Al Horford replaces Chris Bosh on 2016 NBA All-Star team

Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford has been named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and will join teammate Paul Millsap in competing in the 2016 All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 14 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Horford will replace Miami’s Chris Bosh, who is unable to play due to injury.

Horford, making his second consecutive appearance and fourth overall in the midseason classic, is averaging 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 blocks and 0.8 steals in 31.6 minutes (.507 FG%, .340 3FG%, .778 FT%) while starting all 55 games. He ranks 17th in the NBA in blocks per game and 20th in FG%.

Horford has scored in double-figures 49 times, including nine 20-point contests (two 30-point nights), and owns 11 double-digit rebound games. He also has 10 double-doubles, including four 20-point/10-rebound outings.

The nine-year veteran has hit 55 3FGs this season after making 21 triples in his previous eight years combined. He knocked down a career-best five 3FGs at Houston (12/29) and has made two-or-more three’s in a game 13 times.

CJ McCollum replaces Chris Bosh in 2016 NBA Three-point Competition

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has been added to the 2016 Three-Point Competition, the NBA announced today.

McCollum, 24, is already competing in the Skills Challenge, and will replace Miami’s Chris Bosh in the Three-Point Competition. Both events are part of All-Star Saturday Night at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

In 52 games played this season, McCollum ranks second on the team in both scoring (20.7 ppg) and assists (4.2 apg). He is shooting a team-high 39.2% from beyond the three-point line, and ranks ninth in the NBA with 125 three-point field goals.

McCollum recorded 35 points (14-28 FG), 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals against Sacramento on Dec. 27, making him the first NBA player to log at least 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals in a game since Kevin Garnett on Dec. 10, 2004.

He becomes the eighth Trail Blazer in franchise history to compete in the Three-Point Contest, joining Kiki Vandeweghe (1987), Danny Ainge (1991), Clyde Drexler (1991), Terry Porter (1991, 1993), Cliff Robinson (1996), Damian Lillard (2014) and Wesley Matthews (2015). No Portland player has ever won the event.

McCollum will compete against Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, the L.A. Clippers’ JJ Redick and Phoenix’s Devin Booker.

Chris Bosh will miss 2016 NBA All-Star events

The Miami HEAT announced today that Chris Bosh has sustained a strained right calf and will not participate in Saturday’s Three-Point Shootout competition or play in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.

“I am honored to be selected to participate in the All-Star Weekend festivities, and will still be here to support my fellow East All-Stars,” said Bosh. “But I will also use this weekend to try to heal and focus on the second half of the HEAT season.”

Heat need better three-point shooting

Here’s the Miami Herald with insight on a Heat limitation that makes it harder for the team to be all they can be:

Because opponents don’t fear several of the Heat’s perimeter shooters, Chris Bosh said Heat players are being left unguarded on the perimeter far more than ever before in his 5 1/2 years here. He said trying “to get in that upper part of the East, it’s tough to do that without shooting.”

Though he says “I’m always a believer in making due with what you have, we could always use another shooter. Everybody could. It’s a perceived weakness we have and it’s something we have to get over.”

The Heat, scanning the trade market for a three-point shooter, is making 32.3 percent of its threes, 28th in the league and among the lowest in team history. Miami’s 15-win teams in its first season (1988-89) and in 2007-08 both shot threes better than this one.

The Lakers (11-44) are getting 11.1 points and a very impressive 10.0 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game from forward Julius Randle this season. Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News with good news from the head coach’s perspective:

Byron Scott impressed by Julius Randle lately

The pouting Julius Randle showed as he went to bench left Lakers coach Byron Scott questioning the 21-year-old’s maturity.

Randle’s inconsistency with his jump shot prompted Scott to express skepticism whether he could fix it before this summer. An injury to Larry Nance Jr. still left Scott in doubt as to whether Randle could reclaim his starting spot.

But lately, Randle has given Scott a different impression.

“He’s been fantastic,” Scott said of Randle. “He’s not going overboard as far as trying to go too fast. He’s picking his moments and he’s rebounded the hell out of the ball.”

New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans underwent surgery today on his right knee. As a result of the procedure, Evans will miss the remainder of the 2015-16 season.

Evans, 6-6, 220, had appeared in 25 games this season for New Orleans (all starts), averaging 15.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.3 steals.

Originally drafted fourth overall by Sacramento out of the University of Memphis in 2009, Evans has appeared in 433 career regular season games with the Kings and Pelicans, holding career averages of 16.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.3 steals.

devin booker

Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker will replace injured U.S. Team selection Nerlens Noel of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2016 BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 12 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

The BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star features first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against first- and second-year NBA players from around the world. TNT will televise the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge in the U.S. at 9 p.m. ET, and Sportsnet ONE and TSN will simulcast the game in Canada. ESPN Radio also will provide coverage.

Booker, the 13th pick of NBA Draft 2015 presented by State Farm, is averaging 10.6 points and shooting 40.3 percent from three-point range in 48 games. The 19-year-old guard is averaging 15.2 points in his 23 starts, including a career-high 32-point performance against the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 19. Booker will also compete in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Air Canada Centre as part of State Farm® All-Star Saturday Night.

Noel, a second-year forward-center, will not play due to tendinitis in his right knee. He is averaging 10.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.6 blocks in 46 games.

Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay will replace injured defending champion Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets in the 2016 Skills Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

The Skills Challenge is part of All-Star Saturday Night and this year includes some big-men. In the past, the event was entirely guards.

Mudiay, the seventh pick of NBA Draft 2015, ranks first among rookies in assists (5.9 apg), second in minutes (30.2 mpg) and fifth in scoring (11.4 ppg). A native of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mudiay will also compete for the World Team in the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 12 at Air Canada Centre.

Beverley, who won the 2015 Skills Challenge in his event debut, will miss this year’s competition due to an ankle injury.

Latest Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injury: torn labrum in right shoulder

Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has suffered another major injury.

The team announced today that Kidd-Gilchrist underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which revealed a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He sustained the injury with 8:39 remaining in the third quarter of Charlotte’s 117-95 win against the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 10. Kidd-Gilchrist will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break and further updates on his status will be provided when available.

Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 29.3 minutes per game in seven contests (all starts) for the Hornets this season. The fourth-year forward from Kentucky has averaged 9.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 202 games (198 starts) with Charlotte.

These days, his talent as an excellent defensive player is being overshadowed by his injury woes.

 

Hassan Whiteside suspended for elbowing Boban Marjanovic

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

To view the play, click on this link.

Here’s MassLive reporting Danny Ainge’s comments from the 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich program in response to a rumor involving the Celtics and Hawks center Al Horford:

Danny Ainge comments on Celtics, Al Horford rumor

The Celtics have been rumored as a possible destination for Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford, but Ainge threw a bit of cold water on that idea. Despite a batch of recent reports saying the Hawks could consider drastic changes, Ainge said he believes they will keep their core intact.

“I will just remind you that ‘according to reports’ is the key phrase there,” he said. “There’s a lot of motivations that teams have. Sometimes it’s just to see what the value of their players are, and by leaking things like that you can find maybe what people are willing to offer. Typically when you do that and you leak out that you’re willing to move your team or break up your team and start over, you don’t really get — people are looking for bargains. They’re not going to give you the best deal. So my feeling is Atlanta will stay intact. They may make a trade or two but I don’t think they’re going to lose their key guys.”

Rockets are struggling this season

The Houston Rockets are just 27-28 this season and don’t look anything like a serious contender. There is reason for alarm. Here’s the Houston Chronicle reporting:

The Rockets could no longer deny the reality. They had lost interest in the season-long exercise of fooling themselves.

The Rockets took another bad loss into the break. They were smacked around by the Trail Blazers with all the familiar shortcomings through their stunning fall this season glaringly evident on the way to a 116-103 loss that did not seem nearly that close.

They fell to 27-28 and to ninth in the Western Conference, closer to the bottom four teams than the top four that they had once assumed would include them. Save a few misleading stretches on Wednesday, they had spent the night bouncing from disinterested to disillusioned, playing like strangers or worse.

When they were through, the Rockets could no longer cling to the memory of what they once were or expected to be. They faced what they had become with center Dwight Howard and guard James Harden meeting with Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff and general manager Daryl Morey long into the night.

Kevin Love shoulder injury seems very minor

Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love’s latest shoulder injury appears to be very minor, fortunately. Here’s ESPN.com reporting:

Kevin Love shoulder injury seems very minor

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love exited Cleveland’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers late in the first half on Wednesday with a left shoulder contusion and did not return.

It is the same shoulder Love dislocated in the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, causing him to miss the remainder of Cleveland’s postseason run to the Finals.

“At the time I didn’t know really what it was,” Love said after the Cavs’ 120-111 win over the Lakers. “Just like when you get hit in the funny bone, the elbow has shooting pain. It felt like fire was running down my arm. Just a stinger, and doctors decided we’ll be cautious and use the break for it to feel better, but it actually feels OK right now.”

Cavs general manager David Griffin told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that Love is not expected to miss much time. Griffin said the injury looked a lot worse than it is. Love told reporters he did not expect to miss any games.

Here’s the Charlotte Observer reporting on the latest injury to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffers dislocated shoulder

Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a dislocated right shoulder during the second half of Wednesday’s 117-95 road victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Kidd-Gilchrist was taken to an Indianapolis hospital where doctors would pop the shoulder back into the joint. This is the same shoulder that Kidd-Gilchrist injured in the preseason, requiring surgery to repair a torn labrum.

The Hornets said postgame that Kidd-Gilchrist will have an MRI in Charlotte Thursday to determine the seriousness of this injury.

Kidd-Gilchrist had an excellent recovery from that previous shoulder injury, returning to the active roster about two months earlier than originally projected.

Damian Lillard added as Team USA finalist

Damian Lillard added as Team USA finalist

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been added to the roster of finalists for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today. The addition was approved by the USA Basketball Board of Directors. The official 12-member 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team roster will be announced later this year.

Named to the 2014-16 USA Basketball Men’s National Team in January 2014, the 6-foot-3 guard was a finalist for the 2014 USA World Cup Team, and played in two exhibition games during the 2014 USA National Team Tour, recording seven points, three rebounds, three assists and one steal in 24 minutes of action in the USA’s 105-62 win against Dominican Republic on Aug. 20, 2014.

Currently in his fourth NBA season, Lillard in 2015-16 is averaging career-highs of 24.2 points (6th in the NBA) and 7.3 assists per game (7th in the NBA), while adding 4.4 rebounds per game, and shooting 41.8 percent from the field, 36.2 percent from 3-point and 86.5 percent from the foul line.

“I recently received a call from Damian, and during our conversation he expressed his desire to be considered for the U.S. Olympic Team and to remain involved with the USA National Team in the future as well,” said Jerry Colangelo, who has served as the managing director of the USA Men’s National Team since 2005. “Both Mike (Krzyzewski) and I feel like Damian is playing at a very high level and that he should be added to our list of Olympic finalists. Damian has been a member of the USA National Team since 2014, and he participated in National Team training camps in 2013 and 2014, so he does have equity in USA Basketball, which is always important to me.”

For now, Kings keeping coach George Karl

Here’s the Sacramento Bee reporting on the 21-31 Kings, who are on a four-game losing streak:

For now, Kings keeping coach George Karl

In what might be the most instinctive and impressive move of his short reign as the Kings’ general manager, Vlade Divac hit the brakes and prevented his franchise from spinning out of control. To the surprise of many, he spoke with his coach in Philadelphia, discussed the issues about defense, energy and erratic performances, and reacted with an abundance of common sense.

He didn’t fire George Karl.

He fixated on personnel flaws.

He took the car keys from DeMarcus Cousins.

That latter topic of discussion? That was huge. The 6-foot-11 Cousins, who devours Kings coaches for breakfast, lunch and dinner, isn’t bigger than the building and certainly not bigger than the team. Yet for the first time in a very long time, the Kings’ ownership/front office demonstrated a modicum of maturity, an approach that is thoughtful and measured, not the familiar knee-jerk reaction.

Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News sharing a great flashback to the past:

Tyronn Lue recalls how Kobe Bryant wanted to fight him

In his second NBA season with the Lakers (1999-2000), Lue played in a five-on-five scrimmage that in most circumstances would have suggested Bryant would pull off an endless highlight reel. Lue played on the reserve unit with Devean George, Brian Shaw, Mark Madsen and Slava Medvedenko. Bryant represented the starters that also included Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher.

But as Bryant drove baseline for a layup, Lue recalled cutting from the elbow down toward the paint to block his dunk attempt against the glass. George then made a layup to seal the win. Shaw then teased Bryant for Lue’s scrimmage-defining block.

“He went crazy. Kobe wanted to fight me at first,” said Lue, who is now the Cleveland Cavaliers coach. “He wanted to play one-on-one after practice. He said, ‘We’re going to play one-on-one, me and you.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not playing you one-on-one.’ He was so mad. Then after that, every day we stepped onto the court and he just went after me every single day. It was crazy.”

Clippers suspend and fine Blake Griffin

The following is a joint statement from L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Doc Rivers:

Clippers suspend and fine Blake Griffin

The L.A. Clippers announced today that forward Blake Griffin has been suspended without pay for four games for striking a team employee on Jan. 23 and his wages will be withheld for one additional game for injuries he sustained. The NBA has assisted us in this process.

The Clippers will donate the salary from the five games to charities focused on disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles. At his request, Blake will support this activity with his time.

We have made it clear that this conduct has no place in the Clippers organization. Blake is remorseful and has apologized for his actions. He is a valued member of our Clippers family and we support him as he rejoins the team. He understands his actions have consequences, and is eager to get back to work with his teammates, the organization and Clipper Nation which starts immediately with rehab, appearances and attendance at games.

For our team and organization, it is time to move forward which begins today and ultimately concludes when we have Blake back on the court.

The NBA announced today that Bulls forward/center Pau Gasol will replace injured Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game. For Gasol, it marks the second consecutive season that he has been named an All-Star and his sixth selection overall.

The 35-year old Gasol has appeared in 48 games, where he has averaged 17.0 ppg, 10.9 rpg (third in the East; sixth in the NBA), 3.3 apg, 2.02 bpg (second; fifth) and 0.63 spg in 31.9 mpg. On the year, he is shooting .477 from the floor and .809 from the line. He has also turned in a team-high 29 double-doubles (second; fifth).

A 14-year veteran of the NBA, Gasol has led Chicago in scoring 12 times, in boards 33 times and in assists eight times. He has scored 20 or more points 14 times, including two contests with at least 30 points. The Bulls big man has also grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 31 games. Gasol also joins former Bulls center Artis Gilmore (1978, 1979; 1981, 1982) and Joakim Noah (2013, 2014) as the only big men in team history to garner All-Star accolades in consecutive seasons.

The New York Knicks tossed head coach Derek Fisher to the curb this morning and put assistant Kurt Rambis in charge. But how long will Rambis get to run the show? For a while, apparently. Here’s the New York Post reporting:

Phil Jackson says interim Kurt Rambis will remain head coach

The interim label was firmly affixed to the new head coach, but Knicks president Phil Jackson insisted he has his man in Kurt Rambis and is not seeking candidates to replace Derek Fisher, ousted after a season and a half.

“Kurt Rambis will be the new coach. We’re not in a coaching hunt, looking for anybody else. He’s the associate head coach. I have complete confidence in his ability to coach this team,” Jackson said Monday, indicating Rambis will serve out at least the rest of the season. “He has plenty of experience.”

Now whether that experience or whatever happens in the Knicks’ final 28 games will be enough to bring Rambis back next season remains to be seen. But rolled up in 18 seasons of coaching experience, Rambis said, is his belief there is only one way to right the listing ship: Kurt Rambis’ way.

“It’s not necessarily different,” Rambis said when asked how he will vary from Fisher, fired Monday after compiling a 40-96 record in his first head-coaching job. “The recommendation and advice we all receive from veteran coaches: You’ve got to be yourself. You’ve got to do things your way so if you end up in a situation where you do get fired, you feel like you handled things the way you wanted.”

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