NBA

Wizards' Westbrook to miss at least a week due to quad injury

By Sports Desk January 11, 2021

The Washington Wizards will be without star Russell Westbrook for at least a week due to a left quadriceps injury.

Westbrook will be re-evaluated at the end of the week after suffering repeated contact to the area since the start of the NBA season, the Wizards announced on Monday.

It is a blow for the Wizards, who have slumped to 2-8 amid high expectations following Westbrook's arrival from the Houston Rockets.

Former MVP Westbrook is averaging 19.3 points, 11.3 assists and 9.7 rebounds per game in seven appearances for the Wizards this season.

Westbrook has already made some history since swapping the Rockets for the Wizards in a blockbuster trade.

The nine-time All-Star joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to open a season with four triple-doubles in their first four games.

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  • 76ers snap Lakers' perfect away record in thriller as Harden, Durant and Irving inspire Nets 76ers snap Lakers' perfect away record in thriller as Harden, Durant and Irving inspire Nets

    The Philadelphia 76ers topped LeBron James' Los Angeles Lakers in a nail-biting finish, prevailing 107-106 against the reigning NBA champions.

    NBA leaders the Lakers had won a franchise-record 10 consecutive away games to open the season heading into Wednesday's showdown in Philadelphia.

    But the Eastern Conference-leading 76ers (13-6) handed the Lakers their first road loss thanks to Tobias Harris' 15-foot jumper with 2.4 seconds remaining.

    The Lakers rallied from a 100-86 with less than five minutes remaining in the final quarter, using a 13-0 run to hit the front for the first time since the opening period.

    But Harris and the 76ers had the final say in a thrilling finish at Wells Fargo Center, where the forward had 24 points and Joel Embiid posted 28 of his own.

    James led the visiting Lakers (14-5) with a game-high 34 points and star team-mate Anthony Davis contributed 23 points.

    James Harden and Kevin Durant put on a show again as the star-studded Brooklyn Nets outlasted the Atlanta Hawks 132-128 in overtime.

    Harden posted 31 points and 15 assists and Durant scored 32 points, while Kyrie Irving finished with 26 points away to the Hawks in Atlanta midweek.

    Former MVP Harden became the first Nets player with a 30-point, 15-assist game since Stephon Marbury in 2000, and Durant recorded his 15th consecutive 20-plus point game to start the season.

     

    Simmons with another triple-double

    76ers All-Star Ben Simmons put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a winning effort. It moved Simmons up to 13th on the all-time list for triple-doubles (31) – tied with Luka Doncic and Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

    Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo's 24 points and 18 rebounds lifted the Milwaukee Bucks past the Toronto Raptors 115-108.

    The Utah Jazz celebrated their 10th straight win – 116-104 over the Dallas Mavericks – behind Rudy Gobert's 29 points and 20 rebounds. Doncic's 30 points were not enough for the Mavericks.

    Bradley Beal had 47 points in a losing effort as the struggling Washington Wizards were beaten 124-106 by the New Orleans Pelicans, who were led by Zion Williamson (32 points) and Brandon Ingram (32 points).

    Chris Paul registered 32 points but the Phoenix Suns still went down 102-97 to his former team the Oklahoma City Thunder.

     

    Robinson headlines Miami's woes

    The Miami Heat are struggling to reach the heights of last season, which saw them make a run to the NBA Finals. Miami have lost four in a row following a 109-82 rout at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. Duncan Robinson was just three-of-11 from the field, making only two-of-10 three-point attempts for eight points in 36 minutes.

     

    Sabonis stays hot

    Domantas Sabonis was dominant yet again as the Indiana Pacers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 116-106. He recorded his sixth career triple-double with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

     

    Wednesday's results

    Indiana Pacers 116-106 Charlotte Hornets
    Cleveland Cavaliers 122-107 Detroit Pistons
    Sacramento Kings 121-107 Orlando Magic
    Brooklyn Nets 132-128 Atlanta Hawks (OT)
    Denver Nuggets 109-82 Miami Heat
    Philadelphia 76ers 107-106 Los Angeles Lakers
    Milwaukee Bucks 115-108 Toronto Raptors
    San Antonio Spurs 110-106 Boston Celtics
    New Orleans Pelicans 124-106 Washington Wizards
    Oklahoma City Thunder 102-97 Phoenix Suns
    Utah Jazz 116-104 Dallas Mavericks
    Golden State Warriors 123-111 Minnesota Timberwolves
    Chicago Bulls-Memphis Grizzlies (postponed)

     

    Lakers at Pistons

    James and the Lakers will look to bounce back when they continue their season-long seven-game road trip against the lowly Pistons (4-13) in Detroit on Thursday.

  • Christian Wood: Overseas castoff to potential NBA All-Star Christian Wood: Overseas castoff to potential NBA All-Star

    No player's journey to the NBA has ever been easy. Christian Wood's may just have been the hardest. 

    An undrafted player that was waived several times, including by a team in China, Wood has remarkably ascended into the upper echelon of the league behind a stellar first season in Houston.  

    The 6-foot-10 center is averaging 23.5 points and 10.8 rebounds in 12 games, and while he hasn't made Rockets fans forget James Harden, he's certainly offered a ray of optimism in a difficult season.  

    Through January 20, Wood had seven games this season with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Only Nikola Jokic, Domantas Sabonis and Nikola Vucevic had more with eight apiece during that span. 

    Wood and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid are the only players (minimum 10 games) currently among the league's top 25 in points, rebounds and blocks per game.  

    All signs point to stardom for Wood, who is a leading contender for the Most Improved Player award and is even receiving consideration for the 2021 United States Olympic team. None of this could've been predicted early in Wood's career when he had trouble just holding onto a roster spot and was a G League regular.  

    Undrafted in 2015 after two seasons at UNLV, Wood, 25, was given a chance by the Rockets but was never offered a contract. He made his NBA debut with the 76ers in 2015-16, averaging 3.6 points in 17 games but spent most of the season with Delaware in the G League. 

    Wood appeared in 13 games for Charlotte in 2016-17 but was let go after that season and then played for the Mavericks' and Suns' summer league teams in 2017.  

    With no NBA team willing to sign him, Wood accepted an offer from the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese league. He would never play for them and was waived after the Sturgeons signed another former NBA player, Mike Harris.  

    Despite putting up impressive numbers in the G League for Philadelphia in 2017-18 and then Milwaukee the next season, Wood only played in 13 games for the Bucks and averaged 2.8 points.  

    Signed as a free agent by New Orleans in March 2019, Wood finally began to offer glimpses of his potential. He averaged 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in eight games, but the Pelicans decided to waive him on July 15, 2019. 

    Picked up three days later by the Pistons, Wood beat out veteran guard Joe Johnson for the final spot on Detroit's 2019-20 roster. A solid reserve most of that season with averages of 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, Wood's career truly took off when he was inserted into the starting lineup in early February following the trade of center Andre Drummond to Cleveland.

    In the final 13 games that season, Wood averaged 22.8 points on 56.8 per cent shooting and 9.9 rebounds. He even connected on 22 of 55 from three-point range, proving he can be an effective offensive player in a myriad of ways.

    Though Detroit hoped to retain Wood, the Rockets offered a three-year, $41million contract and the teams worked out a sign-and-trade deal. That contract looks like a stroke of genius now for Houston since they have no choice but to undergo a transformation with the trade of Russell Westbrook followed by Harden's blockbuster move to Brooklyn.  

    Wood is currently dealing with a sprained right ankle and has missed the past three games, but his first 12 have left quite an impression.  

    Wood is just one of five players since 1985-86 to accumulate at least 280 points and 125 total rebounds in his first 12 games with a team. The others on that list are Shaquille O’Neal (Lakers, 1996), Zach Randolph (Clippers, 2008), Charles Barkley (Suns, 1992) and Moses Malone (Washington Bullets, 1986). 

    Only Elvin Hayes (326 in 1968) and Harden (294 in 2012) have more points than Wood (282) in their first 12 games with the Rockets. That's a more productive start than Westbrook, Ralph Sampson, Tracy McGrady or even Hakeem Olajuwon had in their first few weeks with the franchise.  

    Missing time in an abbreviated season won't help his case for Most Improved Player but Wood is one of only two qualified players (appeared in 70 per cent of team's games both seasons) to have raised his scoring average by at least 10 points from last season.  

    Wood (+10.4) trails only Detroit’s Jerami Grant (+12.4) in scoring and leads in improvement in rebounds per game (+4.5) and ranks third in blocks (+0.88). 

    Among undrafted players, Wood (23.5) leads the league in scoring by a wide margin over Toronto's Fred VanVleet (18.9) and in rebounding (10.8) over JaMychal Green (6.7) of the Nuggets. 

    In matchups this season against Jokic, Vucevic and San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge – some of the game's best big men – Wood has averaged 24 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. 

    A lack of maturity certainly contributed to Wood's difficulty in landing a regular NBA role early in his career, as did a lack of on-court focus at times. But those issues seem to be a thing of the past and Wood's future is very bright given his youth, athletic ability and skill set that seems tailor made for the modern NBA. 

    Wood will have a difficult time becoming an All-Star in a stacked Western Conference but that his name is even being mentioned among the NBA's elite is rather incredible for a player that the mighty Sturgeons had no use for. 

  • Remembering Kobe Bryant a year after his tragic death Remembering Kobe Bryant a year after his tragic death

    “Thank you, God for allowing me to enjoy Kobe Bryant for 20 years as a great basketball player, athlete, husband, father, philanthropist, mentor and teacher of the game to many men and women of all ages, best friend of Rob Pelinka, and brother to Jeanie Buss. He will always by my Lakers brother for life. Laker Nation we will always remember the brilliance, the legend, the Mamba mentality of #8/#24.”

    Those were the words posted on Facebook on Tuesday by Los Angeles Laker legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson on the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant and several others in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday, January 26, 2020.

    I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting on my bed having a chat with my wife when the ‘breaking news’ alert popped up on my phone. Suddenly social media came alive. My wife’s alerts began to go crazy. I turned to Google and there it was, the beginning of a nightmare for fans of the Lakers and basketball fans across the world.

    It was Magic, who reminded me that a year had passed; a year when the tears spilt uncontrollably from my eyes and the hurt of my sister’s passing a month earlier and Kobe’s tragic death became too much to bear.

    It was Magic who brought me to basketball and then the Lakers.

    Back then, in the late 70s, there was no cable but we had sports magazines and newspapers and in them, I developed a passing interest in college basketball and to a certain Earvin Johnson, who had just won the 1978 NCAA title for Michigan State University.

    “The Magic Show,” said the headline of the Sports Illustrated magazine. The story inside made me a fan of Magic.

    It was the start of what I came to see as the enduring rivalry between Magic and Celtic great Larry Bird, who representing Indiana State had gone up against Johnson in that historic NCAA final.

    “While Earvin directed a balanced offence, and the defence deterred Larry Bird, Michigan State won the NCAAs. Magic, who scored 24 points in that final, declared for the NBA draft and became a Laker as the number one pick, the following year.

    Bird was the sixth pick for the Celtics, the year before.

    With Magic at the Lakers and Bird at the hated Celtics, the 1980s was a dream for me, the newly minted basketball fan of the NBA. Back then, the NBA wasn’t a big deal for my schoolmates, who were more interested in English League football and the FIFA World Cup.

    The Lakers won five championships in the 1980s, the last of them coming in 1988 when they squeezed by the Detroit Pistons 4-3. In 1989, the Bad Boys of Detroit thrashed the Lakers 4-0 to win the title that year. They were then humbled 4-1 by the Bulls in 1991 in what marked the beginning of the Jordan era.

    I drifted away from the NBA then, tired of the over-glorification of Michael Jordan and the corresponding failed experiment of Nick van Exel and Eddie Jones. The Lakers got so bad that I considered never watching the NBA ever again.

    Five years passed and then news began circulating that the Lakers had acquired this teenager from Charlotte by the name of Kobe Bryant.

    Magic Johnson revealed in an interview that Jerry West, ‘The Logo”, the Lakers great who suited up for the franchise between 1960 and 1974, that they had just signed the next Lakers super star. West, who was General Manager in Los Angeles at the time, had an eye for talent and he was sure that this kid, who spent a few years living in Italy, was the one.

    So, it was Kobe that brought me back to the NBA.

    My first impression of Kobe was that he was not very convincing. Yes, he was wet behind the ears but the incredible talent West had touted looked like a wannabe more than anything else.

    A year later, I saw something that made me start to believe. It wasn’t a game-winning performance but if you were really paying attention, it was quite stark, and it came in the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.

    Don Yeager writing for Forbes recalls:

    “If you don’t know the story of that game, it was a pivotal moment in Kobe’s career. Most people remember it because of how spectacularly bad Kobe was that night: 4 for 14 from the floor (0 for 6 from three-point range),” he wrote.

    “Now, the only reason he saw extended minutes was due to a cavalcade of Laker misfortune—Bryan Scott missed the game with a sprained wrist, Robert Horry was ejected, and Shaquille O’Neal fouled out with under two minutes left in the game.

    After averaging around 15 minutes per game during the regular season, suddenly, the game belonged to Kobe.

    He promptly launched four airballs in the game’s closing minutes.

    After the game, as a bunch of reporters gathered around his locker, I remember several people questioning his unconscionable shooting. After all, it’s embarrassing enough to shoot one airball as a pro, much less two. But four? As your team let a must-have game slip away with each of your misses?

    We all wondered how he would defend himself.

    “I had some good looks,” he said. “I just didn’t hit the shots.”

    That was it. He said it without a hint of regret or self-doubt; it sounded like something a decades-old veteran would say, a matter-of-fact statement about the sometimes fickle nature of the game. What he was saying, in effect, was ‘this is a chapter I have to get through in order to write a book worth reading.’

    Michael Jordan would later remark that Kobe was the only one on that Laker team brave enough to take the shots.

    Fast forward three years and Kobe would win the first of three consecutive titles and begin cementing his legacy as a Laker great.

    Getting out of the West back then was so much harder than winning the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Lakers had to overcome stern challenges from the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trailblazers and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

    I remember Kobe taking over the third quarters of the series against the Tim Duncan-led Spurs. I remember how he and Shaq battled back from 15 points down in a must-win game against Portland. It was nail-biting stuff but watching Kobe and Shaq rising to the occasion in the face of elimination was the stuff of legend.

    Two more titles in 2009 and 2010, ensured that Bryant would go down as one of, if not the greatest Laker ever but it came with a series of challenges that would have broken lesser players. It was one of the characteristics that made Kobe great. He thrived when facing challenges.

    I remember exactly where I was when the Lakers defeated a talented Boston Celtics team with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace to win their fifth title of the decade. In a way, it mirrored the beginning of my connection with the Lakers versus the Celtics.

    “Everything negative – pressure, challenges – is all an opportunity for me to rise,” Kobe once said.

    “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do. Winning takes precedence overall.”

    You could argue that this mentality is what go him scoring 40 points a game each time he came back from a trial date regarding those rape allegations in 2003, a time when I was certain he was going to be jailed for a long time, but he survived that too.

    He then went on to rescue his marriage to Vanessa and became a model dad to his girls.

    That is the same mentality he displayed when nursing a bad knee, he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in a 122 to 104 victory. Bryant shot better than 50 per cent in the game in which the Raptors led by 14.

    Only another Laker, Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more in an NBA game.

    And who can forget his final game for LA, 60 points in April 2016 to put the cap on a magnificent career during which he scored 33,643 points, won five titles, was a two-time NBA finals MVP (should have been three), and was an 18-time All-Star.

    Walking away from a successful career and being recognized as an all-time great would have been enough for most players, but that was only just the beginning for the Mamba, who would go on to coach his daughter Gianna who became one of the best age-group players in the USA, win an Oscar and a Grammy Award.

    One wonders what other wonders he would have delivered had lived. Why it is so painful is that we know he was going to do even greater things off the court but we will never see what those greater things are.

    How good a coach would he have been for Gianna? How much better a dad would he have become? How much better a human being would he have evolved into.

    I don’t know. I don’t have the words so I resolve to borrow from Jamie Foxx to express how it feels that Kobe Bryant is no longer with us one year on.

    “I know God doesn’t make mistakes but this one leaves me numb still. After a year it’s still hard to wrap my mind around this. Rest in Power. You and your precious little one will forever be remembered and cherished in our hearts and minds.”

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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