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Portland Trail Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic has wrist surgery, out at least 6 weeks



Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic had surgery on his fractured right wrist and will be reevaluated in six weeks, the team announced Tuesday.

Nurkic was injured in last Thursday’s 111-87 loss to the visiting Indiana Pacers.

He could be seen holding his wrist after swiping at the ball in the third quarter, and he fell to the floor after contact under Indiana’s basket. During a timeout, he went to the locker room and did not return.

The 7-foot Bosnian center was averaging 10.3 points and 7.6 rebounds heading into the game.

Nurkic missed much of the first half of last season after breaking his left leg in a game in March 2019. He returned to the team to play in the the bubble in Orlando, Florida, after the season was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Kevin Durant expected back for Brooklyn Nets before break, Steve Nash says



NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said he expects Kevin Durant, who has missed five consecutive games with a strained hamstring, to return before the NBA All-Star break.

“We’re just trying to monitor and be cautious,” Nash said before Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. “We definitely have kind of slowed things down in that respect: not putting any pressure on him, not trying to rush him back in any capacity and just make sure that we give him the right amount of time to be more than healed, to be strong and conditioned to come back to the team.”

The Nets have four games remaining before the break begins on March 5. Their final game of the first half of the season is on March 3 at the Houston Rockets.

Durant was selected to be a team captain out of the pool of Eastern Conference All-Star starters. Nash said he hasn’t discussed with Durant how his hamstring injury would affect Durant’s availability or minutes in the All-Star Game on March 7.

“I’m not sure how the league would approach that,” Nash said. “So, I probably couldn’t say anything on how to approach that one.”

Durant did some shooting and on-court work in Barclay’s Center ahead of the Nets’ game on Tuesday.

The Nets are riding a six-game winning streak heading into the contest with the Kings. Durant has played in just 19 of the Nets’ 32 games this season. He has missed two weeklong stretches in the league’s health and safety protocols after being exposed to people who tested positive for COVID-19. The Nets’ Big Three of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Durant have played just seven games together since Harden was traded from Houston to Brooklyn in January.

Durant is averaging 29 points, 5.3 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game this season.

The Nets have three All-Stars: Durant, Irving and Harden.

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Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden headlines Eastern Conference’s All-Star reserves, while Utah Jazz send two to Western Conference roster



The NBA announced the reserve selections for next month’s All-Star Game in Atlanta on Tuesday night, a list headlined by Brooklyn Nets star James Harden as well as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell from the league-leading Utah Jazz.

Harden, the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2018, is representing Brooklyn for the first time in what will be his ninth consecutive All-Star appearance. The previous eight came with the Houston Rockets, who traded Harden to Brooklyn as part of a four-team deal last month. Since the trade, Harden has averaged 24.9 points and 11.4 assists per game in 18 games with Brooklyn. He will join teammates Kevin Durant — one of two captains, alongside Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James — and Kyrie Irving, both of whom were voted in as starters last week.

In addition to Harden, the six other selections from the Eastern Conference were: guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle; Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons; and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic.

Brown, the front-runner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award this season, is averaging career highs across the board for the Celtics, including points (25.5), assists (3.9) and all three shooting percentage categories: field goal (49.7), 3-point (40.9) and free throw (76.6), helping him earn his first All-Star selection. Tatum, meanwhile, is averaging a career-high 26.4 points per game, and is making his second straight appearance in the league’s midseason showcase.

Vucevic will make his second All-Star appearance, having made his first two seasons ago, and is averaging a career-high 24.1 points per game and shooting a career-best 40% from 3-point range. Simmons, meanwhile, will make his third consecutive All-Star appearance; the well-rounded guard is, alongside starter Joel Embiid, a huge reason the Sixers entered Tuesday with the Eastern Conference’s best record.

They will be joined by a pair of first-time All-Stars from two of the league’s flagship franchises in Randle and LaVine, both of whom are having career years. Randle, who has helped lead the 15-16 Knicks into surprising contention for a playoff berth, is averaging career bests in virtually every category playing under Tom Thibodeau, while LaVine is averaging career highs of 28.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

Over the past few weeks, there has been intense debate over who would merit the final couple of spots in the East, with a deep pool of candidates garnering support. Ultimately, though, the league’s coaches wound up leaving off several of them, including: Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo and forward Jimmy Butler; Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton; 76ers forward Tobias Harris; Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet; Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Domantas Sabonis; Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young; and Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward.

Out West, Gobert and Mitchell were the headliners, as they were the two representatives for the streaking Jazz, who go into Wednesday’s showdown versus the Lakers on ESPN with the NBA’s best record, and having won 20 of their past 22 games. Gobert, who is positioned to win his third Defensive Player of the Year award, makes his second straight All-Star appearance this season after a couple of near misses in previous seasons. It also is the second straight appearance for Mitchell, who is averaging career highs of 24.5 points and 5.2 assists this season.

They were joined by: Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard; LA Clippers forward Paul George; Lakers forward Anthony Davis; Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul and New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson.

Lillard easily could’ve been a starter, as he’s having another stellar season, averaging 29.8 points and 7.7 assists and keeping Portland in the playoff picture even though guard CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic are out with long-term injuries. George, meanwhile, is back in the All-Star Game for the seventh time after missing it last year, his first in Los Angeles, after injuries delayed the start of his season. Davis, on the other hand, is all but certain to be replaced by someone ahead of the All-Star Game because of the calf strain that currently has the Lakers star sidelined.

The final two spots out West went to one of the league’s oldest stars in Paul and one of its youngest in Williamson. Paul, whom Phoenix acquired before the season, makes his 11th All-Star appearance and his second in a row after making the roster last year for Oklahoma City. Williamson, the top overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, makes his first appearance after averaging 25.1 points and shooting over 60% from the field.

Those two beat out a field of candidates for the final couple of spots that included: San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan; Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander; Jazz guard Mike Conley, who continues to hold the unofficial title of best player never to make an All-Star team; Suns guard Devin Booker; and Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram.

Like in recent seasons, the NBA will combine the All-Stars into one pool, which will be divided into two teams by captains James and Durant. Jazz coach Quin Snyder will coach James’ team, while Sixers coach Doc Rivers will helm Durant’s squad.

The game will also, like last year, feature the Elam Ending, in which the teams play to a final score as opposed to a timed fourth quarter. Like last year, that final score will be determined by taking the combined score of the team that’s ahead through three quarters and adding 24 points — in honor of the late Kobe Bryant — to that total.

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Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns hopes for more head-coaching diversity in NBA



The initial reaction from Karl-Anthony Towns when he learned that Chris Finch would replace Ryan Saunders as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was “shock.”

Like the rest of the world, Towns found out Sunday through the media following the team’s loss in New York to the Knicks, its fourth straight defeat.

“I was eating my Joe’s Pizza in New York with my father and the next thing you know, news came out and we were all shocked,” Towns said.

But, once that initial emotion faded, the two-time NBA All-Star became supportive of the decision. However, he couldn’t help but notice the strong reaction from his league peers, such as Portland Trail Blazers guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, in regards to another African-American being passed over for a head coaching role in current Wolves assistant David Vanterpool.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t come on here and mention the amazing work that men of color are doing in this world. Not only in every other sport and through social justice and every other part of this world and in the organization or whatever the case may be, but for basketball,” Towns said. “For what my job is, there’s a lot of amazing men of color out there that deserve the opportunity to lead a team and to run an organization and have a chance to make their mark in this league not with a jersey on, but with a suit on. And, I say that with meaning.

“But, like I said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing work David Vanterpool has put in and as a man who looks like me, I can’t wait to see him get a job where he can flourish and be a head coach and run a team,” he continued. “We’re so honored and blessed to have him here on this coaching staff and get to continue learning from him and soak up all the wisdom and experience he has from playing professional and also from being a coach. And, with all that experience and with all that wisdom and just knowledge, it makes us that much better as a team, it makes us that much better as a coaching staff and it makes our new head coach, it just gives him so many weapons.”

Out of 30 NBA teams, there are currently seven Black head coaches.

There’s Lloyd Pierce with the Atlanta Hawks, the Houston Rockets‘ Stephen Silas, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ J.B. Bickerstaff, the Phoenix Suns‘ Monty Williams, the Detroit Pistons‘ Dwane Casey, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ Doc Rivers and Tyronn Lue of the LA Clippers.

“As a man of color myself, you would love to see more coaches that resemble what me and you look like on the sidelines, but you’ve got to support the organization in everything you do and understand,” Towns said. “I understand how everything is, but at the end of the day, the organization made the choice that they felt was best for this organization and you’ve got to be a professional in all of this.

“You’ve got to be a professional down the line,” he said. “So, when the decision was made, my mind, just because of how many times I’ve dealt with this, just adjusted and came to an adjustment mode and just wanted to welcome our new coach and try to be here as much as possible for him and lean on each other to get through this adjustment period for both of us.”

Towns made it clear that he wants to finish his career in Minnesota, but described this latest coaching move as “just the business.”

“I would love to finish my career here in Minnesota until obviously the business calls or business changes or whatever the case may be,” Towns said. “I don’t plan on it to or at least I’m not hoping to make the decision. I want to build something great here. I want to build a legacy in Minnesota. I’m just everyday trying to help our coaching staff and help this organization build a culture.”

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