Earlier this month, the Lakers traded for former All-Star center Roy Hibbert, coming off a down year after a 2013-14 campaign that had him in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Things had been ugly between Hibbert and the Pacers for a while, and he clearly needed a change of scenery. At his introductory press conference with Indiana, Hibbert made it clear that he intends to get back to his former level of defense. From the Orange County Register‘s Bill Oram:
The Lakers, however, view Hibbert as a player who can not only regain his standing as an All-Star big man, but anchor their anemic defense, which last year ranked second-worst in the NBA.
“I expect to play at an All-Star defensive level, and everything else will come,” Hibbert said Wednesday.
Hibbert’s defense last season was actually not as bad as his reputation — in a lot of ways, his nonexistent offensive game colors people’s perceptions of him. He’s still a capable rim protector, exactly the kind of risk the Lakers should be taking at this point in hoping that a change of scenery will rejuvenate him.
Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back
But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.
Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.
Re: CJ McCollum: Transverse process fractures of the spine aren’t unheard of in professional sports. Cam Newton & Tony Romo endured the injury while NBA players, including Hedo Turkoglu & Mike Conley, have sustained the injury in recent season.
Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).
That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?
Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner
Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.
The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).
Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.
The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.
Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.
Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.
Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.
Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.
Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.
It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) —Devin Bookerscored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.
Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.