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.

76ers: Joel Embiid doubtful for Game 3 against Heat

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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MIAMI (AP) — Joel Embiid remains listed as doubtful by Philadelphia for Game 3 of the 76ers’ Eastern Conference playoff series at Miami on Thursday night.

Embiid was on the floor with the 76ers for their morning shootaround practice, but coach Brett Brown says there’s no change in the All-Star center’s status.

Embiid has missed Philadelphia’s last 10 games while recovering from a concussion and surgery that repaired a fractural orbital bone around his left eye. He’s no longer in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

He took to social media after the 76ers lost Game 2 of this series to the Heat, saying he’s tired of being “babied.”

Embiid has averaged 22.9 points and 11 rebounds in 63 games for the 76ers during the regular season.

Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.