|World Peace anticipating early return from surgery|
|Tuesday, April 09, 2013 8:04 AM|
The Associated Press
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Metta World Peace plans to play in the Los Angeles Lakers’ next game, less than two weeks after undergoing left knee surgery.
World Peace participated in drills with the Lakers on Monday and the veteran forward said he’s ready to return nearly a month earlier than anticipated after surgery on a torn meniscus. With just five games left to get into playoff position, the Lakers (40-37) host New Orleans on Tuesday night.
“We’ve got a chance to make a push for this championship run,” World Peace told reporters after practice at the Lakers’ training complex. “We all need it. All the guys under contract, injured or not injured, we all need each other to make a run at this thing.”
After a tumultuous season, the big-budget Lakers are running out of time even to make the playoffs. They trail Utah (41-37) for the eighth postseason spot in the Western Conference and the Jazz hold the tie-breaker on Los Angeles.
The Lakers thought World Peace would be out until early May after undergoing surgery March 28, following a typical recovery time for knee surgery.
But there’s nothing typical about the former Ron Artest and the Lakers’ defensive stopper says he feels healthy enough to play because his knee didn’t swell following surgery, surprising his doctors.
“I think you try to prepare in the summertime for the season and I think the way I eat prepares me for times like this,” World Peace added. “There was no swelling. You can take a lot of medicine for swelling but if you eat right, when you get injured, the swelling is minimized. Off meniscus surgery, you can play, but the swelling is what keeps you from playing.”
World Peace has missed the Lakers’ last six games with the latest injury in a long list for the 16-time NBA champions.
Even if World Peace returns as planned, Lakers point guard Steve Nash is likely to miss his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury. The 39-year-old Nash missed nearly two months early in the season with a small fracture in his lower left leg.
Kobe Bryant has struggled with several injuries in recent weeks, missing two games and playing just one quarter in a third game because of a sprained left ankle. Pau Gasol, who missed time early this season with a concussion, returned from a 7-week absence with a right foot injury one game before World Peace hurt his knee in a loss at Golden State in late March.
Top bench scorer Antawn Jamison is playing with a sprained wrist and All-Star center Dwight Howard hasn’t been 100 percent healthy all season after summer back surgery. Backup point guard Steve Blake missed 37 games with an abdominal injury and top backup big man Jordan Hill has been out since early January after surgery on his left hip.
Warriors tandem making 3s at unprecedented pace
OAKLAND, Calif. — At the end of the Golden State Warriors’ practice Monday, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson lined up at opposite baskets and engaged in a shooting contest.
The game was simple: first person to make seven shots from each of the five spots beyond the 3-point line wins. Or, first person to miss two shots in a row loses. Both had two teammates — one to rebound and another to make a clean pass. Each won once. No tie-breaker needed.
The outcome seemed fitting considering Golden State’s backcourt tandem has shot its way to the top together this season. The pair has combined to make 444 3-pointers, surpassing the 435 Orlando’s Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson hit in the 1995-96 season for the most by any duo in league history.
As for who usually wins when Curry and Thompson face each other?
“It’s pretty even,” Thompson said. “It just depends on the day, whoever got better sleep that night.”
Entering tonight’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Curry has made 247 shots from beyond the arc and Thompson has hit 197. Both already have eclipsed Dorell Wright’s franchise record of 194, set two years ago while shooting 37.6 percent. Even more impressive might be the rate the current Warriors tandem has shot.
Curry has hit 45.2 percent of his shots from 3-point range, second only to Atlanta’s Kyle Korver (45.5 percent) among players with at least 150 attempts. Thompson is just shy of 40 percent.
Scott shot 42.5 percent when he set the NBA record with 267 3-pointers made — a mark Curry could conceivably top with five games remaining. Anderson shot 39 percent that season, when the Shaquille O’Neal-led Magic lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals.
“That’s pretty cool of an accomplishment, to sustain that kind of shooting all year,” Curry said. “And for two guys to do it in the same season, it’s pretty cool. I know Klay would’ve broken some records by himself.”
The biggest challenge for the Warriors has been maximizing the duo’s abilities.
With both shooting at a historic pace, opponents have started to chase them off the perimeter. That has forced Warriors coach Mark Jackson to often go to a three-guard lineup at the end of games, with Jarrett Jack at point guard and Curry and Thompson on the wings. Some nights that lineup has been effective. Others, not.
Sunday night’s 97-90 loss to the Utah Jazz was the latter, when the Warriors wasted a chance to seal the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2007 and second in 19 years. Curry, in particular, took just five shots in the fourth quarter after scoring 17 points in the first half. He finished with 22 points.
Curry admits there’s “not as much creativity” to find seams when he’s running through screens off the ball. At the same time, he recognizes defenses will trap him on pick-and-rolls late to get the ball out of his hands — the reason Jackson often utilizes him as a shooting guard during key stretches.
If there’s a flaw in the Warriors’ way, it might be that Curry and Thompson defer too much.
“I don’t recall many bad shots by those guys,” Jackson said. “They’re very patient and they take good, quality looks. I think they’re unselfish. And with many players with that mentality, you’re unselfish to a fault.”
Curry’s confounding pass-first mentality, at times, has been especially perplexing. The diminutive point guard who dazzled at Davidson has shown what he could do on the NBA’s biggest stage, scoring a career-high 54 points in a 109-105 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 27. He shot 11-of-13 from beyond the arc that game, including his favorite of the season — dribbling behind the back against Raymond Felton, using a screen and shooting over Tyson Chandler while getting knocked to the floor for his ninth 3-pointer.
“Any time he stops on a dime in transition after speed dribbling, crossover, or does anything, you’re sitting there like, ‘Wow’,” Jackson added. “And not that it goes in. But if I made that shot, I’d be standing their watching it, making sure it looked good, felt good, and then I would act like I knew it was good. “If he’s letting it go after that work, his body language is saying it’s money. It’s a thing of beauty watching. We are truly witnessing greatness from an all-time great shooter.”
Curry’s excellence also has pushed Thompson and vice versa. Thompson played most of his rookie year without Curry, who was sidelined with repeated problems on his now twice surgically-repaired right ankle. Now they often hold shooting competitions, including making jumpers on one side of the free throw line and a corner 3-pointer — each make counts as one point and each miss as minus-two. First person to 10 wins.
“I’ve always been the best shooter on my team, from middle school on, I would say,” Thompson said. “To have a guy on my team who is just as good if not better than me — it’s really challenging — and I’m competitive.”
With both about to surpass 200 3-pointers this season, it’s also hard not to imagine what might be possible the longer they play together.
“Maybe one day,” Thompson added, “we’ll each get 250.”
Favors growing up as Jazz battle for playoff spot
SALT LAKE CITY — Tyrone Corbin remembers the scared pup that arrived in Salt Lake City as part of the Deron Williams trade two years ago.
Now the Jazz coach has so much confidence in Derrick Favors he wasn’t afraid to unleash him with Utah’s playoff hopes on the line.
The 6-10 Favors delivered Sunday night, blocking a shot with 40.9 seconds left to preserve Utah’s 97-90 road victory over Golden State. The win, coupled with the Lakers’ loss to the Clippers, allowed Utah (41-37) to reclaim the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
If the Jazz go 3-1 over their remaining four games (Oklahoma City today, Minnesota home/away, then Memphis), the Lakers (40-37) would have to win their last five because Utah owns the tie-breaker.
Favors, all grown up, looks forward to that crunch-time pressure.
Actually, Favors said Monday, “There’s no pressure. We know what we got to do; win these games.”
It’s that confidence that comes from feeling at home and wanted — a stark contrast to the power forward Corbin first saw in a Jazz uniform. “He was a scared 19-year-old man that was surprised he got traded and didn’t know what to think of it, what to think of us, or where to go next,” Corbin said of Favors after the February 2011 deal with the New Jersey Nets, who eight months earlier had made the Georgia Tech standout the No. 3 overall pick of the 2010 draft. “I think he’s just relaxed and comfortable now because he feels wanted here and has a role in how good we do or how bad we do.”
Many wondered how Utah would do after losing one of its big men, 6-11 Enes Kanter, to a dislocated left shoulder against Phoenix on March 27.
The 21-year-old Favors picked up the minutes and the slack. In the last five games he is averaging 27 minutes, 12.2 points, nine rebounds and two blocks, while shooting 24-of-42 (59.5 percent) from the field.
Sunday night he played nearly 30 minutes, finishing with 12 points, a team-high 13 rebounds and three blocks — none bigger than the one as Draymond Green drove strong to the rim with Utah leading 93-90.
Five seconds earlier, Corbin had subbed in Favors for starting center Al Jefferson.
“When coach subbed me out and put him back in, I couldn’t be no happier than if he were putting me in the game,” Jefferson said. “I feel like that was the right move and he made a big defensive stop there. Derrick Favors really is the key reason why our defense is great, especially in the key, in the crunch time of the game.”
Guard Randy Foye said Favors controlled the game defensively, helping out on screens and pick-and-rolls while altering shots.
“His athleticism is huge for us but then (so is) his understanding of defense and how to be in position and the effort and second effort you have to have to make plays, especially to close ball games,” Corbin added.
The Jazz will need all of that down the stretch, starting at home today against the Thunder, which is coming off a tough loss to the streaking New York Knicks. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the biggest stars but Favors likely will have to deal with Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison.
Favors, who leads the Jazz with 121 blocks, registered six of them in the last two meetings with the Thunder.
The two teams have split their two most recent games, with the Jazz handing Oklahoma City an embarrassing 109-94 loss in Salt Lake City on Feb. 12 and the Thunder getting payback on their home court a month later with a 110-87 thrashing on March 13. The Thunder won the first meeting this season, 106-94, in Oklahoma City on Nov. 30.
Oklahoma City (56-21) sits a game behind San Antonio (57-20).
Corbin believes the one surety is that Favors, only in his third year, will get better — especially as he develops more of an offensive game. He’s reached a point where the Jazz are designing plays for him.
Corbin hopes one stat — that Favors leads the team in personal fouls — also will change.
Utah’s season comes down to four games. Favors is enjoying each one — again a stark contrast to his first year with the Jazz.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, April 09, 2013 8:28 AM|