Archive for December, 2018

 

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The Jazz have gone in the wrong direction so far this season. At just 17-19 they have just the 12th best record in the Western conference. But now here’s the good news: it’s a crowded conference, with lots of teams boasting similar records. They’re only 2.5 games behind the 8-seed Kings, and only 6 games behind the 1-seed Nuggets. There’s plenty of time for them to rise. As for young star Donovan Mitchell, here’s the Salt Lake Tribune reporting:

Once people saw what Mitchell was capable of, they asked for growth — even despite a foot injury that severely hampered what he was able to do this summer. And once NBA opponents saw how Mitchell propelled the Jazz to great heights, they changed their game plans to stop him.

The result has been an inconsistent second season in which Mitchell’s numbers have taken a small step back from the heights of his rookie year. He’s still averaging just over 20 points per game, but taking an extra shot in order to get there. The rebounds, the assists, the 3-point shooting, and the turnovers are all about five percent worse than last season.

By any reasonable standard, Mitchell’s sophomore season has been impressive: second-year players who carry their teams offensively are a rarity in the NBA for good reason. And yet, that rookie season in which he put his stamp on the franchise, the city, even the league itself holds Mitchell to a higher plane.

As for the team as a whole, they remain one of the league’s best defensive teams. But the offense has a lot of work to do.

At 9 p.m. tonight, the OKC Thunder face the Suns in Phoenix. But they’ll be doing so without not just one of their best players, but one of the league’s best players so far this season. Here’s the Oklahoman reporting:

For the first time this season, the Thunder will be without Paul George.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan announced Friday morning that George would miss tonight’s game against the Suns with a right quad contusion. Donovan was uncertain of when George sustained the injury, but said it was an ailment George has been playing with for some time.

George is having a fantastic season, and was especially excellent in December games.

The Suns have one of the league’s worst records, but Devin Booker recently returned from injury and during almost all games played in his return the team has looked far better. Phoenix has won five of their last seven games.

The Chicago Bulls today signed Brandon Sampson to a Two-Way contract. This just after the team waived Two-Way player Tyler Ulis.

Sampson, a 6-foot-5, 184-pound guard, played three seasons at Louisiana State University, then went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft . This season, he has played in 18 games (18 starts) in the G League for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 17.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 35.1 minutes per game. In college at LSU, Sampson played in 85 games (40 starts) between 2015-18, averaging 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He scored a career-high 24 points twice in the 2016-17 season.

A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Louisiana in 2015.

Sampson on the Bulls will wear jersey No. 44.

Thunder waive two-way player Tyler Davis

The Oklahoma City Thunder has waived two-way player Tyler Davis today.

Davis, a 6-foot-10, 266-pound center born in Plano, Texas and played college basketball at Texas A&M, played just one minute in one game for the Thunder this season. As a two-way player he naturally spent most of his time with the Oklahoma City Blue in the G League, where in 15 games (eight starts) he averaged 17.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.87 blocks in 26.7 minutes per game.

The Thunder are 21-12 this season, which through yesterday’s games is the third best record in a very tight Western conference. The team is off tonight, but tomorrow heads to Phoenix to play a Suns team that lately is playing much better basketball than they were earlier in the season.

Detroit Pistons injury updates on Glenn Robinson III (left ankle sprain) and Ish Smith (right adductor tear).

Glenn Robinson III has resumed basketball activity and is advancing on-court work this week with the goal to be ready for a return to action sometime during the club’s upcoming four-game road trip. That trip begins Friday at Indiana.

Ish Smith’s rehabilitation from an adductor tear has progressed to limited on-court basketball activities including strength work, light running and light shooting. His progression will continue to be monitored over the next 2-3 weeks with a gradual load increase and escalation towards full basketball related activity.

 

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The Warriors are so good that you can literally set a shooting record against them and still lose. It was a close game, though. Here’s the O.C. Register reporting on an impressive Clippers performance, even if it resulted in an L:

After Sunday’s 129-127 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Clippers forward Tobias Harris joked with reporters in Oakland that he knew he and his teammates were going to have a spectacular shooting night.

“Oh, I definitely felt it, right before the game,” Harris said with a chuckle.

Once the game began, the Clippers definitely were feeling it: They shot 78.3 percent (18 for 23) from 3-point range, an NBA record for a team with 15-plus makes or 20-plus attempts in a single game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Their 18 makes from deep — including an NBA-record 13 on 14 tries in the first half — tied a franchise record for second-most in a game.

The Warriors host the Lakers today, while the Clippers on Wednesday will host the Kings.

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On the Dec. 25 Lakers vs. Warriors game

At 8 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN, LeBron James and the Lakers visit Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the Warriors. Here’s the LA Daily News with some thoughts on the matchup:

The timing of the game is intriguing, given that the Lakers are coming off a week hot with James saying he’d like to play alongside Anthony Davis. With rumors earlier in the month that the Lakers were open to trading for Trevor Ariza and other trade talk rumors continually circling the team, even a regular season game can take on a mountain of seemingly high stakes. It has the feeling of an audition — even if that’s not something the Lakers will admit.

For their own part, the Lakers did their best to tamp down the importance of the Warriors’ game. Both Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said it was just another game, and Luke Walton said he thought it was imprudent to start sizing up how the Lakers match up with the Warriors.

“I never like to put too much importance on one game as far as it shows you how close or how far you are,” he said. “They’re a team that can hit 30 threes in a night, doesn’t mean they’re that much better than you, or we can go up there and win. Doesn’t mean now they need to close that gap to us. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

The only Laker who admitted to looking forward to the game more than others was JaVale McGee, who will be receiving his 2018 championship ring before the game.

Tuesday’s NBA Christmas day action begins at 12 p.m. ET with the Knicks hosting the Bucks.

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Austin Rivers signs with Rockets

 

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The Houston Rockets have signed free agent guard Austin Rivers for the remainder of the season.

Originally drafted 10th overall by New Orleans in the 2012 NBA Draft, the 6-4, 200 Rivers played one season at Duke.

Rivers, now in his 7th NBA season, has played in 437 games (132 starts), averaging 9.3 points, 2.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 24.2 minutes per game.

Last season, as a Clipper, Rivers averaged career highs of 15.1 points, 4.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.21 steals. He also averaged a career-best 2.2 3-pointers made on 37.8% shooting.

The 26-year-old started this season with Washington prior to being traded to the Suns on Dec. 17.

The Rockets are 17-15 this season and host the OKC Thunder tomorrow.

Look. Different teams have different expectations. One example are the Spurs, who made the playoffs every season for many years. Then, for another example, let’s look at the Kings, who aren’t in the playoffs very often. And it’ll be tough this year as well, but they’re in the competition. They’re winning more than losing. Here’s the Sacramento Bee reporting:

The Kings (18-15) will have a .500 record on Christmas Day for the first time since the 2004-05 season. They will visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday and play host to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday before returning to Los Angeles to face the Lakers again Sunday.

Sacramento moved into seventh place in the Western Conference, one game behind the Lakers, Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers, who were tied for fourth.

“We’re in the race,” Willie Cauley-Stein said.

It’s true and it’s remarkable, considering this is a young team — thought to be in the early stages of another rebuild 12 years after its last playoff appearance — that was projected to win fewer than 30 games.

The Kings are being led this season by Buddy Hield (20.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg), De’Aaron Fox (18.1 ppg, 7.5 apg), Bogdan Bogdanovic (15.1 ppg, 3.9 apg) and Willie Cauley-Stein (13.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg).

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The Grizzlies on Sunday outscored the Lakers by 11 points in the 4th quarter to leave Los Angeles with a 107-99 win. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. did big things in the win. Here’s the Los Angeles Times reporting:

Jackson finished with 27 points while Marc Gasol and Conley each scored 17 for the Grizzlies.

Lebron James led the Lakers with 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Ivica Zubac added 19 points and Brandon Ingram had 20.

Although center JaVale McGee was cleared to play, the Lakers held him out for one more game as he recovers from an illness that eventually became pneumonia. McGee played against the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 15 after he began to feel ill, then missed the Lakers’ next three games.

The Lakers are now 19-14 this season, which puts them in a three-way tie for the 4th best record in the Western conference. The Grizzlies are now 17-16, which is the 10th best record in the West — yet they are just 5.5 games out of first place. Because that’s how close the West is this season.

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Timberwolves struggling badly on road

 

 

 

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The Timberwolves are 14-18 through Friday’s games, and their home vs away record is shocking: They’re 12-5 when playing in Minneapolis, and just 2-13 as the Away team. Here’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting:

Jeff Teague was playing hurt for over a month on an injured left ankle that finally caused him to sit out the past three games. Teague is expected out for perhaps more than a week…

But now Derrick Rose is on the mend after he tried to play through his own injured left ankle, an injury that forced him out the second half of Friday’s 124-98 loss to the Spurs…

The Wolves are in a precarious spot entering Sunday’s game. Their 2-13 road record is worst in the Western Conference, and five of their next six games are on the road.

“It’s not physical. It all comes down to the mental aspect,” forward Taj Gibson said. “You’re on the road a lot and things aren’t going your way, it’s all a mental block. … We got to be resilient. We can’t worry about things we could’ve done. We have to worry about the future.”

The Timberwolves this season are being led by Karl-Anthony Towns in points (21.0 ppg), rebounds (11.6 rpg) and blocks (1.8 bpg), and by Jeff Teague in assists (8.3 apg) and Robert Covington in steals (2.5 spg).

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Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova underwent surgery yesterday to repair a fractured nose.

The injury occurred during a December 16 team practice.

Ilyasova is out, and the team hasn’t specified an estimated return date yet.

Ilyasova has played in 24 games (two starts) this season, averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 19.9 minutes per game while shooting 43.0 percent from the field.

Chris Paul out with hamstring injury

Following an MRI yesteday afternoon, Dr. Steven Flores of Memorial Hermann has diagnosed veteran star Rockets guard Chris Paul with a Grade-2 left hamstring strain.

Paul will be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks.

The injury was sustained during the second quarter of Thursday’s game against the Heat in Miami. It was a close game, that the Rockets wound up losing, 101-99. Paul played 12 minutes, totaling four points and four assists.

Paul has played in 26 games this season, averaging 15.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game. He’s shooting just 41.5% FG, which is by far his lowest in years.

The Rockets are just 16-15 so far this season, which through Friday’s games would place them 9th in the Western conference. They have suffered a massive dropoff in defensive efficiency this season from last year.

NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Kiki VanDeWeghe announced this evening that Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has been fined $25,000 for verbally abusing game officials and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection.

Atkinson received a technical foul and was ejected with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Nets’ 114-106 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Friday, Dec. 21 at Barclays Center.

The Washington Wizards have signed free agent guard Ron Baker.

“Ron is a tough and physical defender who can give us added depth in the backcourt,” said Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld. “He is a hard-nosed player who will have the chance to earn minutes with his competitiveness and intensity.”

Baker (6-4, 220) has averaged 3.3 points, 1.8 assists and 1.5 rebounds over 92 NBA career games (14 starts), all with New York. He was released by the Knicks on Dec. 13 after averaging 1.3 points and 1.2 assists in 11 games on the season. As an undrafted rookie out of Wichita State, Baker averaged 4.1 points, 2.1 assists and 1.9 rebounds for New York during the 2016-17 season. He averaged 13.2 points over his four years as a Shocker, earning All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team honors three times and All-Defensive First Team honors once.

The Wizards have waived forward Okaro White. White, who was originally signed as a free agent on Nov. 21, appeared in three games for Washington this season.

Remember guard Patrick McCaw? He got some attention while on the most famous team in the world, the championship-winning Warriors. He averaged 4.0 points per game in 2016-17, and that same number in 2017-18. You probably haven’t thought about him in a while. That’s because he hasn’t been on the court this season. Here’s Yahoo Sports with an update on what the Warriors may be thinking about the situation:

The Golden State Warriors are still prepared to match any offer sheet for restricted free-agent holdout guard Patrick McCaw, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

McCaw, 23, has held out this season and stayed away from the team in an attempt to secure a contract of his liking or in hopes that the Warriors would renounce him, setting free the No. 38 pick in the 2016 NBA draft to sign with any team without restriction.

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Injuries have been a season-long problem for the 2018-19 Chicago Bulls.

Bobby Portis, who has played in just nine games so far this season, injured his right ankle in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game against the Nets. An MRI and repeat physical exam were performed this morning, and he was diagnosed with a sprained ankle.

Portis will be out two-to-four weeks.

The Bulls are 7-25 this season, which as of today is the worst record in the NBA.

Zach LaVine injured his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Bulls game against the Orlando Magic in Mexico City on Dec. 13.

Additional medical opinions taken since then agreed with the original diagnosis of a medial ankle sprain.

LaVine will be out approximately two-to-four weeks from the date of the injury. So, he could be out around one-to-three more weeks.

The young, rebuilding Bulls are 7-25 this season. ZaVine at 23.8 points per game has been their leading scorer.

Oklahoma City Thunder guards Raymond Felton and Dennis Schroder have each been suspended one game without pay for leaving the bench area during an altercation and participating in the altercation which spilled over into the spectator stands, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

As part of the same incident, Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez has been fined $25,000 for escalating the altercation, Thunder forward Jerami Grant has been fined $20,000 for escalating the altercation, and Bulls guard Kris Dunn has been fined $15,000 for instigating the altercation by shoving Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.

The incident, for which Dunn, Westbrook, Grant and Lopez each received technical fouls, occurred with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter of Oklahoma City’s 121-96 victory over Chicago on Dec. 17 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Felton and Schroder will serve their suspensions tonight when the Thunder visits the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center.

Evan Fournier discusses life on the road

Here’s the Orlando Sentinel reporting on the Magic, who are 8-8 at home and 6-7 on the road so far this season:

The Magic play the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday at Amway Center after two games in Mexico City. Those games were preceded by a trip to Dallas for a game against the Mavericks.

Evan Fournier was just happy to get back in his own bed.

“How about that schedule, though?” Fournier said while shaking his head. “How about that schedule? Oh my God. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen.”

The Magic — who are coming off back-to-back wins — play San Antonio, then travel to Chicago, then are home for four consecutive games before hitting the road for six games in a row.

“It’s just like… we’re never home,” said Fournier, who is in his seventh year in the NBA. “When I got into my bed last night, it felt like I haven’t seen my bed in years. I don’t know. It feels like we’re always on the road.”

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