Five To Watch In the Second Half Of Season

Hoops Rumors

Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen suffered a sprained ankle on Saturday and multiple sources told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that “The Finnisher” is expected to miss at least a couple of weeks. Markkanen left the arena on crutches and in a walking boot following Cleveland’s 95-93 win over New York on Monday.

In Markkanen’s absence, Dean Wade returned to the starting lineup. Although Wade has only seen sporadic action this season, appearing in 33 out of 48 games, coach J.B. Bickerstaff has entrusted the 25-year-old big man to be an injury-replacement starter. Wade has started 17 games, with the Cavs holding a respectable 9-8 record in those contests, Fedor writes.

We’re confident we’ve got guys who can fill that spot,” Bickerstaff said. “We will play some more traditional lineups because of who’s available, but the style that we play and the system that we play shouldn’t change much. We’re comfortable with Dean Wade in that position.

He takes care of business every single day. We have a trust in him that we know when his number’s called, he’s going to be ready to go. That’s not easy to do. You see guys who are in and out of the lineup, they have a hard time. He understands where his opportunities are gonna come and the job that he has to do, and what he needs to do to go out and handle that. Obviously, he made big shots for us down the stretch.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, who’s out for the season following meniscus surgery in his left knee, is making solid progress in his recovery and hasn’t ruled out returning to the court if Cleveland makes the postseason, according to Fedor in a separate article for Cleveland.com. Sources within the team don’t expect Sexton to be back for a potential playoff run, but they also know not to count him out, as the fourth-year guard is known for having an outstanding work ethic.
  • Eric Nehm of The Athletic provides a trade deadline primer for the Bucks, noting that Milwaukee is limited in potential deals by being a luxury tax team. He believes Robert Covington, Larry Nance Jr. or P.J. Washington could theoretically fit well with the team, but creating the frameworks for those trades is difficult. Goran Dragic, Thaddeus Young, Robin Lopez and Mike Muscala are names to watch on the buyout market, according to Nehm.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News explores five things to watch from the Pistons during the second half of the season.
  • Pacers rookie guard Duane Washington Jr., who’s on a two-way contract, set an Indiana rookie record with seven three-pointers in the team’s 117-113 loss at New Orleans on Monday, James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star writes. Washington brings positivity and enthusiasm wherever he goes, according to coach Rick Carlisle. “He has a real grateful vibe,” Carlisle said. “Every day he comes in with a smile on his face, a real positive view of the world in general and he loves to play basketball. He loves to work at being a great teammate, and he plays the game in a very pure way.”

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