Kurt Helin

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard returns to Rockets’ starting lineup Wednesday vs. Spurs

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After missing three games with a sprained ankle, Dwight Howard is back in the Houston Rockets’ lineup Wednesday. Howard went through shootaround and will head straight back into the Rockets’ starting lineup.

The Rockets won all three games Howard sat, with a combination of Corey Brewer and Clint Capella starting and allowing Houston to go small and play faster. They also got a boost from the return of Josh Smith.

Houston still needs Howard if they are going to climb the standings and be a playoff threat — they are 4 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court than off it, with the team playing better on both offense and defense.

J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotations will be interesting in this one.

Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic has appendectomy, out until after All-Star break

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Nikola Mirotic has had a disappointing season. Call it a shooting slump, a crisis of confidence, maybe he’s just not that good, whatever the reason he has not been the stretch four offensive force Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg had wanted him to be. That said, he had a quality 17-point game in the win over Cleveland, then bounced back with 15 in the loss to Miami. Maybe he was starting to turn the season around.

Now comes another setback.

Mirotic was diagnosed with an acute appendicitis, and an appendectomy was performed Wednesday at Rush University Medical Center, the team announced. He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break.

Mirotic had been selected to play for the world team in the Rising Stars Challenge All-Star Weekend in Toronto (you know, the old rookie/sophomore game), but he clearly can no longer do that. The league will need to replace him on the roster.

This could also could keep the Bulls from trading one of their big men at the deadline, as had been expected around the league. As Marc Stein of ESPN noted, now both Mirotic and Joakim Noah are out injured until the trade deadline, making the Bulls hesitant to move someone like Taj Gibson in a deal.

Reports: Hawks testing trade waters for Jeff Teague; Knicks interested

Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague, right, drives past Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Denver. The Hawks won 119-105. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Associated Press

This is the golden age of NBA point guards, the field has never been deeper with quality, but there are still plenty of teams that could use a good one.

Like Jeff Teague, the Hawks All-Star whose numbers have taken a small step back this season (14.3 points and 5.6 assists per game, still shooting 41.3 percent from three. He’s still impressive off the pick-and-roll, still a strong floor general, and still a decent defender. He’s fought through ankle injuries this season, which has hurt his numbers, but he’s still a good point guard.

And he’s available via trade. Not cheaply, but available. Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweeted this out Tuesday:

Zach Lowe expanded on that at ESPN (in a story mostly about the Utah Jazz):

One place the Jazz might look: Atlanta, where it’s starting to feel like the Jeff Teague-Dennis Schroder partnership is approaching its breaking point. Utah won’t deal rotation guys for someone on an expiring deal, and Teague has two years left on his contract. A Burke and Burks package for Teague and filler might work for both teams…. That’s a dicey deal. Atlanta wants to make another run at Cleveland, and it has had major trust issues internally with Schroder.

That last sentence is the big bet by the Hawks in all of this — is Schroder ready to be a full-time starter and carry a team like the Hawks deep in the playoffs? This season the Hawks are 10.8 points per 100 possessions when Schroder’s is on the court, while they are -2.2 per 100 when Teague is on the court. There’s a lot of noise in those numbers, but Schroder looks like the future.

The other question hanging over this move: Will Al Horford be back next season? He’s an unrestricted free agent, the Hawks want to keep him but he will receive multiple max offers and have options. If the Hawks get the sense Horford is going to bolt, then there is a bit of a roster rebuild coming and getting value for Teague could help speed that process along.

One team that will be interested — the New York Knicks.

It’s unlikely a deal gets done until closer to the All-Star break, if at all. But there is more than just smoke with the Teague trade rumors, this has actual fire.

Byron Scott says he doesn’t know his Instagram password, let alone who posted threat from his account

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott watches from the sideline during the first half of his team's NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
AP Photo/Steve Dykes
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lakers coach Byron Scott says he didn’t post a comment on his Instagram account apparently threatening to fight a fan.

Before the Lakers faced Dallas on Tuesday night, Scott said he doesn’t know who wrote the comment on the since-deleted post, which showed the coach working out at a boxing gym.

When a commenter told Scott to “keep (his) hands up,” someone logged in as Scott told the commenter to “Bring it … and show your face, don’t hide.”

The coach says he doesn’t know his Instagram password and rarely uses social media, instead relying on his assistant and other employees to run his accounts. He says he didn’t know about the Instagram kerfuffle until his assistant alerted him.

Scott says he “got a good kick out of it.”

Another day, another impressive Kristaps Porzingis putback dunk (VIDEO)

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Kevin Durant called Kristaps Porzingis a basketball unicorn — a rare sight. A skilled guy with that size and hoops IQ is not something you see every day.

High praise. Porzingis responded with 15 points, including another highlight putback dunk, facing off against Durant’s Thunder.

It wasn’t enough because Durant dropped 44 points, including 22 in the fourth quarter and overtime, to get OKC the win.