Phoenix Suns could be next to board the D-League gravy train

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According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Suns are interested in creating a new D-League team to operate out of Prescott Valley, AZ.

That’s a big move in itself, and a signal of just how far the D-League has come this season. Having the resources to develop players on the minor league level and dig up talent like Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Williams, or Alonzo Gee is now a serious competitive advantage. One that teams around the league would be foolish to ignore.

Coro indicates that the Suns would be leaning toward the hybrid affiliation of D-League ownership, which could actually be the most beneficial to the team. The model would grant the D-League team autonomy on the business side of the operation (though at the NBA affiliate’s expense for three years), but the NBA team (in this case, the Suns) would have complete control over the basketball side. Coaching staff, system, playbook, roster — everything would be in the hands of the Suns to control, and that’s a very powerful tool.

The only existing hybrid affiliated team is the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, which are operated by the Houston Rockets. Houston remains one of the best examples of a team using the D-League for internal development and as an additional source of playing time, and have called up the likes of Mike Harris and Garrett Temple this season for stints in the big leagues.

The Suns could be poised to do the same, as the utility and malleability of the hybrid model are what make it so enticing. It helps Phoenix to keep better tabs on prospects they find intriguing (and by extension, better tabs on other D-League opponents whose worth is more accurately gauged by comparison), work on specific skills and plays that are useful to the Suns, and work daily on the development of draft picks without sacrificing anything. That’s a hell of a deal for an NBA team, and the potential benefits it can provide in a jam (i.e. a major injury that creates depth problems) are quite significant.

This plan is still early in the developmental process, but keep an eye on its progress. The Suns are catching on to the D-League process, and they’ll be all the better for it.   

Heat players past, present throw support behind David Fizdale heading to Memphis

David Fizdale
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The Memphis Grizzlies have found their man — Miami Heat assistant coach David Fizdale has been offered the head coaching job in Memphis. He’s a smart coach who earned the trust of elite players and was a key part of the staff that helped Miami to a couple of rings.

It’s a good hire. Don’t just take my word for it, check out what a couple Heat players from that era had to say.

Mario Chalmers had a first-hand view — he was traded from Miami to Memphis in the middle of last season. The point guard who went the other way in that deal, Beno Udrih, also helped push the deal along.

Fizdale is going to be a popular hire with the players. That said, if the Grizzlies can’t keep Mike Conley in free agency the team is going to have struggles this season, regardless of who coaches them.

Watch Kevin Love drop 25 points on Toronto

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Before Game 5, Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue told Kevin Love just to stay aggressive. Channing Frye told him the same thing.

Love took that advice to heart. From the opening tip of Game 5, Love was attacking — backing down the overmatched Luis Scola and knocking down threes. Love had 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 25, helping spark an easy, 38-point Cavaliers win in Game 5.

Now, can Love do this on the road in Game 6?

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.