Dan Feldman

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Rockets: Nene out for rest of playoffs

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The Rockets lost Nene to injury early in their Game 4 win over the Spurs.

Now, Houston will have to cope without him for longer.

Rockets release:

Houston Rockets center Nenê will miss the remainder of the postseason with a left adductor tear.  The Rockets medical staff is currently reviewing treatment options.  An update will be provided once a decision is made.

This series likely now diverges even more in style.

Clint Capela has the size to matchup with San Antonio’s traditional bigs – Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon – but Nene was Houston’s only other reliable option for that. Montrezl Harrell is undersized and inexperienced, and Chinanu Onuaku is even more raw. Rather than break out one of those young players, the Rockets could turn to Ryan Anderson at center. They found success with that in Game 3, but the Spurs will test Anderson’s defense more with more type to prepare.

Houston will surely counter by using Anderson’s 3-point shooting to drag a Spurs center out of the paint.

In a series that was already somewhat about big vs. small, with Nene sidelined, the differences between these teams look even more pronounced.

Rumor: Kyle Lowry, after predicting LeBron James’ reign to continue ‘long time,’ could sign with Western Conference team

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Kyle Lowry ran into trouble with how he complimented LeBron James in the past.

This year, the Raptors guard made no such mistake, offering unequivocal praise.

Lowry, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

“They’ve got LeBron James,” Lowry told The Vertical late Friday night. “Nobody’s closing the gap on him. I mean, that’s it right there: They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him.”

“I don’t know when his prime is going to stop,” Lowry told The Vertical. “I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon. I think he’ll be able to continue what he’s doing for a long time. But that’s basketball. You’ve got to find a way to beat the best.”

And that was after Game 3.

Without much confidence from its best player or Lowry himself due to injury, the Raptors were swept by the Cavaliers. LeBron has now won 20 straight playoff series against Eastern Conference foes, going 80-20 in those games.

With that final nail of the coffin hammered in, how does Lowry – who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer – feel about the situation?

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This speaks to the power of LeBron.

The Warriors – who won 73 games then added Kevin Durant – are the NBA’s consensus top team. Golden State, San Antonio and Houston each won more games than any Eastern Conference team. The Clippers and Jazz might have also done so if healthier.

But Lowry personally felt LeBron’s dominance the last two years, Cleveland eliminating Toronto. An escape from his wrath might feel appealing, even if it’s not logical.

Norman Powell: LeBron James’ jersey tug ‘disrespectful,’ ‘trying to son me’

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LeBron James showed little regard for the Raptors in the Cavaliers second-round series – sweeping Toronto, offering to buy Drake margaritas, spinning the ball in his hands before shooting over Serge Ibaka and grabbing a beer from a vendor during a game and feigning to take a sip.

The Cleveland superstar also grabbed Norman Powell‘s jersey in Game 3 and prevented him from committing a substitution violation.

Powell, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I just don’t like that,” Powell told ESPN. “I don’t care if it’s LeBron or if it’s anybody. It could be Kawhi [Leonard], it could be anybody. Just don’t pull my jersey. I feel like that’s a little disrespectful, you know what I’m saying? Like you’re trying to son me, and I don’t go for that.”

“He said he was trying to help me,” Powell said. “I mean, if you’re trying to help me, don’t pull my jersey. You can call my name, you don’t have to pull my jersey like that. I feel like that’s disrespectful. So, I hit his hand away. He said he was trying to help me. He was like, ‘All right, all right. I won’t help next time.’ Whatever. Just don’t pull my jersey.”

Was it explicitly disrespectful to grab Powell’s jersey? Maybe/probably. Was it implicitly disrespectful to prevent him from committing a violation because LeBron knew he’d win anyway? Heck yeah.

But that’s the worst part of getting showed up by LeBron. The Raptors were powerless to stop it.

Report: Patrick Beverley expected to play in Rockets-Spurs Game 5

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Patrick Beverley learned of his grandfather’s death shortly before Rockets-Spurs Game 4 yesterday, and he said his immediate reaction was to book the first flight home to Chicago. After the game – in which he played and played well – he spoke of being with his family.

There are obviously bigger concerns, but where does this leave Beverley for Game 5 tomorrow?

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

These conflicting concerns – wanting to grieve with his family and wanting to help his team – must be so tough to handle. My thoughts go out to Beverley.

Houston needs him. His perimeter defense is unmatched on the team, and he works well as a secondary playmaker/spot-up shooter next to James Harden.

But Beverley and his family also clearly need each other.

I just hope he felt the freedom to make whatever choice he deemed best for himself.

FIBA will now allow basketball players to wear hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Basketball enthusiasts around the world said a decision to allow players to wear religious headgear in competition will encourage more people to play the sport because it gives participants the right to practice their faith and focus on playing ball.

The unanimous vote Thursday by international basketball’s governing body, known as FIBA, allows female players to wear hijabs and male players to wear turbans and yarmulkes following a ban initially imposed for safety reasons 20 years ago. In 2014, FIBA allowed a two-year testing phase for head coverings.

“I think we came out in a good place, at the right place,” said USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley, who is on the FIBA executive committee. “I think it’s a good step for FIBA to put this issue kind of behind it and go from there.”

Iranian national basketball team player Shadi Abdolvand said basketball will change in Iran because younger players will be encouraged to “pursue their goals.”

“The end of this month there is a Western Asian tournament and we were looking forward to hearing the news that we can take part,” she said. The team’s dream is to compete with the world’s top players and “see if we can get much better than what we are now,” she said.

The effort to push the governing body to change its regulations dates back several years. Other sports, including soccer, had already relaxed such regulations.

Athlete Ally – an organization dedicated to end homophobia and transphobia in sports and to educate athletic communities to stand up against discrimination – joined with Shirzanan, a media and advocacy organization for Muslim female athletes, to send a letter to FIBA on Jan. 25, urging leaders to “immediately lift the ban on religious headgear.” The letter was signed by many WNBA players, including rookie of the year Breanna Stewart.

That letter came a few years after American-Muslim basketball player Indira Kajlo helped campaign to have FIBA loosen its restrictions on headgear. She started an online petition that drew around 70,000 signatures. She also worked with members of the Sikh community in India, as well as hearing from women in Turkey, Sweden and the UK who expressed their support.

Kajlo, who has played professionally in Ireland and Bosnia, said she had to choose between her faith and the sport she loved when she decided to wear the hijab a few years ago.

“It’s a horrible feeling. There’s nothing in the world like having to choose between your faith and something you love,” she said.

FIBA’s decision comes a month after Nike released its first sport hijab for Muslim women.

One of the designers of the Nike Pro Hijab, Emirati weightlifter Amna al-Haddad, said in an online post after its release in March that without pressure from Muslim female athletes to train, exercise and compete in hijab, Nike would not have created the sport hijab. She said allowing more women to compete in modest attire “will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally.”

Muslim female athletes have long fought to have the right to play the sport of their choice in modest attire and in hijab.

For the 2012 London Olympics, the International Olympic Committee and the International Judo Federation agreed to allow Saudi judo player Wojdan Shahrkhani to compete while wearing a headscarf. She made history that year as one of the first Saudi women to ever compete in the Olympics.

American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first athlete to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Rio Olympics, earning a bronze medal as part of Team USA.

“When other Arab women see a Muslim playing professionally, that encourages them to play as well. There’s no reason for them not to play now, nothing is stopping them,” said Salim al-Mutawa’a, the head of the United Arab Emirates’ Basketball Association.

Still, women’s access to sports remains limited in some Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, where physical education is still not on the curriculum in public schools for girls. Ultraconservatives have pushed back against efforts by women to play sports, saying it blurs gender lines and is immodest.

Lina Almaeena helped found one of Saudi Arabia’s first private sports clubs for women, called Jeddah United. The women’s basketball team has participated in tournaments abroad. She says FIBA’s decision reconfirms that the Olympic charter “is real and does enable everyone to participate regardless of their background.”

“For the women who stopped playing sports because of the ban, it is a huge deal,” Almaeena said.