Signs that you know Shaquille O’Neal and his team are still in the honeymoon phase:
- He actually shows on screens when the coaching staff asks him to. (Well actually…)
- He hasn’t completely ripped the team’s star player. (If you think he won’t one day rip LeBron, you weren’t paying attention when he left Phoenix. If Steve Nash isn’t spared from Shaq’s wrath, I don’t know who would be.)
- He’s actually working to stay in shape.
That last one’s pretty important. Injuries have never really been Shaq’s problem, but working to recover from them while staying in shape has been. He’s notorious for his slow recovery periods, and when he left a Cavs game with a broken thumb, I won’t pretend it didn’t create some parallels to his infamous toe injuries.
I expected Shaq to return in time for the playoffs, but out of shape and perhaps unable to resume play at his previous level.
I was wrong. At least according to this piece of anecdotal evidence by Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
During the first quarter while his teammates were out playing the
Pistons, Shaquille O’Neal was in the weight room at The Q working out
and doing some light rehab with his thumb, which is out of a cast and
now in a small splint. He wasn’t on a scale, but to the naked eye he appears to have lost
weight since he went down with the injury just about a month ago.
When he left to go to Florida after the surgery he was telling
teammates that he’d not just be back before the end of the regular
season, but that he’d be in better shape when he comes back than went
he left. Nothing can prepare anyone for playing in real games and it will
probably take a while for him to get some rhythm when he does return.
But if there were any concerns about O’Neal letting himself go because
he’s not playing, take it from me — it appears to have been quite the
Shaq is pretty essential for the Cleveland’s playoff run, and to know that O’Neal isn’t treating his time off the court like a vacation has to bring a few sighs of relief from Cavs fans. There will still be some adjustment to work out how O’Neal and Antawn Jamison play alongside each other upon Shaq’s return, but the two are fairly complementary. It should only be a matter of time before battle station Cavaliers is fully operational, and if that doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of men, I don’t know what could.
After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.
Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.
They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.
Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.
The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.
76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.
The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.
LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.
“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”
LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.
But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.
The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.
It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.
Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.
So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.
Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.
Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.
Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.