Saturday Starting 5: Injury Damage

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Hey, so, you’re stuck with me on the weekends, so I thought we’d put together something you can count on. Every weekend here at PBT we’ll have the Saturday Starting Five. Five elements, chosen thematically (so I’m not just basically vomiting words onto a screen for you) and brought for discussion about the NBA. Today’s topic? Injuries that shape this season.

The Big Guy On Ice. Again.

All the talk this week was about Greg Oden having microfracture surgery for the second time on the second knee. It’s the kind of development which makes the hill that much higher for the Blazers to climb. Most annoyingly, it lowers the ceiling on the club. The Blazers have been up and down this season, but the thought was that if they could just reach their potential in the other areas of the game, then add a young, productive center like Oden, all of a sudden a championship seems less like a fairy tale. But with Oden on the shelf, the team not only has to lower their expectations for this season, but to reconfigure their vision of the future. The Blazers will need a new plan because Marcus Camby won’t last forever and they still need a true big to compliment LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Other Terrible Blazer Injury Situation

Oden is at least a conundrum the team is used to. They’ve been playing mostly without him for years. Brandon Roy having to toe the line on avoiding microfracture surgery is a pretty significant development. There’s been some clarification that Roy does not have bone-on-bone arthritis, but the fact is that his knee is pretty jacked. It’s not going to get much better, and you can’t help but wonder if the Blazers are hoping instead of thinking that Roy will be able to avoid injury. And in that instance, the Blazers’ season is pretty much over. The Blazers are pretty much at their breaking point with injuries. They can’t sustain any more hits to their roster, and we’re in November. It’s a long season, and they’re still having to deal with a superstar who just simply may not be the best he can be this season, or ever.

The Dynasty Undone

Yao is already on the shelf for two weeks. Already. And that’s a shame. What’s even more of a shame is that the Rockets can’t get into a rhythm with him being in and out. It just disrupts things and they’re trying to almost be two different teams which simply isn’t going to work. They need a player like Yao to work around so they have consistency when he’s not in. But finding players like Yao is simply too difficult. They can’t not have Yao, he’s too good. But his minute limit complicates things and makes it very difficult for them to be a complete team. It’s hard to see this era in Rockets history ending happily ever after.

The Jazz Addition

Mehmet Okur is due back within the forseeable future. It’s true that he won’t be back to full strength for a good long time after his Achilles’ injury, but getting Okur back to bolster the core of Millsap and Jefferson which has already proven effective is huge. It’s like the Blazers’ situation, only if Oden wasn’t as good of a rebounder and could shoot threes. It’s another weapon for a Jazz team that is already deep and clicking together. He could wind up as the difference between being at home or on the road for most of the first round.

The Championship Bruiser

Hey, take a look, the Celtics are the top team in the East. Looks like they’re just back to business. Yep, this team is really great, even if can’t really improve due to age or… oh, wait. They get Kendrick Perkins back next year. Yeesh. Imagine how good this team is going to be with Perkins as the starting center versus the two constantly banged up old guys they have now? Even Perkins at less than 100% is going to make them meaner, tougher, and more productive on the glass. It’s scary how good this Celtics team could be.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over 2-3 years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?

Milwaukee taco restaurant releases security footage showing manager greeting Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Shortly after Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to a Game 4 win over the Celtics on Sunday, someone eating at a Milwaukee taco restaurant tweeted a photo of the Greek Freak waiting for a table. According to the tweeter, nobody helped Antetokounmpo at all.

The picture went viral.

But!

The restaurant claims a manager greeted Antetokounmpo and released surveillance footage to prove it:

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“We appreciate everyone’s passion for treating Giannis and all customers with great customer service,” Monday’s follow-up read. “It is something we strive to do every day. We reviewed the entryway footage from last night, and we are proud to reaffirm that Giannis was promptly greeted by our manager and told the wait time. Giannis has been a customer many times and he has graciously accepted our apology for not being able to seat him and other customers more quickly last night.  Our focus is now on supporting our team on this playoff run. Go Bucks.”

The release concluded with the hashtag #TacoBoutAMisunderstanding.

TacoBoutAMisunderstanding, indeed.

For his part, Antetokounmpo never griped publicly about the taco restaurant. The wait was longer then he wanted so he went elsewhere.

He has more important issues to focus on – like Game 5 in Boston tonight.

Kevin Durant: Liking anti-Russell Westbrook Instagram comment was ‘total accident’

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Kevin Durant liked an Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook.

Here we go again?

Royce Young of ESPN:

I’m not inside Durant’s mind. He could be lying to cover another burner Instagram snafu.

But I tend to believe him. It’s easy enough to accidentally click like, and the greater context is on his side.

Durant has always tried to downplay a feud with Westbrook. Even at the personal rivalry’s peak, Durant just seemed as if he wanted Westbrook to like him. So, it’s nearly impossible to believe Durant – even for a button-pushing moment – wanted to publicly slight Westbrook.

But maybe Durant wanted quiresultan or some other alter-ego to do so? Maybe, as beaten down as he looked by the controversy over those deleted tweets last summer, Durant didn’t learn his lesson and still uses burner accounts. I certainly wouldn’t rule that out.

Again, though, this would be a weird message. Last summer’s deleted tweets praised Westbrook while slamming the rest of the Thunder. Durant was going to have a burner account take the opposite stance now? That doesn’t really add up.