Derrick Favors playing great season for Jazz

Derrick Favors enjoying good season for Jazz

Scan the top 20 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and you’ll find a host of perennial All-Stars and MVP candidates. Also in the mix is a fifth-year big man who keeps progressing and has helped stabilize a young, developing team. Derrick Favors, 23, is enjoying his best season yet for the Jazz, setting career highs in scoring (15.7 ppg), field goal percentage (54.4, 10th in the NBA) and PER (22.45, 16th in the league) while approaching personal bests in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and blocked shots (1.6 bpg). Favors has already made nearly as many mid-range shots this season (51) as he did all of last season (54), and his field goal percentage on those attempts has improved to 38.6 from 30.9. The 6-10, 262-pound Favors has been a standout during the recent turnaround for Utah, which has gone a solid 10-11 since a 6-19 start.

Clippers set to begin tough road trip

Clippers set to begin tough road trip

Los Angeles has won eight of 10, including Wednesday’s victory at Utah, its 13th straight against the Jazz. The Clippers play their next seven games on the road, including stops in San Antonio, Cleveland, Toronto, Oklahoma City and Dallas. During the 8-2 stretch, DeAndre Jordan is averaging 12.8 points while shooting 79.1 percent from the field. He leads the NBA in field goal percentage (73 percent) and rebounding (13.3 rpg). He’s also blocked at least one shot in 33 straight games, the longest current streak in the NBA. Blake Griffin has also been on a tear, shooting 54.5 percent from field and averaging 23.0 points over his last 10 games.

Zach Randolph a big key to Grizzlies success

Zach Randolph a big key to Grizzlies success

When you consider how well the Grizzlies have played this season — they started 21-4 — losing three of five to begin the new year was a modest slump. Then came the trade for Jeff Green on Jan. 12, which has helped stabilize the small forward position. Green is averaging 12.9 points in eight games with Memphis, which is 7-1 with the 28-year-old in the lineup. Other positives have coincided with the trade, most notably Zach Randolph averaging 19.6 points (59.2 percent shooting) and 13.1 rebounds in 10 games since returning from a nine-game absence for a right knee injury. The Grizzlies are 8-2 in those games. Overall, the Grizzlies are 29-7 with Randolph in the lineup and 4-5 without him. Memphis improved to 33-12 after a 109-90 win at Dallas on Tuesday, good for second in the West, and hosts Denver tonight (8 p.m. ET) in the first game of a doubleheader on TNT.

San Antonio Spurs notes

San Antonio Spurs notes

San Antonio Spurs notes

Gregg Popovich celebrated his 66th birthday on Wednesday with a win over Charlotte, the Spurs’ ninth victory in 11 games. He got an early birthday present with the return of Kawhi Leonard, who missed 17 of 19 games with a hand injury before returning to the lineup on Jan. 16. In seven games this month, Leonard is averaging 15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals. He’s had three games with at least 14 rebounds. In short, his energy and physicality have raised the bar for a team that’s been fighting to keep pace on the heels of an outstanding postseason run in 2014. With Tony Parker nursing a bad hamstring for the better part of two months, and posting his lowest scoring (14.5 ppg) and assist (4.7 apg) numbers since his rookie season (2001-02), other players have stepped up. In 16 games since returning from a shoulder injury, Patty Mills is averaging 10.1 points in 20.5 minutes and shooting 39.4 percent from three-point range.

Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague named to 2015 East All-Star team

Al Horford, Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague have been selected by the Eastern Conference coaches to the All-Star team, and will compete in the 2015 All-Star game on Sunday, Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York. This marks the first time since 1980 that the Hawks have had three All-Stars.

“It is an honor for our entire organization to have Al, Paul and Jeff selected to play on the All-Star stage,” said Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer, who will serve as head coach of the Eastern Conference squad. “The recognition is well-deserved for each of them. We are very proud of the guys, and also want to acknowledge the rest of our players and coaches for their roles in helping our players reach this accomplishment.”

Horford, an All-Star for the third time (also 2010 and 2011), is averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 blocks in 30.5 minutes (.551 FG%, .750 FT%), having played in 44 contests. He ranks ninth in the NBA in FG%, 17th in assist-turnover ratio (2.77), 18th in FGM (300) and t20th in bpg. Horford owns eight double-doubles and recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points on 8-10 shooting, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 29 minutes at Philadelphia on Jan. 13. He was named the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week twice this season, for games played 12/15-12/21 and for 1/12-1/18.

“I feel honored to represent the Hawks and the city of Atlanta again,” Horford said. ”I want to give credit to our coaches and my teammates, as I know I wouldn’t be in this position without their support. I look forward to enjoying the time in New York and being a part of All-Star.”

Making his second consecutive All-Star appearance, Millsap is putting in team-bests of 17.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals to go along with 3.2 assists in 33.3 minutes in 45 games (all starts), hitting .487 FGs, .364 3FGs and .753 FTs. He ranks 12th in the league in spg, t22nd in FTM (175), 24th in rpg and 36th in ppg. He is also seventh in the NBA in +/- radio (+331). He has scored in double-figures 42 times, including 12 20-point nights, and has 11 double-doubles.

“It’s a privilege to be an All-Star for the second straight year,” Millsap said. “I know the success our team has had so far this season is a major factor, so my teammates and coaches are the reason that I have this opportunity. I’m proud to be representing them in New York.”

In his sixth season, all with the Hawks, Teague is headed to the All-Star game for the first time. In 42 games this season (41 starts), he’s compiled 17.0 points, 7.5 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals in 31.3 minutes (.470 FG%, .331 3FG%, .866 FT%). Teague is sixth in the NBA in apg, 11th in spg, 14th in FT%, 15th in assist-turnover ratio (2.86), t22nd in FTM (175) and 36th in ppg. He has scored in double-digits 34 times, with 19 20-point outings, and has nine games with 10-or-more assists. Teague was the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played 12/29-1/4.

“I’d like to thank the Eastern Conference coaches,” Teague said. “Being named to the All-Star team means a lot to me and to my family, and I’m going to truly enjoy the entire experience. I’m only as successful as the team, so my teammates and coaches share in this honor.”

The Hawks are currently a Conference-best 38-8 (.826) and on a franchise record 17-game win streak (15-0 in January). Atlanta is 31-2 (.939) over the last 33 contests, and are 30 games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 1996-97 season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Atlanta is the fifth team in the last 20 seasons to win 38 of their first 46 games.

Knicks sign Lou Amundson for remainder of season

Knicks sign Lou Amundson for remainder of season

New York Knicks President Phil Jackson announced today that the team has signed forward Lou Amundson for the remainder of the season.

Amundson, 6-9, 225-pounds, is averaging 6.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists over 22.9 minutes in seven games (six starts) with New York signing the first of two consecutive 10-day contracts on Jan. 10.

According to the New York Post, “After the Knicks waived him, the undrafted Amundson, 32, figured he’d be looking for his 11th NBA club. But team president Phil Jackson decided to re-sign him to a 10-day contract and then another. His performance has surprised everyone. “It’s great, especially the way my career has gone,’’ Amundson said. “I’m really thankful they gave me that opportunity to come here and show my worth. I’ve had a lot of hard work in my career over the years and not get that opportunity.’’

Knicks assign Cleanthony Early to D-League

Knicks assign Cleanthony Early to D-League

The New York Knicks have assigned rookie forward Cleanthony Early to the Westchester Knicks of the NBA Development League.

Early, 6-8, 220-pounds, has had a limited role (and limited impact) for the Knicks in his first season as a pro. He is averaging 4.5 points and 1.9 rebounds over 14.3 minutes in 15 games for New York. The NBA rookie is expected to be in uniform tonight when Westchester hosts the Sioux Falls Skyforce at the historic Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY at 7 p.m.

The Knicks have a 9-38 record this season, which is the second worst winning percentage in the league through Thursday’s games. However, they have played better recently, beating a few other struggling teams.

Sacramento Kings sign Quincy Miller to second 10-day contract

michael redd

The Sacramento Kings announced today that the team has signed Quincy Miller to a second 10-day contract, according to Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro. Miller will be eligible to play in tonight’s contest against the Cavaliers.

Miller signed his first 10-day contract on January 17 after averaging a NBA D-League-leading 26.3 points (.522 FG%, .356 3pt%, .895 FT%), 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals and league-best 3.7 blocks in 14 games for the Reno Bighorns, Sacramento’s NBA D-League affiliate. Upon joining the Kings, Miller saw action in two contests, totaling 14 points (3-11 FG, 1-4 3pt, 7-9 FT), eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 40 minutes off the bench.

Originally selected by Denver with the 38th overall selection in the 2012 NBA Draft, the 6-10, 220-pound forward posted averages of 4.5 points (.366 FG%, .702 FT%), 2.5 rebounds and 0.54 blocks in 59 games (started 16) over two seasons for the Nuggets.

DeMarcus Cousins replaces injured Kobe Bryant on 2015 All-Star team

demarcus cousins

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins was named by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Western Conference All-Star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, it was announced today by the NBA. Cousins’ selection marks the first time a Kings player will participate in an All-Star game since Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic represented Sacramento in 2004. He will become the sixth player during the Sac-era, and 23rd in franchise history to represent the Kings in the All-Star Game.

“I’m extremely excited to play in my first All-Star game,” said Cousins. “I appreciate the recognition and want to also thank my teammates and the fans for their support throughout the season. Representing the Kings and the city of Sacramento is a great honor.”

“Everyone in the Kings organization is thrilled for DeMarcus and happy that his diligence and commitment to becoming the best player he can be has been recognized,” said Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro.

“This honor is a result of the hard work and determination DeMarcus has shown throughout the season,” said Kings Head Coach Tyrone Corbin. “He dedicated himself to improving those talents that make him a special player and he is demonstrating every night how unique an athlete he is in this league.”

In his fifth NBA campaign, Cousins is averaging 23.8 points (.481 FG%, .806 FT%), 12.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.38 steals, 1.63 blocks and 33.8 minutes per game in 32 contests, leading the Kings in scoring, rebounding, and blocks. He was named the Western Conference Player of the Week for games played Nov. 17-23 after registering 25.7 points (.577 FG%, .773 FT%), 16.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.71 blocks per game in leading Sacramento to a 2-1 week. Cousins appears among NBA leaders in several categories ranking fourth in double-doubles (26), fifth in scoring and third in rebounding.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr, who earned the right to coach the West squad because the Warriors clinched the best record in the conference through games played Feb. 1, will determine who replaces Bryant in the starting lineup.

Magic may be close to firing Jacque Vaughn

Magic may be close to firing Jacque Vaughn

The 15-34 Orlando Magic have the fifth worst winning percentage in the NBA so far this season, and have lost seven games in a row. Head coach Jacque Vaughn’s job may be in jeopardy. Yahoo Sports reports:

Magic may soon part ways with coach Jacque Vaughn

The Orlando Magic are close to firing coach Jacque Vaughn and a change could come soon, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

As embarrassing losses accumulate, Vaughn is rapidly running out of time to show the progress needed to make it through the next several days – never mind the fourth and final year of his contract in 2015-’16, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

“It isn’t a matter of ‘if,’ anymore, but ‘when,’” a source close to the decision-making process told Yahoo Sports about Vaughn’s fading job security.

Miami Heat sign Tyler Johnson to second 10-day contract

The Miami HEAT announced today that they have signed guard Tyler Johnson to a second 10-day contract.

Johnson, who was originally signed to a 10-day contract by the HEAT on January 12, appeared in one game with Miami totaling two points on a perfect 2-of-2 from the foul line in 1:44 minutes of action. He has appeared in 15 games (all starts) with the HEAT’s NBA Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, this season averaging 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.00 steals and 34.5 minutes while shooting 48.8 percent from the field, 43.5 percent from three-point range and 80.8 percent from the foul line.

He appeared in two games with the Skyforce, after his first 10-day contract expired, posting an 18-point, 11-assist double-double on January 24 and then scoring 19 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out five assists on January 27, both resulting in victories.

Bucks sign Kenyon Martin for rest of season

Milwaukee Bucks sign Kenyon Martin for rest of season

Bucks sign Kenyon Martin for remainder of season

The Milwaukee Bucks have signed forward/center Kenyon Martin for the remainder of the 2014-15 season, General Manager John Hammond announced today. Martin has appeared in eight games for the Bucks this season and averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 5.9 minutes per game. Martin signed his initial 10-day contract with the Bucks on Jan. 9, and was signed to a second 10-day deal on Jan. 19.

The media spotlight is a powerful thing.  It is usually quite good for those who need publicity, but can also quite a distraction for others who are already well-known and would appreciate a little less attention once in a while. Such is the struggle of pro athletes who live the life we all dream of. Here’s the Los Angeles Daily News reporting:

Pau Gasol does not miss media glare of Los Angeles

Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls on Thursday morning talked about his emotional return to Los Angeles to face the Lakers on Thursday night at Staples Center. He spoke of the memories he’ll realize once he steps onto the floor and all sorts of warm and fuzzy things.

He doesn’t miss the media scrutiny of Los Angeles, however. He made no bones about that.

“Obviously, when things were going well here, it was exceptional,” said Gasol, who spent seven seasons with the Lakers and helped them win NBA titles in 2009 and 2010. “They say L.A. and New york are two of the top cities, the best cities to win at. But they’re probably two of the tougher cities to lose and struggle because you get so much coverage that media have to create stories.”

Remember Steve Nash? Of course you do. He’s had a fantastic NBA career. But the part that many fans may have forgotten is, he’s still a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s ESPN Los Angeles reporting:

Yes, Lakers GM says he is in contact with Steve Nash

Lakers guard Steve Nash has basically been a ghost since October, when he was declared out for the season because of back injuries.

Nash hasn’t been a visible presence at games, and while Lakers coach Byron Scott said he has hoped that Nash would be around to help mentor younger players, Scott strangely added that he’s had consistent trouble reaching Nash by phone.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has a different view.

“He’s around,” Kupchak said after shootaround at the Lakers’ practice facility Thursday. “I’ve had multiple meetings with Steve. We have breakfast once a month. He will work with some of our players. He may have already started doing that. He’s not going to go out and advertise [but] he’s doing it. … As the season progresses, he’ll be more engaged.”

Nic Batum status uncertain for Friday

Here’s the Oregonian with a Trail Blazers update for a very big Friday matchup:

Nicolas Batum’s status for the Trail Blazers’ Friday night game against the hottest team in the NBA is uncertain.

Batum was a game-time decision before the Blazers visited the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, and the starting small forward did not decide to play until about an hour before tipoff, after going through a pregame shooting session. Batum, who has played with a sprained right wrist since Dec. 17, was grimacing throughout the session, but decided to play through the pain.

Spurs sign Reggie Williams to 10-day contract

Spurs sign Reggie Williams to 10-day contract

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have signed forward Reggie Williams of the Oklahoma City Blue to a 10-day contract.

Williams, 6-6/210, has appeared in 13 games this season for the Blue of the NBA D-League, averaging 16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.08 steals in 31.9 minutes. He has also spent time in the D-League with the Blue in 2013-14 and the Sioux Falls Skyforce in 2009-10. In 69 career D-League games, he has averaged 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists in 37.7 minutes.

In the NBA, the Virginia native has suited up for the Oklahoma City Thunder (2013-14), Charlotte Hornets (2011-13) and the Golden State Warriors (2009-11). In 180 total games, he has averaged 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 19.7 minutes.

Williams has also played internationally for San Miguel Beerman of the Philippines (2014), Caja Laboral of Spain (2011) and JDA Dijon of France (2008-09). He played collegiately at the Virginia Military Institute (2004-08).

Williams will wear No. 55 for the Silver and Black.

Jazz sign Chris Johnson to 10-day contract

Jazz sign Chris Johnson to 10-day contract

Jazz sign Chris Johnson to 10-day contract

The Utah Jazz announced today that the team has signed forward Chris Johnson of the NBA Development League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers to a 10-day contract. Johnson becomes the NBA’s 24th overall NBA D-League Call-Up of the 2014-15 season and the 22nd different player to be called up.

Following the move, the Jazz roster now stands at 15 players.

The 24-year-old Johnson (6-6, 201, Dayton) appeared in 14 games (all starts) for the Vipers this season, averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals in 35.3 minutes per contest. He scored in double figures on 13 occasions and recorded 20-plus points in eight games, including one 30-point contest. He started the 2014-15 season with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 6.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals in 20.8 minutes while scoring in double figures twice in nine games (two starts), before being waived on Nov. 15.

Johnson has spent portions of three seasons with the 76ers (2014-15), Boston Celtics (2013-14) and Memphis Grizzlies (2012-13), appearing in 57 NBA games (two starts) and owns averages of 5.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game and has scored in double figures 12 times. He has also appeared in 73 D-League games (58 starts) over three seasons for Rio Grande Valley, holding averages of 14.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.6 steals in 31.4 minutes. He was a member of the Vipers’ 2013 D-League Championship team, a 2014 NBA D-League All-Star selection and was recently named to the 2015 NBA D-League Showcase Second Team.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Johnson played four seasons at Dayton (2008-12), where he earned Atlantic 10 All-Championship Team honors following his junior season and was the 2010 Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player recipient and helped lead the Flyers to a 2010 NIT championship. He was not selected in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Johnson becomes the 15th D-League Call-Up in Jazz history, and the fourth this season.

He will wear uniform #23 for the Jazz.

Kemba Walker out at least six weeks after knee surgery

Kemba Walker out at least six weeks after knee surgery

Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker underwent successful surgery today to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. The procedure was completed by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Walker’s recovery time is expected to be a minimum of six weeks.

Walker is the Hornets’ leader in points (18.8), assists (5.2) and steals (1.4). Walker averaged 23.0 points on .429 shooting from the field (171-399), including .355 from beyond the three-point line (43-121) over his last 21 games played. He scored at least 28 points in six straight games from Jan. 3-14, the longest streak of his career and the second-longest streak in the NBA this season behind only Russell Westbrook’s nine straight games from Dec. 12-26. Walker scored 20 or more points in 14 of his last 21 games played.

The Hornets are 19-26 this season, and have been on a roll recently, winning 8 of their last 10 games. They will absolutely miss Walker, though, who along with center Al Jefferson is the heart and soul of the team.

Timberwolves sign Lorenzo Brown to 10-day contract

Timberwolves sign Lorenzo Brown to 10-day contract

The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced the team has signed guard Lorenzo Brown to a 10-day contract.

Originally drafted by Minnesota with the 52nd pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Brown appeared in three preseason contests with the Wolves before being waived on October 25, 2013. He signed with Philadelphia a month later, averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 assists in 8.6 minutes over 26 games.

This season Brown has played in 19 games (17 starts) with the D-League’s Grand Rapids Drive, averaging 16.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Brown has appeared in 39 games (31 starts) in the D-League and holds career averages of 17.1 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game.

In a related transaction, the Timberwolves released center Miroslav Raduljica from his 10-day contract. Raduljica appeared in five games with Minnesota and averaged 1.6 points and 1.0 rebounds.

Mirza Teletovic health update

Mirza Teletovic health update

Mirza Teletovic health update

The following is a statement from Brooklyn Nets team physician Dr. Michael Farber:

“Mirza was diagnosed with pulmonary embolus on January 22 and started on the appropriate medications for this condition. Diagnostic testing was arranged and he was then observed until testing showed that he reached the expected therapeutic range. We are pleased to say that he reports no symptoms at this time and that he will be discharged to return home today.”

“This was a true collaborative effort between our medical team and training staff and the local physicians at the Los Angeles hospital where Mirza was treated. I am really pleased with how Mirza has progressed. We will evaluate him upon return, personally review all of the testing he had done, and arrange for further testing if necessary.”

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