What just happened around NBA: Keeping track of busy Wednesday
The coaching carousel and big injury information takes the spotlight on a busy news day in the NBA.
At midnight Wednesday around the NBA, those still awake were still in awe.
Kevin Durant had just put on one of the best playoff performances in NBA history. Since then, news has been trending non-stop for different reasons. The league shook from stunning news regarding key injuries, front office changes, coaching changes and just overall wooziness. And when the league finally came up for air, there were two playoff games to be played later in the evening.
It’s not uncommon for these events to take place separately, but this is the rare time when it’s compressed like this.
Anyway: Let’s recap the day’s newsflashes, which will have implications for the teams involved, both short and long term:
Kawhi Leonard right knee injury. This is a bummer on so many levels, if only because it’s contributing to a rash of serious injuries affecting important players — and therefore harming the postseason product on the floor. Leonard appeared to have tweaked his knee in a non-contact moment late in Game 4 against the Jazz, stayed in the game momentarily, then sat on the bench, never to return. The Clippers were comfortably ahead at the time, but still, his self-benching raised eyebrows. Kawhi dismissed the topic of the knee in interviews after the game, which lowered concerns. But less than two days later, Leonard was ruled out of Game 5 in Utah with no timetable for a return. And then came a report later that the Clippers fear the injury could be an ACL tear. The team didn’t release any medical information as of mid-day Wednesday. But this is never a good sign.
🙏🏾 to the 🖐🏾Klaw
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 16, 2021
Chris Paul protocol issue. Paul was red-flagged by the medical staff Wednesday and entered health and safety protocols. It puts his status for the Western Conference finals in some question, although that series won’t begin until Sunday at the earliest. The possibility of Paul missing significant time in the upcoming series for the Suns is unknown and the next update will come on Saturday. “Thankfully, we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have time,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “But at the same time, as a coach I have to think through those scenarios.” If Paul misses the start of the series, the team waiting on the other side isn’t fully healthy at the moment either, whether it’s LA or Utah.
Mike Conley still sidelined. That brings us to the Jazz announcing Conley would miss Game 5, which means the All-Star guard has yet to suit up this round because of a mild hamstring strain. The Jazz won a pair of games without Conley, then lost a pair in LA when they clearly could’ve used his presence, especially his ball handling and shooting, with all the burden on Donovan Mitchell. Conley expressed frustration with the injury and the timing but it’s all in the hands of Mother Nature at this point.
Mike Conley: “I had been pushing really hard to play earlier in the series [and] had a small setback related to the hammy during that process. This is why it’s been extended a little bit longer than I know we all would like. Obviously, if I could play, I would."
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) June 16, 2021
Kyrie Irving still sidelined. Nothing’s changed regarding the Nets point guard, who is dealing with a bum ankle and didn’t play in Game 5. The Nets won without him but nothing can be taken for granted. Irving has already been ruled out of Game 6 and isn’t likely to travel with the club to Milwaukee. Harden, meanwhile, is listed as active as Brooklyn seeks to advance.
Stan Van Gundy out in New Orleans. The Pelicans were applauded for hiring Van Gundy as coach last fall, but just eight months into a four-year contract, he’s done. The team fired Van Gundy after an underwhelming first season, where the Pelicans didn’t even make the Play-In Tournament despite having a pair of dynamic young 20-point scorers in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, along with Lonzo Ball having a career season.
David Griffin on how they came to today's decision pic.twitter.com/zYcPdF0bXn
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) June 16, 2021
Scott Brooks out in Washington. Brooks’ contract expired and wasn’t renewed by the Wizards, who are now in competition with five other teams for a head coach. Brooks lasted five seasons and helped the Wizards to a pair of playoff appearances. He also helped the club to climb back to respectability this season after coronavirus issues walloped the roster in the first few months. The bigger questions for the organization is what to do with Bradley Beal, who has a player option after next season, and Russell Westbrook: Keep them, or trade them?
Donnie Nelson out in Dallas. He spent 24 years in the organization and was the GM responsible for draft-day trades that brought Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic, a pair of franchise cornerstones, and helping Dallas to win its lone championship. But there was an apparent power struggle behind the scenes lately, and Nelson struggled to find a complimentary rotation to surround Doncic. So the era has come to an end. Anyway, one of the names that’ll certainly be on Mark Cuban’s radar as a replacement is Masai Ujiri, who has yet to reach agreement on an extension with the Raptors. Regardless, this is an attractive job mainly because of Doncic; no need to find a superstar to build around.
LaMelo Ball wins Kia Rookie of the Year. Finally — some good news! Well, not for Anthony Edwards, though. Ball was voted as the top rookie despite missing 21 games with a fractured wrist. He showed brilliant court vision and elevated the entertainment level in Charlotte with his passing and playmaking, and then returned after the injury to help the Hornets reach the Play-In tournament, where they lost to the Pacers. He averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.9 rebounds, compared to 19.3 points (leading all rookies) and 4.7 rebounds by Edwards.
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