Luol Deng has been shut down with a torn ligament in his left wrist. He's being called week-to-week and Tom Thibodeau acknowledged that "he's going to be out for a while." The plan as of now is to avoid surgery and return to play through the pain, likely after a couple of weeks. Deng opted for surgery after suffering the same injury to his right wrist at the end of the 2004-05 season - he's choosing the "pain management" route this go-around, given the Bulls' title aspirations and that surgery would end his season. While Deng is sidelined, Richard Hamilton will see all the minutes he can handle at shooting guard, with Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver splitting the time at small forward and filling in behind Rip.
• Flip Saunders has been fired by the Wizards and replaced by assistant Randy Wittman, whose career coaching record doesn't inspire a tremendous amount of confidence. Wittman said that he hopes to utilize "the length, athleticism, and versatility of our roster to improve our defense and create more opportunities in the open court." The Wizards' problems to this point have been more about execution than opportunity (sixth in pace, last in offensive rating), but there is no question that Saunders was not the man to lead this particular team. But can Wittman stop Andray Blatche from throwing up all those lazy, mis-guided long twos? Can he get JaVale McGee to keep his head in the game, every game? Can he convince Nick Young and Jordan Crawford that quality possessions help teams win games? Can he put John Wall in a better position to succeed? We can only wait and see when it comes to the answers to these questions.
• Kawhi Leonard played just seven minutes on Monday after averaging 32 minutes in the previous nine games. Gregg Popvich's explanation can be found here, which comes down to Leonard's recent struggles on offense (4.7 points, 25% FG in previous three games). The Spurs having lost three of four games coming in likely also contributed. Pop said he wanted to give Gary Neal some run (21 minutes, 10 points, 2 threes), and the playing time for Neal, Danny Green (24 minutes), Tony Parker (38 minutes) and Richard Jefferson (37 minutes) didn't leave much room for Leonard. This was only one game and it's too early to say the shine is completely off Leonard, particularly since Pop isn't likely to play Parker and Jefferson that many minutes on most nights, but you won't be blamed for dropping Leonard for a hot hand with no more promises of consistent minutes and Manu Ginobili's return on the three-to-four week horizon.
• Derrick Williams didn't do much to earn himself more playing time at small forward with Monday's performance (37 minutes, 11 points, 3-9 FG, 7 boards, 4 turnovers, -11), also his first NBA start. That said, none of the T-Wolves outside of Kevin Love were particularly impressive in the 107-92 loss to the Rockets, a sentiment echoed by Rick Adelman after the game. Wes Johnson missed Monday's game with an illness and will likely return to the starting five on Wednesday.
• Mark Cuban said he has no concerns about Dirk Nowitzki in the long-term, but added that he could be held out more than four games, depending on the progress he makes this week. The Mavs have held Dirk out of game action and instead have been putting him through a series workouts aimed at improving his overall conditioning while strengthening his knee. Cuban blames the lockout for Dirk's woes and said the Mavs will keep their eye simply on making the playoffs:
"There's nothing specifically wrong. Dirk has a process to get ready. You mess with the process; he just didn't feel right. It's not just Dirk, it's other guys, too. It's a first for us in dealing with a lockout ... He's probably not going to be the last player we sit for days. We'll see how everybody feels. I told you guys this is going to be more like a baseball season. We're going to rest guys."
In the two games Dirk has missed thus far, surplus minutes have gone to Shawn Marion (34 minutes, 21.5 points, 53% FG, 2.5 threes, 8 boards), Lamar Odom (27 minutes, 13.5 points, 1.5 threes, 3.5 boards, 3.5 assists), and Ian Mahinmi (24 minutes, 11.5 points, 58% FG, 5.5 boards, 1.5 blocks).
• Eric Gordon's timetable in his return from a knee injury has been pushed back once again. The doctor that evaluated Gordon's knee on Monday found no structural damage but recommended that he not return to basketball activities for another three weeks. Gordon has played in just two games on the season and this extended time frame would mean over six weeks since his most recent game appearance (January 4). While no structural damage is a good thing, the further delays only cast more of a shadow on Gordon's potential to help fantasy owners over the remainder of the season. For what it's worth, Gordon was told that his knee "will be 100 percent sound with rest." We'll have to wait and see exactly how much more rest will be required.
• Status updates: Plenty of signs point to Chris Paul (hamstring) returning on Wednesday, but we aren't going to see anything official before game day .. Dwyane Wade (ankle) is out Tuesday and likely Wednesday, as well .. Arron Afflalo (groin) is out Wednesday .. D.J. Augustin (toe) is out for the next four games. Derrick Brown will enter the starting five at small forward .. Ray Allen (ankle) didn't travel with the Celtics and will be out Thursday .. Rajon Rondo (wrist) is expected to return on Thursday .. MarShon Brooks is suffering from what is believed to be Achilles tendinitis, but he'll undergo tests Tuesday in order to get an official determination. If tendinitis is confirmed, it should be just a day-to-day injury .. There is a chance that Baron Davis will make his Knicks debut on Wednesday. Davis said he was very rusty in his first practice with the team on Monday, while Mike D'Antoni said he didn't think he'd hurt the team in his current condition.
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Carl Landry has worked his way back into Monty Williams' rotation, averaging 27 minutes over the past two games, but his per-game rank of 206 on the season in 25 minutes speaks to how his lack of supporting stats makes him little more than a fringe option without true starter's minutes .. The Grizz have won seven games in a row and O.J. Mayo has settled in with some very solid production as the Grizzlies' sixth man. Averages over past nine games include 13 points on 47-percent shooting, 2.1 threes, 3.3 boards, and 1.2 steals in 24 minutes. I'm buying when it comes to the strong play continuing .. Tiago Splitter was huge on Saturday while Tim Duncan rested (32 minutes, 25 points, 11-13 FG, 10 boards), and he's played more minutes than DeJuan Blair in each of the past three games. The Spurs have been getting what they expected from Blair, but it may be time to see if they can get more out of Splitter as the starting center .. Amir Johnson's place in the Raptors' starting five may be in jeopardy after early defensive lapses led to his playing just seven minutes during Tuesday's game. Aaron Gray played 15 minutes (6 points, 3-3 FG, 8 boards) and is a true center if only in stature, but Casey said that everything will be evaluated in advance of the Raptors' matchup with the Suns .. Larry Drew quickly realized that starting Jason Collins was a bad idea. Zaza Pachulia has been back in the starting five for the past two games and averaged 11 points and 10 boards in 34 minutes. He's still the low-ceiling option we thought he was, but at least he's looking at a consistent 30 minutes moving forward.