Boston Celtics, L.A. Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns | Comments
- Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: [Robin] Lopez averaged 7.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game last season and is playing and producing less this season, getting 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds entering Tuesday night. His shooting percentage dipped from 59 percent to 51 percent, but that is because he has taken more mid-range shots, an area of improvement in his game. “That’s probably been the biggest mystery for our team,” coach Alvin Gentry said when asked why Lopez’s progression has stopped. “In actuality, we really thought that he would probably be the second-most-important guy on our team, especially if he took a big leap. I’m not real sure if it’s the injury or what, but he hasn’t been able to give us the consistent play that we thought we’d be able to get from him. We could use it. It’s something that has hurt us a bit. We haven’t really had much inside play. [Marcin] Gortat gives us some. Other than that, we’ve been pretty much resigned to the fact that we’re a perimeter team. That hurts you when you’re going to rely on jump shots night in and night out, even as good of a shooting team as we are.” Lopez, who turns 23 on April 1, began Tuesday’s game with an offensive rebound that he could not put back on two tries, failing to rise and getting his shot blocked for the fourth time in the past three games. His vertical leap has decreased.
- Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal: However, [Rudy Gay's] surgery to repair his partially dislocated left shoulder should be routine. “No surgery is 100 percent but he has a very good chance. We expect him to make a full recovery,” said Grizzlies physician Fred Azar, who is the lead orthopedic surgeon at Campbell Clinic. “As a track record, this surgery is a successful surgery. The odds are he’ll do very well.” Gay suffered the injury Feb. 15 as he was fouled while attempting a shot. His shoulder slipped out of his back and popped back into place, which is rare. About 90 percent of the time, the shoulder slips out of the front socket and that scenario presents the best prognosis. Gay suffered a capsule tear that lines the joint. That means arthroscopic surgery is required to repair damaged tissues that occurred at the time of injury.
- Frank Isola, New York Daily News: Mike D’Antoni admitted that “there’s not a clear understanding” of what the team should do offensively late in games; the Knicks have scored 17 points in the fourth quarter in two of their last three games. He also feels that the ball tends to stop moving in a close game and that players revert back to going one-on-one, which in fairness is [Carmelo] Anthony’s strength. “You get pressure on people, you get a little fatigue on people’s legs, you revert back and you just kind of hold the ball,” D’Antoni said. “You’re not quite sure what to do. It’s almost paralysis by analysis. You’re trying to figure it out, but you’re not going anywhere. I do think that will clear up.” What’s troubling is that Chauncey Billups continues to struggle since returning from a left thigh bruise and sore left knee. Also, the Knicks appear to function better offensively when either [Amar'e] Stoudemire or Anthony is on the bench. It doesn’t mean that they can’t be efficient together, but the Knicks are running short on time and are losing ground in the process. They are in seventh place in the conference – a full game behind Philadelphia — and would likely face either Boston or Chicago in the first round. A sixth-place finish would probably mean a date with Miami in the opening round.”
- Charles F. Gardner, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks guard Michael Redd went through his first 5-on-5 practice Tuesday and expects to return to the court Friday at New York or Saturday when Milwaukee hosts the Chicago Bulls. “Today was my first practice in 14 months,” Redd said. “I pretty much played the whole practice. It was fun being out here today.” Redd said he will not play Wednesday night when the Bucks meet the Sacramento Kings at the Bradley Center. He was encouraged about the way he played in the 2-hour practice session at the Cousins Center. “The shot is there; it’s just short or long,” Redd said. “One of my coaches teased me today and said, ‘You made the hard ones today and you missed the easy ones.’”
- Gary Washburn, Boston Globe: When asked before last night’s game if the Celtics are beginning to jell after the trade, to become more defensively sound — except for the loss to Houston — Kevin Garnett didn’t entirely agree. “That’s what I’m saying, it can’t be like that,’’ he said. “It can’t be a situation where you do well against two teams and then come out and not do well against one team. Our thing since I’ve been here has always been consistency. I said that if we are going to be a great team, a team of fire, we are going to have to be a consistent team. Until the new guys get our schemes, that’s going to be the challenge. That’s where we’re at right now. “In order to be a good team, you can’t have those letdowns.’’ The Celtics have established such a high standard they sometimes don’t step back to appreciate their accomplishments. They are by far the oldest team in the Eastern Conference, and were supposed to be lapped by the Heat, and yet they have a legitimate chance for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs. “I think a lot of times we’re a veteran group and have known each other for a while,’’ Garnett said. “And a lot of times we’re a group that has been through those battles and those fights and I think that experience helps us. You put in some new guys and that whole component changes. I’m comfortable to say that as a whole, it’s big, but we’re getting there.’’ The Celtics have allowed just 88.5 points per game in March, their best month of the season, and they set a franchise record for the shot-clock era in holding the Bucks to 56 points March 13.
- Ray Richardson, Pioneer Press: A 4-11 record since the NBA all-star break, including an embarrassing 32-point home loss to Sacramento on Sunday, has led Timberwolves players to accept responsibility for the way the second half of the season is disintegrating — even to the point of defending coach Kurt Rambis, who has been the subject of reports and speculation that his job is in jeopardy. “It’s easy to say when you’re having a tough year,” Wolves forward Kevin Love said about the uncertainty of Rambis’ future with the team. “It’s not a direct reflection on him. It’s all on us being a young, youthful team. It’s unfair. As a player, I have Kurt’s back.” Love was among several Wolves players expressing support for Rambis as the team tries to regroup for its final 11 games. Sunday’s lopsided loss to Sacramento, a team that lost by 40 points in Chicago on Monday night, represented the possible low point of the season for the Wolves (17-54) and raised concerns about whether Rambis was still able to motivate the team. Before Sunday’s game, Rambis stressed to the players the importance of a determined effort against a team with the league’s third-worst record. … “I know it’s been tough on Kurt,” said Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver, who claimed after Sunday’s loss that “a lot of guys on this team don’t bring it every night. He gets blamed for everything because he’s the coach,” Tolliver said. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It’s up to us out there on the floor to execute the game plan. As players, we have to take more accountability and responsibility for our actions.”
- Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: The Lakers have some personnel decisions awaiting them at the end of the season. Nothing major, but the reserves could be affected. It’s a tad early to say for sure, but Matt Barnes says he is comfortable with exercising his $1.91-million player option to stay next season. Shannon Brown isn’t committing either way to his $2.37-million option, content to live in the moment while the Lakers pursue a third consecutive championship. The difference in approach might be as simple as the differing stages of their careers — Barnes is closer to the end at age 31, while Brown is only 25.
- Israel Gutierrez, Miami Herald: Like [Chris] Bosh has experienced this season, [Mike] Miller’s inactivity has affected his production. But with Mario Chalmers out for at least two weeks, and with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra’s desire to get Miller more comfortable and involved, Miller’s role will likely expand in upcoming games. “Mike is much more than a spot-up shooter, and he always has been,” said Spoelstra, who added that Eddie House also has been working on initiating offense. “He’s a player. He’s defined by making plays. “Offensively, he’s always been a guy that’s been counted on to make plays, not just stand in the corner and receive passes at the end of the clock, which are tough, home run plays. His role is different with us. We can’t get around that. But we can get him more involved, more engaged in the game.” In recent games, Miller has been the point man in pick-and-roll plays, with some positive results. And against the Hawks last Friday, Miller spent most of the fourth quarter as the point-forward, initiating plays in the Heat victory.
- Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: [Otis] Smith wants to see [Gilbert] Arenas create waves in Orlando by challenging Jameer Nelson for the starting point-guard job next season — or even seizing it from Nelson. This scenario sounds far-fetched now, given Gilbert’s struggles since arriving in a mid-December trade. “I’m OK with having a controversy with players fighting for a job,” Smith said. “That’s a good problem to have. I’ll deal with that issue.” Smith’s response came when I asked him about the clouds hovering over Arenas’ future with the Magic. He hasn’t been healthy, bothered by a troublesome left leg. And — as a career starter — Arenas is not happy as Nelson’s back-up, even though he’s showed little progress with his downsized minutes.”