Something weird was up with the court at Staples Saturday, but the arena says situation normal

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You know those situations where you know something is wrong, but there’s no physical evidence to suggest as such? We’ve got one of those.

Saturday night during Lakers-Thunder Game 4, there was something wrong with the court. The most notable example came before the half, when Russell Westbrook, a pretty agile guy, turned to run up the floor with the half winding down, and just slipped and fell. His right leg slipped out from under him. He lay on the court for several minutes holding his hip before getting up and going to halftime. He returned and everything was OK. And if it was just that, that’s not a big deal. But Ramon Sessions flat out slipped on to his stomach in the first quarter for no apparent reason. There were multiple slips.

The natural question was to ask if the fact the arena had to be constantly flipped from Lakers court to Clippers court to L.A. Kings rink had something to do with it. The arena had to be flipped from Clippers to Lakers in the same day Saturday, a double-header due to the back to backs being played because of the compressed schedule (on account of the lockout). But arena officials deny that there were any issues with the court. Hmmm. From the Orange County Register:

The unusual number of on-court slips and spills by both the Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder during Saturday’s Game 4 was not because of the ice rink beneath the court, according to Staples Center officials.

The ice has been there since September and there have not been any previous complaints about slipping.

Michael Roth, spokesman for Staples Center, said the referees deemed the court safe.

The referees didn’t have any complaints with the court,” Roth said. “And everything was done as usual in these circumstances.”

via Ice not to blame for unusual number of falls – Lakers blog : The Orange County Register.

So they say there was no concern. But I’ve seen players slip on a court enough to know that what was going on Saturday night was not normal slipping. It was on multiple spots on the floor, and too consistent for there to have been nothing fishy going on.

The answer here, as usual, is to blame hockey, regardless of any actual impact from the ice.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.

Sixers hire Elton Brand as new General Manager

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Filling the 76ers vacant general manager position dragged out all summer for one main reason:

They liked what they already had in-house. The Sixers were an especially collegial and collaborative group with their decision making, and if they brought in a big name from the outside — former Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin, or the two guys who went deep into the interview process Utah assistant GM Justin Zanik on Rockets VP Gersson Rosas — it would change that dynamic.

Which is why they have decided to keep this in the family, and will promote Elton Brand from vice president of basketball operations to general manager. It’s a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and confirmed by NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

Brand, a former Philadelphia player, was the general manager of their G-League team, the Delaware Blue Coats, before becoming the VP of basketball operations. He will replace Bryan Colangelo, who was forced out following a Twitter scandal involving his wife.

There were other title changes within the organization as well.

What this means on the ground is don’t expect any significant changes with the Sixers’ plans — nor should there be. They are banking on Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz — now with a functional jump shot, they hope — to be at the core of a contending team, then next summer they will go big game hunting again for an elite free agent. (There is more pressure to get a deal done this summer before the big extensions for those young stars start to really kick in.) That said, this is a team poised on the brink of a great run.

And if things are going well, why make a dramatic change? Brand can help them on the course already set.

Pat Riley: Dion Waiters not recovered for start of training camp, “unlikely” for start of season

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This is a setback.

When Dion Waiters had ankle surgery 30 games into last season, the hope was that he would be healthy for the start of this season and return to the post All-Star form of 2017, when his hot play (15.6 points per game, 41 percent from three and carrying a heavy offensive load) led the Heat to offer him a four-year contract.

Turns out, that’s not going to happen.

It was Pat Riley who made the announcement, speaking to the media.

Waiters was not healthy last season, and while he averaged 14.3 points a game he was not nearly as efficient — 30.6 percent from three, shooting 39.8 percent overall, a PER of 10.5.

This could move Dwyane Wade into the starting lineup to open the season. Beyond that, the Heat have the guard depth to survive this with Wade and Wayne Ellington at the two, plus Goran Dragic, Tyler Johnson, Malik Newman, and Briante Weber heading into camp.

Waiters being out also is bad news for the player but could save the franchise money on another front: Waiters receives a $1.1 million bonus if he plays in 70 games this season. If he misses the start of the season, he becomes far less likely to make that threshold.