Roy Hibbert benched for second half, has come to symbolize Pacers’ collapse

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Roy Hibbert was just flat out bad Sunday.

Zero points, zero rebounds, one turnover — that turnover was enough for coach Frank Vogel to bench him starting midway through the second quarter, never to see the court again. Hibbert’s struggles — both to get the ball where and when he wants it, then to do anything with it when he does — mirrors a Pacers team that has fallen apart. A Pacers team that scored just 23 first half points and got thumped by the Atlanta Hawks 107-88 Sunday. That’s a new low for a Pacers team that is in utter collapse.

Hibbert was the symbol of everything that has gone wrong. It wasn’t that he took bad shots — he got deep position at times just missed the shots, he missed a running hook he used to hit regularly, he missed a couple jumpers from 12 feet out on the wing that he used to hit. He’s still 7’2” but grabbed no rebounds in nine minutes of play. When he got benched he was disconnected from the team the rest of the night — he was a couple minutes late out of the locker room for the second half, he didn’t take part in team huddles, mostly he just sat their like a statue.

After the game all Hibbert said was this, via the Indy Star.

“I got nothing to say,” Hibbert muttered.

He was clearly mad. Vogel tried to put a good face on it.

“I considered resting Roy before tonight’s game because he looks worn down, he’s a 7-2 player that’s played every game this year, which is very rare,” Vogel said. “He looks to me to be worn down. He’s giving good effort, but he looks to me to be worn down.”

He’s not completely wrong, the Pacers look and are playing tired. Did you watch the lethargic first six minutes from their starters against the Hawks? The Pacers made their priority getting the No. 1 seed in the East this season and played hard pretty much every night for the first 50 games or so and that appears to have taken a severe toll. Also, they really have had nothing to play for of consequence for a long time.

Now all that losing and lack of interest has grown and festered into something more serious — locker room chemistry issues. Big ones. Players are pointing fingers and sniping at each other. They are playing selfishly, they get no easy points (not in transition or the half court), and they just are missing shots they used to hit.

Hibbert is right in the middle of that.

He has been part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Keep playing like this and the Hawks or Bobcats could be a legitimate threat in the playoffs.

Vogel needs to rest a few guys down the stretch — what matters now is getting rested and healthy not the seed (they aren’t going to fall below the two seed). Then they get into the playoffs, where the slowed-down flow better suits their style of play. Get a win, pick up a little momentum, start to feel good about themselves and it is possible bounce back. It’s a long road, but it’s possible.

None of that is happening without a lot better play from Hibbert. He is key for them and he needs to start playing like it.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is thinking about May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers are the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.

 

Bulls big man Luke Kornet out following surgery on sinus obstruction

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Just before last Christmas, Luke Kornet broke his nose. Apparently, that never healed quite right.

Kornet underwent surgery to repair a sinus obstruction on Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced. There is no timetable for his return, although coach Jim Boylen suggested it could be less than two weeks.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen added this at practice, via NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning. He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 AM. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a seven-ten-day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

This does not impact the Bulls much on the court as Kornet has fallen out of the rotation in recent games (in part because of the sinus condition, in part because he just hasn’t played well). Kornet signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls over the summer.

D’Angelo Russell says weather played ‘major part’ in picking Warriors over Timberwolves

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D'Angelo Russell wants to play with Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ Timberwolves were reportedly interested in Russell last summer.

Why did Russell join the Warriors instead of Minnesota?

Russell, via Chris Hine of the Minneapolis StarTribune:

“I thought the opportunity here was amazing … ” Russell said after Warriors shootaround Friday. “It was definitely something I was considering very strongly. But then when this opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me.”

“I did my first winter in New York and that was tough,” Russell said. “So to get the opportunity to go somewhere where it’s warm again, I think that played a major part in my plan.”

I don’t blame him one bit.

Russell grew up in Kentucky then finished high school in Florida. He spent his first couple NBA seasons with the Lakers.

He also played collegiately at Ohio State and a a couple years for the Nets. In other words, he spent enough time in cold-weather locations to know how miserable they can be.

This is an issue that will always hinder teams like the Timberwolves. It doesn’t mean they can’t attract free agents. It’s just a disadvantage.

There will always be players who don’t have multiple max offers. Minnesota can separate itself with money, playing time and other considerations.

But good for Russell for playing himself out of that group and earning a max contract in the Bay Area.