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NBA Insiders Notebook: Wade faces season-ending injury; strategic rest remains issue

NBA Insiders Notebook: Wade faces season-ending injury; strategic rest remains issue

AN ARENA NEAR YOU -- Welcome to another edition of the CSN Insider notebook, where we're once again looking at all the hot-button topics that has folks abuzz in the NBA.

There's been a lot of talk about teams giving players nights off, also known as "strategic rest"... which, as you can imagine, hasn't been a huge hit with fans or the NBA league office.

But even that may not be enough to keep core guys from getting hurt.

Unfortunately, the Chicago Bulls know all about this.

Dwyane Wade, who has been held out at times this season as a precautionary measure, suffered a right elbow fracture in a loss to Memphis last week which ended his first (and maybe last?) season in Chicago. Without Wade down the stretch, it's unlikely the Bulls will make the playoffs.

CSN Chicago Insider Vincent Goodwill examines not only the injury and its impact on the Bulls, but also the long-term implications of Wade’s player option to return next season to a roster that may or may not include fellow All-Star Jimmy Butler.

D-Wade one (season) and done in Chicago?
Veterans know their bodies better than trainers, so when Wade heard the "click-click" in his right elbow in the third quarter of the Bulls' loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday, he feared the worst.

"I told them ... it was pretty much a dislocation at the time, and [the elbow] went back in, so [we're] kind of dealing with the aftermath of what that looks like," Wade said. "This is what it looks like."

Wade is out for the regular season and there doesn't appear to be a lot of hope for an improbable playoff showing, should the Bulls come back to qualify for the eighth spot.

The Bulls (33-37) are 10th in the East, a game behind Detroit and Miami, which are tied for eighth.

Looking forward, one wonders if Wade's future is tied to the player he came to Chicago to aid: Butler. The Bulls have been noncommittal about Butler's long-term standing in Chicago. And although he has a $23.8 million player option for next season, there's no guarantee Wade returns for the second year of his contract.

Will Wade want to ride out another season of uncertainty with young players, especially if Butler is moved? It's certainly a question that deserves to be asked, although he won't answer it at this point.

"At this point, it’s too much cart in front of the horse," Wade said Thursday. "Couple hours removed but definitely too soon." -- by Vincent Goodwill

Smart, Brown dust-up in the past now?
At the end of Celtics practices, often you’ll find Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown playing one-on-one. It's apparent to anyone who has seen them play against each other that both are very competitive and stubborn.

Well, those competitive juices almost got out of hand against Minnesota on Wednesday, as they engaged in a shouting match that ultimately ended with Jae Crowder stepping in between them.

Neither player spoke after the game as they boarded a plane that night for New York City to take on Brooklyn. Prior to the Nets game, which the Celtics won 98-95, both players apparently made up and all is good ... for now.

"It was two passionate guys, at the end of the day, (who) want to win," Brown told CSN’s Abby Chin.

"It was nothing, really," Smart echoed similar sentiments. "We had different views on things, like any other team. And you know it's over with and it's on to the next one."

The brouhaha seemed to stem from Brown's not allowing a play to develop, instead cutting it short for a drive to the lane and then not getting back defensively.

The replay showed Brown had a lane to the basket that was closed quickly by the Timberwolves and resulted in his missed shot. It was the kind of aggressive offensive play the Celtics have come to expect from Brown, who was taken with the No. 3 pick in last June’s NBA draft.

What was lost in this dust-up was what so many on the outside recognize.

The Celtics have a young but very talented group of players who are trying to do the seemingly impossible: continue developing their games and grow as future leaders while simultaneously helping the team win.

This wasn’t the first time the Celtics have some of their youngsters blow up at one another, and it won’t be the last. The only thing that’s not decided is whether it’ll be as public as it was against Minnesota, or will they manage to keep it in-house? -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Raptors due for a shake-up?
Even before it was determined that Kyle Lowry’s right wrist injury would need to be surgically repaired, the Raptors were struggling. His absence by itself meant a lineup change, but Toronto might need to make one at another position besides Lowry at the point.

The Raptors may give some thought to moving DeMarre Carroll to the bench and inserting P.J. Tucker, acquired from Phoenix near last month’s trade deadline, into the starting lineup.

Carroll, Toronto’s big offseason addition two years ago, has failed to live up to the high expectations the Raptors had for him.

Since arriving in Toronto in 2015, armed with a four-year $58 million contract, Carroll has struggled to be effective due to injuries. And when he has been healthy, he has still struggled.

Coach Dwane Casey knows he has to do something to shake things up in a season that has taken a turn for the worst lately. And getting Tucker more minutes is a likely solution to some, if not all, of the Raptors' problems.

"I don’t know what the numbers are exactly but we’re one of the top defensive teams when P.J.'s on the floor," Casey told reporters recently.

And getting him on the floor would be a lot easier for Casey if he’s in the starting lineup, right? -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Porter on the verge of a huge payday
The momentum leaned heavily toward Otto Porter setting himself up for a $100 million-plus contract when the small forward becomes a restricted free agent this summer. But Bojan Bogdanovic, who was acquired at the trade deadline and now relieves him from the bench, has not only fortified the second unit but given the Wizards some leverage.

Bogdanovic is a capable starter and an adequate defender. He's averaging 15.4 points and 45.8 percent three-point shooting in Washington. Porter is at 14.1 and 44.9 from long range. While Porter is the better defender, he hasn't been lockdown on the wing. He has difficulty with physical players at his position, but still is a valuable piece.

Coach Scott Brooks uses both when he goes to a small lineup. Bogdanovic will be restricted this summer, too. He makes $3.7 million. Porter, a No. 3 overall pick in 2013, earns $5.9 million. The intention is to keep Porter, president Ernie Grunfeld told CSNmidatlantic.com recently, but Bogdanovic gives him options. -- by J. Michael

Waiters’ latest injury (ankle) may cool off Heat
The Miami Heat have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA over the past couple of months, mainly because several players are having breakout seasons.

Among them is Dion Waiters. But his recent ankle sprain may be what cools off the Heat’s playoff aspirations.

Waiters missed three games earlier this season with an ankle sprain, but Waiters said his latest is worse.

When asked about making it back before the regular season ends, Waiters told reporters: "That's the goal. We've just got to keep working on it and hope this thing keeps improving every day. I'm young, 25, so my bones should heal kind of fast. Just got to keep working on just having faith and hopefully I wake up and this thing is gone."

But if they can’t weather the storm without Waiters for the next couple weeks, his return may not matter because Miami could very well fall out of the playoff picture.

"I believe in my guys," Waiters said. "I know they're going to hold the fort down for me, man." -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Porzingis on Knicks: 'We're not where we wanted to be'
Kristaps Porzingis, like most New York Knicks fans, had high expectations this season. But as the year progressed, it became clear to the 7-foot-2 Porzingis that even when the Knicks were playing above-.500 basketball, they weren’t a very good team.

"From the beginning, it didn’t feel like . . . I felt like we would make good runs, but we weren’t there at that level yet where we wanted to be," Porzingis told reporters recently. "And you can see it now we’re not where we wanted to be."

The Knicks (27-42) have lost seven of their last 10 games and are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Injuries keep Hawks grounded
Injuries are mounting in Atlanta. The Hawks' best player, Paul Millsap, is missing time because of left knee soreness and Kent Bazemore will be out at least a week until he gets re-evaluated for a left knee contusion.

And point guard Dennis Schroder has struggled of late, shooting just 30.7 percent (16-for-52) in the Hawks' last three games -- all losses.

After being among the top four teams in the East for most of the season, the Hawks are skidding and dealing with injuries at the worst possible time.

They're just two games ahead of No. 6 Indiana and less than four games above No. 8 Detroit entering Monday. -- by J. Michael

Pistons to lose another exec in Pat Garrity?
The Detroit Pistons are not all that different than most NBA franchises that try to balance front-office continuity while embracing the notion that good workers will likely move on at some point and find great jobs.

An ESPN.com report indicated that Pistons associate general manager Pat Garrity, one of Stan Van Gundy's first hires after he took over the Pistons front office in 2014, may be in the mix for the Orlando GM job if the Magic let Rob Hennigan go after this season.

Garrity, 40, spent nine years in the NBA which included the last eight with the Magic.

"Pat's a really, really smart guy," Van Gundy told the Detroit Free Press. "And a patient and thorough decision maker. He puts some time in before he comes to a conclusion, and makes his recommendation.

"Really similar to [Pistons GM Jeff Bower], they'll give nuanced opinions. I'm always suspect of guys who make decisions sound really easy. To me, most decisions that are really easy, they're really easy because you haven’t thought them through."

Former Pistons executives Ken Catanella and Brian Wright left for the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs, respectively, during the last off-season. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

NBA 'not happy' with Cavs sitting players
When Cleveland Cavs coach Tyronn Lue decided to sit LeBron James and a couple of his teammates for a nationally televised game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the perennial All-Star wasn’t happy about it.

As it turned out, he wasn’t alone.

Shortly after word surfaced that James as well as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would all be held out for the Clippers game, Cavs GM David Griffin said he received a call from the league office.

"Seven minutes after it was announced. Yeah, they were not happy," Griffin told ESPN.com. "I feel bad for the league. I really do. But it is what it is for us from an injury standpoint. We literally had one guy rest tonight and everybody else was reasonably injured. I don’t feel like we did anything terribly egregious."

Not surprisingly, the Clippers (41-29) had no problem beating the Cavs 108-78 which certainly enhanced their playoff position which is very much an up in the air thing for Los Angeles these days.

They are currently fifth in the West, trailing Utah by two games and ahead of Oklahoma City by 0.5 games.

Not only did the Clippers get the win, but their Big Three -- Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan -- got a chance to watch from the bench for the entire fourth quarter because of how lopsided the game had become up to that point. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Western Conference 

Durant return near? 
It's unclear exactly when Kevin Durant (left knee MCL sprain, tibial bone bruise) will be dropping 30-foot jumpers and dunking on unsuspecting big men in transition.

But he's making progress; enough to where he will be traveling with the team for a back-to-back set of games at Oklahoma City and Dallas.

"I've watched him today shooting jump shots," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said before Golden State's 117-92 win over Milwaukee on Saturday.

"I've watched him go from sitting in a chair shooting to standstill shooting and now jump-shooting, so he's clearly making progress. It's great."

Since Durant's injury, the Warriors have a 5-5 record. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Hill due for a net gain? 
Even though George Hill has had a career season in Utah and will be a free agent this summer, the Jazz will have plenty of suitors trying to pry him from Salt Lake City. The Brooklyn Nets are reportedly one of the teams that's expected to make an aggressive run at the 31-year-old veteran.

While his numbers have been solid for Utah this season, what makes him such an attractive target has been the way his game has impacted winning in Utah.

After coming oh-so-close to making the playoffs the last couple of seasons, Hill's arrival has been vital to Utah, currently fourth in the Western Conference. And when he has not played due to injuries, there's a noticeable drop-off in overall production and wins.

However, his age and history with injuries may work against him when it comes to getting a max-deal or near-max deal which he is reportedly seeking.

Regardless of what deal he ultimately winds up signing, Hill has proven himself to be a player who does what all players should strive toward doing and that's having a great impact on winning. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Harden's MVP chase gaining momentum
Houston's James Harden has been in the MVP conversation all season. But the way he's played lately, Harden may very well be the front-runner at this point.

He recently added a 19th triple-double of the season, but it was of the 40-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist variety, which increased his single-season record of 40-point triple-doubles to seven.

But beyond the numbers, Harden has done a phenomenal job of keeping the Rockets near the top of the Western Conference standings. And within that success, you find that Houston is 13-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season which speaks to how they are able to find success at times when from an energy stand point, they are at their most vulnerable state. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Crawford back in the NBA, making an immediate impact 
Jordan Crawford is back in the NBA playing for the New Orleans Pelicans doing what he does best … get buckets.

And that instant-offense brand of basketball has led to him parlaying a 10-day contract into a two-year deal.

Crawford appreciates his opportunity to be back in the NBA that much more after spending the last two seasons playing overseas and in the D-League.

"This journey that I'm on -- it's a basketball journey because that's the business, but it's really life," he told reporters recently. "I learned a lot of life lessons [while] becoming a man. Learning things that's small and things that are big, things that are thrown at you that you can't control how to deal with them. Just took it as a man."

In his first six games with New Orleans, Crawford scored in double figures in all but one of those games. He's averaging 13.0 points while shooting 48.7 percent from 3-point range. And in the six games he has played, the Pelicans have a 3-3 record. -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

Stevens, Donovan draw college interest?
Boston coach Brad Stevens and Oklahoma City's Billy Donovan have made the transition from coaching in college to the NBA a relatively smooth one. So it’s not all that surprising that both of their names were rumored as potential candidates for one of the more high-profile college openings.

But both coaches have said repeatedly that they have no intention of returning to coaching in college.

"I don't speak to the rumor mill or anything else," Stevens, an Indiana native who led Butler University to a pair of national title runner-up finishes, told reporters prior to Friday's game at Brooklyn. "I've made pretty clear I'm going to be here. I've been asked about that quite a bit. And I’ll keep saying the same thing. I'm going to be here until the Celtics decide they want to move in another direction."

Donovan, who was one win away from a trip to the NBA Finals last season, had similar comments when asked about the rumors involving him and Indiana University.

"I am totally happy here," Donovan told the Oklahoman. "I love it here. I love the guys I work with every day. I love our staff, the organization. As far as I'm concerned, my commitment is totally here and doing the best job I can while I'm here." -- by A. Sherrod Blakely

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

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AP Images

NBA Notes: Bulls' Mirotic suffers broken bones in fight with teammate Portis

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls say forward Nikola Mirotic suffered multiple broken bones in his face as well as a concussion in a fight with teammate Bobby Portis during practice.

The team says Mirotic will likely need surgery and is out indefinitely. They say they are "evaluating disciplinary action" after Tuesday's incident.

Mirotic averaged 10.8 points over his first three seasons with Chicago. A restricted free agent, he signed a two-year contract that could pay as much as $27 million in September. The club holds an option on the second season.

A 2015 first-round pick, Portis has averaged 6.9 points and 5 rebounds.

The Bulls open at Toronto on Thursday. Chicago is rebuilding after trading Jimmy Butler and parting with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo (see full story).

Nuggets: Jefferson reportedly agrees to deal
DENVER -- Michael Malone knows all about Richard Jefferson. Just not Tuesday, with the deal for the veteran forward still waiting on official word.

"Who's Jefferson?" the Denver Nuggets coach coyly said after practice.

Jefferson will join the Nuggets on a one-year deal, a person with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the agreement hasn't been disclosed by the team. ESPN first reported the deal, which it said is worth $2.3 million.

After weeks of fine-tuning his roster through training camp and the preseason, Malone suddenly has to juggle things around. Not that he minds carving out minutes for a player he can't even name just yet. Jefferson adds another leadership presence to a young, playoff-hopeful roster (see full story).

Jazz: Timeline unknown for injured Exum
SALT LAKE CITY -- Dante Exum knew he had a significant injury the moment he awkwardly hit the floor during a preseason game against the Suns on Oct. 6. The diagnosis was a separated shoulder, and the Jazz guard and the team took the next 10 days to decide what to do.

Exum saw three doctors and spoke to several more before deciding to have a surgery on Oct. 24 that will keep him out for an unknown amount of time.

"Even just walking back (to the locker room), obviously I was frustrated," Exum said. "Everything was going through my head. I remember just looking up at everybody and they were just speechless. Didn't know what to say. A lot of people within the Jazz organization know how hard I've worked to get to the point I was. To get an injury like that and the way it took place just sucked."

There were non-surgical options for Exum, but the decision was made in his long-term interest after talking to family, his agent and the organization. That, however, complicates things in the short term financially. The 2014 No. 5 overall pick was hoping to have a breakout year as a restricted free agent.

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Exploring the Sixers' 3 options to back up Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid will be restricted to less than 20 minutes per game early in the season, that much is known (see story). How Brett Brown fills the remainder of the minutes at the center position remains to be seen.

Brown has three healthy big men he can play behind Embiid: Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric. Richaun Holmes, an early candidate for backup minutes, is sidelined by a fractured wrist.

“Even without Richaun, you like the depth and versatility, the variety that is available to me at the five,” Brown said Tuesday. 

Each player is unique in their skill sets and experience levels. There’s the proven veteran in Johnson, the undersized center in Saric, and the sometime-starter-sometime-reserve-sometime-DNP in Okafor. 

Let’s take a look at Brown’s options and why he may lean toward one player over another. 

Okafor
Okafor finds himself in another season of uncertainty. The third-year Sixer still doesn’t have a consistent role in the rotation. In the past, his biggest opportunity for minutes has come when Embiid is out for the entire game. Could the slimmed-down Okafor return to the starting lineup when Embiid doesn’t play? The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games of the season on Saturday. 

Brown on Okafor 
“[His role is] evolving … it’s always fluid. There are times we’ll assess Joel, say, in a back-to-back situation that might free something up. We have one in Toronto coming up. … We all respect his attitude and we respect his body. I think he’s had a good preseason.”

Johnson
The 30-year-old Johnson gives the Sixers a veteran presence and assuring presence on the court. He started in 77 of his 80 games for the Celtics last season and will be an in-game leader for younger players like Markelle Fultz in the second unit. 

Brown on Johnson
“He started for a really good team last year. He’s been in the league for a while. He’s a great pickup. Bryan (Colangelo) did a really great job of signing him. He’s good people.” 

Saric
At 6-foot-10, 223 pounds, Saric is the most unlikely candidate of the three backups. Brown has seen enough from Saric in the NBA and internationally, though, to feel confident in shifting him from the four to the five. Saric showed he can hold his own against traditional bigs when he shot 5 for 8 against the Nets in the preseason. 

Brown on Saric
“He’s stronger than you think. He’s been used to guarding behind people over in Europe on switch outs with four-five pick-and-rolls. … He gives up some weight, he gives up some height. But the trade-off might be he pulls them out and makes threes like he did against (Timofey) Mozgov. You weigh it all up. It’s a little bit unconventional but it is there in our arsenal if we choose to go there.”