Kurt Helin

Damjan Rudez, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dmajan Rudez

Kings’ Willie Cauley-Stein dislocates finger, out 4-6 weeks

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Even as a rookie, Willie Cauley-Stein had become a valuable piece for the Sacramento Kings — they outscore opponents by 3.6 points per 100 possessions when he plays, their defense improves, all of which is why George Karl had moved him into the starting lineup next to DeMarcus Cousins.

Now they will have to do without him through the first of the year at least.

Cauley-Stein suffered a dislocation of his right index finger in the final minute of the game in Mexico City Thursday, and with that will be out 4-6 weeks, the Kings announced Friday night. It’s nothing truly serious, but it will keep him in street clothes for a while.

The injury occurred in what was a rough night for Sacramento as Boston easily handled them, jumping out to a 32-15 first quarter lead and never looking back. Rajon Rondo was ejected, and DeMarcus Cousins shot 4-of-17 on the night. It was one of the Kings’ worst games of the season; it’s not the kind of performance you expect from playoff teams (and the Kings think they can climb back into that mix in the West with Cousins healthy). The Cauley-Stein injury just added to it all.

It will be interesting to see if George Karl goes big with Kosta Koufos or more to the small ball lineups with Omri Casspi to replace Cauley-Stein. It’s Karl, so you’d think small, but in a recent meeting both Rondo and Cousins talked to Karl about slowing the pace down for the Kings.

Five Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Dwyane Wade jumped in hot tub time machine

Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant

If on Thursday night you were not watching the NBA because you were walking around your house muttering “Coldplay? WTF? Why Coldplay?” I completely understand. That’s why we have a recap of five things you need to know.

1) Dwyane Wade circa 2006 (well, close) leads Heat past Thunder. Unlike the upcoming Super Bowl halftime show, you could not stop watching this game — neither team ever led by more than six, and there were 38 lead changes, and it felt as close to a playoff game as you can get the first week of December. Miami edged out the Heat 97-95 for a few reasons. They finally got good bench production, led by Josh McRoberts. Goran Dragic had maybe his best game this season, a well-rounded performance. Miami was playing strong defense.

But at the top of the list was Dwyane Wade, showing he can still own stretches of a game like it was 2006. Almost. He certainly looked like vintage Wade scoring the final eight points for Miami, including a Curley Neal dribble through all the Thunder players before draining the floater. Then on the final play he just got to the rim — why exactly was Dion Waiters guarding him? — where he drew the foul and knocked down the free throws. It’s just fun to see that Wade again.

2) The Celtics enjoyed their Mexico vacation. The Kings not so much. The NBA made its annual trip to Mexico City, and Boston used the opportunity to show the fans south of the border what quality team basketball looks like. Boston had four players score more than 20 points — Isaiah Thomas, Kelly OlynykJae Crowder, and Avery Bradley — as the team raced out to a 32-15 first quarter lead and cruised from there (114-97 final score). Boston showed the fans in Mexico City what an NBA team should look like.

Sacramento was terrible. They played indifferent defense all night (to put it kindly), Rajon Rondo got ejected, and DeMarcus Cousins shot 4-of-17.Other than that, great Mexico trip for the Kings. This team and its effort are unpredictable night-to-night.

3) Gregg Popovich welcomed Craig Sager back to the sideline with a classic interview. For my money, Popovich sideline interviews are can’t miss entertaining, and this was one of Popovich’s best.

4) Kawhi Leonard hit seven threes, dropped 27 on Memphis. When you start talking MVP for this season — and it’s too early to talk about it yet, in my book  — Kwahi  Leonard should be discussed. He’s the game’s best perimeter defender, and now he comes with plenty of offense. Leonard had 27 points and hit seven threes as the Spurs handled he Grizzlies Thursday.

5) Mike Dunleavy out at least another month. Mike Dunleavy could provide some much-needed shooting and spacing for the Bulls offense, but it will be at least another month and likely longer before he comes back to the court, according to the latest report. Chicago is 11-5 this young season, but it’s still a hard team to read. In particular, Dunleavy could be a big boost, but it will be a while before anything goes dow

Report: Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy out another 4-6 weeks

Mike Dunleavy, Joakim Noah
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Just a couple of weeks before the start of training camp, Mike Dunleavy had back surgery. He was expected to return somewhere around Thanksgiving.

But Dunleavy had a setback and was traveling around to see more back specialists. The decision? At least another month on the shelf, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

After meeting with specialists in Los Angeles, the Chicago Bulls’ Mike Dunleavy is expected to need four-to-six weeks of additional rehabilitation on his back before he can be cleared to return for on-court work, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Dunleavy, a 6-foot-9 wing player, will undergo a re-evaluation at the end of the four-to-six week stretch to determine his fitness to return to basketball activities, sources said.

Dunleavy signed a three-year extension with the Bulls this summer. New coach Fred Hoiberg could certainly use Dunleavy’s ability to hit the three and space the floor for Chicago. Hoiberg has not been able to settle on a steady rotation yet, and whenever Dunleavy does return it will shake things up again.

Gregg Popovich welcomes Craig Sager back with classic interview

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“Welcome back to the sidelines, Craig Sager.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich — he of the legendary on-court interviews — basically said that above in his own way on Thursday night, as the Spurs took on the Grizzlies on TNT. He was genuinely happy to see Sager, just not to do the interview.

And I can tell you from personal experience, you don’t want to use the word “happy” when interviewing Popovich. Coaches are never happy. In his mind.

Pistons’ Aron Baynes had surgery for broken nose, playing again

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Pistons center Aron Baynes had surgery to repair a broken nose.

The team announced the operation Thursday, saying Baynes received clearance to keep playing after injuring his nose at Oklahoma City on Nov. 27.

Baynes has played in three games since then. He missed all five of his shots from the field in Wednesday’s win over Phoenix.

Baynes is averaging 4.3 points a game on the season.