Marcin Gortat Injury: Updates on Wizards Center’s Back Strain and Return

Marcin Gortat will miss the Washington Wizards‘ Thursday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers after reportedly injuring his back, per Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reported that Gortat may have tweaked something in pregame warm-ups:

His back had been giving him problems over the last few days, and the warm-up pushed him over the edge:

Considering how much Gortat‘s back has been bothering him, it’s anybody’s guess as to when he might return. It will inevitably get better with rest, but it could remain an issue for the rest of the season. A sore back isn’t something that you can take a few pills for, and then it’s all better.

Washington will need a healthy Gortat down the final stretch. While the Wizards are pretty much a lock for the postseason, they’ll at least want to remain in the top six of the Eastern Conference to avoid a first-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat in the playoffs.

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Andrew Bynum Injury: Updates on Pacers Center’s Knee and Return

Oft-injured center Andrew Bynum is dealing with renewed concerns surrounding his balky knees after a couple promising performances with the Indiana Pacers. His status remains up in the air as doctors check out an MRI to determine the severity of the potential setback.   

Bynum didn’t play in the team’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. Based on comments passed along by the Pacers Tuesday, it doesn’t sound like this was an instance of simply taking it slow in order to prevent another major injury:

The center scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his team debut one week ago. He then skipped a matchup with Philadelphia before returning on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. He played 20 minutes, scoring 15 points to go along with nine boards.

Those type of numbers are exactly what they Pacers were hoping for from him: solid production in limited minutes off the bench to provide an extra boost for the roster during the playoffs. The hope was that less action overall would keep him healthy.

While it’s still possible this is only a minor issue, Bynum doesn’t sound overly encouraged about what the doctors are going to say. He’s been through these issues enough that when he says he’s concerned, it doesn’t bode well for the outlook.

Dave Furst of WRTV in Indianapolis gets the same feeling:

Looking ahead, it’s hard to project the Pacers getting any type of meaningful contributions from Bynum. He played 36 minutes over the span of five days and problems have already popped up. Even the overly cautious approach didn’t work.

That said, his production when he was on the court explains why teams continue to give him a chance. He was averaging nearly a double-double despite playing just 18 minutes per contest. If he could stay on the court, he would still be a useful piece for a contender.

Unless the results of the MRI are better than Bynum seems to expect, it appears the Pacers will have to continue the title hunt without him, at least for the time being.

 

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Dwight Howard Injury: Updates on Rockets Center’s Ankle and Return

Losers of three in a row, the Houston Rockets will have to stop their recent skid without Dwight Howard manning the interior.    

According to the team’s radio play-by-play announcer Craig Ackerman, Howard will sit out Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz with a mild left ankle strain:

A “day-to-day” tag can mean a lot of different things, but it’s likely that this is just a way to dole out some rest for Howard, who has yet to miss any of Houston’s first 66 games this season.

He looked fine while dropping 21 and 14 against the Miami Heat on Sunday, and as the Houston Chronicle‘s Nick Mathews noted, the Rockets should fare well against the West’s bottom-dwellers even without their productive center:

Still, while this probably isn’t anything serious, it’s something to pay attention to. 

On the season, Howard is averaging 18.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. As the fourth-place Rockets continue to fight for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, they will need their dominant big man healthy in the middle. 

Of course, that’s not to say they don’t have impressive frontcourt depth. In Howard’s absence, defensive stalwart Omer Asik will likely enter the starting lineup, while Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas will see increases in their minutes as well. 

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Joel Embiid Injury: Updates on Kansas Center’s Back

The Kansas Jayhawks lost much more than a game on March 1 against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, as the status of starting center Joel Embiid is now in question.

While the 72-65 upset stings, Embiid‘s health was much more important to the Jayhawks moving forward, as CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman illustrate:

Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star quoted head coach Bill Self as saying Embiid “tweaked” the problem area:

Embiid was in the midst of quite the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds to land his eighth double-double of the season—before halftime—which was about par for the course this season for the 7’0″ and 250-pound freshman.

The long-term repercussions of the injury—as hinted—are massive. The Jayhawks are once again the class of the Big 12 with the NCAA tournament on the horizon, but without one of their three important freshmen, they will find it tough to make a deep postseason run.

Embiid averages 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, but most importantly is a game-altering presence in the paint on defense. Without him shoring up underneath the basket, the Jayhawks’ entire approach changes.

The saving grace for Kansas in all of this is its 22-7 record, which is a great mark considering the Jayhawks have played the toughest schedule of any team this year. A No. 1 seed in the tournament is still very much a possibility, which will give the team more wiggle room in regard to Embiid‘s recovery time.

 

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Kendrick Perkins Injury: Updates on Thunder Center’s Groin and Return

It appears the groin injury to Kendrick Perkins is worse than originally anticipated. The starting center for the Oklahoma City Thunder must undergo surgery to repair the issue and will miss six weeks as a result.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman first reported the news:

The Thunder later confirmed the news on their Twitter account:

Perkins only played eight minutes in a loss to the Miami Heat on Feb. 20 before leaving with the injury. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman previously noted that the veteran would miss at least a week with the issue after the MRI revealed a strained groin.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the ailment will keep him out for more than a month.

Perkins has struggled offensively this season, averaging only 3.4 points in 19.7 minutes per game. If this holds, it would be his lowest mark since his second year in the league.

Still, the 11-year veteran has made a career as a great low-post defender thanks to his size and solid technique down low. After a January win over the Portland Trail Blazers, superstar Kevin Durant had this to say about the big man, via News9.com’s Kevin Kuzminski:

A lot of you guys don’t know the small things he does for us. His intelligence on both ends of the floor and to hit a huge shot like that, especially a jump shot…I heard a lot of people screaming “NO” as he shot it…he just has so much confidence in hisself and we have so much confidence in him. That was a huge shot. He played hard defense all game and to see him get rewarded with that is pretty special. I ride with Perk ’til the wheels fall off and I’m glad he hit that shot.

Slater also notes that the Thunder have not fared well when Perkins is out of the lineup:

Despite these issues, Oklahoma City will have to compete without its starting center for the next six weeks, with his return likely coming just before the end of the season.

This will put a lot of pressure on rookie center Steven Adams, according to Jeff Caplan of NBA.com:

The former Pittsburgh star was the 12th overall pick in the most recent draft, and he has shown a decent amount of potential in his short time in the league. He has had limited production in 14.2 minutes per game this season, but he has the size and athleticism necessary to succeed.

He will need to use this opportunity to fill in for Perkins and truly shine.

 

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Joel Embiid Injury: Updates on Kansas Center’s Knee, Back and Return

The fact that superstar freshman Joel Embiid only played 18 minutes in Kansas’ recent overtime loss to Kansas State was a major reason why the Jayhawks came up short against their rivals, but the news gets worse. 

Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World, points out that the NBA prospect will miss at least the next game against TCU:

Kansas basketball added to that:

Embiid has been dealing with issues in both his back and knee, which has limited his effectiveness, as coach Bill Self relayed to Jesse Newell of The Topeka Capital-Journal: “It would be like if you’re a running back and your high ankle sprain hadn’t totally healed but you could be out there, but you’re still not going to be near as effective…That’s kind of where Jo is right now.”

Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the Horned Frogs are the bottom-dwellers in the Big 12 standings and are yet to win in conference play. Things do get more difficult after that though with a trip to Texas Tech and then two home games against Texas and Oklahoma, so taking time to rest against TCU is likely the right decision.

Embiid is averaging 10.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game and is considered one of the top NBA prospects for the upcoming draft.

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Andrew Bogut Injury: Updates on Warriors Center’s Shoulder and Return

Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut is set to miss his third game in a row while dealing with a shoulder injury.

The Philadelphia 76ers, set to take on the Warriors on Monday night, announced the news on Twitter:

Interestingly enough, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson told reporters that Bogut’s injury wasn’t suffered during practice or in a game, offering another potential cause, via Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Bogut was quick to shoot down that notion according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Without Bogut in the lineup, Golden State split its last two games, beating Chicago and then losing to Phoenix. In particular, his defensive presence was sorely missed against the Suns, which scored 122 points in victory.

Bogut has been excellent this season for the Warriors on the glass and as a defender, averaging 10.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots while pitching in 8.2 points per game. 

As for how the team will get by without him, here’s what the head coach had to say after the Warriors beat the Bulls on Feb. 7, as noted by Simmons:

You have to have guys who are going to fight and who are not going to surrender, and we’ve got those types of guys. It says a lot about them, every time our backs are against the wall or we’re in a position that we need a win, we come out and fight.

With Bogut out of the lineup, the pressure falls on Ognjen Kuzmic to have a big impact for his team on the glass and as a defender in the lane. 

After the team’s matchup against the 76ers on Monday night, the Miami Heat will come into town two days later before the team hits the road to take on the Sacramento Kings

 

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WATCH: Dwight Howard stars in funny ‘Save the Centers’ promo

Kobe is probably going to roll his eyes when he sees this but this is the Dwight Howard who we all know and love. Dominating with a smile on the court and being a clown off it. Since the NBA has moved to eliminate centers from all-star balloting and the league seems to be transitioning more and more to a faster, smaller style of play leaving a lot of centers out in the cold, Howard decided to do something about it. Check the video out here:

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This Year’s Big NBA All-Star Snub: Centers

Two lists of elite basketball players were released Thursday, and they indicated very different things about the state of the NBA center.

According to USA Basketball, the big man is thriving.   

According to the NBA, the big man is dead.

Dwight Howard could start for Team USA at the World Cup this summer.

Dwight Howard will not start for the Western Conference All-Stars next month.

It’s OK if you’re perplexed. So were TNT’s commentators when the NBA All-Star rosters were unveiled on Thursday night’s broadcast. Neither squad’s starting lineup will feature a traditional center—an apparent first in All-Star history.

The cause? The NBA’s new ballot, which asks fans to vote for two guards and three “frontcourt” players, without respect to position. Given a choice, fans went for the flashy forwards over the plodding 7-footers.

The top vote-getters in the East frontcourt: LeBron James, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The winners in the West: Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love. That’s four small forwards and two power forwards, all of them averaging at least 22 points per game.

Howard, long regarded as the NBA’s top center, finished fourth in the Western Conference frontcourt race, nearly 8,000 votes behind Love. Roy Hibbert, the Indiana Pacers’ towering center, finished fourth in the East, about 411,000 votes behind Anthony.

Both Howard and Hibbert are virtual locks to be chosen as reserves by the NBA’s head coaches, who will submit their ballots over the next week. But it could be James vs. Durant in the center circle when the ball is tossed up in New Orleans on Feb. 16.

It might please the fans, but it sounds like heresy to basketball traditionalists and, well, centers.

“They shouldn’t have snubbed out the center spot,” Shaquille O’Neal said on the TNT broadcast. “We still have centers.”

The NBA was trying to be progressive when it revamped the ballot for the 2012-13 season. The game is evolving. Teams are playing small lineups. There are 7-footers shooting three-pointers. In Miami, coach Erik Spoelstra advocates “positionless basketball.”

So NBA officials went there, too, eliminating center as a separate category. It had no effect on last season’s All-Star Game, as fans still voted in Howard (West) and Chris Bosh (East), preserving the appearance of a traditional lineup.

The ballot change seemed reasonable, given the dearth of dominant centers in recent years. Except the position seems to be having a renaissance.

Witness the Team USA roster, which was released earlier in the day. Three centers, all rising stars, were added to the 28-man roster: DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings, Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans and Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons. Cousins is 23. Davis and Drummond are 20.

Those three will join the veterans Howard (age 28) and Tyson Chandler (31). If Hibbert, 27, hadn’t previously played for Jamaica, he would have been a shoo-in to make the USA roster, too.

The line between center and power forward is, of course, blurred. The 6’11″ LaMarcus Aldridge, also named to Team USA, has shifted between the two positions in his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. Bosh, a forward for most of his career, is now the Heat’s starting center.

O’Neal is right: The NBA still has quality centers. But the position has changed since he entered the league in 1992 and dueled Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson in the paint. Some of the best bigs today are defense-first players: Hibbert, Chicago’s Joakim Noah and Memphis’ Marc Gasol.

Still, there are eight players classified as “center” averaging at least 16 points per game, including the injured Brook Lopez and Al Horford. And there are several young big men showing promise, including Cousins, Davis, Drummond, Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic and Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic.

This isn’t 2004, when Jamaal Magloire made the Eastern Conference All-Star team by default. The league could reinstate the center spot and not be embarrassed by the results.

The ballots for All-NBA teams still list center separately. Box scores on NBA.com still include a “C” next to one starter on each team. The NBA.com statistical database allows you to sort by position—”center” remains an option.

The center is not dead, positional revolutions notwithstanding. Except in All-Star balloting.

If the NBA’s goal is to load the All-Star Game with flashy, crowd-pleasing scorers, then the new ballot is working. But if player popularity is all that matters, why stop at center? Why not embrace positionlessness in its entirety, remove all labels from the ballot and just let fans vote for their five favorite players in each conference?

Worth noting: The ballot wasn’t the only culprit this year. Howard killed his public image by sulking his way out of Orlando and Los Angeles within less than a year. He has regained some of his popularity in Houston, but losing a voting precinct as large as Southern California is tough to overcome.

The Howard snub sent Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey on a minor Twitter rant Thursday night.

In another tweet, he declared:

With Kobe Bryant injured, Morey suggested that Houston’s James Harden (a likely reserve) should start. Or Howard could start and Durant could shift to shooting guard since, as Morey noted with a twinge of sarcasm, “positions don’t matter.”

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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Andrea Bargnani Injury: Updates on Knicks Center’s Elbow and Recovery

Andrea Bargnani‘s latest foray into Internet memedom has come with dire consequences, as the New York Knicks announced Jan. 23 that the center-forward suffered a torn left elbow ligament on a failed dunk attempt in Wednesday’s 110-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The injury occurred toward the end of the third quarter, when Bargnani pump-faked Lavoy Allen and drove to the basket, attempting to finish over two 76ers defenders there to draw a charge. While Bargnani was able to avoid the charge call and got two free throws, the moment was immortalized as the latest moment of unintentional comedy from the oft-derided big man.   

Now that it’s been revealed that Bargnani suffered an injury, the once-riotous moment has taken a macabre feel. The Knicks did not indicate how long Bargnani would be out—indefinitely can mean a wide range in these situations—but it will be interesting to see how the team copes without its second-most-prevalent big.

Bargnani is averaging 13.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, but is shooting a career-low 27.8 percent from beyond the three-point arc. He’s also taken criticism for his at-times lackadaisical defense, especially for missed rotations and mental gaffes on pick-and-roll coverage.

The Knicks, 15-27, have been worse on both ends of the floor with Bargnani on the floor, per NBA.com.

The question with Bargnani becomes what coach Mike Woodson does with the rotation. Bargnani has been starting alongside Tyson Chandler, giving New York a more traditional “big” lineup. Woodson may be forced to start Carmelo Anthony at the proverbial power forward spot in the interim, a look that worked last season but one that the coach has been hesitant to use this year.

With the Knicks’ season spiraling out of control, however, this injury might give Woodson the proper motivation to switch his stance. Either way, expect big changes in the coming days as the Knicks look to replace Bargnani’s nearly 30 minutes per night.

 

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