NBA Draft: Nuggets looking to move up, willing to trade Lawson

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According to ESPN Draft Insider Chad Ford, the Denver Nuggets are looking for another big man to fill out their rotation, and would like to accomplish that goal by trading into the top 10 of the draft. If they do manage to get their hands on a top-10 pick, they would have their pick of big men prospects such as Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis, and Ekpe Udoh. According to Ford’s sources, Denver is offering point guard Ty Lawson for the pick.  

When looking at all the teams with a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, a couple of obvious trade partners emerge. The Wizards and 76ers obviously aren’t looking to trade their picks for Lawson. Lawson probably isn’t worth a top-10 pick, and the Timberwolves, Kings, and Warriors drafted a combined four point guards in the first seven picks of last year’s draft anyways. Lawson would make some sense in Detroit, as Rodney Stuckey is more of a combo guard than a true point. However, Detroit may have made their bed with Stuckey, and need help up front just as badly as the Timberwolves do. 
In all likelihood, the two most realistic trade partners for the Nuggets in this situation are the Pacers and the Clippers. T.J. Ford has been a major disappointment for the Pacers, who desperately need someone to make Jim O’Brien’s up-tempo offense work. Lawson is a monster in transition, and the Pacers are already developing Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansborough up front. 
The Clippers have Baron Davis to run the point, but Davis has been unhealthy and unreliable. Lawson could give the Clippers some much-needed depth at the point guard position, not to mention a long-term successor for Davis after his contract runs out. The Clippers are already invested in 2009 #1 pick Blake Griffin up front, and getting a known commodity in Lawson could help them draw a big free agent with their cap space.
I know the Nuggets need some depth up front, but it feels like they may have put too much value on their hook in this situation. This is supposed to be a fairly top-heavy draft, and late-lottery big men are never a very safe bet. Lawson, meanwhile, followed up an extremely successful college career with a very solid rookie seasons; it’s an impressive feat for any guard to shoot 50% from the field and 40% from three, let alone a rookie guard. And it’s not like Lawson doesn’t have upside; he’s one of the fastest players in basketball, he’s a pure point who knows how to make plays, and he knows how to finish around the basket. Lawson was overlooked in the draft, and ended up being one of the best value picks of 2009. Now he’s being overlooked again, and somebody should capitalize. 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.

Clippers win likely playoff preview 108-95 over Jazz

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 28 points off the bench, and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 108-95 on Saturday to clinch a playoff berth for the sixth straight year.

The Clippers trail the Jazz by a half-game in their race for the No. 4 playoff seed in the West. The teams are likely to face in the first round of the postseason.

Blake Griffin added 15 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15 rebounds for the Clippers.

Rudy Gobert had 26 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, and reserve Joe Johnson added 17 points. The Jazz have dropped four of five.

Utah rallied in the third, putting together a 20-6 spurt to trim Los Angeles’ lead to 72-70 heading into the final period. Gobert had nine points and Johnson scored seven during the run that included 10 straight points for the Jazz over one stretch.

Chris Paul and Crawford both got technicals while the Clippers struggled to score and defend.

But Los Angeles turned things around in the fourth, scoring the first eight points for an 80-70 lead. Crawford had 17 points in the quarter, scoring six in a row to push the Clippers’ lead to 103-84. He was 9 of 9 at the free-throw line for the game.

The Clippers grabbed control early on, shooting 52 percent in the first quarter while building a 15-point lead.

The Jazz got within seven to start the second before the Clippers restored their 15-point margin and eventually led 49-41 at halftime.

Utah’s top two scorers, Gordon Hayward and George Hill, struggled. Hayward, who averages 22 points, had 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting. Hill, who averages 17.1, had nine points while shooting 4 of 11.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Gobert was coming off a career-high 35-point, 15-rebound performance against the Knicks on Tuesday. … G Sheldon Mack missed his 11th straight game with a left ankle sprain. … F/C Derrick Favors remains out with a left knee bone contusion.

Clippers: Their six-year playoff run is the longest in franchise history. … They have won 18 of 20 against the Jazz dating to Feb. 1, 2012. … They won the season series 3-1.

 

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Sixers’ Joel Embiid officially has knee surgery, expected to be back on court in summer

Associated Press
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“The… follow-up MRI of Joel Embiid‘s left knee appears to reveal… the previously identified meniscus tear appears more pronounced in this most recent scan.”

When Philadelphia’s chief medical director Dr. Jonathan Glashow said that in a statement announcing Joel Embiid was being shut down for the season, the chance of knee surgery to clean up that meniscus was possible. Friday it became a reality, the team announced.

CSNPhilly.com had the details.

The team expects Embiid to resume basketball activities during this summer, according to Sixers director of performance research and development Dr. David T. Martin. Embiid will begin his rehab in Los Angeles with specialists and Sixers medical and training staff members.

“The overall status of Joel’s lateral meniscus and his cartilage is very good,” surgeon Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D., who performed the surgery, said in a statement. “Today’s procedure focused on removing a small portion of the meniscus that was responsible for his symptoms.

“The recovery program that has been established targets Joel transitioning back to full weight-bearing in approximately two weeks, at which point a conservative approach to his rehabilitation will be introduced.”

After Embiid missed two seasons with foot issues, there is a tendency to lump everything together and call him injury prone. This, however, was a minor surgery with a relatively short recovery period, even as the Sixers bring him along slowly. There is reason for concern, but this shouldn’t be an issue by next training camp.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game despite a minutes restriction all season. He was incredibly efficient in getting his numbers — he had an All-Star level PER of 24.2 — and when he was on the court the Sixers outscored their opponents by 3 points per 100 possessions. He’s still likely a top three finisher in Rookie of the Year balloting despite playing in just 31 games.