Steve Nash preaches patience as Suns work to correct issues

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The Suns dropped their final preseason game on Thursday, and unfortunately for them, the result was a familiar one. The Nuggets cruised to a second straight blowout victory over Phoenix, but this one was far more humbling for the Suns, considering that Nene, Al Harrington, and Ty Lawson all sat this one out due to minor injury concerns.

That meant that the 110-85 final came in a game where Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos, Corey Brewer, and DeMarre Carroll were the ones doing the damage offensively for Denver. And, the Nuggets were able to consistently get easy baskets at the rim to the tune of 54 points in the paint.

Things don’t look great for the Suns heading into the regular season. Besides the defensive concerns — which the team is attempting to address with the help of new assistant coach Elston Turner — Phoenix is without a reliable go-to scorer, which means more work for Steve Nash to do to create offensively, and more pressure on his teammates to convert those opportunities when they are presented.

Nash remains optimistic, however, and reminded us that with the shortened training camp, the lack of results to this point should be somewhat expected.

“We can’t get down, we’ve only been working for 12 days now,” Nash said after Thursday night’s loss. “We’re trying to incorporate some new guys and trying to figure things out.”

The new guys are Ronnie price and Shannon Brown, who seem to have secured the backup point guard and shooting guard positions respectively for now. Sebastian Telfair was also brought in, and will certainly get some opportunity behind Nash at the point guard spot, as well. But Price has outplayed him and has earned those minutes thus far. Rookie Markieff Morris has impressed in his two preseason outings, generally playing well offensively while doing an above-average job on the boards. But being a rookie, he still needs to learn how to defend at the NBA level, as evidenced by the fact that he fouled out of both preseason contests.

The makeup of this Suns team is different than in seasons past, with far less star power that jumps off the page when looking up and down the roster. That doesn’t mean the team can’t find some measure of success, but it will have to come from hard work and execution rather than raw talent.

“We’re not an ultra-talented team,” Nash said. “We’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to play with a fire, and we’ve got to have great cohesion and chemistry, and those are things that take time. We can play hard right away, we can play hard every night, but to find that cohesion to get really effective and efficient at both ends of the floor, it can take time.”

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.