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Washington Wizards point guard John Wall hopes to make his return from knee surgery in the middle of March. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

BBNBA: 3 Things to Watch for Post All-Star Break

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall hopes to make his return from knee surgery in the middle of March. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

After a relaxing week-long break from the strenuous NBA season, games picked back up on Thursday night. The All-Star break isn’t technically the halfway point in the season, considering every team has already played at least 55 games (although it could be considered the halfway point since the NBA Finals won’t even end until June), but it marks the first signs of the closing stages of the regular season. With less than 25 games remaining on each team’s schedule and playoff seeding becoming more prevalent, every game is valuable. This is the stretch of the regular season that decides who’s going to be hot or cold going into the playoffs. Energy levels will be much higher across the league and every game matters. With that being said, here are three things to watch for as the regular season begins to wind down.

1. John Wall’s return from injury

Since John Wall’s knee surgery back in January, the Washington Wizards have actually been on somewhat of a hot streak. They beat the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers in their first game back from the All-Star break, looking fluid an under control without their starting point guard. The Wizards have gone 8-2 since Wall went out (four of those wins came against teams well under .500) and backup point guard, Tomas Satoransky, has filled in better than expected.

By no means are the Wizards better without Wall. That would be a very quick and irrational decision to make, but it is interesting that the team is playing so well in his absence. The Wizards currently sit at 34-24, fourth best in the Eastern Conference, with a locker room that appears to be improving relationships between teammates. You may recall the “beef” between Wall and Wizards center Marcin Gortat, where Wall literally said he “spoon-fed” baskets to Gortat after some other – now irrelevant – Twitter squabbling between the two. They have since aired out their grievances – even after a team meeting that didn’t go exactly as planned – during a mutual meeting including just them two.

With Wall out, the Wizards have been moving the ball at a considerably higher pace, which isn’t necessarily surprising when someone with the attacking ability such as Wall is forced to sit. The Wizards are averaging more shots per game and over seven more assists per game since Wall’s injury, who averages 9.3 assists per game. This can be attributed to Wall being the driving factor of the offense who has the ball in his hands more than any of his teammates. With no one who can attack the rim like Wall, the Wizards have to rely on constant ball movement and precision passing to make up for it, which has led to more shots and more assists. Bradley Beal is currently their best player – and he was an All-Star this season for a reason – but as long as he’s the number one option, the Wizards will eventually lose their magic. Ball movement is key to any offense, but defenses will begin to learn the Wizards’ tricks. Without many players who can consistently get themselves open looks and knock down contested shots, expect the Wizards to come down to earth right around the time Wall should be ready to return.

One of the bright sides of Wall’s injury is the emergence of Satoransky, who has bolted himself to the level of viable NBA player. When Wall comes back, Satorasnky will make an excellent backup who can run the offense at 6-foot-7 and score from various areas on the court. The return of Wall to full health is necessary if the Wizards want to do any damage in the playoffs. Wall is still the team’s best player (although Beal is quickly catching up) and they become much less of an explosive threat without him. It will be interesting to see how head coach Scott Brooks incorporates both Wall and Satoransky into their new-founded success. If Wall can sacrifice his own production in order to work within the current system, the Wizards could look a lot more dangerous than they already do.

2. Where DEN/NOP finish in the standings

This topic matters for a couple of reasons. One because the Denver Nuggets have two Kentucky players who play heavy minutes while the New Orleans Pelicans have five Kentucky players who all get consistent playing time as well (especially Anthony Davis). Two, because these two teams are only separated by half a game in the standings. The Nuggets (32-26, currently seeded at number six) are trending upward while the now DeMarcus Cousins-less Pelicans (31-26, currently seeded at number eight) are trending…. neutrally.

The Nuggets are now winners of nine of their last 12 games, including wins over the Warriors, Thunder, and Spurs. Jamal Murray and Trey Lyles are playing the best basketball of their still incredibly young careers and have been huge factors in the Nuggets success. Murray might be one of the hottest players in the entire league right now, shooting over 48 percent from deep in his last 12 games while averaging 20 points per game in that span. Everything Murray touches turns to molten lava. He simply can’t miss. He refuses to miss. His shooting splits (FG%/3PT%/FT%) over the last 12 games is a mind-melting 54.1/48.6/90.5. Only four other players have hit at least the 40/50/90 over their last 12 games; Karl-Anthony Towns, Steph Curry, Joe Ingles, and (you guessed it) Tomas Satoransky.

Lyles has continued to build off his surprise start to the season, averaging 12.8 points and 6.0 rebounds over his last 12 games. He and Murray (along with Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic) have the Nuggets looking like a team ready to win now. Throw in the imminent return of four-time All-Star Paul Millsap and Denver should continue their current tear in the Western Conference. Getting Millsap back from injury will likely have a negative impact on the overall team offense to start (although a positive one on defense) which might limit Murray’s touches, but he’s been the starting point guard for a while now and should still have the ball in his hands for most of the game. The best way to get Murray going is to let him do him. If Millsap’s return doesn’t diminish that, the Nuggets will be looking mighty dangerous as a mid-level seed.

The Pelicans, on the other hand, are struggling. They’re 4-5 since the Cousins’ injury, however, currently on a three-game winning streak (all three opponents had a losing record). Anthony Davis has been nothing short of extraterrestrial during the nine-game span. He’s averaging a cool 31.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.2 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game with shooting splits of 49.8/42.4(!!!)/81.1. Those are Hall-of-Fame numbers, people. The MVP talk will surely poke it’s head out if he keeps this up, if it hasn’t already.

With Davis and no Cousins, the Pelicans can likely keep themselves afloat and stay above .500 for the rest of the season. Their schedule for the remainder of the regular season isn’t a cakewalk by any means, but there are more than enough games against very bad teams that will be winnable.

The bad part is the two teams slowly creeping up on them. The Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the NBA right now (oddly enough), winning 11 straight games behind hot shooting from Donovan Mitchell and excellent team defense from Rudy Gobert and co. The Jazz currently sit at 30-28 but are shooting up the standings with impressive wins.

Slightly ahead of them is the Los Angeles Clippers, who are 30-27 and also going through a renaissance of sorts. The Clippers have won seven of their last 10 and have looked like a legitimate playoff over the past month or two, despite having a roster riddled with once borderline NBA players.

It will be an uphill battle for the Pelicans, a team already close to the top than the ones charging after them, but Davis can get them there. As we get closer and closer to the playoffs, we’ll find out pretty quickly if the Pelicans are in a position to keep their current playoff seed. Then the question becomes whether or not they decide to fall completely out of the playoffs if they can’t keep up with the Jazz and Clippers, potentially gunning for a higher lottery pick. Either way, there are eight teams all within 4.5 games of each other in the West with only six available spots, so it should be an exciting end.

3. Bam Adebayo catching up to Hassan Whiteside

Bam Adebayo is in the news for the wrong reasons at the moment, but the rookie season he’s put together should not be ignored. He’s become a reliable backup for the Miami Heat when center Hassan Whiteside is on the bench. His numbers don’t stick out, not just yet, but the energy and knowledge for the game he possesses shine a bright light on his future. So much, in fact, that it wouldn’t be surprising to see him steal some of Whiteside’s minutes as the playoffs approach.

The Miami Heat are eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 30-28. With only the Detroit Pistons to worry about as far as another team potentially stealing their spot, the Heat are in a much better situation than the Pelicans to make the playoffs. Miami won’t need another miraculous run like they had last season (where they won 13 games in a row during the middle of the season before riding that to a 41-41 record), but they’ll absolutely need help from everyone on their roster, which includes Adebayo.

You’ll find more dedicated Heat fans who favor Adebayo over Whiteside than you would the other way around. His play has been so infectious that there have been Heat media members asking the question of whether or not they should trade Whiteside altogether and build around Adebayo. These are strong words about a rookie, but Adebayo has been that good in a limited role. The Heat have been using both Whiteside and Adebayo together at times, which has worked for the most part but will eventually hurt them in the playoffs. The two center lineup is great for rebounding and paint scoring, but horrendous for outside shooting and guarding quicker forwards.

Not even one year of Adebayo has fans and media alike questioning if Whiteside and the three years/$75 million left on his contract is a piece they take with them in the future.

@ZackGeoghegan


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

BBNBA: Kanter notches a double-double in Knicks win

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last night was the first night of NBA action back from the All-Star break, and as usual, a handful of former Kentucky Wildcats took the floor. The New York Knicks knocked off the Orlando Magic by the score of 120-113, and former Cat Enes Kanter finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. His efforts were good for his 29th double-double on the season which ranks 10th in the NBA.

In fact, former Kentucky guys are riddled throughout the top 10 in double-doubles in the league. Karl-Anthony Towns sits at the top of the list with 51, DeMarcus Cousins is fourth at 38, and Anthony Davis ranks sixth at 36. That means Kentucky makes up 40% of the top 10 in the NBA in terms of double-doubles. Is that good? That seems good.

Numbers:

 

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Enes Kanter120-113 win over Magic126-9 (0-0)121010-521
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist111-96 win over Nets134-7 (0-0)51011+1424
Malik Monk111-96 win over Nets21-1 (0-0)00002+01
Willie Cauley-Stein110-107 loss to Thunder115-12 (0-0)60210-1919
Skal Labissiere110-107 loss to Thunder83-5 (0-1)10020+2413
Patrick Patterson110-107 win over Kings00-1 (0-0)10000-78
Jodie Meeks110-103 win over Cavaliers103-8 (2-4)01000+017

 

Highlights:

Schedule:

  • Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons, 7pm ET
  • Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers (Alex Poythress), 7pm ET
  • Charlotte Hornets (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Malik Monk) at Washington Wizards (John Wall, Jodie Meeks), 7pm ET
  • Milwaukee Bucks (Eric Bledsoe) at Toronto Raptors, 7:30pm ET
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns) at Houston Rockets, 8pm ET on ESPN
  • Cleveland Cavaliers at Memphis Grizzlies (Andrew Harrison), 8pm ET
  • Miami Heat (Bam Adebayo) at New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins), 8pm ET
  • San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets (Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles), 9pm ET
  • Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, Brandon Knight), 9pm ET
  • Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz, 9pm ET
  • Dallas Mavericks (Nerlens Noel) at Los Angeles Lakers (Julius Randle), 10:30pm ET on ESPN

@BrettBibbinsKSR


Bam Adebayo’s high school coach: “Let the truth come out”

© Brad Penner

According to documents seized by the FBI, Bam Adebayo received payments of $12,000 and $36,500 from ASM Sports. Jerry Tipton spoke to Bam’s high school coach Brandon Clifford, who spoke to the Miami Heat rookie this morning and denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.

“As far as I know, Bam has never taken a dime from anybody,” said Clifford. “He committed himself to doing things the right way.”

Clifford urged fans to “let the truth come out in due time.”

“You have a star athlete that’s 16 or 17 years old. They’re not calling the shots. Bam wouldn’t even talk to college coaches without it coming through me or his family.”

According to the Miami Heat, Bam will not comment on today’s report.

[Herald-Leader]


Kevin Hart interviewing Nerlens Noel is really hilarious

Kevin Hart interviewing Nerlens Noel is really hilarious

Kevin Hart has a new web series called “Cold As Balls” in which he interviews star athletes in a cold tub. Nerlens Noel is one of his first guests, and though I had some doubts going into it, I found it to be absolutely hilarious.

If you need a little more convincing before you spend eight minutes watching a YouTube video with Kevin Hart, just know it has a lot of talk about the University of Kentucky and Noel’s personal life. Noel also calls DeMarcus Cousins an asshole, so you get that too.

Watch:

Maybe they caught me in a good mood and I laughed more than I should have, but this is one of the funniest videos I’ve seen online in a long time.


Rajon Rondo treats 320 students to screening of Black Panther in Louisville

PHOTO: WDRB NEWS

This weekend, former Wildcat Rajon Rondo took over 300 students in Louisville out to go see the new Black Panther movie.

Rondo, a Louisville native, did this kind gesture as part of his”Assisting Youth Foundation,” where he bought the movie ticket, popcorn, and a drink for each individual.

The price of admission for the kids? An essay on the historical events, people, or places in Black History to celebrate Black History Month.

“He congratulated us all for coming, read through some of our papers, shook all of our hands, and took pictures with all the kids,” said MJ Romaine, a Central High School student.

“I was happy to put a smile on kid’s faces,” said Rondo. “I didn’t grow up in a two-person household, and a lot of these kids don’t. I can relate to some of these kids in those ways. There are some nights you’re on your own and you don’t know who is there or who’s willing to help you.

“(Rondo) is not doing this to gain notoriety,” Rondo’s high school basketball coach, Doug Bibby, said. “He’s doing this because he cares for the community.”

Non-profit groups Nerd Louisville and Wibby’s Foundation have decided to follow in Rondo’s footsteps, and are combining to send nearly 200 students from West Louisville to a Black Panther screening in the coming weeks.

Check out the entire package from WDRB, featuring more from the former Kentucky point guard:

WDRB 41 Louisville News


Derek Willis joins USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team

Derek Willis joins USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team

Derek Willis got some good news on Tuesday when he was informed he has been named to USA Basketball’s 12-man World Cup Qualifying Squad.

Willis was a late addition to the roster, so he will have some catching up to do when he joins the team, which has already practiced for five days, in California today.

“I’m glad to be going,” said Willis, who tried out for the team in August. “I think it shows I’ve improved this year and that it’s been seen and they want me on the team. I’m excited about it.”

Team USA is made up of some of the top G-League players and is coached by Jeff Van Gundy. Its next game in the World Cup qualifying process is only two days away, when it hosts Cuba in Santa Cruz on Friday; followed by a Feb. 26 game against Puerto Rico, also in Santa Cruz.

Aaron Harrison is also on the team.


Malik Monk crashes car in Arkansas, is okay

While in Fayetteville during the All-Star break, Malik Monk crashed his car early Sunday morning near the Arkansas baseball stadium. Thankfully, he’s fine, but was cited on charges of careless driving and no proof of insurance. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the crash happened around 5:45 a.m.:

A witness told authorities that he heard a loud noise and then “saw that a vehicle had hit the gates” to the park, which sits just southeast of Baum Stadium.

According to a copy of field notes signed by Monk and released Sunday night by police, the Lepanto native wrote he “looked down for a second” when he “just hit a bump.”

Monk was the only person in the car and was wearing his seatbelt. The Charlotte Hornets rookie’s numbers have dropped significantly since the start of the season. In the month of February, he’s averaging only 2.7 points in 4.7 minutes per game. In an interview with the Charlotte Observer, Hornets head coach Steve Clifford said he needs Malik to be able to play both point guard and shooting guard, which he’s struggled with in recent games. Hopefully he can find his niche (and get some insurance) moving forward.

[Arkansas Online]


The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E22: De’Aaron Fox

De’Aaron Fox joins the latest episode of the Aaron Torres Sports podcast, to discuss his rookie season in the NBA and what he misses most about Kentucky. But first, Aaron is joined by his buddy, Louisville-area radio host Nick Coffey, where they break down the weekend that was in college basketball.

— The latest from the FBI probe into college basketball. Did Thursday’s bombshell Yahoo Sports report tell us something we didn’t already know, and how soon until we get all the details of those involved?
— The unintended consequence from the FBI investigation that no one is talking about.
— Louisville loses again on Saturday and Aaron asks: Why does everyone think they’re such a lock for the NCAA Tournament?
— The guys take a deep dive into Kentucky’s win over Alabama. They also explain how this proves that Kentucky was never in as much trouble as many prognosticators said they were.
Next up, Aaron welcomes Kings’ rookie De’Aaron Fox live from All-Star weekend in Los Angeles:
— The pair discusses De’Aaron’s rookie year in the NBA. What has been the biggest adjustment? And why does he believe it’s actually been easier than he expected?
— What does Fox miss most about UK? How did playing for John Calipari prepare him for the NBA? And what would he say to high school recruits who are thinking about coming to Kentucky?
— Finally, Fox admits that Kentucky should have won the national championship a season ago.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.

NOTE: Sponsor the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast for a special price if you sign up by March 15th. Email ksrads@kentuckysportsradio.com to learn more.


John Wall returning to UK this summer to work on degree

Photo by Quinn Foster | UK Athletics

John Wall is coming back to Kentucky. For the summer at least.

During the NBA All-Star festivities this weekend, Wall revealed that he’s returning to Lexington this summer to work on his college degree, fulfilling a promise he made to his father, who passed away when he was eight.

“I’m going back to school this summer to get my business degree,” Wall said, via the Washington Post. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I promised my dad that.”

Wall was unable to play in last night’s All-Star Game due to his recent knee surgery, but represented the Wizards and his family in style, honoring his father with a necklace featuring a childhood picture of the two:

If you missed it a few weeks ago, Wall penned a letter to his father that will bring tears to your eyes. Even without any of his basketball accomplishments, I know he’s making his dad proud.

John Wall Pens Emotional Letter to his Dad

[Washington Post]


@WashWizards, @Timberwolves and @PelicansNBA

Today on KSR: UK’s All-Stars Shine

@WashWizards, @Timberwolves and @PelicansNBA

Kentucky’s excellent All-Star weekend concluded last night with former Wildcats taking center stage at the Staples Center.

A record-tying four players from the same school were selected to play in the All-Star Game.  Even though injuries kept John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins off the court, Anthony Davis made sure Cousins could shine.  This is what happened when Boogie found out Davis was going to wear his jersey.

The 2017 All-Star Game MVP did not go for 50.  In just 17 minutes Davis had 12 points and 2 rebounds.

Appearing in his first All-Star Game, Karl-Anthony Towns knocked down his first three shots of the game.  He finished his debut with a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Devin Booker did not hang around to watch Sunday night’s game.  After taking the Three-Point Shootout Title, he flew back to Phoenix and posed for one of the coolest photos in the history of photography.

Kentucky was everywhere All-Star Weekend, even in commercials.  There’s still a long way to go before Calipari sees half the roster filled with former players.  This weekend proved it may not be impossible, and solidified UK’s spot as the NBA’s preeminent college basketball program.

Hear from Coach Cal

The Kentucky head basketball coach will not be at the podium to preview Arkansas, he’s passing off those duties to an assistant, but we’ll let you know what he says on this morning’s SEC teleconference and on tonight’s call-in show.

Calipari spent his Sunday evening celebrating.  He was not celebrating the Alabama win, rather his daughter Erin’s birthday.

@UKCoachCalipari

Lots of Spring Sports Winners

—  The UK baseball team went 4-0 in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Kentucky’s first 4-0 start to the season since 2012.  You can see them at The Cliff this Wednesday vs. Xavier.

—  The UK Softball team also went 4-0 this weekend.  Two of the wins were run-rule victories. Against North Dakota State, Autumn Humes threw a no-hitter in her first career start to lead UK to a 2-0 victory.

—  Technically women’s basketball is a winter sport, but I’ll take this opportunity to tell you Matthew Mitchell’s team lost to No. 8 South Carolina 81-63, despite Maci Morris’ career-high 35 point performance.

—  Swimming and Diving wrapped up their season at the SEC Tournament.  The women finished fourth, the men placed ninth and the Cats took home three individual conference titles. Read more here.

College Basketball on TV

Time Game Network
6:00 Duke at Florida St. (WBB) ESPN2
7:00 Miami at Notre Dame ESPN
7:00 Maryland at Northwestern FS1
7:00 Howard at NC Central ESPNU
8:00 Texas at Baylor (WBB) ESPN2
9:00 #23 Oklahoma at #13 Kansas ESPN
9:00 Minnesota at Wisconsin FS1

Anthony Davis wears DeMarcus Cousins jersey in All-Star Game

DeMarcus Cousins may not be able to play in the All-Star Game after suffering a torn Achilles, but his teammate made sure to include him in the action.

At tipoff, Anthony Davis wore Cousins’ jersey, and kept it on for the entire first half.

And it didn’t take long for him to make some highlight plays in Boogie’s honor.

According to CLNS Media’s Clevis Murray, Davis planned on wearing the jersey all along, but was told he wasn’t allowed to.

#LaFamilia don’t follow no stinkin’ rules.

Nothing beats the BBN.


Anthony Davis serves as guinea pig for groundbreaking virtual reality technology in the NBA

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to have superstar basketball abilities and a multi-million dollar unibrow, your time may be coming.

Former Wildcat and NBA All-Star Anthony Davis recently demoed a new virtual reality technology presented by Verizon, featuring an outer camera to virtually build the world around you. For Davis, the basketball court he was standing on was created in his headset, and he was able to shoot free throws and jumpers completely in virtual reality.

So why would anyone want to virtually be in the place they are physically in already?

The new technology allows for a fan experience unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Fans will eventually be able to “join the court” with NBA stars and participate in the same drills and games as their idols. Just by putting on a headset, you will be able to talk to and interact with individuals you likely would have never had the opportunity to. With countless former Kentucky stars blossoming into young NBA studs, the Big Blue Nation has a lot to look forward to.

And according to SB Nation’s Paul Flanner, it’s right around the corner.

The headset is made by Verizon and offers a glimpse into the world of 5G technology, which is still in the development stage. 5G is the future and it will be here sooner rather than later. The company says it will begin offering residential service in Sacramento by the latter half of the year.

Verizon says that 5G will be 100 times faster than 4G, which addresses one of the key issues in virtual reality technology: latency. That’s a measure of how quickly information is processed and presented back to you.

In Davis’ eyes, this technology is a game changer for the sports world.

“I saw everything that I would see with my real eyes,” Davis said. “Lot of crazy, crazy things going on in this world. Everything was showing up in real time, so that was pretty dope.”

Former Gator and current Washington Wizard Bradley Beal also tried out the technology, saying it reminded him of something you’d see in RoboCop.

“When you first put them on, it’s a black screen. Then all of a sudden the camera turns on and it’s not your eyesight; it’s the cameraman. It’s kind of weird to experience, but the signal is so fast it’s like your eyes are actually working. I kind of felt like RoboCop,” said Beal.

Before long, you’ll be able to meet your former Wildcat idols in a way fans were only able to dream of until Verizon made it a reality.

Pretty nuts.

In other news, Davis spent yesterday afternoon at the Food Bank in Los Angeles giving back to the community. Here’s a quick clip he shared from his experience:

On Valentine’s Day, the former Wildcat big man unleashed his inner Dr. Phil and gave relationship advice as the “Master of Rejection.”

Take a look:

The Brow stays busy.