Kurt Helin

Bulls big man Noah returns from left shoulder injury

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CHICAGO (AP) — Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg says center Joakim Noah will play Monday night against the Washington Wizards.

Noah had been sidelined by a left shoulder sprain. He missed nine games after he got hurt in the third quarter of a 105-102 loss to Brooklyn on Dec. 21.

Noah, the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 4.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in 25 games this season.

Guy going to get paid this summer: Knicks’ Lance Thomas

New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas (42) puts up a reverse layup against Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo (5) and forward Jason Smith (14) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in New York. The Magic won 107-99. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Associated Press

In his first four stops in the NBA over the course of three seasons, former Duke star Lance Thomas had taken two three pointers.

This season with the Knicks, Thomas has taken 77 (two a game) and hit 41 percent of them. Thomas is playing well for the Knicks off the bench, the team has been 3.2 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court compared to sitting (most of that bump is on the defensive end). He’s been the Knicks’ fans secret off the bench.

Except a lot of team executives around the league are taking notice, which means it may be difficult for the Knicks to keep the free agent this summer. Marc Berman explains at the New York Post.

Boston coach Brad Stevens, Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy and Chicago’s Fred Hoiberg also recently gave Thomas his kudos, each calling him one of the league’s “most improved players.’’ Knicks coach Derek Fisher fell in love with Thomas since Day 1, but is almost never asked about his play…

For now, NBA coaches are talking up Thomas more than the media and fans. Thomas signed this offseason for a little more than the minimum — a one-year, $1.5 million deal. But come July 1, when Thomas becomes a free agent again, the fans may become disappointed when Knicks president Phil Jackson is unable to re-sign him because of his growing price tag.

The Brooklyn-born Duke product is shooting an excellent 47.7 percent — 41.6 from 3-point range — and averaging 8.7 points per game. Until this season, Thomas never had a 3-point shot, attempting 22 in his first four seasons. He’s already taken 77 this season and it’s mid-January. It would seem that vague Most Improved Player Award is meant for the kind of season Thomas is weaving.

PBT’s own Dan Feldman brought up Thomas as a potential Most Improved Player candidate in the latest PBT Podcast (although Portland’s C.J. McCollum is the clear frontrunner for the award). You can be sure teams are taking note.

In a summer when every team will be awash with money to chase free agents, Thomas is the kind of guy who is going to get paid. Not max money, not in the first tier of free agents to sign, but he likely makes more next season than he has made in his career up to this point (more like three or four times the $2.3 million he’s made so far).

He’s one of a handful of guys who have earned a healthy pay bump next season and have done it at just the right time.

Report: Pelicans’ Quincy Pondexter to undergo season-ending knee surgery

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors - Game Two
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Quincy Pondexter had knee surgery this offseason, but was thought in recent weeks to be close to making his season debut for the Pelicans. And they could use his floor-spacing shooting.

But it’s not going to happen — he needs another knee surgery, which will end his season that never even got started, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Quincy Pondexter will undergo season-ending left knee surgery on Jan. 20 in New York, league sources told Yahoo Sports….

The Pelicans reacquired Pondexter in a midseason trade with the Memphis Grizzlies last season, and the 6-foot-6 swingman became an integral part of the rotation. He averaged 8.9 points and 3.1 rebounds while shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range in 45 games for New Orleans last season.

Pondexter is signed for two seasons at a very reasonable $7.7 million total beyond this season. Meaning the Pelicans will think long-term with him, knowing he could be a valuable rotation player in future years (the team certainly needs the shooting).

With him out expect the Pelicans to test out some guards on 10-day contracts. Charania says to keep an eye on Elijah Millsap, Orlando Johnson, and Bryce Dejean-Jones as possibilities.

Tweet showing LeBron James shooting woes motivates hot streak

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James celebrates after a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Philadelphia. Cleveland won 95-85. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Associated Press

In his last six games, LeBron James is shooting 52.9 percent on midrange jumpers and 43.3 percent from three. Not-so-coincidentally, the Cavaliers are on a six-game winning streak. When he shoots like this, he is the best player on the planet and the Cavaliers can play with anyone.

What sparked this hot shooting streak? This tweet from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann showing how poorly LeBron had been shooting this season up to that point.

LeBron told Chris Haynes of the Plain Dealer he saw that tweet and, like every great player seems to, used the doubt for fuel.

“I actually saw [it] on my Instagram feed that I was the worst-shooting player in the NBA,” James said. “I actually saw that when I woke up from a nap. I remember exactly when that was. Denver. Right before the Denver game, so I answered the call.”

In recent seasons, LeBron has dialed back his game and energy output just a little in the regular season, knowing that as he aged he needed to conserve some of that for the playoffs, when the games really mattered. Maybe that contributed to his slump, or maybe the fact that Kyrie Irving is healthy and gives the Cavaliers another elite playmaker is behind this. Either way, LeBron is knocking down his shot again.

Which is bad news for the rest of the league — LeBron had 37 points on 22 shots against the Sixers Sunday. That kind of streak is likely to continue.

Prosecutors won’t charge Odom after Nevada brothel weekend

Lamar Odom
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nye County prosecutors say they won’t charge Lamar Odom after the former NBA star was found unconscious at a Nevada brothel with cocaine in his system.

District Attorney Angela Bello said Monday the evidence didn’t prove that Odom used the drug during his three days in the county, so he could not be charged there.

She said the cocaine had already metabolized – making it difficult to determine the time he had used it – when Odom was hospitalized on Oct. 13 in critical condition in Las Vegas.

Odom had been found unconscious at Love Ranch brothel in Crystal, Nevada.

The sheriff’s office later recommended a felony count of unlawful use of cocaine or being under the influence of a controlled substance.

The Odom family said he left a Los Angeles hospital last week for a private facility.