Utah Jazz look to future without injured Gordon Hayward

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz began life without Gordon Hayward on Saturday with the first practice since the franchise player broke a finger on his non-shooting hand. There is no set timetable for his return.

Hayward went down Friday when his finger got caught in another player’s jersey during practice. Coach Quin Snyder was already tinkering with lineups with the addition of veterans George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw and now must be even more creative.

Snyder explained that everyone and everything can be impacted, from Rodney Hood to Johnson to Dante Exum. How Snyder can put together situation-specific lineups, such as small-ball, will also be affected.

“You don’t want to wallow over things you can’t control,” Snyder said. “More than anything I feel bad for Gordon. It’s not a pity part for the team. Guys have to step up. We’ve got good players and they’re capable of picking up the slack collectively and individually.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that Gordon’s been our best player.”

The ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft led the team with a 19.7-point average and 3.7 assists last season. Hayward also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 2015-16.

The 26-year old missed just two games in 2015-16 and total of 13 in the last three seasons combined. Hood may be most affected as the team’s second-best perimeter scorer. He could slide to small forward in the starting lineup with Hill and Exum starting at the guard positions. Johnson could start at small forward with Hood remaining at shooting guard. Either way, Hood will likely need to pick up some of the offensive load.

“I’ve got to be more aggressive, I think that’s obvious for our team,” said Hood, who averaged 14.5 points in his second season. “Everybody’s got to do more on both ends. We’ve got some time to figure out before the actual season hits.

“Scoring is not really the focus. … It’s about defense and scoring off our defense and doing the little things.”

Injuries are nothing new to the Jazz in the last 12 months. The team lost starters Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Exum and top wing reserve Alec Burks for long stretches last season. Favors is currently dealing with knee soreness and missed the last preseason game. Burks still hasn’t returned from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and ankle in June.

Fortunately for the organization, the Jazz have four more preseason games and don’t start the regular season until a road game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 25.

Hill played the last five seasons with the Indiana Pacers and was on the roster when their franchise player, Paul George, missed most of the 2014-15 season with a broken leg. Hill averaged a career-high 16.1 points that season.

“It’s just a feel thing,” Hill said. “You don’t try to come in and say, hey, I’m going to do this or that because someone went down. You take what’s there. If the feeling’s there that they need you to step up and score some more points, then that’s what you have to do.

“But it gives everybody a good opportunity to come out and improve their game a little bit more and expect a lot out of other players. … It’s going to take a group effort.”

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning 3-pointer to beat Kings (VIDEO)

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Welp, looks like Russell Westbrook is re-energized after All-Star Weekend.

As the first night of games after the break got underway on Thursday night, it was Westbrook who gave us a jolt as he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Sacramento Kings on the road.

With just a second to go, Sacramento’s Justin Jackson had tied the game up at 107-107. This came after Vince Carter pulled up confidently from nearly 30 feet out, missing badly. Sacramento missed another follow, and then Jackson put home the final try.

Via Twitter:

That left the Thunder to advance the ball with just one second left.

Oklahoma City ran a simple play with Westbrook running near-to-far across the arc from the inbounder, eventually settling at the top of the 3-point line.

He let it fly, and that allowed OKC to come away with a win, 110-107.

Bulls find way to lose despite being up by 5 with 35 seconds left

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CHICAGO (AP) Ben Simmons scored 32 points, making two free throws with 5.6 seconds left to complete Philadelphia’s rally from five points down in the final minute, and the 76ers beat the Chicago Bulls 116-115 on Thursday night.

Joel Embiid had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and Simmons added 11 assists and seven rebounds as Philadelphia won its sixth straight and snapped a four-game road losing streak.

Bobby Portis had a career-high 38 points and Zach LaVine added 23 for the Bulls, who were 18 for 34 on 3-pointers.

Chicago had a 115-114 lead and the ball with 8 seconds to go before Embiid deflected an inbounds pass to create a turnover. Simmons came up with the ball near half court and was fouled by Denzel Valentine. He made both free throws.

Portis had a chance for a game winner, but his short attempt – with Embiid defending – just missed.

The 76ers raced to a 25-7 lead midway through the first quarter before Portis got hot and Chicago started making 3s.

Philadelphia’s lead was down to 33-29 at the end of the quarter and the Bulls busted out for 40 points in the second to take a 69-67 halftime lead. Chicago was 9 of 12 on 3-pointers in the quarter, including 4 for 5 by Portis.

The 76ers were up by five early in the fourth before Portis scored six straight points – on a 3-pointer and a three-point play – to put the Bulls on top 101-100. A few minutes later, Portis dunked over Embiid to stretch the lead to 111-106 with just over four minutes to play.

LaVine hit a 3-pointer to make it 115-110 with 1:02 left.

TIP INS

76ers: C Embiid has nine straight double-doubles . Simmons has six triple-doubles this season, which ties him with Wilt Chamberlain (three times) and Billy Cunningham for most in a season in team history.

Bulls: To look at some younger players during the final 25 games, C Robin Lopez and G/F Justin Holiday were removed from the starting lineup. Both were inactive on Thursday as Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba (21 points) started; Also, Cameron Payne – who played in his first game on Thursday – will replace Jerian Grant as the backup point guard.

“It really is hard,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s hard for Robin, it’s hard for Justin and it’s hard for Jerian, who’s probably making as big a sacrifice as anybody.”

UP NEXT

76ers: Host Orlando on Saturday.

Bulls: Visit Minnesota Saturday night.

Kelly Oubre gets caught untying Rodney Hood’s shoes (VIDEO)

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The NBA seems to have a secret obsession with tying and untying shoes mid-game. J.R. Smith once got a warning for doing as much, finally earning himself a $50,000 fine after doing it multiple times. Likewise, other players like Rajon Rondo and Danny Green have pulled down the shorts of opponents while the clock was rolling.

Perhaps that emboldened Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre on Thursday night as his team took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in Ohio.

During the game, game operations crew at The Q ran a video on the big board that appeared to show Oubre untying the shoes of Cavaliers guard Rodney Hood.

Via Twitter:

These guys have so much to think about during a game I’m honestly impressed that they have the time to remember to do petty stuff like this.

I suppose it worked?

Oubre had 17 points off the bench, adding five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Hood had just eight points in 27 minutes on the floor.

The Wizards beat the Cavaliers on the road, 110-103.

Report: Warriors will spend trip to D.C. with kids, not Trump

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Donald Trump decided to disinvite the Golden State Warriors to the White House despite team winning the 2017 NBA Championship. Many members of the Warriors have been critical of Trump during his short tenure in Washington D.C., which the former mail order steak salesman has not taken lightly.

With no invitation to the White House on hand, and considerable doubts that the team would go even if the opportunity resurfaced, the Warriors have decided to take a private tour around the nation’s capital instead.

According to a report from ESPN, the team will take a trip with just players, coaches, and some kids to a discreet location as part of a tour.

Via ESPN:

Head coach Steve Kerr left it up to the players to determine how they wanted to spend their time, and the players selected a venue in which local kids would join them. It will be closed off to the media, sources said.

The players wanted the outing to be a personal, intimate experience.

“It’s their championship. They got disinvited to the White House, so it’s up to them what they wanted to do. So they made their plans,” Kerr told ESPN. “I want the players to have a good day and to do something positive and to enjoy what they’re doing.”

Golden State will be in D.C. to play the Washington Wizards on February 28. They will reportedly take their trip — sure to be fun for the kids — the day before.

Meanwhile, you have to wonder if an NBA team will ever visit the White House while Trump lives there. People from LeBron James to Gregg Popovich have spoken out about their disagreements with him, and the Warriors were pretty vocal about not attending a ceremony with Trump.