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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Jamal Crawford finds it ‘baffling’ that he is still unsigned

Jamal Crawford

Carmelo Anthony officially made it back into the league this week, but one fellow veteran is wondering why he hasn’t been afforded the same treatment.

In an interview over the weekend with NBA.com’s Shaun Powell, former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford spoke on his continued NBA unemployment.

“I know I can play,” said Crawford. “And I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me.”

Crawford, who turns 40 in March, averaged a decent 7.9 points and 3.8 assists in just 18.9 minutes per game for the Phoenix Suns last season. That included a scoring outburst of 51 points towards the end of the year.

Just last month, Crawford appeared to offer his services to one top contender, but his one-dimensional game may make it tough for him to be a contributor.

Kawhi Leonard apologized to former teammate over inadvertent eye poke

Kawhi Leonard

Apparently robots can feel remorse too.

Toronto Raptors swingman OG Anunoby told reporters on Friday that he received an apology from former teammate Kawhi Leonard, who accidentally poked him in the eye during Monday’s loss to the LA Clippers.

“He felt bad, but it was an accident,” said Anunoby, per Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun. “We just talked. He just said sorry.”

The poke happened in the opening minutes of the contest, and knocked Anunoby out for the rest of it with an eye contusion. He missed Wednesday’s game against Portland too but is expected back for Saturday against Dallas.

Leonard is known for his stoic demeanor (such that his coach recently cracked a funny joke about it), so the apology to Anunoby might have been a brief one.

Magic’s Jonathan Isaac sprained his ankle during uniform-unveiling event

Orlando Magic big man Jonathan Isaac is missing Friday’s game due to a rather bizarre reason.

Isaac, who was held out of the team’s contest against the San Antonio Spurs with a sprained ankle, suffered the injury during the team’s City Edition uniform-unveiling event, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic.

The 22-year-old Isaac, an ex-No. 6 overall pick, has had a strong start to the year with 12.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and a near-NBA-best 2.8 blocks per game.

Rolling an ankle at a uniform-unveiling event has to be a first, but it’s not the first time that a current Magic player has gotten hurt in a weird way.

Report: NBA executive Kiki Vandeweghe interested in taking over Knicks

Knicks logo

The New York Knicks definitely seem to need new leadership, and they may have to look no further than the league office in order to find it.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported this week that Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations, is interested in the Knicks’ president job if incumbent Steve Mills is fired.

Bondy also lists Daryl Morey, Trajan Langdon, and Sam Hinkie as other potential targets but has Vandeweghe as the only one with confirmed interest.

The 3-9 Knicks are quickly going down the tubes again for what feels like the umpteenth straight year, leading to renewed calls for a front office overhaul. Two bigger targets were also mentioned earlier this week, but Vandeweghe appears to be the first one who is actually interested in taking over the circus.

Ray Allen says he considered returning to Celtics in 2016

Ray Allen

Ray Allen seemed to have burned his bridge with the Boston Celtics when he left back in 2012, but apparently that wasn’t exactly the case.

In an interview this week on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria,” the Hall of Fame sharpshooter said that he considered returning to the Celtics in 2016 amid the possibility of the team landing Kevin Durant in free agency.

“I had a conversation with [Celtics GM Danny Ainge] and I told him this was my last-ditch effort. I would’ve went back,” said Allen. “This was when Kevin Durant was a free agent. He was thinking about going to Boston. And I said, ‘Hey, if you guys land Kevin, I would certainly look at lacing them back up one more time and try to make something good happen here in Boston.'”

Allen, who was 40 years old at the time, had not played since the 2013-14 season. Of course, Durant went to the Golden State Warriors instead that year, and the all-time three-point leader Allen never played in another NBA game.

While Allen still appears to have bad blood with some ex-Celtics teammates stemming from his departure for the rival Miami Heat, it sounds like the fences have since been mended between Allen and the organization itself.

Yasiel Puig could be target for Marlins, reuniting him with Don Mattingly?

Yasiel Puig

After four years apart, Yasiel Puig and Don Mattingly could find themselves back together again.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Thursday that the veteran outfielder Puig could be a fit for the Miami Marlins this winter. Heyman also notes Nicholas Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna as other options they are considering as well as Avisail Garcia as another potential target along with Puig.

Of course, Puig, who hit .267 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs last season, is a noteworthy inclusion here. He played under Mattingly, the current Marlins manager, for three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2013 to 2015. Mattingly was let go by the Dodgers following the 2015 season and promptly became Miami’s manager. Puig, meanwhile, stuck around with the Dodgers for a bit before being traded away after the 2018 campaign.

Granted, the two did not have the best relationship during their Dodger days, but a lot can change in a few years, so you never know.

Damian Lillard not concerned about Blazers’ early-season skid

Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers are falling way behind in the unforgiving Western Conference, but their superstar player is not panicking.

After the Blazers lost to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday to fall to 4-8 on the year, All-NBA guard Damian Lillard addressed the team’s rough sledding.

“I don’t really get concerned,” he said, per Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. “It’s not a great feeling, but it’s not the end of the world. We’re up against it.

“This is a tough position to be in, especially when your expectations were much higher,” Lillard added. “But like I said before, it’s a lot of games to be played … I think, especially for us, we always find a way to turn it around.”

The 29-year-old Lillard has been brilliant individually to start the season with averages of 30.5 points and 6.9 assists per game, both career-highs. But the Blazers have plummeted to 13th in the West and have struggled to withstand the injury absences of big men Zach Collins (shoulder) and Jusuf Nurkic (leg).

Some of Lillard’s teammates have been drawing criticism for the team’s funk, but the four-time All-Star himself understands that there is a lot of season left.

Markelle Fultz ready for trash talk from former teammate Joel Embiid

Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz knows full well what the Joel Embiid experience consists of, and he is ready for it now that the two are lining up on opposite sides.

Speaking Wednesday ahead of his first regular season game against the Philadelphia 76ers since they traded him, the Orlando Magic guard joked about trash talking with Embiid.

“He’s going to be telling me to shoot it and talking trash,” said Fultz, per John Denton of the Magic’s website. “That’s what we did all the time when we were in practice together.

“I’m ready for it and I’ve got some stuff for him, too,” the former No. 1 overall pick went on. “But it should be a fun, entertaining game tonight. I’m going to talk trash regardless, no matter where we at. It just goes back to having fun.”

Embiid will not play against Orlando Wednesday due to injury maintenance for his left knee soreness, but he will almost certainly be going at it with Fultz from the bench.

Though Embiid would often stand up for Fultz when they were teammates, there should be lots of good-natured trash talk now that they are opponents.