Alex Len harbors no resentment toward Maryland for handling of injury

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NEW YORK – It’s reached the point where I expect so little from major college athletic programs that I hardly raised an eyebrow when Alex Len told Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons he played through the stress fracture in his ankle last season and didn’t have an MRI done until after Maryland’s last game.

But Kudos to Nate Timmons of Denver Stiffs for not dropping the issue. Using that video and a USA Today article that confirms Len’s injury wasn’t diagnosed until after the season, Timmons raised the question of whether Maryland acted appropriately.

It’s an important discussion, especially given the claims by the NCAA that its duty is to protect its athletes. Maryland had economic incentive to exploit Len (even more than they already did). He was a top player, and he could help the Terrapins win games and generate fan support. Who cares whether he suffers long-term damage? He was gone after this year, anyway, and wouldn’t be their problem.

Of course, we hope Maryland would act more scrupulously than that, but there should be more safeguards in place – namely a system that gives less power to coaches and administrators and more power to players than current setup does. Players like Len should have greater control of their own medical treatment.

However, while the issue is legitimate and important, Len does not make a good poster child for it. He very clearly said he has no problem with how Maryland handled his injury.

“A stress fracture is hard to discover sometimes,” Len said. “Because we did x-rays when it started hurting, but the doctor didn’t see anything. Sometimes, you can’t see anything. It just shows up after two months.”

Len  came stateside from Ukraine two years ago to decide on a school. But because it was already August, he had just two weeks and looked at only Maryland and Virginia Tech.

Obviously on little information, he picked Maryland, and obviously, it’s worked well.

Even his injury has provided at least one benefit. Len said an x-ray revealed his growth plate is still open and he might grown another inch.

The basketball wasn’t always pretty in College Park, but it proved useful for Len, who grew up – after his famed and short-lived gymnastics career ended – playing international-style basketball.

“Coach Turgeon did a tremendous job helping a lot,” Len said. “He kind of guided me, what I needed to do, because when I came from Europe, I wanted to play outside. He explained to me, on the block, that’s where I’m going to play throughout my career.”

It’s fantastic that Len appreciated his Maryland experience. It’s important these schools are held accountable, so the next athlete feels the same way.

Kyrie Irving on video with Kevin Durant: ‘Me and one of my best friends talking’

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The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).

Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:

Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):

It’s just crazy. This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. It doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league even more by doing bulls— like that, of just putting fictitious things on what we’re talking about. It’s crazy.

It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.

That wasn’t a denial.

Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.

Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:

I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.

But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.

So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.

Report: Hawks didn’t clear John Collins’ airplane dunk until shortly before dunk contest

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There were two memorable dunks in this year’s dunk contest:

The Hawks nearly stopped us from seeing that latter spectacle.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Saturday:

Now, there’s a little curve ball here. The last update that I had was that the Hawks hadn’t approved John Collins jumping over an airplane yet and that they were a little bit were worried that he was going to trip on it and injure himself.

After watching the dunk, I understand the Hawks’ reluctance. Collins broke the plane!

At least he seemingly emerged unscathed.

Report: Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry trying to convince NBA to soften stance on Anthony Davis

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The NBA reportedly threatened to fine the Pelicans if they sat a healthy Anthony Davis.

Then, Davis got booed by New Orleans fans. He got injured in another game. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps as general manager and elevated Danny Ferry to interim general manager.

New Orleans is reportedly uncertain how to handle Davis the rest of the season. But a key step to changing course is gaining NBA approval, and that’s apparently what Ferry is seeking.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

There were strong signals in Charlotte that the Pelicans — with Danny Ferry now serving as their acting general manager in the wake of Friday’s firing of Dell Demps — intend to re-engage the N.B.A. this week in hopes of convincing league officials to rethink their stance about forcing them to play Davis.

A big question: What does Davis want? He failed to give a straight answer about about his long-term future, but maybe he can explain his desire for just the rest of this season. He previously said he wanted to play, but that was before he got booed and hurt – developments that could change his thinking.

If Davis wants to keep playing, the players’ union could take up his cause. That might not be a fight the league wants.

Heck, the league might still want Davis to keep playing, regardless. The injury risk was real when the league handed down its initial edict. Unemotionally, Davis’ shoulder scare shouldn’t change the calculus. Davis is in the midst of a great season. Him being a healthy scratch for a month-and-a-half would be a black mark for the NBA.

But NBA commissioner has had Ferry’s back before, even reportedly urging the Bucks to consider him for general manager after Ferry made a racist remark that ended his Hawks tenure. Maybe Ferry will convince the league in a way Demps couldn’t.

If so, attention to will turn to Davis and his desire to keep playing.

Dwight Howard reportedly to return to Washington D.C., start on-court steps in recovery

Associated Press
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The return of Dwight Howard should solve all the Wizards problems…

Low hanging fruit jokes aside, Howard was expected to be out two-to-three months for back surgery that happened at the end of November, that would have him back in the coming weeks, and he is now on his way back to the nation’s capital, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Howard played in nine games for the Wizards this season, scoring an efficient 12.8 points and grabbing 9.2 rebounds a game.

The Wizards have been starting Thomas Bryant, with Bobby Portis playing some five behind him, in recent games. How Howard fits into that when healthy will be a question for coach Scott Brooks.

The Wizards would need to make up three games and jump three teams in the final 24 games of the season to make the playoffs.