NBA Playoffs, Cavaliers Celtics Game 5: Rajon Rondo is going to think this is a hockey game

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Rondo_Cavs.jpgWe don’t know much about what the Cleveland Cavaliers have planned to stop the Rajon Rondo layup parade — none of their key players have spoken to the media for a couple days. Mike Brown has chosen not to tell the national media the details of his plans. Smart man.

But we can infer, from the words of the coaches and past actions. LeBron said after last game he wants a shot on Rondo, but it’s not so simple because that means Mo Williams has to cover Ray Allen or Paul Pierce and the Celtics will exploit that matchup. Maybe you want to dare the slumping Pierce to get hot, but your risk waking up the dragon with that one.

As John Krolik pointed out here yesterday, the Cavaliers need to do a much better job of shutting off the transition and early offense points Rondo gets. Take away the uncontested layups. That starts with keeping him off the boards — 18 rebounds? How do you let a guard do that? — because that fueled the transition points.

Put simply: Cleveland needs to put a body on Rondo. Bang him around a little. Make this a physical game. Whether that is LeBron or Anthony Parker or Big Z doesn’t matter.

Last game, Rondo just swooped in for his rebounds. He was not boxed out; nobody really gave him much thought. They will tonight. He will have bodies in his way an he will be leaping over people for his boards, not grabbing uncontested ones.

The Cavaliers should also shadow him down the court off misses, as opposed to letting him get up a full head of steam. Then get LeBron or a big man back to patrol the paint. No gimme layups.

Bottom line, Rondo is not going to find it so easy. He is going to get banged around like a pinball. There are risks for Cleveland with this, mostly foul trouble. Rondo will still drive and while it’s hard to draw the contact and sell foul on LeBron because of his strength, he only needs one or two calls. Then LeBron has to sit and… Cleveland doesn’t want that.

Still, don’t expect Rondo to have the same night. Somebody — and Pierce, we’re looking at you — has to step up and take on some of that scoring for Boston. One of the Big 3, because we can’t really expect 28 out of Kendrick Perkins, now can we?

Something’s gotta give in this one. We may have the best game of the playoffs here (Atlanta/Milwaukee Game 7 didn’t quite live up to the billing).

Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Eric Bledsoe hair-salon claim about tweet was unbelievable

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Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:

Clear message?

Apparently not.

After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:

The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.

Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.

It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.