Haslem targeting late March return

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According to the Associated Press’ Tim Reynolds, Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem’s rehab from a torn ligament in his left foot is “on schedule,” and Haslem is hoping to return to the team in late March.

Haslem’s injury took place on November 20th. The Heat lost the game he was injured in, lost three of their next four games, and then went on to win 17 of their next 18 games. The insane thing about the Heat’s recent dominance has been that they’ve essentially done it without their 4th and 5th best players — Haslem has missed all 18 games, and Mike Miller has only shot 1-12 from the field in limited minutes as the Heat try to work him back into the rotation. James Jones’ dead-eye three point shooting and surprisingly adept defense have softened the blow of Miller’s injury — Miller will add more athleticism and playmaking to Miami’s rotations, but the Heat don’t exactly lack athletic playmakers on the perimeter. Miller will definitely help the Heat when he gets back in sync, but he’s something of of a luxury item for them.

Haslem, on the other hand, fills a clearer need than Miller does. Although the much-maligned Joel Anthony has stepped up his play during the last 18 games, combining sustained flashes of defensive brilliance with momentary flashes of offensive competence, Juwan Howard has not enjoyed the kind of success that James Jones has. Howard is still a crafty veteran capable of sinking an open mid-range shot or two, but giving the 37-year old Howard’s minutes back to Haslem would instantly make the Heat more athletic, better on the boards, and more capable of scoring inside; as of right now, Howard is averaging one made basket at the rim every ten games.

LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are dominating the league with the rest of the Heat’s players making minimal contributions right now, but working Miller and Haslem back into the rotation and getting them to contribute at 100% could mean the difference between a championship or a playoff exit for the Heat.

PBT Extra: Three things to watch with Boston in wake of Hayward injury

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Gordon Hayward is going to have surgery on his ankle and leg, which should not be a surprise to anyone who saw the gruesome injury to his leg just 5:15 into his Celtics career. There is no timetable for his return yet, maybe he makes it back for the playoffs, but the Celtics are not going to rush him and he may well miss the entire season.

What next for Boston?

In this PBT Extra I cover the three things to watch for from Boston, which in the short term could mean the Kyrie Irving show. Longer term, not much changes.

Gordon Hayward addresses Celtics and fans from hospital bed (video)

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Gordon Hayward broke his leg early in his Celtics debut – a devastating injury. He’s preparing for surgery tonight, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

First – after a perfect introduction from Marcus Smart – Hayward addressed the Boston crowd from his hospital bed before tonight’s game against the Bucks.

Hayward:

What’s up everybody? Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has sent me your thoughts and prayers. I’m going to be alright. It’s hurting me that I can’t be there for the home opener. I want nothing more just to be with my teammates and walk out onto that floor tonight. But I’ll be supporting you guys from here and wishing you the best of luck. Kill it tonight. Thanks, guys.

At least this nice moment (and an outpouring of support) came out of such a gruesome injury.

And if Smart keeps setting up his teammates so well, maybe the Celtics’ offense will keep humming.

76ers coach Brett Brown: Joel Embiid’s minute restriction could quickly rise

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Joel Embiid‘s minute limit of below 20 bummed out everyone (especially Embiid).

But good news could be on the way.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers look like a borderline playoff team, Embiid’s health the biggest variable. There’s a direct correlation between his ability to stay on the court and Philadelphia’s postseason chances.

Plus, he’s just so darn fun to watch. The more he plays, the bigger victory it is for every viewer not rooting for the 76ers’ opponent that night.

Report: Bucks have offered second-round pick as enticement for Rashad Vaughn trade

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John Henson was on the trade block. Greg Monroe seems permanently affixed there.

Another player the Bucks apparently want to deal? Rashad Vaughn, who was the No. 17 pick in 2015.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Milwaukee has been working to trade several players to clear salary-cap space, including guard Rashad Vaughn and center John Henson, league sources said. The Bucks have been willing to attach a second-round pick in offers for Vaughn, league sources said.

It’s unclear whether the Bucks are still as motivated to move Vaughn. They slid under the luxury-tax line by stretching Spencer Hawes. One-time target Richard Jefferson already signed with the Nuggets. A roster vacancy and cap savings might not matter as much anymore to Milwaukee.

But Vaughn has struggled in two NBA seasons. The Bucks might be better off trying to develop someone else, even a D-League player, over the 21-year-old Vaugh.

Vaughn is due $1,889,040 this season. He faces a $2,901,565 team option for next season, which his team must decide on by Oct. 31. It seems unlikely that will be exercised.

This is what happens when you draft players for the wrong reason.