Toronto Raptors' Calderon of Spain, Kleiza of Lithuania and Valanciunas of Lithuania, sit on the bench during the final minutes of their game against the Los Angeles Clippers during their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Injuries and a suspension have Raptors down to eight healthy players vs. Nets

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The Nets have been struggling lately, and will head into Toronto on Wednesday night riding a five-game losing streak.

Miami, Oklahoma City, and most recently, the Knicks have accounted for three of those losses, so it’s not anything to be too concerned about. And given the situation with the Raptors, it’ll be almost impossible for the Nets to fall for a sixth straight time.

Toronto is down to just eight healthy players, and the ones who will be available aren’t exactly the team’s best. Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry are both among the injured, and are usually in the starting lineup.

The Raptors are also without Linus Kleiza, Alan Anderson, and Landry Fields, along with the suspended Amir Johnson.

From the Associated Press:

“We’ve got bad luck everywhere,” leading scorer DeMar DeRozan said.

For Raptors coach Dwane Casey, the advice to his players is simple.

“This is when you have to pull your pants up — I think I heard the term `big boy pants’ – and be ready to play,” Casey said during the shootaround. “That’s where I am. I’m a fighter. I’m a scrapper. I’m still with this team. We’re working hard … I’m not shying away from this challenge and this opportunity.”

We need to retire the term “big boy pants,” especially after the way a certain broadcaster used it in describing the way the Lakers lost a game earlier this season.

That aside, it’s been a brutal season in Toronto thus far. Things aren’t going to get any easier Wednesday against a Nets team that desperately needs to begin to get things turned around.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.