Kurt Helin

Norris Cole, Deron Williams

Pelicans’ Norris Cole out with high ankle sprain


The Pelicans are counting on Norris Cole to pitch in at the point guard spot, along with a finally healthy Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans.

But we’re not going to see Cole for a while, he suffered a high left ankle sprain at practice Sunday the Pelicans announced. There is no timetable for his return, but high ankle sprains can be nasty and take a while to heal. It is possible Cole will miss the start of the season.

Cole impressed with the Pelicans at the end of last season. After being traded to the Big Easy, he averaged 9.9 points and 3.2 assists per contest,  played good defense, and was solid in the playoffs against Golden State. That said, the Pelicans wouldn’t offer him the contract he wanted, so Collison signed the qualifying offer and will be an unrestricted free agent next year.

With Holiday on a minutes limit to start the season, Alvin Gentry may be forced to play more Evans at the one.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Will Mudiay lead Nuggets in scoring?

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Welcome to the Emmanuel Mudiay era in Denver.

The Nuggets have a team with a few quality veterans — Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler — but the ball will be in the hands of the rookie Mudiay. Does that mean Mudiay will lead the team in scoring? In our preview with Jenna Corrado, that becomes the question.

I will bet on Gallinari. Mudiay will take a lot of shots, but I don’t expect him to be terribly efficient as a rookie. However, just wait until next year.

Lance Stephenson said he didn’t feel treated like a star in Charlotte

Clippers Lance Stephenson Press Conference

It was not unanimous in the Charlotte front office, the decision to bring in Lance Stephenson to the Hornets last season. He had played well in Indiana, but there were concerns about his fit in Charlotte, both on the court and in the locker room. The side that thought he could be one of the stars they needed won out. Charlotte signed him at a very reasonable three years, $27 million.

It didn’t work out. To put it kindly. He shot 36.7 percent (17 percent from three), his playmaking skills seemed to go away, when he did drive the lane he didn’t finish well, and his PER of 8.8 is what you expect of a D-League player.

Stephenson is trying to show last season was a one-off aberration. He will come off the Clippers bench this season and Doc Rivers has bet on him. As for his time in Charlotte, he said this to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

Okay. But with the Clippers, Stephenson is going to have to adjust to working off the ball as well — Jamal Crawford will spend time as a playmaker with the second unit, plus Stephenson likely will get some time next to CP3, and they are not taking the ball out of his hands.

Stephenson will get some time as a playmaker, but the offense is not going to run through him. He’s also g0ing to have to show his outside shot is back because until he does other teams will sag off him and Josh Smith and dare them to beat them with jumpers. The Clipper bench certainly has more talent this season, but we will see if they can play as a unit.

And if Stephenson should do more than stand in the corner.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: The Nets can’t even blow it up yet


No team may be in a worse long-term spot than the Brooklyn Nets.

As we cover in this latest PBT Extra with Jenna Corrado, some Nets fans want them to blow this up and rebuild. Except they can’t. The Nets re-signed Brook Lopez and since they don’t control their own first round pick until 2019, they are just on a slow ride to mediocrity.

I don’t even have the Nets in the playoffs this season.

51 Questions: Three (unlikely) reasons the Cavs don’t return to Finals

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love

PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

What could keep Cleveland from a return trip to the NBA Finals?

Cleveland is the class of the Eastern Conference. And it’s not all that close.

Sorry to be so blunt to the fans in Chicago, Washington D.C., Toronto and Miami, but if everything plays out according to plan and the Cavs perform anywhere near their potential Cleveland will win the East again. Comfortably. They have the best player on the planet in LeBron James, two other top 15 guys in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, plus they added some depth to a roster that made the Finals last season and is just getting comfortable with one another. This is going to be a better Cavs team.

Three things can keep the Cavaliers from a shot at a ring in June.

1) Health. This is the only of the three possibilities I would consider realistic.

LeBron has been an ironman through his career, he doesn’t miss many games due to injury. He played in 69 games last season, missing 13, but remember eight of those were for his mid-season sabbatical to get his head and body right. You can be sure coach David Blatt will give him some rest during the season, but the bottom line is the Cavaliers need LeBron — their offense was 12.2 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last regular season, their defense 4.6 per 100 better. Come the playoffs, he had to carry a ridiculous load but the Cavs still outscored opponents by 3.9 points per 100 possessions when he played. If he were out, the Cavs are not near the same team.

The Cavaliers can reach the Finals again without Irving or Love — two guys with lengthy injury histories — but they are not going to beat whichever team comes out of the West without them. Also, they will need Timofey Mozgov, Mo Williams, Iman Shumpert and the rest of the supporting cast come June. Already the Cavs are battling injuries as Irving and Shumpert will miss the start of the season due to injuries, but what matters is they are right come the playoffs.

I believe the Cavaliers are going to be better this season, in part because it’s their second season with this core lineup under David Blatt, but to finally bring a title to Northeast Ohio they are going to need all hands on deck come the Finals.

2) Chemistry issues. Could the Tristan Thompson holdout situation become something that festers among the roster and starts to turn LeBron off (we all remember how he played before he left in 2010, right)? Could Love become unhappy with how he is being used and start to pout his way through games? Could J.R. Smith’s Phunkeeduck antics start to frustrate guys in the locker room and cause a division?

Probably not. In fact, it’s highly unlikely. LeBron is focused on the ring and is going to keep his teammates on that track this season. But one can imagine a scenario where things start to go sideways in the locker room and Blatt doesn’t have the ability to reign it all in. It’s not impossible that these Cavaliers self-destruct. I wouldn’t bet on it.

3) Another team in the East makes a blockbuster trade. While the Cavaliers sit atop the conference on a level all their own, there are five teams in the second tier in the Eastern Conference — Chicago, Washington D.C., Toronto, Atlanta, and Miami. Those five could finish in any order 2-6 in the East and I would not be surprised.

But what if one of those teams pulls off the unexpected mid-season trade for a superstar? What if they make the serious “Lakers nab Pau Gasol” kind of upgrade? Then that team may well be able to challenge Cleveland.

This is the least likely scenario that keeps Cleveland out of the Finals, just because those kinds of deals are hard to pull off and have become increasingly less likely to happen during the season. We don’t know of any franchise changing players up on the trade block, and even if they were it would be difficult for some of these teams to pull off a deal without shredding their core. Bottom line, don’t expect Oklahoma City to move Kevin Durant at the deadline. (That would only happen if he told OKC there is zero chance he would re-sign with them, and KD’s too smart a business man to close a door like that.) But it’s not impossible, so we list it.

Which is how I feel about any scenario that keeps the Cavaliers out of a return trip to the NBA Finals — it’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.