Michael Redd calls surprise start “one of the proudest moments of his career” after Suns beat the Bobcats

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Michael Redd arrived at the US Airways Center in Phoenix more than four hours before his Suns were set to face the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday. The reason, he said, was just to get some extra work in and to keep himself prepared for when his time would come to play more minutes.

He found out shortly before tip-off that his time was now.

Redd was in the starting lineup for the first time in over two years, and made it count by scoring a team-high 17 points in the Suns’ 95-89 victory over the NBA’s worst team.

“One of the proudest moments of my career,” Redd said afterward, when asked what this performance meant to him. “To get the win was obviously the key. But to come back, through the tears, through the hurt, through the hours of rehab, training to come back and accomplish this, is maybe the most proud moment of my career, actually.”

Redd’s last start came on Jan. 10, 2010, in the game where he suffered a devastating and career-threatening knee injury for the second time. The start on Saturday came courtesy of a thigh bruise suffered by Jared Dudley in Phoenix’s Friday night loss to the Rockets. It also came as a surprise.

“He didn’t even tell me, actually,” Redd said, when asked when he was told he’d get the start. “[Coach] told me during the pre-game scouting, ‘Mike, you have [Reggie Williams].’ I said, ‘Okaaaay.’ So everything had to switch from coming off the bench to having a starting mentality. I was honored by the fact that he would even ask me to do that, that he would have enough faith in me and trust in me.”

Things didn’t start off on the highest of notes for Redd. He missed his first four shots, but hit six of his final eight to finish the night at 50 percent shooting, which included draining four of his seven three-point attempts. He blamed adrenaline for the slow start, and credited his teammates for helping him stay positive as he was able to work through it.

“My teammates kept encouraging me,” Redd said. ” ‘Mike, you’re going to be just fine, you’ve got to run the bugs out.’ The adrenaline was going, but once I hit my first three, I kind of settled in.”

Not only did Redd score, but he did so when his team needed that boost the most. The Bobcats played well for much of the night, and built their lead to as many as 10 early in the third quarter. Redd scored five straight points to begin the Suns’ run to right the ship, and then hit a three that erased the lead completely and tied the game at 67.

Some of Redd’s looks were self-created, but on several of his attempts, he was left wide open. He admitted that he was surprised by that, and said it’s been a long, long time since he’s had that much space to operate.

“Yeah, I haven’t seen that since the Ray Allen and Big Dog (Glenn Robinson) days (playing for the Bucks), when Ray Allen was over here, Glenn was right here, and Sam Cassell was right there, so I’d be left open,” he said. “I haven’t seen that in a long time. I’m usually seeing double teams and all kinds of traps, so it was great.”

If Redd can maintain any type of consistency with his offense, it would be equally great for a Suns team that is committed to keeping Steve Nash and making a run at the playoffs. Alvin Gentry has already tinkered with the lineups and rotations plenty this season, and keeping Redd with the starters for at least another couple of games should be the logical choice. Dudley can come off the bench, and can still play the same number of minutes he’s accustomed to playing, while providing energy, cohesion, and stability for the second unit.

It’s been 10 years since Redd played in Milwaukee with the guys he mentioned. It only seems like that long since he has been completely healthy, when he was a player opposing teams needed to plan for on the offensive end of the floor. But after getting back into the starting lineup and looking good while doing so, that time might once again be upon us.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

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After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.

Kristaps Porzingis officially day-to-day, questionable vs. OKC

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Knicks fans can exhale now.

There was understandable concern after face of the franchise Kritaps Porzingis had to leave the game in Brooklyn Thursday night following a non-contact injury.

Turns out there is nothing to worry about. After the game, Porzingis spoke to the media and was standing on the leg, a good sign. By Friday, after a day of treatment, he was doing well. Officially Porzingis is day-to-day and may sit out Carmelo Anthony‘s return to Madison Square Garden Saturday, but the injury is nothing serious. Ian Begley of ESPN has the details.

Porzingis’ knee was “worked on” on Friday and the discomfort in his knee decreased, league sources told ESPN. It is unclear if Porzingis underwent an MRI or had X-rays to further determine the extent of the injury but sources say he did not undergo significant testing because it wasn’t warranted based on the state of the injury.

Good. We don’t need another star down with a major injury this season.

Especially Porzingis, who has led the Knicks to a 15-13 record (sixth in the East, in the playoffs) while putting up All-Star numbers: 25.5 points per game, shooting 39.5 percent from three, plus grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game. Maybe more impressive is how he has anchored a solid Knicks defense this season with his rim protection. Stay healthy and he should make his first All-Star team this season.