When Chris Paul was healthy at the beginning of last season, he was all but unstoppable. In the month of November, Paul averaged 22.6 points, 9.9 assists, and 2.1 steals per game while shooting 58.4% from the field and 61.5% from beyond the arc. Even though the Hornets weren’t exactly lighting the league on fire during that stretch, that’s freaky, freaky stuff.
Paul’s run of absolute dominance ended when he sprained his ankle in November, then his season came to a screeching halt when he tore his meniscus in January. Now Paul is on the court and ready to start the season, but according to John Reid of the Times Picayune, there are some signs he won’t be at 100% to start the year:
New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul worked in practice Sunday with a brace off over his surgically repaired left knee.
During the portion of the practice open to the media, Paul took free throws and jump shots on an alternate court from his teammates as strength and core trainer Carlos Daniel and assistant trainer John Ishop observed.
Hornets Coach Monty Williams said Paul was getting used to the brace he’ll probably use throughout the regular season.
“We’re just trying to stay on top of anything that could be nagging,” Williams said. “It’s such a long season. When a guy is coming off a surgery, you want to be as cautious as you can to keep him from having any setbacks.”
Paul, who could not be reached for comment, missed 37 games last season after requiring arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee.
Hopefully the Hornets trainers are telling the truth and the knee brace is little more than an accessory, because a healthy Chris Paul is something to behold.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.