The NBA season is in the home stretch with a month left until the playoffs, making each game more and more meaningful. While a number of teams are in a "tank race" towards the bottom of the league in order to improve their draft standing, the playoff race is heating up in both conferences. The Rockets and Warriors have cemented themselves as the top two seeds in the Western Conference, but seeds 3-10 are all separated by just four games. In the East, the Raptors and Celtics have a clear edge was the top two seeds but only 3.5 games separate seeds 3-8.
With that as the background a pair of key injuries that could impact the playoff race highlight today's NBA News & Rumors Roundup:
Gordon Hayward hoping to return this season
Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been out since suffering a gruesome injury in the team's season-opening loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and while the team has said he won't play this season, Hayward is still hoping to return for the playoffs.
"My thoughts are that I take it day by day," Hayward said on Friday. "And I said that from the very beginning, that's what I would do, not putting a timetable on it. The recovery is going well. I'm progressing well. I was in the facility this morning, will be in the facility tomorrow. And that's kinda my goal -- just really focusing day by day.
"The hope is still there. It's something where I'm really honestly not even thinking about it. I know we're getting toward the end of the year. It's something that I'm still working toward, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."
Hayward was one of Boston's major offseason acquisitions this past offseason, signing a four-year, $128 million deal. He averaged a career-high 21.9 points per game last season for the Utah Jazz.
Catch up on nightly NBA scores in the best sports app available - the Chat Sports App!
Kemba Walker noncommittal about future with Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets fielded offers for All-Star point guard Kemba Walker at the trade deadline, as they're preparing to undergo another rebuild and Walker is their most valuable asset. Walker said then that he didn't want to be traded, but now, he's much more noncommittal about his future with the franchise.
“I’m not sure. Nobody wants to lose. Especially not me,” Walker said at practice Friday. “I haven’t thought about any of that. It’s something I’ve got to deal with whenever it happens. It’s just not something that has come up to me.”
Walker, who is under contract for just $12 million next season, is averaging 22.9 points and 5.7 assists per game this season.
Bulls to extend Bobby Portis?
The Chicago Bulls plan to work on an extension for forward Bobby Portis this offseason, according to Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago.
Those good graces may have the Bulls truly evaluating where Portis fits long-term, and it could work to the benefit of both sides as they could engage in contract extension talks this summer before Portis is scheduled to hit restricted free agency, if the two sides don't reach a deal this October.
A front office source tells NBCSportsChicago.com a deal for Portis “will be discussed” this summer, as Portis has had a breakout third season.
Portis got into a fight with former teammate Nikola Mirotic during a practice in the preseason, breaking bones in Mirotic's face. That led to questions about his future with the franchise, but after Chicago traded Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans, it's clear they think Portis fits into their long-term rebuild plans.
Portis is averaging 12.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per game this season, all of which are career-highs for the 23-year-old.Back to the NBA Newsfeed