There have been times in the early going of this season when LeBron James hasn't looked like his normal self. James gave an explanation for that Thursday night after the Miami Heat's 102-97 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, revealing that he has been dealing with lower back soreness for a "couple" weeks, according to ESPN's Tom Haberstroh.
James was quiet in the win over the Clippers, tallying a season-low 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes of action. James was seen wearing a heat pack while on the bench and admitted his back "locked up" on him in the first quarter. The two-time reigning MVP said he does expect to play Saturday against the Boston Celtics, but he also didn't rule out missing some time in the future:
"If I can't get out of bed, I can't show up here," James said. "If I can't give enough to help us be successful, then I won't play. That's the one thing I know I will do, but it wasn't bad enough [on Thursday] to the point where I couldn't help."
Despite the back issue, James is still averaging 24.3 points, 7.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds. His shooting hasn't taken a hit at all, as he's knocking down 56.4 percent from the field and 47.6 percent from three.
Still no timetable for Kobe's return
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has insisted for quite some time that there's no timetable for him to return to the court from a torn Achilles. And even as he enters the final stages of his rehab, that outlook hasn't changed, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:
"I don't have a timetable; let's start there," Bryant said. "I've been pushing pretty hard, man. I'll go and do some more conditioning after I get done talking to you guys.
"The hardest thing is the conditioning and getting back and playing at a high level and being able to run and play at a high level for 48 minutes. (It) is tough, man. You really have to push yourself conditioning wise to get in shape ... get down to feeling really comfortable, feeling strong, working through the fatigue first of running straight forward. Once the endurance is there you start doing more lateral things."
Bryant had sent Twitter abuzz when he tweeted this out Tuesday:
Some speculated that meant Bryant would be returning next Friday against the Memphis Grizzlies. But the Lakers star shot that down, explaining that it was referring to a workout he had done, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.
So, Kobe Watch continues.
Knicks to pass on Collins
With Tyson Chandler out of the lineup for four-to-six weeks because of a leg injury, the New York Knicks are in the market for some frontcourt depth. Jason Collins is still available, but the Knicks are planning to stand pat for now, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.
The Knicks have reportedly spoken with Collins' representatives, but owner James Dolan doesn't want to spend the $1.4 million that would be owed to Collins on a veteran's minimum deal. New York already has 15 guaranteed contracts, and they plan to re-sign Jeremy Tyler in December.
Ike Diogu and Earl Barron are other options for frontcourt depth if things really go south. If a big man is signed, Chris Smith, J.R.'s younger brother, would have to be released. Smith's contract has already been guaranteed, but it's only for $491,000.
Stephenson happy in Indiana
Over the past two seasons, the Indiana Pacers have thrown big money at Roy Hibbert, David West and Paul George. Lance Stephenson is the next Pacer in line for a big raise, and he's hopeful the two sides will be able to come to an agreement, according to Candace Buckner of the Indy Star:
"I wouldn't want to leave a good team like this. I definitely would love to come back," Stephenson said. "I just love the city. I love the team. I love who I play with and I feel like we're a young group and I think we should stick together."
Stephenson has gotten off to an excellent start for the 5-0 Pacers, averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists. The youngster is shooting 53.8 percent from three-point range.
The Pacers have about $60 million in guaranteed contracts for 2014-15, although that number would go up if the "Derrick Rose Rule" kicks in for Paul George. A decision also will have to be made about Luis Scola, who's guaranteed $940,946 but would make $4.87 million if he sticks around.
A new Stephenson extension could put the Pacers close to the luxury tax, although the tax is expected to be up around $75 million for next season, so there may be a little more wiggle room.