Tyler Zeller, Jordan Crawford

Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Tyler Zeller out indefinitely


Short of wearing a helmet, there was pretty much nothing Cleveland Cavaliers rookie center Tyler Zeller could have done to protect against this injury. Zeller has been ruled out indefinitely after Cleveland’s win over the Clippers on Monday night, making it a little more bitter than sweet for the Cavs. Zeller suffered the injury after he took an elbow to the face while battling for rebounding position with DeAndre Jordan, who as you may know, is a large man with equally large elbows.

Here’s the official word on the exact injury and the timetable for Zeller’s return from AP writer Tom Withers.

Out indefinitely is always scary, but we can take some educated guesses as to how long Zeller will be out of action. Although we don’t know the severity of the injury, it sounds as though Zeller will not need surgery. If you recall, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera suffered a non-displaced fracture of his orbital bone before the season began when he took a nasty grounder to the face.

Cabrera sustained his injury on March 20th, and was back in time for the season opener on April 5th. Although everyone heals differently, a little over two weeks seems like a decent benchmark for Zeller’s return, as his concussion symptoms should subside by then as well. Again, this all depends on the severity of the injury and Zeller’s body.

Okay, let’s trade the stethoscope for a whistle. Losing Zeller, the 17th pick of the draft, is disheartening after he put forth such a promising effort (15 points, 7 rebounds) against the Clippers. Zeller isn’t the type of player who will “wow” you with anything, but he runs the floor extremely well and can finish around the rim with either hand. Just on those merits alone (and his 7-foot frame), he’s a viable backup big man. Those don’t grow on trees. The Cavaliers have some sleeper appeal with Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao playing the way they are, but they’ll need all hands on deck.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
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Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.

Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver

Manu Ginobili, Harrison Barnes, Tim Duncan
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The Spurs are 12-3 and comfortably in second place in the West, they have the best defense in the NBA allowing just 93.8 points per 100 possessions, and they have a top-10 offense to go with it.

So, time to start making sure guys are rested.

That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.

Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.

What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.

Brandon Armstrong impersonates Ray Allen (video)

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Ray Allen is retired-ish, but he’ll always be running through screens – in our mind and in this video.

Celtics draft pick Marcus Thornton gets beer dumped on head during Australian game (video)

Marcus Thornton, Will Cherry

The Celtics drafted Marcus Thornton with No. 45 pick in the 2015 NBA draft. That essentially entitled him to the required tender – a one-year contract offer, surely unguaranteed at the minimum.

Thornton rejected that, which is almost always a mistake.

Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.

By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.

Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.

How’s that going?

(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.