When Gary Neal got into it with Larry Sanders in the locker room after a blowout loss to the Suns on Saturday, it wasn’t hard to figure out which player the franchise would be siding with.
Neal is a reserve who’s under contract for just one season beyond this one at $3.2 million, while Sanders was anointed as the face of the franchise with a four-year, $44 million contract extension this past summer.
Not that Sanders has earned it. He’s only appeared in eight games this season after sustaining an injury in a bar fight that required surgery, something Neal alluded to when he told Sanders, “I earn my money. Why don’t you try it?” before storming out of the locker room in Phoenix.
Still, the team doesn’t have much of a choice here, so it will apparently try to alleviate any issues by shipping Neal out of town before the Feb. 20 trade deadline passes.
Neal’s production combined with his price makes him semi-valuable on the open market for a team looking to bolster its bench, but it’s unclear what level of asset a playoff team would be willing or able to give up to retain his services.
Neal is averaging a career-best 10.4 points in 20.5 minutes per game for Milwaukee this season.
The NBA’s award season seems more wide open than ever.
Ben Simmons was going to enter the season as the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but with him out injured the door is flung open to a lot of players. Coach of the Year is always a game of “which coach exceeds expectations.” Even MVP seems more open with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the award winners the past three seasons — teamed up in the Bay Area.
In this latest PBT Extra I throw out my predictions for the awards, but let’s get on with the games next week and see who earns them.
During the ProBasketballTalk podcast with Sixers coach Brett Brown, you could hear the frustration in his voice. He has all these talented young front line players — Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor — but he can’t begin to figure out how they all fit together if he can’t get them on the court at the same time.
That problem just got worse.
The Sixers announced that Nerlens Noel will miss time following surgery to deal with soreness in his left knee. Here is the word from the press release itself:
During the normal course of evaluation and treatment for his left adductor strain, which was identified on October 6, Noel reported localized soreness in his left knee. After consulting with multiple specialists, the source of the soreness was identified as inflamed plica. Noel has elected to address the injury via a minor surgical procedure in the coming days.
The team gives no timeline for Noel’s return. Soreness from the plica — a band of tissue around the knee that is not important following birth — happens in some players and can be fixed by an arthroscopic surgery that removes the area being irritated. While the surgery is minor, it usually takes around six weeks to bounce back from this.
That likely means a little more run for Jahlil Okafor (just coming back from an injury of his own) and Richaun Holmes. But it’s just another injury setback for a Sixers team plagued by them.
The Sixers also announced that Jerryd Bayless will not have surgery on his wrist, but will remain out and be evaluated in two weeks.
This was flat out incredible.
After a back-and-forth, even series between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks, it came down to the final seconds (although maybe it shouldn’t have, the WNBA admitted Friday the referees missed a call with 1:14 left, giving the Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike a bucket on a shot after the shot clock expired).
The biggest stars took over at the end, as you can see in the video above: L.A.’s Candace Parker drives and scores with 19 seconds left putting the Sparks up 75-74; Minnesota responded with a Maya Moore jumper to take the lead back, then it came down to Ogwumike (the WNBA’s 2016 MVP) getting the ball after a block by Sylvia Fowles and following it up with a fadeaway bucket that gave Los Angeles the title.
Congrats to Candace Parker on the win, after how she’s been overlooked on the awards circuit in the WNBA this season, this is some sweet revenge.
Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday is away from the team as his wife, Lauren Holiday, battles a brain tumor.
First, Lauren gave birth to a healthy daughter.
Now, more good news.
John Reid of The Times-Picayune:
Hopefully, the Holidays continue to find good health.