D'Angelo Russell

Watch James Harden scores 49 points, lead Rockets past Timberwolves

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MINNEAPOLIS — Undermanned and playing for the second consecutive night, the Houston Rockets still had plenty of reason to be confident.

“I would think it would give you confidence,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You’re playing with a bazooka out there.”

A bazooka named James Harden.

Harden unloaded Saturday night, scoring 49 points on a whopping 41 shots from the field to lead the short-handed Rockets to their seventh straight victory, 125-105 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With Russell Westbrook resting and several key contributors injured, the Rockets needed Harden to shoulder an even bigger scoring load than usual. The 41 attempts are the most in his career, and the most in the NBA this season, surpassing the 37 Golden State’s D'Angelo Russell took in an overtime loss Nov. 8 in the same building in Minnesota.

“It was a collective effort,” Harden said. “We’ve got six, seven guys out. So it could have been an easy game, where we just chalked it up and got ready for next game. We wanted to come here and win this game, and we showed it.”

Harden made 16 of the 41 shots, going 8 for 22 from 3-point range. He was 9 of 11 on free throws.

“He scored (49) on 41 shots,” Timberwolves forward Robert Covington said. “That’s what we want. But it’s just the other guys hurt us. We followed the game plan with him.”

Ben McLemore scored 20 points. Undrafted rookie Chris Clemons scored a career-high 19 off the bench for the Rockets, who broke open the game with a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter. Austin Rivers also scored 19 points.

 

Warriors’ D’Angelo Russell out at least two weeks with sprained thumb (VIDEO)

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UPDATE: The results of the MRI are in and D'Angelo Russell will miss at least a couple of weeks with a thumb he sprained Friday night against Boston.

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And the injuries just keep on coming for Golden State.

D’Angelo Russell left the Warriors game in the middle of the third quarter after spraining his thumb in a loss to the Celtics on Friday night. X-rays were negative, but he will have an MRI on Saturday to get a better look at the damage.

The play was innocent enough, Russell drove the lane and had the ball swatted out of his hands and stolen by Daniel Theis, and on the next defensive possession Russell is seen holding his hand. During a timeout moments later, Russell has his hand checked by Warriors trainer Rick Celebrini, then the two go to the locker room and Russell does not return.

Russell was not the only Warrior to injure his hand during the game.

Russell joins Stephen Curry and Damion Lee as Warriors dealing with hand injuries that have them sidelined. On top of that Klay Thompson (ACL), Kevon Looney (nerve condition), Jacob Evans (strained adductor), and Alen Smailagic (sprained ankle) all also are out right now injured.

Other teams reportedly eyeing Magic’s Aaron Gordon, Orlando not interested. Yet.

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Orlando’s offense is dreadful. In the past week it finally moved into scoring more than a point per possession — just barely — but they are ranked 29th in the league. They just can’t hit shots. The Magic have the worst team three-point percentage (28.5 percent) and the worst true shooting percentage. It’s not that they’re taking bad shots, they are just not making them.

When a team struggles, other teams start to look at what players they like and may be available in a trade. Other teams watching the Magic stumble to a 4-7 start have their eyes on Aaron Gordon, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic — and he adds the Magic are not going there.

Multiple teams are monitoring Magic forward Aaron Gordon with interest should an opportunity present itself, but the Magic have shown no interest in moving him, sources said. Orlando is 4-7 and working to turn the corner early this season. Gordon signed a four-year, $76 million deal to return to the Magic in 2018.

At least not yet.

The Magic reportedly have been interested in DeMar DeRozan, but Orlando would have to move a lot of salary to land him (DeRozan makes $27.7 million this season).

One thing that has been good for Orlando this young season is the emergence of Jonathan Isaac as a player — he is already outstanding defensively, and his offense is improving (but still has a long, long way to go). Sean Deveney notes at Forbes that Orlando could change its mind about trading Gordon because of concerns about how he fits with Isaac (the team is basically net neutral when they are paired this season).

The Magic could give up forward Aaron Gordon, because there are concerns that he might not fit well over the long term with forward Jonathan Isaac, but Orlando won’t trade away Gordon for a few months of renting DeRozan, who is hardly the guy to help fix the Magic’s 3-point shooting troubles.

Gordon has two fully guaranteed years left on his contract after this season, however, it declines in value (down to $16.4 million the final season) making it very tradable.

Deveney mentions another potential target: D'Angelo Russell of Golden State. Much like Gordon, the Warriors are not interested in talking Russell trades yet, but that could change depending upon how the season evolves.

It’s early. Teams are just in the first stages of assessing their team and thinking about potential players who can help. The Magic, and Gordon, are a team to watch, particularly if the offense doesn’t turn around.

 

 

Stephen Curry says he will play this season, hopes to play “in early spring”

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SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry “definitely” plans to return this season from his broken left hand and is hoping to be back on the court at “some point in early spring.”

When exactly the two-time NBA MVP will be able to play again remains uncertain, but he expects to be back out there.

Curry addressed the media Monday night for the first time since getting injured Oct. 30 and said he needs a second surgery on his non-shooting hand, probably in early December, to remove pins that were inserted during the first procedure Nov. 1 that involved his hand and index finger.

“(Managing the) swelling is something that’s going to be of the utmost priority early in the rehab process,” Curry said, “to get me a chance to come back and get my range of motion back pretty quickly.”

The Warriors initially said Curry would be re-evaluated three months after the surgery, which would be early February.

Curry referred to himself and injured teammate Klay Thompson as “caged animals right now, wanting to be unleashed.”

Thompson, the other part of Golden State’s Splash Brothers combo, is recovering from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The team hopes he can return in the second half of the season.

Curry said he experienced some minor nerve irritation shortly after he underwent his first hand surgery, a common byproduct of the procedure. That’s one thing doctors will continue to monitor throughout his rehab process, and it will impact when he can return.

For now, Curry is working out his lower body and doing whatever training is permitted by the team’s medical staff, saying he’s using this three-month period without basketball as a “mini offseason” to fine-tune his body.

The Warriors’ longest-tenured player had praise for his teammates, who took the court Monday night against Utah with a 2-8 record that was tied with the New York Knicks and New Orleans Pelicans for the worst in the NBA.

Curry described rookie Eric Paschall‘s energy as contagious and said the play of new guard D'Angelo Russell has been “unreal.” Asked what the benefits would be for he and Thompson to return to the court this season if it was only for the final few weeks, Curry had an answer.

“Just to understand the chemistry with the young guys,” he said. “We can play around with rotations and just get a vibe of what the following season, when we’re all healthy, looks like.”

Rumor: Stephen Curry unlikely to return this season

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The Warriors said Stephen Curry would miss at least three months with a broken hand.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

A team source says the fracture was worse than originally thought, and it’s unlikely that he plays again this season.

I question the veracity of this report. But it’s out there.

Golden State looked awful with Curry. Losing him for the season – even if Draymond Green and D'Angelo Russell get and stay healthy – would practically extinguish the Warriors’ already-dim playoff chances.

A lost season could push Golden State and Curry to proceed cautiously, regardless of the exact extent of his injury.

This will only increase comparisons to the 1996-97 Spurs. But David Robinson returned from his initial injury with San Antonio 3-15 then got hurt again after just six games. That’s why the Spurs lost enough to get No. 1 pick Tim Duncan.

Also keep in mind: Even if they lose the rest of their games, the Warriors will have an 86% chance of NOT getting the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. The lottery would put them at about coinflip between getting a top-four pick or the No. 5 pick.

Any high lottery pick would help. The Warriors already have a few stars/theoretical stars – Curry, Klay Thompson, Green, Russell – locked up long term. A premier prospect could jumpstart the next era.

In the meantime, Golden State is in for some misery this season – more if Curry doesn’t return.