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.
Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.
Jay Williams of ESPN:
A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”
Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.
Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.
The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.
The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.
Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:
Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.
Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?
Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?
I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).
What has Phil Jackson actually done? He discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis with other teams and called the Knicks, not Porzingis, his priority. That’s it.
At face value, this is fine. It’s what devoted executives, not always Jackson, should do.
Jackson hasn’t traded Porzingis for meager return. He hasn’t traded Porzingis at all.
Everyone up in arms should take a deep breath.
Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
I wouldn’t rule out the Knicks trading Porzingis. The No. 1 pick got traded, after all. I wouldn’t rule out them trading Porzingis for too little return. Look at Jackson’s track record running the front office.
But wait until they do before bashing Jackson for not understanding Porzingis’ value.
There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Jackson, including overseeing the toxic culture that led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview and setting this latest “crisis” into motion. Publicly discussing trading Porzingis won’t endear Jackson to the budding star, but the problem is how it reached this point. Players in sound organizations can handle this. Jackson has engendered little confidence from his players, the distrust existed well before this round of trade talks.
Lonzo Ball doesn’t play for the Lakers. LeBron James isn’t a free agent.
But they’re headed that way – and Ball is already embracing it.
The Lakers are expected to draft Ball No. 2 tonight, and rumors are heating up about LeBron leaving the Cavaliers in 2018.
Why should LeBron join Ball in Los Angeles?
Ball on ESPN:
LeBron, I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games can help each other out a lot. Any time you want the ball, just let me know. It’s going to be there.
Ball was asked to to pitch LeBron, so it’s not as if Ball is out here talking so brashly on his own. But answering the question was a rookie mistake.
Besides, I’m not sure Lonzo Ball can undo the bad blood between LeBron and LaVar Ball.