Charlotte upgrades backcourt depth, trades for Gary Neal, Ridnour from Bucks for Sessions

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Charlotte may not have planned to be in the playoff picture before the season started, but now that they are they want to stay there. Their home-and-home sweep of the Pistons the last two nights was a good start on that road, the Bobcats now have a 2.5 game cushion over the Pistons (3 games over the streaking Cavaliers and 3.5 over the Knicks). Heck, the Bobcats are just 1.5 games back of fifth-seed Washington.

Now Charlotte has some backcourt depth to help them hold on to a playoff spot and maybe climb the ladder a little.

The Charlotte Bobcats have acquired veteran guards Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien, something first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer and confirmed by other sources.

Sessions has been solid this season playing behind Kemba Walker, he was the kind of true professional veteran that was good to have in a young locker room (coach Steve Clifford raved about him). He will play well for the Bucks the rest of this season and get another deal somewhere for the season after that.

However, the combination of Neal and Ridnour gives Charlotte more. Neal is shooting 36 percent from three this season and the Bobcats needed a deep threat to open things up more for Al Jefferson inside and the slashing of Walker. Ridnour, like Sessions, is a solid and professional backup point guard who can play quality minutes nightly off the bench.

Milwaukee does this to save money — Neal hadn’t been a great fit for them (nobody is right now) and he is owed $3.5 million next season. That is off the Bucks’ books, and they get a quality guard in return.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.