Archive for December 7th, 2012

Hornets insert Xavier Henry into starting lineup

Hornets coach Monty Williams announced before Friday night’s game against Memphis that he has made a change in his starting lineup.

Xavier Henry has been inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this season, replacing Al-Farouq Aminu, who had started every game so far this season.

Aminu is coming off a 3 for 6 shooting night in which he scored six points during Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Henry came off the bench to contribute eight points on 2 of 5 shooting in season-high 19 minutes against the Lakers.

– Reported by Terrance Harris of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio knows that there are a lot of expectations being put on his return to the Timberwolves. He knows he is being cast as the magic sand that will fill in every crack and mask any blemish in the team’s promising, if flawed, foundation as soon as he hits the court. It’s nothing new for basketball prodigy who has been carrying the weight of expectations since he was a teenager in Spain.

“I don’t know why, but the pressure has been following me since I turned pro,” Rubio told The Associated Press on Friday. “I was 14 and I was they said I was unimpressive. `He’s too young to play. He’s not going to do well.’ And I did well back in Spain.

“The pressure followed me when I came here and they said, `Oh Ricky’s coming after two years, he’s going to bring everything to this team.’ It’s just hard, but it’s something that I’m used to. I like the pressure, I like the challenge. The more difficult the challenge, the better it is for me.”

What makes this hurdle different than any other he’s had to leap before it is that Rubio is recovering from his first significant injury. It’s been almost nine months since he tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee late in a game against the Lakers, ending a terrific rookie season and sucking the life right out of a young Timberwolves team that he helped return to relevance in the Western Conference.

– Reported by Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press

In a possible blow to Virginia Beach’s efforts to lure the Sacramento Kings, the governor of Virginia doesn’t plan to include any subsidy for the team’s move in his proposed budget.

Virginia Beach officials were seeking $150 million in state funds to bring the Kings to their city, including a $70 million contribution toward a new arena and $80 million to assist the team’s relocation.

But Gov. Bob McDonnell won’t include any subsidy in his 2013 proposed budget. In a prepared statement, McDonnell’s spokesman, Tucker Martin, indicated the governor wasn’t convinced the proposed subsidy penciled out.

– Reported by Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee

pau gasol

David Kahn made a special guest media appearance at shootaround this morning to shoot down Thursday’s — the latest in a series of semi-regular such rumors — that the Lakers are refusing Wolves’ overtures for Pau Gasol.

Kahn said he hasn’t talked to the Lakers since last June. He didn’t say this, but that was when he was talking with the Lakers about a bigger deal that would have brought Gasol here and sent away Derrick Williams, probably to a third team.

The latest said the Lakers had turned down a Wolves deal built around Williams and Nikola Pekovic.

– Reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Rip Hamilton could be out longer than expected

When Richard Hamilton tore the plantar fascia in his left foot last weekend, there was a lot of one- to two-weeks thrown out there as the recovery time.

That still might be the case for the Bulls shooting guard, but Hamilton admitted on Friday that a month on the shelf might be more realistic.

“[The doctors] said four weeks, but they said I could probably come back before that,’’ Hamilton said. “Every one’s body is different, so it’s just one of those things where you want to try and get better every day.

“We’re working really hard on it, trying to get flexibility, trying to get the swelling down, get all the blood that’s in there down. Every day it gets better. The good thing about it is there hasn’t been a setback or anything like that.’’

– Reported by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times

The Portland Trail Blazers have assigned guard Will Barton and forward Victor Claver to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League, it was announced today by Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey.

Barton and Claver, both rookies, will join the Stampede tomorrow, Dec. 7 in advance of the team’s contests against the Austin Toros tomorrow night and on Saturday, Dec. 8, in Boise.

Barton, the 40th overall pick out of Memphis in the 2012 NBA Draft, has played in 16 games this season for the Trail Blazers, and has averages of 2.6 points, 1.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 8.8 minutes per game.

Claver has appeared in four games with Portland this season, and averages 0.3 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.3 assists and 5.8 minutes per contest. Claver was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 22nd pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and signed with Portland on July 11, 2012.

Wizards uncertain when John Wall will play

Ten weeks after the Wizards announced that John Wall would miss “approximately” eight weeks because of a stress injury in his left patella, the injured point guard is still unable to practice, scrimmage or even elevate to shoot.

Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Wall both referred to the injury as a “bump in the road” that wouldn’t keep him down for long, but the team now has no timetable for his return. His extended absence has raised concerns, but Coach Randy Wittman acknowledged Thursday that the original estimate was actually eight-to-12 weeks. Wittman began to panic when a reporter asked if Wall would return this season.

“I hope so. What the heck is that? You’re scaring me,” Wittman said before cursing a few times. “I just talked to my mother again today. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not looking at it like that”

He added, “We’re not hiding anything here.”

– Reported by Michael Lee of the Washington Post (Blog)

Former Lakers head coach Mike Brown not bitter

mike brown

“I don’t hold grudges against people, but it’s the Busses’ team and Mitch (Kupchak) is the GM and they have to make decisions and sometimes the decisions are tougher than others.”

Brown shakes off any notion that he got a raw deal. It was believed the Lakers would use a six-game homestand to evaluate Brown, but after numerous discussions, Lakers management unanimously decided that the team was going sideways and Brown was let go.

“I didn’t think anything (about how the decision was made),” Brown said. “My job was to coach the team as long as they allowed me to and that was as long as they allowed me.

“I got no hard feelings. You see me walk in here and I get to watch my son. He’s a senior. I’m enjoying my family. I enjoyed my time with the Lakers. I appreciate the opportunity the Busses gave me and Mitch gave me. I’ve moved on. I really have.” …

“It’s kind of funny because people say, ‘you don’t seem (upset),’” Brown said. “I tell them that I have no control over the decision, and I understand the business. So I’m thankful what they allowed me to do, I’m thankful for the opportunity and now I’m trying to cheer on my son’s team to a third victory.”

– Reported by Janis Carr of the Orange County Register

Eric Gordon making progress in his rehabilitation work

New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon is making progress in his rehabilitation work in Los Angeles to recover from a sore right knee, according to the team. Gordon was sent to Los Angeles a month ago to get more personalized rehabilitation work to help in his knee recovery and to strengthen his quad muscles.

Hornets spokesman Harold Kaufman said Thursday that Gordon’s quad muscles have strengthened to 65 percent, but there remains no set timetable on his return.

– Reported by John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Cavaliers assign Jon Leuer to D-League

Cavaliers assign Jon Leuer to D-League

The Cleveland Cavaliers have assigned forward Jon Leuer to the Canton Charge, the Cavaliers exclusively owned and operated NBA Development League team, Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant announced today.

Leuer has played in five games this season for the Cavs, averaging 3.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in 14.4 minutes per game.

He will be available for the Charge’s next game, Saturday, December 8th at Springfield against the Armor.

Ricky Rubio

Now, in just a few seasons, David Kahn and international scouting coordinator Pete Philo have given meat-and-potatoes Minnesota an international flavor as they’ve turned the Twin Cities into a destination location for top players from basketball hotbeds throughout Europe.

Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic, JJ Barea. Minnesota has five international players on the roster, tied with Cleveland for second-most in the NBA. San Antonio has eight international players, a league record.

“I think it’s pretty evident to me that there’s a lot of not just good players, but some of the very best players in our game who have come from overseas,” Kahn said. “To me, it’s just a natural extension of scouting. Just as you can’t afford to be negligent about the domestic side, you can’t afford to not be on top of matters internationally.”

The renewed focus is one of the biggest reasons the Timberwolves are competitive again in the powerful Western Conference. The Wolves drafted Rubio in 2009 - even though some mistakenly speculated he wanted to play in a bigger market - and the Spanish point guard turned into one of the most exciting young players in the NBA.

They signed Russian teammates Kirilenko and Shved this offseason, and the two have helped them weather a rough string of injuries early in the season.

– Reported by the Associated Press

Austin Rivers struggling to overcome shooting problems

In the past two games, New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Austin Rivers hasn’t made a shot from the field despite playing extended minutes off the bench. Rivers has combined to shoot 0-of-10 from the field after consecutive games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Lakers.

He missed all five shot attempts from the field and scored one point in Wednesday night’s 103-87 loss to the Lakers after going scoreless against the Bucks Monday night.

Though Rivers is shooting 28.3 percent from the field and averaging 6.1 points after 16 games, Hornets Coach Monty Williams said he has no plans of limiting his minutes.

– Reported by John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Avery Johnson unphased by flopping fines against Nets

The Nets are not only the only team to have two players cited for flopping so far this season, but they are the only one to have anyone fined for it.

Although Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans – two of Nets coach Avery Johnson’s best defenders – have already been first warned and then fined $5,000 under the league’s new anti-flopping rules, Johnson isn’t concerned it will impact the way either of them play.

“Not at all,” Johnson said when asked if the fines would change the mentality of either player. “I think there was another warning given, and you’re gonna see more warnings with other teams.

“We’re not getting picked on. We’re a good defensive team. Unfortunately, two of our guys have gotten fined, but both of our guys have guys that have gotten fined, Reggie and Gerald, it’s not gonna affect their play.”

– Reported by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has been found in contempt of court and ordered to pay $500,000 in back child support to his ex-wife, her attorney said Thursday.

The flamboyant basketball player known for his off-court antics was sentenced to informal probation, his ex-wife’s attorney, Mary Ann Noiroux, told City News Service. Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Barry Michaelson warned Rodman could face jail time if he doesn’t pay the child support, she said.

Rodman’s attorney, Linnea Willis, didn’t return an email from The Associated Press and a phone number did not take messages.

Another attorney for Rodman’s ex-wife argued in court that Rodman owed his ex-wife, Michelle Rodman, about $850,000, but Linnea Willis, the former NBA standout’s attorney, challenged that figure, Noiroux said.

– Reported by the Associated Press

Knicks earning some respect from Heat

The game lost some of its luster when Carmelo Anthony had to back out with a finger injury, but the Knicks definitely had the Miami Heat’s attention heading into Thursday night’s meeting.

The defending champs gave the Knicks, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2000, the ultimate respect, and it wasn’t because they beat Miami by 20 on opening night. The Heat’s star players, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, sounded as if they expect the Knicks to challenge them all season.

“In the Eastern Conference, you would have to look up and say they’re the measuring stick right now, and they would say the same about us,” Wade said at the morning shootaround.

Of course, the Heat thought Anthony was playing when those nice things were said. He sat out with a left middle finger laceration suffered in Wednesday’s win in Charlotte…

James didn’t want to give the Knicks much credit before they met in November, but he acknowledged that they’ve become tougher, smarter and harder to defend.

“They’re a more experienced team,” James said. “They’re more dangerous. They added a key piece in Jason Kidd. His basketball IQ is pretty much one of the highest that we have in this league. It kind of trickles down to everyone else.”

– Reported by Al Iannazzone of New York Newsday

Or, as LeBron James put it after putting himself through a postgame workout — as if he, with 31 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists was the problem — “They kicked our ass. They have pretty much dominated us in two games.”

That’s the reality, and Thursday the Knicks did so without Carmelo Anthony, hitting 18-of-44 shots from behind the arc.

“We’ve got work to do,” James said. “We can’t act like, OK, let’s just sweep this under the rug. We’ve got a lot of work to do. New York is a real team, they’ve got

some real good players, and we understand that.”

Why did James work up a postgame sweat in the weight room?

“I’ve got to be better,” James said. “I’ve got to be better. It’s that simple. I’m here, and I’m the last one to leave.”

– Reported by Ethan J. Snolnick of the Palm Beach Post 

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