Dan Feldman

Taurean Prince yanks down Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson FLIES IN to fight Prince (video)

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James Johnson has a reputation as an athletic hothead.

He put both traits on display after Hawks forward Taurean Prince threw down Hassan Whiteside late in the Heat’s 116-93 win.

And good for Johnson. Prince’s actions were dirty, and you have to protect the franchise player.

Johnson received a technical foul and ejection. Taurean Prince earned a flagrant 2 and automatic ejection. Miami guard Dion Waiters also got hit with a technical foul.

Young Bulls rave about Rajon Rondo as a teammate

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 27:  Rajon Rondo #9 of the Chicago Bulls handles the ball during a game against the Boston Celtics at the United Center on October 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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In their coordinated attack, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler — the Bulls’ biggest stars — lashed into their teammates (reportedly Nikola Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams in particular).

Rajon Rondo shot back at Wade and Butler on Instagram because, as Rondo explained, he wanted to stand up for his teammates who lacked the stature to do it themselves.

Why did Rondo side with his younger teammates rather than maintain the “Three Alphas” front? Because, in and out of the rotation, Rondo had bonded with those other teamamtes for months.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

This process began when Rondo voluntarily joined the Bulls at summer league, even practicing one day with a team that featured undrafted free agents who had no chance of making the regular-season roster. Rondo served as ringleader for informal workouts at the Advocate Center before training camp.

Once camp started, Rondo organized team dinners. And he drove to Milwaukee for an exhibition game in which the Bulls rested him to work out training-camp player Thomas Walkup before the game.

Mirotic, via Johnson:

“Along with Pau (Gasol), he’s the best teammate I’ve ever had,” Mirotic said.

“I feel so comfortable with him and I think all the young guys do,” Mirotic said. “He’s very honest. He’s talking all the time, supporting before the game, after the game, during the practice. He’s always positive. Even if something is not going well, he’s trying to help young players. It’s been great to have him here.”

Jerian Grant on Rondo, via Johnson:

“He’s a great teammate,” Grant said. “He’s been through a lot of different things and been able to show us the wrong and right ways. That’s good for us. He’s been extremely helpful to me. I’ve been in the gym with him a lot, picked his brains a lot.”

Wade and Butler, also resting for that exhibition game, didn’t travel to Milwaukee — and that’s OK. Resting shouldn’t be limited to not playing in a game. Likewise, it’s fine that a 35-year-old Wade doesn’t practice as much as his teammates.

The problem comes when Wade’s teammates believe he’s given unreasonable special treatment. That accusation is nothing new to Butler, either.

Meanwhile, Rondo has ingratiated himself with his teammates. Even when Chicago suspended Rondo for feuding with an assistant coach, word quickly followed about how great of a teammate Rondo had been. We can separate his problems — most of them declined on-court production — with his standing as a teammate.

That and his experience give Rondo a pathway to leadership.

Wade’s and Butler’s resumés also demand respect, but they also face challenges in connecting with teammates. Wade is a newcomer in Chicago. Even as he became Chicago’s best player, Butler had a tough time leading in previous seasons because the Bulls still had Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, two players who long-commanded attention in the locker room. Wade’s and Butler’s clunky attempt last week exposes the limits of their leadership.

If it’s Wade and Butler vs. the rest of the Bulls — the paradigm Wade and Butler established through their comments last week — Rondo stands on the other side.

It doesn’t help that Rondo seems to reach his younger teammates through positivity rather than harsh motivation. Either method could work, but it seems the young Bulls are partial to the former.

That just makes it more difficult for Wade and Butler to establish themselves as leaders. Wade and Butler can still get there, and as mainstays in the starting lineup, they’re more naturally positioned to lead. But they could take a lesson from Rondo, who has multiple teammates gushing about his mentorship style.

 

Kings’ Garrett Temple out through All-Star break

Sacramento Kings' Garrett Temple in action during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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The Kings lost Rudy Gay to injury and replaced him the starting lineup with Garrett Temple.

Now, Sacramento is losing Temple.

James Ham of CSN California:

Temple underwent an MRI in Sacramento on Wednesday afternoon and the test revealed that the guard suffered a partial tear of his hamstring. The team expects him to miss 2-3 weeks and he will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break.

The Kings have eight more games before the All-Star break. They’re 19-30, tied for 11th in the Western Conference and three games out of playoff position.

Simply, they have little margin for error to achieve DeMarcus Cousinsgoal of reaching his first postseason. Losing Temple only further diminishes the odds.

Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Malachi Richardson and Ben McLemore could help pick up the slack with Temple sidelined. So could Omri Casspi, if he gets healthy. It’s not as if Temple provided great production. But he was also receiving regular minutes on this team for a reason.

Regardless of who takes Temple’s minutes on the wing, it likely falls to Cousins — as usual — to do even more.

Warriors center Zaza Pachulia sidelined at least a week

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia has a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will be sidelined for at least a week.

He underwent an MRI exam Tuesday and expressed his relief a day later that the injury wasn’t more serious. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated after a week. Pachulia made a diving play to secure a steal in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s 113-111 victory at Portland, and his outstretched right arm landed awkwardly and his shoulder made contact with the ball.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry was set to play Wednesday night against his hometown Hornets at Oracle Arena. Curry missed the game at Portland after waking up with the stomach flu – something he believes he picked up from his two young daughters who are both now in preschool.

“I heard when you start your kids in school that first year or two, you’re pretty much susceptible to any and everything,” Curry said. “So far it’s been OK, we just had a little rough go last week. Everything’s good.”

Pachulia said he knew he had hurt his shoulder on the play but finished the game and once he cooled down, he noticed the pain.

He has made big strides since mid-December, so this is a minor setback – though Pachulia is determined to make it a positive and use the time while receiving treatment to stay in shape and work to get stronger.

“Right now there’s progress,” he said. “It definitely feels better every day. … At the end of the day, we need healthy bodies. That’s the beauty of this team, we have so many weapons and options. I wish everybody was available but injuries are a part of the game. I’m just glad it’s not more serious than what it is.”

Curry was surprised he didn’t lose much weight and feels his “energy is good, ready to go.”

“Probably a smart decision to not try to one, get anybody else sick, two, push my body past the limits it was already at and try to play that night,” Curry said after Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “It was a really boring night at the hotel watching the game. Couldn’t even watch our own broadcast, which sucked. No offense to the Portland people.”

Already down big man David West, Golden State’s frontcourt is short-handed.

“Nooothing easy,” Curry groaned, rubbing his eyes several times when told of Pachulia’s status . “Next man up. Obviously those two guys are important parts of what we do. … Just like when I was out, we found a way to get it done. We need to do that and have obviously a physical presence and continue to rebound at a high level while he’s out.”

West was scheduled to have a follow-up X-ray later Wednesday on a non-displaced fracture of his left thumb suffered Jan. 18 against Oklahoma City.

James Michael McAdoo had eight points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 20 minutes of last Wednesday’s 10-point win at Charlotte and could be an option, along with JaVale McGee, Damian Jones and Anderson Varejao.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for January after Golden State went an NBA-best 12-2 for the month.

Report: Pistons exploring trading Boban Marjanovic and Aron Baynes, who will opt out

AUBURN HILLS, MI - JANUARY 05: Boban Marjanovic #51 of the Detroit Pistons celebrate a second half basket while playing the Charlotte Hornets at the Palace of Auburn Hills on January 5, 2017 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Pistons have too many centers.

Andre Drummond starts, and Aron Baynes backs him up. That leaves Boban Marjanovic out of the rotation and stretch big Jon Leuer playing forward almost exclusively, even though he could handle some center matchups.

So, Detroit might be trying to clear the logjam.

Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders:

The Detroit Pistons are exploring the trade market on centers Aron Baynes and Boban Marjanovic, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Baynes has a $6.5 million player option after this season, which he will decline, league sources told Basketball Insiders.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy has said the Pistons signed Marjanovic, in part, because they believed Baynes would opt next summer and become unaffordable. To re-sign Baynes to a starting salary of more than $11,375,000 (the Early Bird exception), Detroit would need cap space. Barring a major move, the Pistons will operate above the cap next offseason.

Marjanovic hasn’t played much this season. Is everything still going to plan, with Marjanovic supplanting Baynes next season? If so, don’t expect Detroit to move Marjanvoic unless another team offers a surprisingly large return. Considering the Pistons provided Marjanovic with his best contract offer last summer and he hasn’t done anything notable since, it’s unlikely any team values Marjanovic more than Detroit does.

If Marjanovic is still on course to move into the rotation, why not fast-track the process? Downgrading from Baynes to Marjanovic* this season becomes more palatable if the Pistons — who are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position at 21-27 — slip further in postseason race. Or if another team offers value before Detroit loses Baynes anyway. Or if another team offers help on the wing, where the Pistons have less depth.

*Clearly, based on the minutes allocation, Detroit feels this way.

The Pistons also have rookie Henry Ellenson, who has shown flashes in limited minutes and could be a center long-term. Detroit could emphasize his development if it heads toward the lottery.

The Pistons still have time before the trade deadline to better understand where they stand, but now is the time to line up options. Remember, considering their coach runs the front office, they’ll likely err toward prioritizing the present over the future.