NBA Playoffs Suns Blazers Game 6: The clock has run out on Portland's tree of woe

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Nash_playoffs.jpgNo shame here.

Portland shouldn’t hang their heads for a minute, not for a second. They fell 99-90 to the Phoenix Suns and were eliminated from the playoffs, but they gave the world the fight no one thought they had in them. Without Greg Oden, without Joel Przybilla, and without a healthy Brandon Roy (or any Brandon Roy for three games), with an owner battling cancer, a coach with a ruptured Achilles, and a General Manager facing front office turmoil. And they pushed the Suns right to the end.

No shame here.

In a sport that is so often criticized for its lack of dedicated competitors, the Blazers gave us two weeks of unrestrained effort. Brandon Roy came back from knee surgery ten days earlier to try and will his team to victory. They stole Game 1. They just didn’t quite have enough.

How did the Suns do it, in Portland, in front of a raucous crowd, in spite of the emotion in the building? Execution, and the factor no one wants to say about the Suns this season: defense. The Suns pestered, bothered, and contested, running off three pointers while creating and nailing their own. The three ball is a central part of Phoenix’s offense, and the Suns shot 52% from the arc. That buried the Blazers and forced them to play catch-up. Once you enter into that contest with the Suns, you’re playing three-card Monty. And it’s their deck.

The talk going into Game 6 was that the Blazers just had to hold the Suns to under 100. They did. By a point. Unfortunately, the Blazers were unable to convert on their end. Meanwhile, Jared Dudley came in and provided blocks, energy, and huge three pointers. Jason Richardson went off for 28 including several spot-up threes and an alley-oop in the first half that really set the tone.

And down the stretch? Nash. Amar’e. Nash nailed a pull-up three with 2:30 left in the game, then split defenders, drew two more, and dished behind his back to Amar’e for the clean-up dunk. The Suns offense was efficient, sharp, smart, and effective. The Blazers had the effort, had the idea, but failed to execute. Rudy Fernandez had his best game of the series, but still came in with a few bad turnovers and poor shot selection.

The Suns won the rebounding battle and knocked down shots. You do those two things? You’re going to be in good shape.

And by good shape, I mean staring down the barrel of their singular nemesis over the last five years and the team that more than any other has wreaked misery and failure upon their franchise, especially in the brightest of moments and in the most absurd myriad of ways.

But we’ll get to all that later.

For now, let’s celebrate both teams. The Blazers will be back, though the questions now begin as to what the path to the future is, after the path they thought was set became so different. And the Suns have moved on. They may have started the playoffs in a bind, but they have successfully advanced to the second round after missing the playoffs and being a question mark for this year.

Get healthy, Blazers.

Get ready, Suns.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee go make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.

Rudy Gay, Vlade Divac clear the air

Rudy Gay
AP Photo
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Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.

Apparently, Gay found it.

Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:

Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.

“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”

Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.

“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”

Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.

But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.

In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.