Robin Lopez has been quite good for the Phoenix Suns this year, and his health is, in many ways, key to their late-season success. Without Lopez in the lineup, the Suns are a sub-par defensive team forced to rely on Jarron Collins, as Alvin Gentry is now committed to playing Amar’e Stoudemire at his natural position (power forward) as much as possible. Collins is — and this is no exaggeration — far and away the worst starting center in the league, and the only alternative would be to give more minutes to Channing Frye.
Frye’s already playing pretty significant minutes on most nights, and the problem with giving him more playing time is that doing so is, by extension, giving the Suns opponents more layup attempts and rebounds. According to Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside, the latter (at least) is about to be remedied: the Suns have signed rebounding machine Dwayne Jones of the Austin Toros to help fill out their center rotation.
Jones isn’t likely to jump head-first into significant playing time, but I’m optimistic that if given a chance to play, he’ll produce. He’s the best rebounder the D-League has to offer, and his biggest weakness (a complete lack of offensive moves) happens to be well-remedied by Steve Nash’s passing and the Suns’ pace. Jones is an athlete perfectly suited for an up-and-down game, and if given the chance, he’ll rebound and finish well even against NBA competition.
It’s not entirely certain he’ll actually get that chance, though. Phoenix picked Jones out of all the fish in the sea, but it’s possible that the Suns’ sole motivation in signing him was to fill out the roster and provide a back-up plan should Lopez’s injury be worse than anticipated. Despite the fact that Jones could make a legitimate difference on a team that has a place (and minutes) for Jarron Collins, he could very well be filed away as Plan Z and practice fodder.
There’s no use in judging the Suns or Jones either way until we see the team’s plans unfold, but part of me can’t help but worry that Jones’ long-awaited call-up may not be as fruitful as it could have been.
Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.
While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.
While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.
Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).
I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.
Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:
“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”
It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:
It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.
This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.
The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.