Suns’ GM cites toughness, intangibles as reasons for drafting Markieff Morris

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The Phoenix Suns selected Markieff Morris with the 13th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, and by all accounts, he was the player they wanted at that spot. While the team had interest in players like Tristan Thompson and Jimmer Fredette, they weren’t likely to be available by the time the Suns were on the clock, and Morris was a guy they worked out and had high on their list.

Suns’ GM Lance Blanks said that the way the dominoes started to fall in the draft had little to do with the team’s selection. Despite talented players like Kawhi Leonard still being on the board, there was little temptation to deviate from the plan.

“We stayed true to our process,” Blanks said. “We’re very process driven and we spent a lot of time researching every guy in the draft who we thought made sense for this organization. [Morris’] name surfaced as a possibility as we looked at the numbers, and we’re pretty excited. It all made sense based on where we had him on the board.”

Phoenix missed the playoffs last season, and a lack of consistent rebounding and interior defense from their bigs were among the reasons why. Morris should be able to immediately impact those needs, and would also seem to be a great fit for what the Suns like to do offensively. In his final season at Kansas, Morris averaged 13.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and knocked down over 42 percent of his three-point attempts.

Morris was asked which NBA player he models his game after.

“Rasheed Wallace — without the attitude,” he said.

A little attitude wouldn’t be too bad for Phoenix, and in fact, Blanks talked about Markieff’s intangibles, and specifically his toughness as big reasons why the Suns selected him.

“All of his intangibles,” Blanks said, when asked what he liked most about Morris. “He’s tough. We have a team that is resilient, but he offers us a mental and a physical toughness that is almost impossible to quantify with numbers. He’ll be able to balance out our front line and offer us a toughness that is much needed here.”

This was Blanks’ first draft as Suns GM, and it was an important one for the franchise. By picking Morris, the team addressed some obvious needs, but more importantly, Blanks feels that the selection exemplifies the type of club that Phoenix aspires to be.

“This gives us an opportunity to lay our imprint on this organization and this team,” Blanks said. “This is our first draft choice and first opportunity through the draft to do that. So, very excited to have the opportunity for the pick but also a pick that reflects who we are and what we want to be about.”

LeBron says he knows teams are adding players because “they want to beat me”

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 10:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers enjoys a laugh during a timeout against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on October 10, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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LeBron James is the best player on the planet when he dials it up, and he reminded every one of that leading his Cavaliers to the NBA title last season.

On the other side of the scale, after losing the title, the Golden State Warriors reloaded by adding Kevin Durant to a roster that already won 73 games and went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season. Along those same lines, the Spurs added Pau Gasol to replace Tim Duncan, and the Celtics picked up Al Horford to bolster a strong young team.

Joe Varden of The Cleveland Plain Dealer asked LeBron what he thought of all these teams stacking up.

“I know teams switch and pick up new coaches or new players, and their whole goal is kind of they want to beat me,” James told, in a candid discussion about the upcoming year and his place in the sport at age 31, in this his 14th season. “It’s never just about me, but I always hear them saying, ‘We gotta beat LeBron.’ It’s not just me on the court, but I understand that teams get together in this conference and across the league to try to beat me.”

If anyone should be used to having a target on his back, it’s LeBron.

And he’s not wrong.

The Warriors adding Durant was all styming how Cleveland and everyone else can defend the Warriors — particularly the small-ball “death lineup.” Oklahoma City and Cleveland had success putting their best defensive forward (Durant of OKC and LeBron for Clevealnd) on Draymond Green and switiching his pick-and-roll with Curry, then hoping Harrison Barnes didn’t make their big pay in a mismatch. Barnes couldn’t, it worked.

Now take out Barnes and put in Durant. Good luck defending that lineup now.

LeBron is right, the Warriors did target him. He’s the champ. He and the Cavaliers are the bar to clear. Can he and Cleveland rise up o task is the real question.

NBA TV host Kristen Ledlow says she was robbed at gunpoint

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 14:  TV Personality Kristen Ledlow participates in the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game 2014 at New Orleans Arena on February 14, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
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ATLANTA (AP) — NBA TV personality Kristen Ledlow says she was robbed at gunpoint at her home.

The host of “NBA Inside Stuff” said on Twitter and Instagram Sunday that she was held up the day before “by three men who knew who I was, where I lived and were waiting for me when I got home.”

She says in addition to stealing her car, purse and phone, the thieves took her “sense of security.” She says she’ll be taking a break from social media as a result of the incident because she says she “will not become a slave to fear.”

Ledlow didn’t say where the incident took place. NBA TV is based in Atlanta.

Report: Pistons claim Beno Udrih off Miami’s waivers

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 26: A portrait of Beno Udrih #9 of the Miami Heat on September 26, 2016 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Miami felt set at point guard with Goran Dragic starting and the up-and-coming Tyler Johnson as his backup. They decided veteran Beno Udrih wasn’t part of the future and waived him.

Detroit, looking for some help at the one until Reggie Jackson returns, saw a dependable veteran guard on the market. So they snapped him up, reports Shams Charnaria of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

At age 34 we are seeing Udrih’s game start to slip. Still, he has valuable NBA skills as a point guard: he doesn’t turn the ball over, can run an offense, and if you ignore him coming off a pick he will bury the shot.

Jackson is expected to be out at least another six weeks after getting PRP therapy to deal with knee tendonitis (he hopes to be back sooner). That leaves Ish Smith as the starting point guard in the short term; Udrih will help provide solid depth at the position.

The Pistons need to keep their heads above water until Jackson can return.

NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement could run to 2024

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The first 12 years of the NBA’s salary-cap era went without a lockout. The league again avoided a lockout for a dozen straight years between 1999 to 2011.

Now, with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming soon, the NBA is setting itself up for another 12 years of labor peace.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are working on a seven-year extension to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, with a mutual opt-out in six years, league sources told The Vertical.

The seven-year deal could potentially deliver the NBA labor peace through the 2023-24 season, unless the opt-outs are exercised in 2022, league sources told The Vertical.

The new CBA will begin with the 2017-18 season.

Expect an opt out after six years. By then, there’s usually something to renegotiate.

Hope for another quick resolution, like we’re getting now.

And if neither the owners nor players opt out, be pleasantly surprised at an unprecedented 13th straight year without a lockout in this era.