With West out Hornets likely still make playoffs, just exit early

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We’re still waiting for the official diagnosis of David West, but if you’ve seen the video of his injury — if you heard his screams of pain on the game broadcast — you would realize it is not going to be good. He has a long rehab ahead of him, and some serious decisions to make now about free agency (he was expected to opt out of the last year of his deal, but this may change everything).

The other question this injury raises: What now for the Hornets?

The good news: they probably make the playoffs.

As of Friday morning the Hornets were the seven seed in the West, one game ahead of the eight seed Grizzlies and three games up on the nine-seed Rockets. But as Zach Lowe points out at Sports Illustrated that three is really four — the Hornets hold the tiebreaker over the Rockets (the best Houston can do is tie the head-to-head, and after that the second tiebreaker is conference record, where the Hornets are way ahead).

Even if — or really, how much — the Hornets take a step back without West, giving up a four-game lead with 10 to play is nearly impossible.

Once they are in the playoffs, that’s where the Hornets will really feel the loss of West.

Coach Monty Williams has the hornets wining with defense — they give up just 101.1 points per 100 possessions, sixth best in the league (via Hoopdata). That likely will not change much with Carl Landry and Jason Smith taking over West’s minutes.

But that defense has to make up for a weak offense — 103.5 points per 100 possessions, 19th in the league.

And what little offense the Hornets bring is largely based around the Chris Paul/West pick-and-pop. Especially in crunch time. West was hitting 47 percent of his five long-two pointers a game, but also has a good post game if he gets a mismatch. CP3 knew how to play off him, other guys new how to get open off that action.

Carl Landry will now set those picks — and he has yet to play one minute this season with all the other four Hornet starters, reports John Schuhmann at NBA.com.

Landry is not as deadly as West with the long two pop off the pick — he is shooting 38 percent on that since coming to the Hornets — but he still has to be respected from that distance. Landry also is a pretty average rebounder at best, where West is good.

Basically, Landry isn’t bad but he is a second tier West. One who will not demand the attention and double teams West did.

And when the Hornets match up with the Spurs/Lakers/Mavericks in the first round they will miss the matchup problems West created. A lot. It’s hard to win playoff games without the ability to exploit mismatches and West created a lot of them. Landry is less feared on offense.

But at least the Hornets should still make the post season.

Brandon Ingram gets stitches near right eye after Dario Saric falls on his head (VIDEO)

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Brandon Ingram has taken a step forward this season in New Orleans, a team that has put the ball in his hands a lot and trusted the forward to make plays. Ingram is averaging 25.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists a game, shooting 41.5 percent from three, and is playing at a level that will get him All-Star consideration. He just happens to be doing all that in a contract year.

Which is why this was a scary moment: Phoenix’s Dario Saric fell on Ingram’s head.

Ingram went back to the locker room but the result was just stitches, according to the team.

It looks like it was not as bad as the video made it appear.

 

Portland reportedly to guaranteed Carmelo Anthony’s contract for rest of season

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Portland was in desperate need of frontcourt help but, like the rest of the league, it was not sold on Carmelo Anthony as the answer.

The Trail Blazers decided to take a chance on Anthony, but a low-risk one — a non-guaranteed contract.

It’s worked out better than anyone had hoped — Anthony is averaging 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, and the Blazers have been +14.2 per 100 possessions when he is on the court. Portland is 4-4 since he was signed (although, to be fair, the four wins came after Damian Lillard returned from injury to the lineup).

With that, the Trail Blazers have decided to guarantee Anthony’s contract for the rest of the season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Consider this a reward for Anthony.

The bigger reward is that Anthony is getting to redefine the end of his career. Understandably he did not like the way it ended, with getting played off the floor in the playoffs for Oklahoma City, then only lasting 10 games in Houston. The market had dried up for Anthony until Portland came through with an offer.

Now Anthony will be with the Blazers through the end of the season. At the very least.

Rockets to officially protest loss to Spurs due to disallowed James Harden dunk

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After 48 hours of bluster, the Houston Rockets are going to follow through with actions.

The Rockets are going to officially protest Tuesday night’s loss to the Spurs on the grounds of James Harden‘s missed call, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. A protest requires proof of a  misapplication of a rule that seriously inhibits a team’s chance to win a game, the Rockets believe they have that and the league should allow the teams to replay the final 7:50 of the game (with the Rockets conveniently up by 15 at that point).

The Rockets prepared to file a protest of Tuesday’s loss to the Spurs, a person with knowledge of the team’s plans said, with an argument that will cite the James Harden dunk that did not count as an example of a “misapplication of rules.”

It will also cite subsequent errors in officials’ failing to grant a coaches’ challenge, though the primary argument is with points not being awarded following a made basket.

What’s not in question is that the referees missed the call on James Harden’s fourth-quarter dunk — it should have counted. After the game the officials, after reviewing the video, admitted as much.

In addition to the missed dunk, the Rockets also are arguing that coach Mike D’Antoni should have been allowed to challenge the play (another misapplication of a rule). The officials talked to D’Antoni for a handful of seconds, then moved away to debate the call itself — was it basket interference or something else — before settling on it being a missed shot with the ball out of bounds off Harden. D’Antoni said he was never given the chance to protest the call by the referees, after the game crew chief James Capers said D’Antoni did not protest the game within the required 30 seconds. Privately, some around the league question if D’Antoni actually told the officials he wanted to protest — he says he did, not everyone believes him.

Protests around the NBA are rarely upheld because the bar is incredibly high. A successful protest requires proof of a  misapplication of a rule that seriously inhibited a team’s chance to win a game. The Rockets argue that not giving Harden two points for a made basket qualifies as a misapplication of the rules, but others could argue it was just a missed call. There are a lot of those in every game (Russell Westbrook had a backcourt violation that was not called and became a Tyson Chandler dunk). 

This one play is not why the Rockets lost the game. Houston was up by 20 with 3:23 left in the third and by 10 with 3:53 left in the fourth but, as has followed a pattern with this team, could not hold the lead. Harden and Westbrook combined to shoot 17-of-68 on the night.

Because of that, and because there is 7:50 left in the game, it’s hard to imagine the league ruling to replay the end of the game. The Rockets likely will miss out on this.

But Houston — a team known in the league office for the deluge of referee complaints they file — is going to takes its best shot.

Former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov on Phoenix not drafting Luka Doncic: I sleep peacefully

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Mavericks star Luka Doncic looks is taking the NBA by storm at age 20.

Why did the Suns take Deandre Ayton No. 1 over Doncic – who went No. 3  – in last year’s NBA draft?

Phoenix’s coach was even Igor Kokoskov, who coached Doncic with the Slovenian national team.

Kokoskov, via Index, via Google Translate:

Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question because of a professional code, but when you have already asked me, I will tell you that I sleep peacefully and peaceably.

In other words: Kokoskov has no regrets about his input into the draft process. He’s hinting he wanted Doncic. (That’s easier to do after seeing how everything played out.)

Suns owner Robert Sarver reportedly pushed for Ayton, who played at nearby University of Arizona. Ayton looked like a reasonable choice at the time.

But Doncic’s ascent in Dallas leaves so much room for second-guessing. Maybe Kokoskov, who got fired after last season, would still be with the Suns if they drafted Doncic. Doncic would’ve done wonders for making Phoenix competitive last year – let alone beyond.

The Suns aren’t alone in facing these questions. The Kings are getting their share after drafting Marvin Bagley III No. 2.