Five Things We Learned in NBA Monday: Goran Dragic got his revenge in concentrated form

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while you were remembering Hank Gathers

1) For Goran Dragic, revenge is a dish best served in concentrated form. Miami’s Goran Dragic played just fewer than 15 minutes against his old team, the Phoenix Suns. You know, the team he kicked on the way out the door (and they have kicked back). Turns out 15 minutes was plenty — Dragic had 21 points on 5-of-9 shooting, got to the free throw line nine times, and helped the Heat to a 115-98 win. Dragic said after the game his back was bothering him so much that he would have sat out against anyone else. But revenge is a great motivator.

2) DeMar DeRozan made sure the Raptors were going to get a win somehow. The Toronto Raptors had lost five in a row and needed a slump buster. A win, no matter how ugly. They got it in the form of Philadelphia, and DeMar DeRozan was going to make sure they got the victory — 35 points and nine rebounds. Even when the Sixers guarded him well — and they didn’t do that consistently — he was making plays, hitting 6-of-9 on contested shots on the night. We’ll see if the Raps can build on this, but for now it’s a win.

3) Stephen Curry is just not fair. Just like it had been in Boston, Golden State started slow in Brooklyn then tried to make a furious late comeback from down double digits — and that comeback was all Stephen Curry. He reminded everyone why he is an MVP frontrunner putting up 18 fourth quarter points. He showed off his handles, he showed off his jumper, he showed off his hesitation move, he was just making plays. When Curry gets going, there is no more entertaining player in the NBA.

4) Yet Curry’s fireworks were not enough — Jarrett Jack got the Nets the win. Brooklyn needed the win; they are one of six Eastern Conference teams that started the day within 2.5 games and all battling for the final two playoff spots. The Nets need wins. They got off to a fast start, shooting 16-of-22 to start the game, they had Brook Lopez put up 26, but they needed Jack to do his thing at the end to secure the win.

5) Blood clots are becoming a real issue in the NBA. Chris Bosh got out of the hospital but is sidelined for the rest of this season with blood clots in his lungs. The thing is, he is not alone in dealing with this condition. As David Aldridge noted in his must-read Monday column at NBA.com, Brooklyn’s Mirza Teletovic was shut down for the season in January for this and Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao missed the second half of the 2012-13 season for this. It’s not just the NBA, the NHL and MLB have had to face this issue. Aldridge laid it out well.

“I think this is something that’s on our radar,” said Gregg Farnam, the Minnesota Timberwolves head athletic trainer and director of medical operations, and the current chair of the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association, on Saturday.

“It’s something that, in speaking with the league office, we’re in the process of assembling some team athletic trainers, some physicians, some specialists across the country to look deeper into this issue and see if there’s any correlation, and within that correlation see if there’s anything we need to do differently,” said Farnam, who’s in his 18th season with Minnesota and 15th as head athletic trainer.

The extensive travel and time spent on planes by NBA players would, at first glance, be a prime suspect in the causation of clots. Travel of several hours or more at a time — a regular part of the job description for NBA players — is believed to increase the risk of developing embolisms or deep vein thrombosis. Because people sit on planes and leg movement tends to be restricted on flights, even on the charter planes all NBA teams now use, blood can pool in the legs and clots can develop — especially if a player is dehydrated after playing.

It’s something the league needs look into.

Raptors drop Kawhi Leonard tribute video

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Wednesday night, Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto for the first time since leaving the team last summer to head to Los Angeles.

Unlike most returns in recent years, there will not be boos — Toronto will welcome Leonard back with open arms. He won them a ring, there are no hard feelings.

The Raptors already dropped a tribute video on Twitter.

Well done, Raptors.

It’s going to be fun to see his return, which will be a celebration — and should be a good game.

Ja Morant admits he was thinking about cameras on baseline during return to court

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Monday night, Grizzlies star rookie Ja Morant returned to the court after missing four games with what was officially called “back spasms,” but in reality was him recovering from his back hitting a courtside cameraman after a fall.

Morant scored 26 to lead the Warriors to a win in Golden State, but he admitted to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes that when he drove the lane and went up he thought about his landing spot and those cameramen.

Following the contest, Morant acknowledged that instead of solely focusing on being the best version of himself, he occasionally found himself thinking about the proximity of camera operators while driving in the paint.

“It’s tough because I know I just have to do more controlled jumps now,” Morant told Yahoo Sports. “But at the same time, I’m just trying not to think about it and still try to play my game. It’s just a tough situation all the way around, honestly….

“I just think player safety should be first and foremost. How I play and where I end up, [cameramen] are right there. Personally, I like to attack the rack, and I feel like that injury came from me attacking the rack and it was just nowhere to land for me.”

Morant echoes the concern of a lot of players and coaches.

The NBA is aware of the issue, back in 2014 they reduced the number of cameramen on the baseline by half (down to 10 per side) and created a four-foot-wide “runway” on either side of the stanchion that players can run up if they have a full head of steam.

That’s not close to eliminating the problem. The NBA is not going to remove those cameras — the NBA is in the entertainment business, and those cameras provide some of the best video angles and still shots to show fans — but expect it to take another look and review its process here.

What we don’t want to happen is the game loses a promising young player like Morant for a lot more than four games after a run-in with a cameraman.

Bulls’ Otto Porter out at least one more month with fractured foot

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The Chicago Bulls miss Otto Porter. He was a starter on the wing for nine games, scoring 11.2 points per game, hitting 40 percent of his threes, playing solid defense, and the Bulls offense was 8.3 points per 100 possessions better on offense when he was on the court. He’s a steadying influence as a veteran.

However, he has been out the last 16 games with a foot injury, and he’s going to miss at least another month, the Bulls announced Tuesday. The Bulls said Porter saw a specialist and he “confirmed the bone injury and healing response in Porter’s left foot consistent with a small fracture that has become more clearly defined with repeated imaging over the last five weeks.”

What that means for Porter is another month in a boot.

Chandler Hutchison‘s bruised shoulder has him in street clothes, too, which means Kris Dunn will remain the starter for now. Denzel Valentine has used a bump in minutes to show some growth in his game, play fairly well, and make a push for even more run of late.

But without Porter, the Bulls are not the same.

 

 

Report: Kevin Love would prefer to play for Portland if traded

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are listening to trade offers for Kevin Love.

Love’s reaction to this is essentially “whatevs.” He’s been in the middle of trade rumors for four years now, it’s as constant and annoying in his life as taxes.

However, if he is going to get traded, he’d prefer to go home to Oregon and play for Portland, reports Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

Love would prefer to play for his hometown Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple league sources. The Blazers make perfect sense as a destination for Love; they need help for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after the team has been decimated by injuries….

The Blazers have the salaries to make a deal work with the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) or Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million).

There were previous reports Love just wants to go to a contender. That said, there is logic to him wanting to go home, and there is a good fit in Portland, a team that needed help at the four before injuries rocked the roster. Love is averaging 16.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game, is shooting 37.1 percent from three, and remains one of the best outlet passers in the game.

Making a trade work is trickier. Bazemore has to play a much larger role after Rodney Hood was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, his availability is up for debate.

Hassan Whiteside can make the trade numbers work with his expiring contract, and Whiteside won’t be missed once Jusuf Nurkic (and even Zach Collins) returns from injury. However, the Cavaliers are going to want draft picks or young players to help with their rebuild to make this trade. Would the Blazers throw in a protected first to make this happen?

There also is this question any team trading for Love has to ask itself: Do we want to take on the three-plus years remaining on his four-year, $120 million contract? That’s a lot of money and years for an All-Star player who is productive but aging, and also has a lengthy injury history.

Portland can also try to trade for Danilo Gallinari and his expiring contract with the Thunder, which has a lot less risk involved.

Love, however, would be popular in Portland, and he would help the team.