Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett didn’t come to the arena for Nets’ loss to Clippers

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Most of the time in the NBA, if a team’s star players are going to miss a game due to injury, they will still accompany their teammates to the arena and either receive treatment in the locker room while the game is going on, or wear a suit and represent on the sidelines.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, apparently, are two of the exceptions.

Neither was healthy enough to face their former head coach Doc Rivers on Saturday in Los Angeles, after playing heavy minutes the night before during an overtime win in Phoenix. And thanks to a policy Rivers himself put in place in Boston, neither player bothered to make the trip to Staples Center to support their teammates.

From J.A. Adande of ESPN.com:

It would have made for some good TV video to get shots of Garnett and Pierce hugging their old mentor before or after the game, but the individuals involved didn’t need it. They stay in touch through their cell phones (Rivers prefers texting, because he says it doesn’t allow Garnett to swear at him as much). Garnett and Pierce weren’t even in Staples Center for the Clippers’ victory over the depleted Nets. Their absence in itself was just like the old days.

“I know when Kevin doesn’t play he never comes to the game,” Rivers said. “Paul either for that matter. That’s something we set up in Boston.

Now the Brooklyn Nets have to deal with it.”

This isn’t to rip the Nets or these two veteran superstars, but it is an interesting look at the way things are handled from team to team around the league.

Rivers has always been a players’ coach, and giving veterans a perk like that on a team that has strong leadership from the head coaching position makes some sense. Gregg Popovich in San Antonio has famously flown players home after shootaround in advance of a road game where they aren’t going to play.

But on a team like the Nets that has a ton of new pieces and is trying to establish both locker room chemistry and a way of doing things under an unproven rookie head coach, one would think it might be a good idea to stick around and use that time to bond a little, even if they’re unable to play due to injury.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.