NBA news roundup: Kemba Walker has recovery setback, Rajon Rondo talks free agency

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Bobcats are awaiting the return of point guard Kemba Walker from a Grade 2 ankle sprain.

When Kemba Walker went down with a somewhat serious ankle sprain on Jan. 18 that required an MRI, it was a wonder how the Charlotte Bobcats would fare without him. It's near the backend of the 10-14 days he was supposed to miss, and Steve Clifford's squad hasn't done all that shabby without its starting point guard.

Charlotte went 3-2 since Walker's injury and thought they might have him back Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers or Saturday at Phoenix. But there was a setback in his recovery, according to the Charlotte Observer, and Walker might not be able to return during a three-game West Coast trip.

Walker was ruled out Friday against the Lakers.

Rufus on Fire: More on the Bobcats

The point guard returned to practice on Thursday and though the Bobcats didn't go through any contact drills, he participated fully and thought a Friday return was realistic, according to the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell.

Rondo 'intrigued' by free agency

Rajon Rondo told the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes that he is "intrigued" by the idea of becoming a free agent in the summer of 2015.

The Boston Celtics point guard has been widely believed to be a trade asset, but the franchise has repeatedly said it would like to keep the veteran on its roster through the 2014-15 season as it rebuilds. But from every indication coming from within the franchise, both the Celtics and Rondo view the summer of 2015 as the next major step fork in the road.

Celtics Blog: More on the Celtics
Boston could re-sign Rondo then if it has shown the point guard it has a chance to contend with a new core of young players.

J.R. Smith gets serious

Several weeks ago, New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith was the knucklehead of the league, struggling on the court when he wasn't benched by coach Mike Woodson and untying opponents' shoestrings to earn himself some pricy fines.

But maybe Smith finally got the message.

He scored 19 points in the Knicks' 117-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night, and afterward he said that his recent success has come with a more professional mindset, according to ESPN New York's Ian Begley.

"This is my 10th year, of course it sounds like that old broken record, but you can never be too cautious about your job. Anybody's job is replaceable and I understand that. I'm just taking it as seriously as I can," Smith said.

Smith has shot 45 percent in his last 10 games and since a benching on Jan. 14 against the Charlotte Bobcats has scored in double-figures in every game. His surgically-repaired knee from this offseason is also improving.

Teammate Carmelo Anthony said Smith has more 'pop,' and it showed when Smith blew by Cavs rookie Anthony Bennett for a dunk on Thursday, and also crossed over forward Tristan Thompson before drilling a jumper. Sitdowntristan

Carmelo offers Anthony Bennett support

After teammate J.R. Smith had left Bennett on an island with a crossover, Carmelo Anthony made a point to speak supportive words to the No. 1 overall pick, who has struggled mightily with Cleveland this season, according to

"Somebody told me that I was his favorite player last year," Anthony said. "So I never really got a chance to talk to him but tonight it was my opportunity to let him know that everything will be fine. Just keep working and don't get down on yourself. Everybody have times like this and it will get better."

Bennett has averaged 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game this season while shooting an abysmal 27.3 percent.

More from SB Nation NBA:

The Hook: Why Kyrie Irving isn't leaving the Cavs

All-Star rosters named | Stephenson, Lowry among snubs

The Hook: Judge All-Stars on merits, not narratives

Mission Improbable: How do you score on the Pacers?

Ziller: The 30 biggest moments of David Stern's career

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