The Cleveland Cavaliers suffered a huge blow over the weekend when Larry Nance, Jr suffered a fractured hand that will keep him out of the lineup for at least a month, and for up to six weeks while recovering from the injury. Meanwhile, Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter, who had a nagging knee injury that was finally scoped, will miss at least two weeks.
The Hawks and Cavs were among the worst teams in the Eastern Conference over the past few seasons, but both had their eyes on a potential playoff berth this year.
If the season were to end today, the Hawks would snag the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs with an 11-12 record.
The Cavs started the season 3-0 and the franchise looked like they finally turned the corner after LeBron James left them for the second time in free agency. Reality and injuries caught up to the Cavs, who slipped to 10-14 after losing two key starters. Kevin Love injured his leg in the second game of the season and hasn’t played since late December.
This is JB Bickerstaff’s first full season as the head coach in Cleveland. He replaced John Beilein, who resigned midway through last season. Despite being four games under .500, the Cavs are only a half-game behind the #8 seed, which is currently occupied by the New York Knicks.
The Atlanta Hawks are +15000 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship, according to the Mirage Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas. The Cavs are a huge long shot at +50000 odds.
Larry Nance 2.0
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Larry Nance Sr. played in the NBA for nearly 14 seasons, including a long stint with the Cleveland Cavs. The elder Nance made history as the first player to win the official NBA Dunk Contest in 1984.
The younger Nance, a 6-foot-7 power forward, grew up in Akron, Ohio, but didn’t garner any interest from local schools or anywhere in the Big Ten. Nance went west and excelled in the Mountain West at Wyoming. He led the Cowboys to their first NCAA berth in almost 15 seasons. He spent four seasons in Laramie and also broke records at Wyoming previously set by college hoops legend Fennis Dembo. Although Nance didn’t light up the scoreboard, scouts loved his rebounding and defense as the Mountain West defensive player of the year.
Nance was a late first-round pick by the LA Lakers. He spent three seasons in LA and came off the bench averaging 6.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Nance evolved into a reliable role player with the Cavs last season, finally averaging double digits at 10.1 ppg and 7.3 rebounds per game. He joined the starting lineup this season. He averaged 9.3 ppg, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals this season. Nance gutted out a wrist injury earlier this season, but he can’t play through the pain of a broken left hand. The fractured hand is commonly referred to as a boxer’s injury. Cleveland didn’t say whether the injury will require surgery, but Nance will be out for at least a month.
Nance almost made history as the first father/son duo to win the Slam Dunk Contest, but he was the runner-up in 2018.
Hunter: NCAA Champ to Young Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks are a young but fun team to watch, which is why they were a perfect fit for De’Andre Hunter. Trae Young gets all the attention, but Hunter is Atlanta’s third-best scoring option, averaging 17.2 ppg. He had a solid rookie season as a starter, averaging 12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Two weeks ago, Hunter posted a career-high 33 points against Greek Freak and the Milwaukee Bucks. Young missed the game due to an injury, but Hunter stepped up as the primary offensive weapon.
“Hunter was just trying to get us going,” said Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce. “You see the ball go in and you get the feel a little bit, and we needed every bit of it.”
Hunter already missed four games with the knee injury, but the medical staff decided to move forward with a procedure known as a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement. They hope Hunter can return in two weeks or so.
Back in 2019, Hunter won a national basketball championship with Virginia. The red-shirt sophomore went pro after two seasons in Charlottesville. The Lakers selected Hunter with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. They dealt him to the New Orleans Pelicans as a part of the blockbuster trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers. The Pelicans then traded Hunter to Atlanta.