The 18-8 Utah Jazz will get better tonight. Soon that may be significantly better.
Center Mehmet Okur — out since rupturing his Achilles tendon in the first game of the playoffs last season — will suit up and come off the bench for the Jazz tonight, the team announced at shoot around this morning. Not a lot, just 5 or 10 minutes off the bench, but he will play.
Okur brings floor spacing, a deadly pick-and-pop game, and rebounding. He joins Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Andrei Kirilenko to make one of the better front lines in the league and one with a lot of versatility. Jerry Sloan likes versatility. Oh, the Jazz have that Deron Williams guy too, I hear he’s pretty good.
The Jazz are good without him, with Okur they move up a notch. Probably not “beat a healthy Lakers team in a seven game series” notch, but you can bet the Mavericks and Spurs would like to avoid them for as long as possible.
The Lakers initially called LeBron James day-to-day with the groin injury he suffered on Christmas.
He missed more than five weeks.
Maybe he should have sat even longer.
Karen Joubert, via Complex Sports:
Maybe LeBron returned too soon. This injury allowed that, even if it put him at risk of reaggravation if not fully recovered.
Maybe LeBron just healed especially quickly. Even among world-class athletes, he is an elite athlete.
Maybe Joubert is exaggerating. People tend to do that with LeBron’s body.
There’s plenty of room for interpretation, but it sure looked like LeBron was still hobbled.
What does this mean for LeBron and the Lakers going forward?
The pessimistic spin: LeBron did lasting damage to his body by returning so soon. This (failed) attempt to get the Lakers into the playoffs this season will undermine him in the future.
The optimistic spin: LeBron has still been excellent these last few weeks. If he gets fully healthy during his longest offseason in 14 years, he should be even better next season.
Kyrie Irving spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers. He developed into a star with them. He won a title with them, even hitting the championship-winning shot.
With Irving’s Celtics playing in Cleveland tomorrow, Irving reflected on his time there.
Jared Weiss of The Athletic:
Irving is so clearly over the Cavs.
He was probably over the Cavs even while playing for them.
The Lakers have had a rough season.
Last night went pretty well, though – especially for one fan.
The Lakers beat the Kings, and this fan swished a halfcourt shot to win $45,000.
The Lakers need more outside shooting. Maybe they could turn to some of their fans.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is undeniable.
Watch this video. He’s the only Bucks player in sight on the court. All five Cavaliers appear. Antetokounmpo dunks anyway.
He dribbles past Jordan Clarkson then through David Nwaba and Tristan Thompson. Nik Stauskas and Brandon Knight are shading close enough to narrow his potential path. None of it matters.
Antetokounmpo scores inside unlike anyone anyone we’ve ever seen.