The Phoenix Suns won last night. They’ve been doing that a lot lately. They are 21-5 in the last 26, and Amare Stoudemire is playing the best ball of his career, which is making rims afraid. The offense is great, the defense is passable and the Suns are back to being the entertaining Suns.
But they barely won last night against the lowly Timberwolves. Al Jefferson had 19 points and 16 rebounds, Kevin Love came off the bench to have 23 and 22. That’s 32 points and 38 rebounds for the two men who make up the inside presence of the Timberwolves.
It was because Robin Lopez is out for the Suns with a bulging disk in his back. Problem is, he may be out for a while, five to seven games. According to the Arizona Republic, it could be worse than that. (Via Brett Pollakoff at FanHouse)
The Suns’ back specialist, Dr. Christopher Huston, examined Lopez in Phoenix, and the center will receive an injection today to reduce the swelling.
“Everybody responds differently to back issues,” (Suns general manager Steve) Kerr said. “On the bright side, the long term is he should be fine and maybe even this year.”
Wait just a second… “maybe even this year?”
If Lopez is not up to form, the Suns are far less scary. The game plan, even with Lopez, was to pound them on the inside. The strategy had not been as successful lately because Lopez was a fantastic last line of defense. If he is not right, or is limping through the playoffs, the Suns will be limping, too. No matter how hard Amare throws it down.
When we talk about Lakers’ coach Byron Scott’s questioned player development skills with young players Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and particularly D'Angelo Russell, it is his old-school lack of communication that comes into question. It’s what is different from what Gregg Popovich or Quin Snyder or other guys developing strong young players have done. From the outside (we’re not in practices/film sessions), we see Scott was not letting Russell play through mistakes — feeling that was rewarding bad behavior — but then not doing a good job communicating what the player is doing wrong.
This comment from Scott, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, sums it up perfectly.
Scott plans to start Russell after NBA All-Star weekend (Feb. 12-14). But Scott said the two have not talked about that issue.
“He’s not old enough for me to have a meeting and discuss, ‘What do you think?’” Scott said.
I would say you should have that meeting — it’s called a teachable moment. “What do you think? Well here is what I see that is different.”
Part of what is going on with Scott and Russell is the concern from some in the Lakers’ camp that Russell is a little too full of himself, that his ego is too big, and it could become a problem. So they are trying to take him down a peg. I would say that for a smart player — and Russell is that — the game is humbling and will take care of the ego issue. But you’ve got to give him run to develop him.
Play him, and then communicate with him. It’s a system that does worth with modern players.
The Hawks almost came back and won this — Atlanta went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes to tie the game at 94-94 with Orlando. The Magic had one last chance with 2.2 seconds left.
Nikola Vucevic nailed it.
Can’t blame Al Horford‘s defense on this one, he pushed Vucevic out and contested the shot. But in a make-or-miss league Vucevic nailed the game winner, Orlando wins 96-94.
If that looks familiar, Vucevic knocked down pretty much the same shot against the Lakers earlier this season.
We know Stephen Curry — who spent many of his formative years in Charlotte and still thinks of the city as his hometown — is all in on the Carolina Panthers today against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 30.
On this, he and LeBron James agree.
LeBron sounded like the politically cautious, image-conscious version of himself at the start of this quote from Uninterrupted on Facebook, but as he gets going, you can quickly see who he wants in this game (hat tip Eye on Basketball).
“I don’t know if I quite got a prediction but I definitely want to see a great Super Bowl,” James said in the video. “But if it was a life and death situation and I had to choose one team and one player, I got to go with Killah Cam. Got to go with the Carolina Panthers, they’ve been playing the most consistent football all year round. Both offensively, defensively and special teams. Got to go with Cam and one of my boys plays for them too as well, Ted Ginn Jr., that’s been showing out all year as well.
“No disrespect to the Broncos. I love their team. They got the legend at quarterback, they got that defense that’s out of control. They got some receivers that be balling out as well. They’re really well coached as well and that’s the reason they are in the Super Bowl. But I’m rolling with the Carolina Panthers today.”
A lot of NBA players like the way Cam Newton plays — with exuberance, wearing his heart on his sleeve, dancing and celebrating. That’s how Curry and LeBron and other NBA players want to play their game, and they feel reined in by the league. They relate to Cam Newton and the ridiculous role model/celebration debate.
We’ll see how much celebrating the Denver defense lets Newton do.
We’d seen this movie before. Against the San Antonio Spurs. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Golden State Warriors offensive machine got cranked up, dropped 73 on Oklahoma City in the first half, led by 14 at the break, and it was about to turn into another rout, and another statement win for the Warriors.
Except the Thunder came back. OKC held Golden State to just 18 third quarter points and got the lead down to two points — the Thunder pushed the Warriors away from the things they like to do (Stephen Curry/Draymond Green pick-and-roll) and made life difficult for them. It was a fantastic performance for OKC, even if Golden State still prevailed with a 116-108 win.
After the game Durant would have none of any moral victory talk — even though it was — and he said the Thunder were not intimidated by the Warriors or anyone else, via Royce Young of Oklahoma City.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” Durant said of the comeback. “When we get down, we’re supposed to tie the game up. No moral victories in here…
“Man, we’re not scared of neither one of those teams,” Durant said, including the Spurs. “We’re going to play our game. Nobody in this locker room is scared. We gotta play ’em. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we gotta play ’em. We’re not ducking nobody.”
The NBA isn’t professional boxing; nobody gets to duck anybody.
But a Thunder team searching for respect gained a measure Saturday night. The Thunder picture themselves contenders and for much of the season listened to talking heads (myself included) say the Warriors and Spurs are in a different class. Saturday night was a step in showing that they belonged. There are still questions about how Golden State or San Antonio could exploit players such as Dion Waiters or Enes Kanter is a seven-game series, but the Thunder have two of the league’s top five players — they can beat and hang with anyone.
They have a shot at a title.
If Durant believes that, it would impact his decision this summer, but that is another discussion.