Be sure to come back at 9 p.m. (Eastern, 6 on the West Coast) for our live blog from tonight’s game.
Robin Lopez will start for the Phoenix Suns in the only real bit of pregame news from players and coaches before Game 1 at Staples Center.
Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he wasn’t expecting big minutes out of Lopez, who has not played in a game since March. If the Suns can get 15-20 out of him, they should be happy.
There also is a rumor here at Staples that Lopez will guard Pau Gasol, while Amare Stoudemire will by on Andrew Bynum. If Bynum were healthy that would be a big size advantage for the Lakers, but he is not. Watch to see if the Lakers can exploit that matchup.
With a week between series, there was little new to find out, no new angles to talk about before this game.
I his pregame press conference, Phil Jackson said he was not thinking about retirement and was not leaning either way.
“I’m leaning on this podium, that’s it,” Jackson said.
Jackson again dodged talking about the immigration issue as well, refusing to discuss the issue.
The coolest thing seen pregame: TNT studio host Ernie Johnson got a ball during warm-ups, walked to the corner three and — in full tie and dress shirt — missed the first shot. Lakers assistant Chuck Person challenged EJ with a “that’s all you got?”
Johnson coolly drained the next one, then went back to his set.
Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)
Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.
You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)
“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”
It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.
It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. Dukie@yahoo.com or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.
Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.
“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”
“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.
“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”
Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the
Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8
The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.
I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.
If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.
At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.
This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.
Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs
Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.