Kurt Helin

Associated Press

Nowitzki out Wednesday night for Mavericks

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DALLAS (AP) — Mavericks leading scorer Dirk Nowitzki is missing Dallas’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night because of fluid on the knee.

Coach Rick Carlisle said Nowitzki would get treatment on the knee and he wasn’t sure whether the 17-year veteran would miss more time. Chandler Parsons was scheduled to start at power forward in Nowitzki’s place.

“The challenge is rebounding,” Carlisle said of Nowitzki’s absence. “It really puts a big onus on your entire team to go get rebounds. Minnesota is a good rebounding team. Playing small has its advantages and it has other disadvantages.”

Nowitzki is averaging 18 points and seven rebounds per game. He has missed three other games this season, but all were instances in which the Mavericks scheduled rest for him.

Dwight Howard leaves game with sprained ankle, will not return

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In the first minute of the Rockets hosting the Pistons Wednesday, there was a big collision with Andre Drummond that sent both Dwight Howard and Ty Lawson to the ground.

In the process, Howard rolled his ankle. He left the game, went back to the locker room, and the Rockets have announced he is not returning to the game. There is no other word on the severity of the sprain.

Howard has missed seven games for the Rockets this season after battling injuries the past few seasons.

With Dwyane Wade already out, Hassan Whiteside leaves game with oblique strain

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Miami was going up against the Wizards shorthanded on Wednesday, with Dwyane Wade taking the night off due to a sore shoulder, joining Goran Dragic and Chris Andersen in street clothes.

Which is why it was bad news when big man Hassan Whiteside fell to the court grabbing his side in the second quarter. It was a non-contact injury, and he stayed down for a couple of minutes. He was helped to the locker room and is not expected to return.

Amare Stoudemire got the second half start for the Heat with Whiteside out.

With Eric Gordon out, Pelicans sign Bryce Dejean-Jones to 10-day contract

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The  Pelicans had Ish Smith on the roster earlier this season, but let him go when all the guards on the roster finally got healthy. Except that health didn’t last — Eric Gordon is out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured finger. The Pelicans needed another guard on the roster for depth, but Smith isn’t available as he has become the guy turning the Sixers into a respectable team.

So the Pelicans have turned to Bryce Dejean-Jones.

Jones played well for the Pelicans in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 12.8 points a game on 61.8 percent shooting. He came to training camp with New Orleans and played well there, too, but he was on the wrong side of the numbers game. Even now he’s not going to get a lot of run with the team, he’s there for insurance purposes.

Expect Jones to get a second 10-day contract, but it will be interesting to see what the Pelicans do at the end of that time.

LeBron on Cavaliers making NBA Finals: Nothing is guaranteed

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In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers getting their head handed to them Monday by the Golden State Warriors, this has been the conventional wisdom:

The Cavaliers have the remaining three months of the regular season, plus the first three rounds of the playoffs, to figure out their problems — how to defend the pick-and-roll, how to better utilize Kevin Love, how to get improved play out of the bench, and a list of other issues that keep them from challenging the two transcendent teams in the league right now. They have all that time because the Cavaliers are clear and away the best team in the East and are destined to get back to the NBA Finals. It’s then, starting June 4, when they need answers for the challenges that Golden State or San Antonio present.

LeBron James says to back off that idea — the Cavaliers have no guarantees of making the Finals again or being elite. Here are the quotes, via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

“When I [talk about] us playing at a championship level, that doesn’t automatically guarantee us [playing] until June,” he said. “It’s all about the habits; I preach the habits more than anything. For me to look and say that we’re going to represent the East in the Finals would be absurd. I don’t really talk like that. That’s not what I’m about.

“I think we’re a good team,” he said. “But I don’t think we’re a great team right now. We’ve got to continue to get better. I really think it’s absurd to think about May and June; it’s not guaranteed, man. If we continue to win and put ourselves in position and we do make the playoffs, then we give ourselves a chance. … But that doesn’t guarantee you anything. One shot here, one shot there, a turnover here, a turnover there, can change a series. So for me, to focus on down that road when tomorrow isn’t promised, I think, is absurd.”

He sounds like someone who learned from Pat Riley — trust the process, build good habits, get better every day and by the playoffs and Finals you can be where you want to be. LeBron has said before his goal is to bring some of that culture to Cleveland, and this is where he needs to do so.

He’s right, nothing is guaranteed — but the Cavs making the Finals out of the East is about as close to a guarantee as you can get in sports. They are clear and away the most talented team in their conference. The problem is their real competition is in the other conference, and a couple of January benchmark games have shown Cleveland is not yet at that level. They are not elite.

There’s a lot of pressure on coach David Blatt to come up with the defensive and offensive strategies that better utilize the Cavs’ personnel — his job may well be on the line. However, the second part of Blatt coming up with those strategies is for  LeBron to buy in, and get the rest of the team to buy in as well. There has been resistance in the past to what Blatt wanted to do, but at some point the Cavs need to do things — get Love the ball at the elbow with cutters and shooters around him, for example — to take advantage of their strengths.

It’s going to be interesting to watch this process for the next three months.