Author: Kurt Helin

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five

Tony Parker returns to Spurs’ starting lineup Tuesday vs. Pistons

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As much as the Spurs are a team that seems to not skip a beat when guys are out due to injury or old age, the fact is some guys are harder to replace than others. For example, the Spurs clearly miss Kawhi Leonard, who should be back with the team in the next couple weeks after his hand injury.

Another guy they need back? Tony Parker. He is the focal point of their offense but has been out since Christmas (and played just four games since Dec. 5) due to a nagging hamstring injury.

And he will be back and starting on Tuesday against Detroit, reports Mike Monroe of the Express-News.

“Tonight’s the night,” Parker said after the team’s Tuesday morning shootaround. “It’s been very frustrating….

“It never happened to me before, that long, but it happened and I’m happy that, hopefully, it’s behind me,” Parker said.

The Spurs were 6-7 in the 13 games Parker has missed because of this injury, although to be fair Leonard and others have missed time in that stretch, too. In the 21 games he has played Parker has scored 16.2 points on 51.5 percent shooting plus dished out 5.2 assists a game, although the numbers don’t do justice to how he controls the offense and the game.

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The Spurs haven’t looked like the unbeatable, unstoppable force they were in the Finals this season, but a part of that certainly has been injuries. They haven’t had their core guys together and healthy for a sustained period.

Nobody around the league is writing the Spurs off, however. Their defense has been good and they are fully capable of getting healthy, going on a run, and come the playoffs being a legitimate title contender. If you don’t think they can, well, you haven’t been paying attention the past few years.

Report: Kawhi Leonard should return to Spurs in less than two weeks

Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio is 4-7 since Kawhi Leonard was sidelined due to a torn ligament in his hand.

This is a team that normally holds its own when guys like Tim Duncan or Tony Parker sit out, but because of his athleticism and defense Leonard is much harder for the Spurs to replace. They miss his perimeter defense, they miss his plays in transition, his 15.2 points and 7.6 rebounds, they are simply just not the same team without him. He was the 2014 NBA Finals MVP for a reason.

But he’s starting basketball activities again and could return in less than two weeks, reports Adrian Wojnarowki of Yahoo Sports.

San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard will likely return within two weeks from a hand injury, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

Doctors have seen progress in the lessening of his inflammation, and the belief is he’ll regain full strength in the hand with no long-term limitations or issues, sources said.

The Spurs are 21-14 and the seven seed currently in the West. They are just 12-13 against teams in their own conference.

Yet good luck trying find someone around the league who thinks the Spurs will not be a serious threat come the playoffs. San Antonio has not looked the same this season, but everyone — from other front offices to media members — has written that franchise’s obituary before only to be proven wrong. Everybody saw the level they were playing at last NBA Finals and if the Spurs get back to that level I’m not sure anyone can beat them.

It may be a big “if” that they get back to that level of play, but getting Leonard back will be a huge step in the right direction.

Report: Cavaliers still active on trade market, trying to land defensive big man

Lavoy Allen, Timofey Mozgov

From the Cavaliers perspective, they think Monday’s trade was a big win. They have up a guy in Dion Waiters that did not fit what they do and did not mesh with the games of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. They got back a guy who should help their wing defense in Iman Shumpert (once he gets healthy), and they got a guy in J.R. Smith who (at least when engaged) should provide a better sixth man presence. They hope this (and getting some guys healthy) will spark a lagging offense.

But their work is far from done.

From the moment LeBron James decided to return to Cleveland the Cavaliers went into “win now” mode (no matter how the GM wants to spin the process). This roster is still not there, specifically the Cavaliers need size in the paint. The Cavs need a shot blocker. They are working on that but not getting far, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Mozgov is struggling in Denver yet, for all his flaws, he would be an upgrade for the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers have called pretty much everyone who might have a big man they would trade (the Clippers and DeAndre Jordan, the Celtics with Brandan Wright, and so on). So far, no one is interested.

But what exactly do the Cavaliers have on their roster to trade? Waiters was their big chip and it’s going to take something of quality to get a big man. It’s a supply and demand thing: Every team wants more size in the paint, so the teams willing to move a guy have options and can start a little bidding war.

The Cavaliers made a nice little move on Monday, but if they are going to live up to the “win now” mode there is a lot more work to do.

PBT’s NBA Monday night Winners/Losers: All Dion Waiters trade edition

New York Knicks v Sacramento Kings

Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game and every trade, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Tonight, we focus completely on the three team trade that broke on Monday night….

source:  J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert. Free at last, free at last. These two guys go from the worst team in the NBA — literally, with the Knicks loss and Sixers win on Monday night New York fell behind Philadelphia in the standings — to a team that will make the playoffs and could even do some damage. The Cavaliers had a few holes and Smith certainly can help with one — bench scoring. He’s used to being a sixth man and having to come in and light it up, and while he can be erratic this should be an upgrade for the Cavaliers. The Knicks had been trying to trade him for a while now. For Shumpert, he gets the chance to prove he really can be a “3-and-D” guy, and do that consistently (he has shown tantalizing stretches of play but has not sustained them). Once he gets heathy from his shoulder injury he will be in the mix to start (right now Mike Miller starts at the two and Shawn Marion gets run there). The Thunder certainly could use Shumpert’s defense. If he does the job he’ll earn himself a nice payday this summer as a restricted free agent.

source:  The Cleveland Cavaliers. I don’t love this move for them, in that it’s not a trade that addresses their biggest need — a defensive minded, shot blocking big man — but the bottom line is they are a little better with this trade than before they started. J.R. Smith may not be a great fit, but he has played in big games and at a higher level than Dion Waiters ever had. Shumpert might give them some defense. This is not a home run for Cleveland, but it’s a solid single. That’s a win. The Cavaliers are still chasing Timofey Mozgov and other bigs, that would be a bigger get.

source:  Dion Waiters. You’ve seen the video, we’ve run it here at PBT — Dion Waiters waving his arms as LeBron James has the basketball, trying to get noticed, then becoming exasperated when the ball doesn’t come his way. And that is with LeBron, one of the best, most willing passers in the league. What is going to happen when Waiters has to try to get Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to give up the rock? Waiters is an odd fit in Oklahoma City in that he is a volume shooter, and they Thunder don’t need that. And OKC is already loaded on the wing. Maybe they feel it’s worth a flier on a former No. 4 pick, maybe they believe their culture can make him feel wanted and get him to take better shots, but I don’t see it. Or how this really helps OKC. But at least the Thunder didn’t give up much.

source:  New York Knicks. Winners… I guess. I mean, this trade was a salary dump for them (they will waive Lou Amundson and Alex Kirkand, and likely Lance Thomas) and they have saved a ton of cash — with the luxury tax more than $20 million. Now next year they don’t have J.R. Smith $6.4 million. That is more money to throw at free agents, maybe to bring in some role players who better fit the triangle system. And what did they give up? The inconsistent Shumpert and arguably the worst fit for the triangle among all players in the NBA, J.R. Smith. That said, the Knicks need to acquire assets in the rebuilding process and they didn’t get any of that. The Knicks with this move are showing they are embracing tanking.

Dirk Nowtizki passes Moses Malone for seventh on NBA all-time scoring list (VIDEO)

Dallas Mavericks v Brooklyn Nets

It was a contested three, in overtime, and he drained it like it was an empty gym.

That’s what Dirk Nowitzki has done for 17 NBA seasons with the Dallas Mavericks now, and with that three — which helped seal a Dallas win over the Nets — he passed Moses Malone for seventh all time on the NBA scoring list.

Nowitzki is arguably the best shooting big man the NBA has ever seen and certainly the greatest European player the league has ever seen. It’s hard to contest the shot of a seven footer with a quick, high release (especially when he fades away) but even when other teams do it doesn’t matter — Nowitzki is shooting 50 percent this season on shots where the defender is one foot away or closer (stat via In a league that is trending away from the midrange shot, Nowitzki is the one guy any coach would trust to shoot from that range, especially from the right elbow or above the free throw line. And if he’s trailing the break you better not let him get a clean look on a three from anywhere near straight on.

The video above shows you why.