Marcin Gortat injury update: Thumb improving, hopes to play without brace “in the next couple of days”

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Marcin Gortat had a breakout season a year ago after being traded from Orlando to Phoenix, averaging better than 15 points and 10 rebounds per game over the last two months of the season. He’s struggled to regain that form through five games this year due to the thumb injury he sustained less than a week before the start of the season.

The good news is that the injury is on its way to healing, which means the heavy plastic taping that Gortat has been forced to wear is just days away from coming off. Gortat gave us the update on his condition after the Suns’ win over the Warriors on Monday.

“The thumb is doing well, but the [bad] part is the plastic stuff on my thumb,” Gortat told NBCSports.com. “The good news is that I just got an X-ray right now, a couple of minutes after the game, and the X-ray looks really good so there’s a big possibility that in the next couple of days I can take it off, and finally, I’m going to be able to play 100 percent and actually catch the ball and maybe get a rebound.

“I’m really excited that finally I’m going to get this chance to play normal, and actually that will be the start of my season, from that point.”

Gortat was limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble in Monday’s contest, but in the Suns’ first four games, he averaged over 10 points and six rebounds per game, while shooting over 56 percent from the field. Those numbers are solid, but Gortat knows he can do better, and explained the way that the injury has limited him thus far.

“First of all I can’t get a position under the basket, I can’t really push anybody because my thumb is actually locked, I can’t bend it in this plastic thing,” Gortat said. “And having rebounds in my hand, I can’t secure the ball because having that plastic thing there is not really helping me to hold the ball, and it’s kind of soft in my hands. I lost a couple of balls like that in the last couple of games; I’m probably giving up two or three balls like that per game, easily. And obviously shooting, that’s my right hand. It’s not like I may be a great shooter but part of my game is I feel comfortable shooting 15-footers, and having this on my thumb is definitely not helping.”

Gortat was all smiles about the recent news of improvement, and is eager to get back to producing at the same high level he did for the Suns last season.

“It looks like in a few days I’ll be able to play without [the plastic brace],” Gortat said. “I’ll be able to grab the ball, I’ll be able to hold my position under the basket, I’ll be able to push. I’m looking forward to it, seriously. I’m really excited about that.”

Brandon Jennings no fan of the NBA’s new Awards Ceremony event

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Come June 26, Drake will be on stage in New York City, handing out the NBA’s awards — Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and so on. (We need to set an under/over on the number of players Drake hugs that night.)

The NFL does it. The NHL does it. And the NBA has decided to follow suit with a broadcast awards ceremony where everything — except the All-NBA Team — will be announced that night. It’s happening because the broadcast partners want it.

Brandon Jennings is not a fan. Here is what the Wizards’ point guard Tweeted:

Jennings took down a Tweet that said if he had won the award he would have wanted to get it with the organization and his teammates around him. (And no, he knows he’s not winning the award. If you were going to put that in the comments be more creative.)

There’s something to what Jennings is saying. The NBA award roll out was awkward at times in previous years, but it gave the fans a chance to celebrate the awards with their favorite player. Now, everyone will watch it unfold on television from a ballroom in NYC. That feels a little colder. Also, we will get to see the reaction of those who don’t win (particularly this season, where several players can make a strong case for MVP).

It will be interesting to see how this first year goes, and how the league tweaks it going forward. The more than two month gap between the end of the regular season and the awards could feel a bit awkward. But we’re not going to knock the idea until we’ve seen it in action.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.