Posted on: September 27, 2010 8:07 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 8:09 pm

Greg Oden: 'I won't be there opening night'

Posted by Royce Young

As suspected, it doesn't sound like Greg Oden will be ready for the beginning of the NBA season. At Portland's media day, he said simply: "I won't be there opening night." Bummer.

Oden talked at Blazer media day about having "good days and bad days" with his injured left knee. If you forget, he underwent surgery on a fractured left patella last December. And I guess you could say recovery has been somewhat slow.

Rich Cho previously said Oden was "pain-free" but Oden talked at media day about experiencing pain in the knee. Dwight Jaynes enlightens us as to what's going on: "That's before he got patellar tendinitis," Cho told Jaynes. Bummer, again.

Remember, recently a Blazers' scout said the team hoped Oden would be available for maybe 65 games this season . And while that's still obviously possible, opening night just won't be one of those games.

For whatever reason, Oden just can't seem to get healthy. Whether it's just something like patellar tendinitis or there's a larger issue involved, Oden's got knee problems. And that's not good for a seven foot big man.

It's definitely not over for Oden and he may just need some extra rest and rehab. Remember, he's just 22 and plenty of players have come back through leg and knee injuries. The fear is that there's something substantial, something with long-term effects in there. The Blazers are doing the right thing and taking everything slow. Oden says he won't be ready for opening night, but the reality may be he's not ready until December or January.

Patellar tendinitis is sometimes referred to as "jumper's knee" and is common to players in a sport that demands lots of jumping. You know, kind of like basketball. Or compeitive jump-roping. But jumper's knee can be caused by overuse, muscular imbalance, misalignment of leg bones or being overweight, among a number of other things.

For Oden, some of those issues are probably in play, but it didn't list one that applies: bad luck.
Posted on: September 25, 2010 4:50 pm

Andrew Bynum says he hopes to play by December

Posted by Royce Young

Andrew Bynum has battled injuries througout his short NBA career. But every time, he's come back and wowed Laker fans - and NBA fans in general for that matter - with his power and skill around the basket.

But it looks like people will have to wait until sometime around Thanksgiving to see it in action again.

Bynum said at Laker media availability that he hopes to return to the floor by late November. Why the long recovery on a simple cartilage issue? Bynum's doctor reattached the busted cartilage in his knee instead of snipping it off as a long-term career planning move. Thus the longer time needed for recovery. Supposedly, Bynum's knee should be stronger than before.

Any time you're seven feet tall and carrying around 280 or so pounds, staying healthy is an issue. Big men tend to battle leg and foot injuries throughout their careers and Bynum is no different (fighting obligitory mention of Greg Oden... fighting it...). Though most times, these type of things don't start catching up to guys until the later stages of their careers. But for Bynum, at age 23, he's already sustained two big blows to his knees.

This current injury is from a torn meniscus that he fought through for almost the entire 2010 postseason title run. He wasn't himself, but still, he was at least on the floor. Before that, in the 2007-08 season he broke his kneecap and missed most of the season and the entire postseason. Then in 2009, he injured his right knee and missed most of the remainder of the regular season before returning for the playoffs and championship run.

Bynum played in all 82 games in 2006-07, but other than that, the most he's played in was last season with 65. But when he's on the floor (and healthy), he's a force.

What does this mean for the Lakers? Being the stacked team that they are, not much. Bynum is of course an important piece to the puzzle, but in November, the Lakers can survive without him. Lamar Odom proved in Turkey that he's more than capable of spending time on the inside and that could be the path Phil Jackson chooses to go with. Or move Pau Gasol to center and Odom play the 4. Offseason signee Theo Ratliff could also be called upon if Jackson just prefers to keep his rotations the same.

The point is, the Lakers will be fine. As usual, they've got the necessary pieces and talent to get by a month without Bynum. And besides, the only time the Lakers really care about Bynum's health is at the end of the season, not the beginning.
Posted on: September 22, 2010 12:34 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2010 12:37 pm

Blazers hoping Oden can play in maybe 65 games

Posted by Royce Young

One day, some day, Greg Oden will be fully healthy. He has to, right? Because as of now, it doesn't sound like he is.

Via BlazersEdge, Trail Blazer Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan told KGW's Joe Becker on Wednesday that he hopes Greg Oden is able to play "60-65" games during the 2010-2011 NBA season. Bummer sauce. 

"People want Greg to be ready at the start of the season... Looking long term, we need everyone healthy, clicking together, come March, April and into May. If we can get Greg to play 60-65 games this year and continue the development curve he was on before he got injured last year, I think we'll have a chance to have some success in the playoffs, this season," Buchanan said.

In other words, he's not ready. And by the sound of it, they don't really know when he will be. The Blazers have already said he's "progressing" but that's just lip service any organization gives after an injury. A player could have his leg amputated and management would say his recovery is going as planned and he's "progressing."

Add this to Rich Cho preaching patience with Oden and Oden himself being non-commital to an opening night return, it's highly unlikely Oden is ready for Portland's first game.

If you forgot, Oden basically broke his knee after falling awkwardly 21 games into last season. He missed the remainder of the year and has spent the summer trying to rehab. But this is coming after microfracture surgery the year before on his other knee. So while the Blazers stick to a plan of patience, Oden's future may have already been decided. Let's hope not.

However, he's still young. He's only 22. And the Blazers are smart to move things along slowly. There's no reason to try and rush him to be ready for October when Portland will actually need him later. So if that means he's out until December, so be it. Yao Ming is being put on a basketbal pitch count, so why can't Oden be on a game count?

Regardless of that though, this is another disappointing turn for not only Oden, but Blazer fans who are eager to have him healthy for a full season. Provided he makes it through this season alive, they'll just have to wait another year.

Posted on: September 21, 2010 2:03 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2010 2:08 pm

Ed Davis has surgery, out six weeks

Raptors rookie undergoes surgery to repair torn meniscus; fates may or may not hate Toronto.
Posted by Matt Moore

The Raptors can't win for trying. After losing Chris Bosh to the Miami Triad this summer, many people thought that the Raptors could contend for the worst team in the league . But as the summer's gone on, there's been a few murmerings about the Raptors possibly not sucking beyond belief. DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, a bigger role for Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani playing more as a scoring post-player rather than trying to compliment Chris Bosh which was like trying to add a red accent to slightly darker red room. And of course, promising rookie Ed Davis, who looked tremendous in pre-draft workouts and great in summer league.

That plan has gotten off to a very rocky start. Davis injured himself in workouts a week ago. Then Raptors play-by-play man Matt Devlin announced that Davis had undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and would be out six weeks. That's simply terrible news, as a meniscus injury is the kind that not only can vary greatly in terms of recovery time, but also has a nasty habbit for causing long-term issues that hamper a player's ability to stay on the floor.

Six weeks means Davis misses training camp, the first real opportunity to work with the team and let coach Jay Triano see where he fits in the rotation. Six weeks means he may miss the start of the season and when a rookie gets left out to begin things, it's often more difficult for him to work his way in once the games start going.

It's another disappointing turn in a summer defined by disappointment for Toronto. Hopefully he can bounce back and this is the end of the Raptors' turmoil. We're headed towards the big asteroid scenario at this rate.
Posted on: September 16, 2010 3:30 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2010 3:50 pm

The impact of Yao's minute limitations

Returning All-Star center will be limited to 24 minutes per game, but how does that affect the rest of the team?
Posted by Matt Moore

As we told you in The Shootaround this morning, the Rockets have come out and told the world not to be expecting 100% Yao this year. He's going to be ready to go, he's going to go, he's going to be Yao. But he'll only be doing that for 24 minutes per game . That's it. And when they say "that's it," they mean "that's it ." From the Houston Chronicle :

"Yao’s playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game."

The Rockets assistant trainer explained that the decision wasn't arbitrary. The Rockets, one of the most empirically influenced teams in the league, looked at an unspecified set of data and determined that with the nature of Yao's injury, he simply can't go the full game, not even for only a few nights:

“We have evidence that when he played 35 to 40 minutes he averaged two years ago there was a buildup of stress on his foot that led to it being injured in the playoffs. On some level, we have at least one indication 35 to 40 minutes might be too much. That would lead you to choose to look at having a limit.”

It makes sense, right? Yao's injury is physical-stress-related. So let's limit the amount of stress he puts on it a night. Granted, with his frame, there's going to be that problem no matter what he does. Walking's going to put stress on it. Any weight on it, that's stress. But that's a bit different from jumping up and down constantly battling Andrew Bynum for rebounds, landing awkwardly repeatedly. He's had a full year off, he's got a plan. The question's not if this is the right move for Yao and the Rockets it is. Mentioned several times in the article is the discussion of how the blowup in Chicago between Vinny Del Negro and Paxson erupted over Joakim Noah's minutes. Everyone's on the same page. There's a plan, there are rules, they should work for Yao, and if they don't, there's probably nothing they could do otherwise.

But will that plan work for the Rockets?

We're entering into a particularly tricky area, one that's best labeled "sub-chemistry." There's the overall chemistry of the Rockets, which is good. Most of the guys seem to get along with Yao, and each other. There's a lot of the same pieces from the 2008 22-game winning streak, and that was all about chemistry. The new pieces are all high quality character guys with marginal egos (Kevin Martin the only question mark, and it's a widdle bitty one at that). But personal chemistry is different that playing chemistry. That takes time, and patience and most importantly, rhythm. Yao's only on the floor for 24 minutes per game, that's fine. But in that 24 minutes per game, they've got to get Yao involved. Then, they're going to have to shift to how they played without him on the floor. The two aren't necessarily inseparable. But they are different, and the transition might be difficult on a night in and night out basis. Usually players who only play 24 minutes per night are not of Yao's caliber, aren't the kinds of guys you want to get touches, and lots of them. The roles will remain the same, but the flows do change.

This will be a challenge for head coach Rick Adelman to manage, even as it's a blessing to get Yao back on the floor. Yao Ming has the potential to help the Rockets back into the playoffs along with a versatile and talented roster. But how that roster evolves in transitioning to and from those crucial 24 minutes per game is going to be a bit like Jenga. One slight miscalculation, and the structure could tumble.
Posted on: August 31, 2010 2:43 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2010 2:48 pm

Pop Quiz: Can the Rockets jell?

Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question..

Can the Rockets jell?

Normally the year after you lose one of your biggest stars is supposed to be a tough one to swallow. But the Rockets are liberated after losing Tracy McGrady, and have put that cap space to good use. Tack on the return of their other star in Yao Ming, and the Rockets have high hopes for 2010. They only added three players of note, Courtney Lee via the Trevor Ariza trade, Brad Miller in free agency, and Patrick Patterson in the draft. But those players combined with the assets they picked up through trade last season and the return of Yao Ming are what make people so high on the Rockets.

The Rockets built a roster based on versatility last season but injuries left them scraping things together, and in the meantime, their primary lineup didn't produce as expected. As a result, GM Daryl Morey went even further towards the versatility approach. The trade of Trevor Ariza was the most controversial, essentially starting over after only a year with Ariza. When we look at the lineups, though, that doesn't sound so crazy.

You always have to take plus/minus with a grain of salt, but there are circumstances where you can notice specific outliers. The Rockets lineups are such an example. The Rockets' three most-often used lineups (via 82games.com) all featured Ariza at small forward, and were a combined -19. That's in contrast to their fourth, fifth, and sixth most used lineups (all over 100 minutes), which were a combined +91. That's a big number. It's not conclusive, but it does provide some evidence for why the Rockets elected to ship him out for a backup shooting guard best remembered for a missed alley-oop in the Finals.

Kevin Martin was the other significant acquisition. The Rockets were able to snag Martin at the trade deadline after an injury plagued season was compounded by his inability to gel with Tyreke Evans. Martin wasn't bad with the Rockets but he was far from the instant fix-all for their problems and they lost steam (again with the injuries) down the stretch. But he and Aaron Brooks seemed to be finding their way, despite both of them being heavy usage players.

So the big question for the Rockets isn't one of talent, it's one of chemistry.

"" Yao Ming has been away from the practice floor since May of 2009. Kevin Martin has been with the team only two months of actual playing time. Courtney Lee is completely new. Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry just received new contracts. Jordan Hill is a newcomer, still settling in. Patrick Patterson is a rookie. Brad Miller just hopped on board. And for a team that relies on ball movement and separation like Rick Adelman's, this is a dangerous approach to trying to throw it all together.

Luckily, egos seem to be sparse in the locker room. Kevin Martin is certainly going to want his chances to score, and he'll get them. There's enough to go around. The rest of the team is largely filling in the gaps. Luis Scola should get a step back since he won't be guarding or guarded by centers with Ming on the floor, and Chase Bundinger and Lee give the team versatility and shooting. Shane Battier is the leader and prime example of the sacrifice this team will need to instill as a virtue in order to make a run in the West. This is not a case of any one player shouldering the load. Morey and Adelman have built a system based on depth and versatility, and they need to use that, exploiting matchups and tendencies where they can.

The addition of Yao cannot be understated. This was a dogged, tenacious, well-balanced team last year that struggled due to injuries and a lack of size. Yao provides them depth (vaunted post-defender Chuck Hayes is now third string behind Brad Miller), unparalleled post offense and defense, and a focal point for the perimeter cuts to work around. He's a willing and able passer, and even Miller works well in the pinch post with those wings slashing around. Consider all the perimeter shooter/slashers they have to work around their bigs:

Aaron Brooks (39.8% from the arc, 47% on 3pt attempts in hand-off situations)
Kevin Martin (44% in spot-up situations)
Chase Budinger (37% 3pt, 40% as a spot-up three-point shooter)
Courtney Lee
Kyle Lowry
Jermaine Taylor

And here are their mid-range defenders:
Shane Battier
Jared Jeffries (.84 points per possession allowed defensively, allowing only 39.2% from the floor)
Patrick Patterson - who can also stretch the floor

And their low-post guys:
Jordan Hill

That's just a ridiculous amount of depth, and all of them with multiple skills. Martin can work on-ball or off, slashing or spotting up. Scola can work in the high or low post and has a reliable mid-range jumper. Making it all work will be Adelman's job, and there is such a thing as too much depth. It can cause discontent when players feel they're not getting time. And there's the ever-looming threat of the Big Move.

Daryl Morey has said repeatedly that though they've been successful in finding high value players, you cannot win in this league without superstars. And he clearly wants one to go with Yao's potentially final year with the Rockets. With Jeffries, Martin, Lee, Scola, Hill, and others, along with the picks he's acquired from New York, he has a set of assets to use if he wants to pursue, say, Carmelo Anthony. But that means more changes to the ship. All of this and they have to hope they stay healthy, which is an unlikely scenario given Yao's feet history.

In a perfect world, the Rockets could be contenders for making the Western Conference Finals, and facing a Lakers team they have consistently taken it to over the years. But that's the best case scenario. In the meantime, they'll have to try and integrate all the moving parts into one machine, and see how far it takes them. They've got the parts. They've just got to make them work together now that they're assembled.

(Situation-based data courtesy of Synergy Sports )
Posted on: August 27, 2010 2:46 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2010 3:47 pm

LeBron's elbow looks better, which is nice

King James works out at Heat facilities without elbow sleeve.
Posted by Matt Moore

Celtics-Cavaliers Game 5 is going to haunt LeBron James for the rest of his career. There are millions of people who believe that he simply quit, which is pretty preposterous given everything else we know of James' career, egotist or not. The guy doesn't exactly have a history of shrinking from the moment. Many also questioned his health, and while he never admitted it until after the playoffs were over, it was clear whatever elbow injury he suffered all the way back as far as possibly late March had an effect on his play. He mentioned in the famous GQ article that his elbow was still not right when that interview took place.

Well, the Heat have posted video of an early workout with James, Chris Bosh, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. And that elbow? Looks pretty good.

So no sleve on the elbow, dribbling with both hands and looking authoritative at that. It's a light workout, so maybe it's still bothering him when things get heavy, but right now, he looks like the James we know, or at least the one everyone described before last spring: the best all-around player in the league (yes, Kobe has more rings, everyone is aware. "Count them rings", right,  thanks.).

It's also good to see him working with teammates even in August, a full month before training camp. That's the kind of effort you want to see for a guy expected to win his first title. The Celtics and Lakers are taking the month off (no doubt working on their own, though), and they've earned that right. It's good to see that the Heat are aware that the hard part's just beginning, and are already working to get where they need to go. Because everyone will be aiming for them, and their elbows, from here on out.
Posted on: August 24, 2010 6:13 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2010 6:14 pm

Yao Ming is back

Ming looks good in workouts after resuming basketball activities. Also, he's very tall.
Posted by Matt Moore

Yao Ming may be over the hill. His body may have simply broken down too many times. He may be unable to return to his former glory. But he still is one thing. Tall. He is really, really tall. And he works his tall tail off.

The Rockets today posted video evidence of Ming back on the floor, resuming basketball activities and generally being Mingish. In the video, he showed a lot of things Rockets fans want to see. Most notably, the feet seem to be moving without much gingerness. He looks strong and fast. And for basketball fans all over? That turn around one-touch drop-it-and-make-'em-suffer shot is there. And it looks... good . But hey, don't take my word for it, take a look and see for yourself what a seven foot tall Chinese guy sweating through his clothes and nailing post-j's looks like:

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com