1. Alex Caruso fractured his wrist after flagrant foul from Grayson Allen
The Chicago Bulls announced that guard Alex Caruso suffered a fracture on his right wrist and will undergo surgery in the coming days. Caruso will then be re-evaluated in six to eight weeks.
He suffered the injury in the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday when the Bucks’ Grayson Allen fouled him hard mid-air, sending Caruso dangerously crashing to floor.
Allen was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for the play and thrown out of the game. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was very upset over the foul and said it could’ve ended Caruso’s career.
I think the initial block attempt was a fair play on the ball, but Allen’s follow-through motion made the play dirty. As Donovan noted, Allen has a history of dirty plays dating back to his college days at Duke, so league officials will be taking that into consideration when they assess whether the incident warrants further penalty.
Chicago is already without both Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine, who are both dealing with knee injuries. So adding Caruso, who himself just recently came back from the health and safety protocols, to the injury list will further thin out their backcourt.
There’s bad blood brewing between the two teams and things could get feisty if they meet in the playoffs.
2. LeBron wears his own crown
LeBron James was feeling pretty good about himself after the 23-23 Lakers defeated the league-worst Orlando Magic. He took to Instagram to celebrate by rephrasing the rap song “Store Run” by Nas:
Now read the first sentence of the previous paragraph again.
LeBron is gonna LeBron, I guess. Just can’t imagine any other superstar of any sport—including the two he just compared himself to—publicly saying stuff like that (okay, maybe except Cristiano Ronaldo).
3. Hell hath no fury like a coach on the brink of losing his job
Following reports that he “narrowly avoided being fired,” embattled Lakers coach Frank Vogel did what he thought put his team in the best position to win: he benched Russell Westbrook late in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers.
Vogel was very candid after the game, saying that he was “playing the guys I thought were gonna win the game.”
They still lost, though.
A visibly upset Westbrook skipped his media availability and promptly left the arena after the game. Then trade rumors began circulating almost on cue.
To sum it up, Vogel felt that he was being scapegoated by the Lakers front office, so he flips them the bird and benches who he thinks is the problem. Ergo, Russ is the ultimate scapegoat?
Time to mind-meld with TNT’s Charles Barkley:
The “people up top” should include GM LeBron, who must have thought that he could one-up Kevin Durant by doing something KD basically gave up on: try to win a title with Russ.
Murphy’s law, everyone.
4. Is Daryl Morey finally lowering his Ben Simmons ransom?
Sixers GM Daryl Morey hinted Thursday that the franchise might be a bit more willing to accept a lesser player in trades, though extra draft picks would still be necessary.
Morey said in a wide-ranging radio interview that Joel Embiid’s dominant play is a motivating factor for the Sixers, and that a complementary piece that might pair well with Embiid could move the needle in trade talks.
To recall, Morey was holding out for a top 25-level player as of December. But Morey also said that moving Simmons before the trade deadline is “less than likely,” and that he believes that the Sixers as currently assembled has a chance to win the title (but not as great as he wants).
Listen, Morey is an intelligent guy, but he lives in an ivory tower with all his stats. As fans, we like to talk about top 10, top 25, top 40 players, but if we’re being serious, how big of a difference is a top 25 guy from a top 40? It’s an entirely made-up concept and any difference is marginal at best. Whether it’s top 25 or top 40, bottom-line is that neither is a franchise player but either is good enough to make All-Star-level contributions.
He’s playing a zero-sum game with Embiid because we know for a fact that they’re not winning the title with their current roster even if Simmons plays. As good as Embiid is, Ben is simply too big of a liability in the playoffs.
To be honest, him not making a deal before the deadline should be enough to get him fired. If Embiid breaks down in the postseason because he had to carry too much load, that’s on Morey.
5. New henchman from Georgia
Georgia (the country, not the US state) grows trees… and henchmen, apparently.
The NBA may have found the next Zaza Pachulia, and it’s none other than his countryman Goga Bitadze.
The 7-foot Pacers center looked like he tried to take a bite at the Warriors’ Gary Payton II after getting dunked on last Thursday.
Bitadze was unapologetic after the incident, which earned him his second technical of the game, saying that Payton stared him down and he felt disrespected. “Maybe the headbutt was a little too much,” Bitadze said. “But I’d do it again.”
Sure didn’t look like he was merely going for a headbutt, though. But I must say, Payton’s reaction was gold.
6. Throwback video of the week
Speaking of Georgians, remember when the NBA was obsessed with finding the next Dirk Nowitzki? The Nuggets thought they had found the Georgian Dirk when they drafted Nikoloz Tskitishvili fifth overall in the 2002 NBA Draft.
Skita ended up being an all-time bust, averaging 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds over a four-year NBA career. The highlight of his NBA career is scoring 17 points against the Shaq-Kobe Lakers during his rookie year.