week.

“It will be tough,” Walton said of Young’s possible absence. “Without breaking up that second unit, filling in the shooting guard spot while D’Angelo is already hurt, we’ll have to get creative with what we do.”


No. 3: Spurs trying to pull out of funk at home — The San Antonio Spurs have amassed 10 straight road wins and, entering last night, were in the midst of a nine-game win streak. The Orlando Magic took care of that second streak, surprising the Spurs at AT&T Center with a 95-83 victory. San Antonio was an NBA-best 40-1 at home last season and at one point won 39 straight games at AT&T Center. After Tuesday’s lost gave the Spurs a ho-hum 4-4 home record, the players are trying to figure out how to turn things around.’s Michael C. Wright has more:

Pau Gasol shrugged off the home woes of the San Antonio Spurs at the team’s shootaround Tuesday and called the situation “just a matter of us bringing the juice.”

But no matter how ripe for defeat the backsliding Orlando Magic seemed, the Spurs failed to squeeze out their 10th consecutive victory Tuesday night, and they fell 95-83 to a team that had lost four in a row to losing teams, including three at home. For a Spurs squad that reeled off 40 wins with one loss at home in 2015-16, the current state of affairs is baffling, especially considering that each of San Antonio’s four losses have come inside the confines of the AT&T Center.

“Usually teams are better at home than on the road,” power forward LaMarcus Aldridge said after finishing with 16 points and six rebounds. “This team has played better on the road so far. I don’t know what it is. But we’ve got to figure it out.”

With the Magic basically taking the Spurs out of what they’re accustomed to executing offensively, the home team resorted to too much one-on-one basketball. San Antonio dished just 19 assists on the night, compared to 25 from Orlando, and connected on just 36.8 percent of its shots.

Popovich preferred more of an attacking approach from his team when faced with the physicality Orlando administered.

“Their defense was aggressive, it was physical, and we held the ball too much in response to it,” Popovich said. “You can’t hold the ball against that. You’ve got to make officials make calls. You can’t let people climb into you. You’ve got to be in attack mode.”

Some Spurs thought the team resorted to playing hero ball after Orlando finally built a double-digit lead late in the third quarter on a Nikola Vucevic 18-footer that made the score 73-62.

“Today we did,” said guard Manu Ginobili, who finished with 13 points. “We got a little antsy because we were not scoring, and we’ve got a bunch of talented players who, in good faith, were trying to solve issues playing more one-on-one or trying to force all the way to the rim. Some games it’s going to happen. Some others it’s not, especially against a team with that type of size and good shot-blockers and presence in the paint. I think it was more about moving the ball better. With all that in consideration, I think we should have got at [Aldridge] a little more in the post. We didn’t get anything in the first half good down there, and then we just forgot him. I think he could have given us some solutions when nothing was going on.”

Aldridge declined to delve into that, saying only, “It’s not my place to talk about it. We just got outplayed, and we got denied at the top of the key. They took us out of plays the whole night.”

Popovich admitted that he hasn’t nailed down any specific issues common throughout the team’s losses.

“If I knew, we wouldn’t lose,” he said. “Seems logical.”

Certainly, it does. But what’s also rational to deduce from San Antonio’s fourth loss overall and at home is that it’s simply too early in the season to draw any serious conclusions regarding the team’s outlook for the remaining 64 games. It’s important to remember the Spurs played without Tony Parker or 3-and-D specialist Danny Green for stretches earlier in the season, and they’re working to incorporate a new starter in center Pau Gasol as Leonard looks to navigate just his second season as San Antonio’s bona fide go-to player.

“I’ve been here a decent amount of time — not as long as Manu [Ginobili] or Tony [Parker],” Green said. “But I can’t recall us losing four at the start of a season, not four back-to-back, but all losses are at home, which is very weird. It was a weird night, just couldn’t get it going offensively. Sometimes, it happens that way. Defensively, I think we played pretty solid for the most part. We’ll make some adjustments, but offensively, it’s something we’ll learn from.”

“Yeah, it’s surprising. It’s hard to explain, even for us as players who are on the floor competing,” Gasol said. “It’s not like we’re trying to lose games at home and then go on the road and get all of them. We understand the importance of each and every game, but I guess it’s going to have to translate into better play at home especially.”

Aldridge isn’t overly concerned.

“The team isn’t bad. We’re 14-4, so I’m not freaking out,” he said. “But I think definitely it’s something that can be fixed. We’re still trying to figure out chemistry with Pau. I don’t think we’re getting everything out of him that he can bring. But he’s trying to figure it out. I was the same way last year. It just takes time.”


No. 4: Conley’s injury puts onus on Grizzlies’ youngsters — The Memphis Grizzlies got awful news yesterday as they found out star point guard Mike Conley will be out indefinitely because of a back injury. Conley was in the midst of a career season and was once again a steadying force for the Grizzlies’ offense. Now that he’s out, though, Memphis will look to a pair of rookies — and perhaps, a veteran addition — to stem the tide, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal:

Conley received an inadvertent blow to the back after he took a charge in the second half. He left the game and didn’t return during the third quarter.

Tests revealed the extent of Conley’s injury early Tuesday while the Griz practiced in Toronto preparing for their game Wednesday night against the Raptors.

“Everybody on the team has to step up. It becomes a team mindset,” Griz general manager Chris Wallace said. “One person can’t replace his contribution. We understand that this is unfortunate but it’s part of the NBA. Every organization goes through these things at certain points. Now, you have to bond together and try to win games.”

Conley is averaging a career high 19.2 points. He signed the NBA’s largest overall contract last summer at five years and $153 million. Now, he joins Chandler Parsons (left knee bone bruise), Brandan Wright (ankle) and James Ennis (calf) as one of several key rotation players on the sideline.

Griz coach David Fizdale will now have to rely heavily on rookie point guards Andrew Harrison and Wade Baldwin unless the Griz make a roster move.

The Griz are considering Kendall Marshall, Toney Douglas and Will Bynum as roster additions. Memphis can apply for a hardship waiver Sunday to receive a 16th roster spot.

The NBA allows teams to exceed its maximum 15-player roster whenever four players miss three straight games and the team can show that it will be without several players for an extended period.

“This is a great opportunity for Andrew and Wade,” Wallace said. “We’ll also take a look at outside free agents. We do have some recent experience in the field of compensating for players on the sidelines. We’re taking a look at who is out there right now. It’s not 50 guys. It’s a relative small group when you’re looking at replacement players.”

Memphis used an NBA record 28 players last season while earning a sixth straight playoff berth.


No. 5: Horford defends his one-game absence — When the Boston Celtics topped the Miami Heat in Florida on Monday, they did so without star big man Al Horford. He was back in Boston with his wife, who was giving birth to the couple’s second child. Some on social media and also on CSN New England took umbrage with Horford’s decision. After Tuesday’s practice, he responded to those comments, writes Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

Professional athletes missing games because of the birth of children is a common occurrence, but there have been social media murmurs that perhaps Horford should have returned to the team for the game since his daughter already had been born. The Celtics had no such concerns about that given it was Game 17 of an 82-game schedule.

Horford explained following the team’s practice that his wife Amelia has been going through the transition from Atlanta, where Horford spent nine seasons, to Boston and he felt it mandatory to spend extra time with her.

“Everybody’s healthy, that’s the most important thing and [Alia’s] been great,” Horford said. “[Tuesday] she got released [from the hospital] so she’s home and resting. Family’s very important and, for me, I’m in more of a unique situation because this is our first year here, going through all the moving in the middle of the pregnancy and just a lot going on. I just felt like it was important for me to really be there for her, supporting her. We have a son [Ean] as well, so for her it’s been a lot thrown at her the past few months.

“So I know it meant a lot for her for me to be there. I’m just very happy the Celtics not only consider us as players but as people and people that have families.”

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million maximum contract, has missed 10 of the team’s 17 games (nine of them because of a concussion). There was discussion on the Celtics’ flagship network CSN New England that Horford should have flown from Atlanta to Miami for Monday’s game.

“I don’t really read into anything; I don’t read all the Twitter stuff and I just focus on the court, on my job here and off the court on my family,” Horford said. “Everybody has their opinion. I respect anything that anybody has to say. I care a lot about the group and our guys.

“For my family’s sake, it was important for me to be there with our transition and everything. So that’s that and I can put that behind me and get focused again on [Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons].

“It was hard for me but I felt like the right thing was for me to be next to my wife.”


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