NBA Notebook: Houston, we have a problem
Welcome to another edition of our weekly NBA Notebook. There’s a lot of news to get to this week, so let’s dive right in!
HOUSTON ROCKETS HALFTIME TURMOIL
The Houston Rockets have had a roller coaster of a season. They had one of the worst starts in NBA history, followed up by a thrilling seven-game win streak. But since then, they’ve been back to their losing ways, and team morale hit rock bottom earlier this week.
During halftime of their game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday, both Christian Wood and teammate Kevin Porter Jr. had a blow-up with assistant coach John Lucas. Christian Wood had already been disciplined by the team for missing a COVID-19 test and gave lackluster effort in a scoreless first half. Kevin Porter Jr. allegedly threw an object in a heated argument, then drove away from the arena rather than return to the game. Then reportedly, Christian Wood refused to enter the game in the second half.
Assistant John Lucas called out Rockets players at halftime vs. the Nuggets, per @ShamsCharania— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 2, 2022
Kevin Porter Jr. reacted by throwing an object and leaving the arena, and then Christian Wood refused to sub into the game in the second half. pic.twitter.com/Udc74PEuBq
Both players were suspended one game for the outburst, but in my view, Wood, as the leader of the Rockets locker room, deserved more of a reprimand than Porter. In a happy ending to the unfortunate episode, Porter went on to hit a game-winner the first game back from his one-game suspension and embraced Rockets head coach Stephen Silas.
KYRIE IRVING RETURNS TO THE NETS
Kyrie Irving, after being welcomed back into the Brooklyn Nets’ fold as a part-time player, made his season debut earlier this week against the Indiana Pacers. Whatever one makes of the cynical nature of the Nets’ decision to bring Kyrie back, there’s no mistaking that the Nets are a powerhouse offense when he’s on the court.
After a slow start, he played a pivotal role in a come-from-behind victory for Brooklyn. Irving has been quoted as saying he’s taking his vaccination status day-by-day. Hopefully, he gets the shot soon and this bizarre episode can reach a positive conclusion.
FIRST ALL-STAR VOTING RETURNS
The first fan vote returns are in for the 2021-22 All-Star Game. To nobody’s great surprise, Steph Curry and LeBron James once again lead all vote-getters. Fan votes are always amusing, and some names stick out like a sore thumb among a mostly very deserving group.
KAWHI LEONARD’S REHAB AHEAD OF SCHEDULE
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported last night that Kawhi Leonard is ahead of schedule rehabbing from his partially-torn ACL. Sources among the Los Angeles Clippers are projecting confidence, and seem unconcerned about playoff seeding as they believe at full strength they can beat any team in the Western Conference.
They’re right to be so confident. Even without Kawhi, the Clippers overcame the Utah Jazz and put up a spirited performance against the Phoenix Suns. They’re currently sitting at +1200 to win the conference and +2200 to win it all. If Kawhi returns with time to ramp up for the playoffs, those odds are going to hold outrageous value.
NBA Championship 2021/2022
Sat, June 18 2022, 11:58 PM
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
NOWITZKI'S JERSEY HANGS IN THE RAFTERS
Dirk Nowitzki, one-time league MVP and superstar of the only Dallas Mavericks' championship team in 2011, had his jersey retired this week.
It was a nice ceremony, featuring words from his teammates on the 2011 squad and from the always self-effacing Nowitzki himself. Mark Cuban also took the chance to unveil the statue to be erected in his honor. Hats off to Nowitzki, one of the best players of all-time, and critical to the international development of the game.