Paul George on possibly returning to Pacers this season: ‘I’m on the fence’

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When Paul George went down with a horrific leg injury over the summer, and when Lance Stephenson left the Pacer in free agency, a dismal year for Indiana was to be completely expected.

While it certainly started off that way, the team has been playing much better lately, and the Pacers are right there in terms of being in position to finish the regular season by earning one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

George knows he’s an All-Star when healthy, but also knows it’ll take some time to get his groove back in terms of his ability to contribute at the level he’s accustomed to. For that reason, he’s questioning whether or not he wants to come back this season, even if he finds himself fully healthy enough to do so.

From Matthew Glenesk of IndyStar.com:

When asked directly, George paused, took a thoughtful breath, and said while he still wants to return, he doesn’t want to risk jeopardizing the Pacers’ recent strong play, which has seen the team win seven straight and 13 of their last 15.

“I’m on the fence,” said George, who was injured playing in a scrimmage for Team USA on Aug. 1. “Part of me is (thinking), they’re playing so well, they’ve come together, to shake up the chemistry and add another body, another player in there … I don’t want to be that guy that destroys what these guys have going.

“On the other hand, there’s a part of me that’s like, ‘I can definitely help.’ It’s a difficult point in my role right now, but we’ll take it day-to-day.”

Make no mistake — when George is ready (and deemed ready by the coaching staff), he will return just as soon as possible.

While his humility is nice, the Pacers aren’t going to do any damage in the playoffs without George in the lineup — and the organization knows that.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

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.