At this time of year playoff teams are cautious with injuries — as much as you might need a player for key games now, you need him more for playoff games.
Which accounts for these two bigs of news:
Dwight Howard will be out for the Rockets for at least 10 days to rest a sore ankle.
Danny Granger of the Los Angeles Clippers will miss the next three games due to a hamstring injury.
That means both will be out Saturday night when Houston and Los Angeles have a big showdown game — the four seed Rockets are one game back of the three seed Clippers (it’s 3.5 games back to five seed Portland).
Earlier this month Howard had a cyst removed from his ankle and missed three games, apparently that did not solve all his problems with that joint. Howard’s ankle was bothering him enough that on Saturday he went to see a doctor, the recommendation was more rest, so Howard is out for Saturday, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Then the Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler added this:
Omer Asik will start at center for the Rockets. However, not having Patrick Beverley (torn meniscus) or Howard hurts the Rockets depth and more importantly defense against an offensive juggernaut.
Part of that Clippers offense in recent games has been Danny Granger leading the way for the second unit. As he has gotten healthy and gotten his legs under him he has started to show how he could lead the Clippers bench — with Glen Davis — in the postseason. But he needs to be healthy and he is not, so he is getting rest, reports Madelyn Burke, host of Clippers TV.
If the Clippers can win on Saturday night, something more likely now, they will pretty much lock themselves into the three seed and the Rockets into the four spot.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.