Report: Marc Gasol suffered Grade 2 MCL sprain and is out indefinitely

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We had an inkling this would be bad.

In a loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol clutched his left knee and suffered what appeared to be a non-contact injury. Those types of injuries can be awfully scary, and the fears of it being serious were only amplified when Gasol failed to return to the floor.

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, word is that Marc Gasol has suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain.

This is bad news for the Grizzlies, to be sure, but it could have been much worse. As we’ve seen, an ACL tear can sideline players for up to a full year, and it’s a good sign that Gasol won’t need surgery to repair his knee.

Of course, it’s the “out indefinitely” part that is the most troubling, but we can reasonably predict a time frame in which Gasol will return.

New Orleans Pelicans center Greg Stiemsma, a player with a similar body type to Gasol, recently suffered a Grade 2 MCL Sprain and was diagnosed to miss 6-8 weeks. That’s obviously a big chunk of the regular season, but Gasol should be back in plenty of time for the playoffs, provided the Grizzlies can survive without him.

The question is, can they? Gasol is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and we know about his contributions on that end, but he’s also the key cog in Memphis’ offense. Gasol’s distributing ability at the high post is unparalleled, and this will undoubtedly cause rookie head coach Dave Joerger to have to change some things.

Gasol was averaging career-highs in points and assists per game early on this season, and the Grizzlies looked primed to storm back from a slow start with a home-heavy slate of games on the horizon.

While the starting job will almost certainly fall to Kosta Koufos in Gasol’s absence, Ed Davis should also have a much larger role as well.

Koufos is averaging 12.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per 36 minutes this season, and he’s looked good next to both Gasol and Zach Randolph. He’s a more skilled player than he gets credit for, but it’s obviously still a massive downgrade in that department from Gasol.

Randolph will have to assume more of the scoring responsibility, but he’ll have less space to work without Gasol spreading the floor and providing perfect entry passes.

Davis has played just 12 minutes a game this season, which may have been part of the plan to keep him under wraps and not let his value get too high in restricted free agency this offseason. With Gasol likely out somewhere in the range of 6-8 weeks, the Grizzlies won’t be able to hide Davis any longer.

While it’s important to remember that every body is different and recovery times can vary wildly player to player, it sounds like we’ll see Gasol back in action in early 2014. We’ll see if the Grizzlies can hold on to a playoff spot without him.

Reports: Phil Jackson attending Shaq statue ceremony, Magic Johnson missing it to scout UCLA-Kentucky

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The Lakers are formally unveiling Shaquille O’Neal’s statue outside their arena tonight. Also tonight: UCLA-Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which features NBA prospects Lonzo Ball, Ike Anigbogu, T.J. Leaf, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo.

That makes an interesting choice for the NBA’s two highest-profile team presidents – the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and Knicks’ Phil Jackson (who coached Shaq in Los Angeles), both of whose teams are headed toward a high picks in the upcoming draft.

And the front-office heads are going different directions.

Arash Markazi of ESPN:

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Watching a single game in person is unlikely to swing anything. Both Johnson and Jackson could send scouts to watch UCLA-Kentucky live and then the presidents could watch video later.

But attending in person is ideal, and there are already questions about Jackson’s work ethic. This will only fuel them.

If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Johnson, new on the job, to establish an image. He can clearly juxtapose himself with the failing Jackson and establish himself as a diligent alternative. The Lakers hired Johnson at least in part due to his high profile, but that needn’t stop him from grinding now that he has the position. Anyone doubting him would respect that.

Tyreke Evans: Giannis Antetokounmpo is like a taller me

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Giannis Antetokounmpo torched the Kings for 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two steals in the Bucks’ 18-point win Wednesday.

Afterward, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans paid the Greek Freak the ultimate compliment.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Do you see many players like Antetokounmpo? Evans:

Nah. He like me, but 6-7 – I mean like almost 6-8, 6-7, whatever height he is. He just long, athletic. He get to where he want to go. He got good handle for his size, and he athletic. Once he get around the rim, he can finish.

If only you were an inch taller? Evans:

That’d be a problem. I mean, it’s still a problem, I think, for me to get where I want. But just the athleticism he have and the way he get up off the ground – he got quick bounce. He pretty good at it.

Antetokounmpo is listed at 6-foot-11, Evans 6-foot-6.

This isn’t totally unreasonable. Make Evans five inches taller and add none of the dexterity awkwardness that tends to accompany growth, and he might look a lot like Antetokounmpo. Both are usually slotted at forward while possessing point-guard skills.

But Evans isn’t 6-foot-11, and most 6-foot-11 players can’t move like Antetokounmpo. That fluidity for his size is a big part of what makes Antetokounmpo special. If Evans grew up to be 6-foot-11, he likely would have developed a different skill set than he has now.

Antetokounmpo is the rare player with both the height of a big man and skills of a guard. Evans didn’t miss out on that just because his genes kept him from growing another five inches.

This discussion is also silly for another reason. Somewhere, there’s someone who’s 6-foot-1 and certain he’d be as good as Evans if only he were five inches taller.

Rumor: Blake Griffin increasingly believed to be open to leaving Clippers in free agency

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The Clippers were rumored to have already verbally agreed to terms with pending unrestricted free agents Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

But with formal contract extensions unviable, L.A. was always going to have to play out the season and hope those players remained committed into July.

There might be a hitch in that plan.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

That Griffin would also stay and reap the biggest payday he can seems likely, too—in theory. But more and more people around the league believe he would be open to a fresh start—perhaps with the Lakers or the Boston Celtics, who have coveted Griffin for years and would offer a new chance to win.

Does Ding have credible information to suggest Griffin could join the Lakers or Celtics, or is that just speculation on the writer’s part about potential fits? It’s unclear. This is already fairly loosely sourced.

But we should gather more information quickly once free agency begins. Griffin reportedly planned to re-sign quickly. If he shows the faintest hint of exploring the market, that could open the floodgates.

Griffin had been frequently linked to his home-state Thunder, but Oklahoma City would interfere with his burgeoning Hollywood connections.* The same issue would exist with Boston, though obviously not the Lakers. That said, the Celtics are WAY better than the Lakers – and maybe soon the Clippers and Thunder, considering those Nets picks headed to Boston.

*Oklahoma City also since nuked its cap space with contract extensions for Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo, though trades could always clear room if Griffin wants to come home.

The Clippers are in a bad place right now. One one hand, that forebodes another disappointing end to the season. On the other hand, there’s still time to overcome and send Griffin into free agency on a more positive note.

These are dangerous times for the Clippers, who wouldn’t have cap space to adequately replace Griffin, Paul or Redick if one leaves. So, if one bolts, the others seems more likely to follow. Interpersonal relationships matter, but the Clippers’ primary selling points were always going to be money and winning (with Hollywood proximity a bonus). Winning gets harder if talent walks.

They can still offer the most money, and they’re not leaving L.A. But the Clippers better win more to help avoid what could be a tenser-than-expected summer.

Suns use youngest starting lineup in NBA history

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The Suns have shut down their veterans or been shut down by their veterans with two goals in mind – developing young talent and tanking.

Incidentally, Phoenix also made history.

Against the Nets last night, the Suns started:

ESPN:

Elias on ESPN:

The previous youngest was the Clippers’ starting five consisting of guards Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon, forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Blake Griffin, and center DeAndre Jordan, who averaged 21 years and 143 days old in a matchup with the Nets on November 15, 2010.

The young Suns gained quality experience – and helped their team to an important loss, 126-98 to Brooklyn.

Phoenix is still 1.5 games “behind” the Lakers for the No. 2 seed in the lottery, but the Suns are within striking distance in case the Lakers screw up and win too much down the stretch.