Marc J. Spears

  • With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back, Thunder look like contenders

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 4 hrs ago

    In a matter of days, the Oklahoma City Thunder have gone from looking like they might miss the playoffs to slowly moving up the Western Conference ladder. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook laughs about the sudden perceived change of fortune for his team.

    "All the questions are whether we are going to get a higher [seed] now," Westbrook said. "It ain't no more about if we're going to make the playoffs."

    The Thunder opened the season 3-12 with Westbrook and Kevin Durant sidelined because of injuries. In the strong Western Conference, their poor start was viewed as perhaps a mammoth hill too tough to climb even with Westbrook and Durant back.

    Westbrook missed 14 games because of a broken right hand that sports a nasty surgical scar as a reminder. Durant also missed the first 17 games with a right foot fracture. The Thunder suffered other key injuries as well and desperately relied on defense during the absence of their hot-scoring standouts. Oklahoma City (12-13), however, has gone 9-2 since Westbrook returned to the lineup and is 7-1 with Durant.

    Durant agreed.

  • NBA Power Rankings: Gold rush continues

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    1. Golden State Warriors (Record: 21-2; last week’s rank: 1): The Warriors are the ninth team in NBA history to start with a 21-2 record or better and play at Memphis and against the Thunder this week.

    2. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 19-4; last week’s rank: 4): The Grizzlies have a brutal schedule this week: Golden State, at San Antonio, Chicago and at Cleveland.

    3. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 18-6; last week’s rank: 3): The Blazers play the Spurs on Monday for the first time since the defending champions ousted them from the playoffs.

    4. Houston Rockets (Record: 18-5; last week’s rank: 5). James Harden led Houston to an 8-3 record when Dwight Howard was out with a knee injury and leads the team in scoring, assists and steals per game.

    5. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 17-7; last week’s rank: 2): San Antonio faces Portland twice, Memphis, Dallas, the Clippers and Oklahoma City in its next six games.

    7. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 17-8; last week’s rank: 7) It’s uncertain how long Chandler Parsons will be out with lower back soreness. The Mavs host the Spurs on Saturday.

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  • Dwight Howard hopes to return Saturday

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    SAN FRANCISCO – Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard said he hopes to play on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.

    Howard has not played since Nov. 17 against the Memphis Grizzlies because of a right knee strain. He had platelet-rich plasma therapy on his knee on Nov. 20.

    Howard said he didn't consider playing against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday night, and is aiming for the Nuggets game on Saturday.

    "I'm just trying to do extra stuff every day and just gauge where I am at," Howard said Wednesday morning. "I feel a lot of better. My legs are a little weak, but I want to say that is from the long flight here. Get a good workout in tonight and hopefully try to play Saturday."

    Howard showed signs of a nearing return when he took part in an intense workout on Sunday in Houston, a source said. Howard, however, preferred the extra days before the Nuggets game to get the rust off and improve his conditioning and strength in his legs. Howard added that he is in better shape now than before the injury.

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  • 2015 NBA draft's top 10 international prospects

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    Scouts from a dozen NBA teams attended Sunday's game between Spain Cajasol Sevilla and Barcelona. Most of their attention was directed at Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-1 center whom some scouts think could challenge to be the top pick in the 2015 NBA draft.

    "Porzingis, or, as I call him, 'Zinger,' is a cross between Andrea Bargnani, Pau Gasol and Ersan Ilyasova," Sevilla coach Scott Roth wrote in an e-mail to Yahoo Sports. "He is 7-1 and still growing at 19 years old. He has the total package, and, really, this is his first year of really playing, getting quality minutes and being depended on game by game.

    "The only thing you can say negative about him is his body is not ready and is a work in progress, which will only get better over the years. When he is 22, 23 years old he will be very good and maybe great."

    Porzingis had 13 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of Sevilla's 85-74 victory over Barcelona. Willy Hernangomez, a teammate of Porzingis' and another top draft prospect, had 29 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes.

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  • NBA Power Rankings: Warriors rolling

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago

    1. Golden State Warriors (Record: 17-2; last week’s rank: 2): The Warriors, without David Lee, have opened with a franchise-best start. They have won 12 straight games and are 10-1 on the road.

    2. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 15-5; last week’s rank: 4): Center Tiago Splitter (calf), who has only played 10 minutes this season, could return Tuesday at Utah.

    3. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 16-4; last week’s rank: 3): The Blazers, who have played 12 of 20 games at home, opened a five-game road trip Sunday at New York with their fourth consecutive win.

    4. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 16-4; last week’s rank: 1): The Grizzlies fell from the top spot after losing two of three, but are still off to the best start in franchise history.

    5. Houston Rockets (Record: 16-4; last week’s rank: 7). One sign that Dwight Howard (knee) could return soon: he took part in an intense workout Sunday, a source said.

    6. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 14-5; last week’s rank: 9) The Clippers have won seven straight games and nine of their past 10. Five of their next six games are against the East.

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  • NBA Power Rankings: Some consistency at the top

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 16 days ago

    1. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 15-2; last week’s rank: 1): The Grizzlies still own the NBA’s best record, have won five straight games and are 7-2 on the road. They host the champion Spurs on Friday.

    2. Golden State Warriors (Record: 14-2; last week’s rank: 2): The Warriors are three wins from surpassing the franchise record for most consecutive victories, which is 11, set from Dec. 29, 1971-Jan. 22, 1972.

    3. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 13-4; last week’s rank: 3): The Blazers are 11-1 when scoring more than 100 points. They scored 99 when visiting Memphis snapped their nine-game winning streak Friday.

    4. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 12-4; last week’s rank: 9): How good is the West? The Spurs are winners of seven straight and 10 of 11, but own the fifth-best record in the Western Conference.

    5. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 13-5; last week’s rank: 7): The Mavericks have won three straight games and nine of 11, and average an NBA-best 109.1 points per game.

    7. Houston Rockets (Record: 13-4; last week’s rank: 5). The Rockets have a 4-3 record without center Dwight Howard. It’s still uncertain when Howard will return from his knee injury, a source told Yahoo Sports.

  • Source: DeMar DeRozan expected to be out a month

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    The Toronto Raptors expect to lose guard DeMar DeRozan for about a month after he tore a tendon in his groin, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

    The Raptors will have a more definitive timeline for DeRozan's recovery period after DeRozan is re-examined in a week.

    DeRozan suffered the injury during the third quarter of Friday night's 106-102 loss to the Dallas Mavericks when he slipped to the floor on a drive to the basket.

    The All-Star is averaging a team-high 19.4 points, 4.2 rebounds in a team-best 33.6 minutes for the Raptors this season. The Raptors are off to their best start in franchise history at 13-3.

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  • Kings angry after NBA denies protest of loss to Grizzlies

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    The NBA denied the Sacramento Kings' protest of their Nov. 13 last-second loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, but at least some in the Kings organization still think the team was robbed of a deserved victory.

    The NBA announced on Friday that commissioner Adam Silver denied the Kings' protest of the 111-110 loss to the host Grizzlies. The basis of the Kings' protest was that Grizzlies guard Courtney Lee's acrobatic game-winning shot should have been disqualified as having been made after time expired. Silver determined that the officials' ruling that Lee's shot was timely was within their judgment and not a misapplication of the playing rules.

    "The referees had a duty to count frames on the replay and they didn't," one Kings source said. "We felt and still feel strongly that there was significant error in this decision."

    "I hit the ball," Hollins told Yahoo Sports. "No question about it. You see the trajectory. You even see my reaction afterwards. Even if you can't conclude that I hit the ball, the shot still didn't get off with the correct call."

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  • Anthony Davis grows into MVP candidate as New Orleans finds its star

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 21 days ago

    NEW ORLEANS – Anthony Davis can't help but notice the homeless people living under bridges near the New Orleans Pelicans' arena when he arrives for and leaves games.

    "Any time I see a homeless person I give them money if I have cash on me," Davis said. "You don't know what they're going through. Some people say you never know if they're lying or putting on a show. But you never know.

    "If that were me, I would want someone to help me out. I try to make sure I can help out any way possible."

    The night before Thanksgiving, Davis paid for and served meals with his family for the residents of the Salvation Army Center for Hope in downtown New Orleans. Davis' Thanksgiving dinner was the tipoff to his season-long "AD's Flight Academy," which will include monthly community events focusing on giving back to children and families in the New Orleans area.

    "Some of these guys don't have food or whatever it is. During the holidays they're feeling lonely. I'm trying to brighten up their day, make them feel special."

    Perhaps most impressive about Davis' strong start is that he has become an elite scorer.

  • NBA Power Rankings: Grizzlies looking formidable

    Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports 23 days ago

    1. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 12-2; last week’s rank: 2): The Grizzlies, who have the NBA’s best record, earned a statement win Sunday by leading by as many as 25 points in a rout of the Clippers.

    2. Golden State Warriors (Record: 10-2; last week’s rank: 3): Stephen Curry will get to spend Thanksgiving in his hometown of Charlotte before playing the Hornets on Friday.

    3. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 10-3; last week’s rank: 7): The Blazers have won seven straight, playing primarily at home.

    4. Toronto Raptors (Record: 11-2; last week’s rank: 4): The Eastern Conference’s top team earned an impressive win at Cleveland on Saturday and has won nine of 10.

    5. Houston Rockets (Record: 10-3; last week’s rank: 1) Houston center Dwight Howard, who has missed two games after undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy to treat his strained right knee, will not play Monday night against the New York Knicks.

    6. Washington Wizards (Record: 9-3; last week’s rank: 5): The Wizards will play at Cleveland on Wednesday after beating LeBron James and Co. on Friday in Washington, 91-78.

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