If Marcin Gortat can get 20 rebounds in a game, you’ll see him shoot three-pointers

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Marcin Gortat has a deal with the Suns’ coaching staff this season: get 20 rebounds in a game, do what you like. As you’ll soon see, this is a very serious and important matter to Gortat — so much so that he believes there might have been a conspiracy to keep him from reaching that number on Sunday.

Gortat has been solid on the boards all season, averaging 10.4 rebounds per game, while grabbing 15 or more seven times — including the 17 he got in a 96-88 win over the Kings. The rebounds are more important to Gortat than the scoring at this point, because if he can go even bigger and grab 20 or more in a single game, well … that’s where the fun begins.

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said earlier in the year that if Gortat got 20 or more rebounds in a game, that he could do whatever he wants. To Gortat, that means getting the green light to jack up a three-pointer or two, and he thought he was close enough on Sunday to have a crack at it.

After tallying 15 rebounds through three quarters, however, Gortat rode the pine until the game’s final four minutes. That was due, of course, to the fact that the lineup Phoenix had in at the time was working, but Gortat jokingly accused the coaching staff of foul play afterward, saying that they intentionally sat him so that he wouldn’t get to grab that elusive 20th rebound.

“It was the third game (in a row) where we out-rebounded the other team, and if we’re going to continue doing such a great job on the boards, we’re going to put ourselves in a better position to win the game,” Gortat said.

“About me, 17 rebounds, I think coach kind of sniffed out that I’m getting close to 20 boards, and he didn’t really want me to shoot that three,” he continued. “That’s why he put me on the bench. I’ve got to talk to him. I’ve definitely got to have a meeting with him, today or tomorrow.”

Gentry happened to walk through the locker room after Gortat’s comments, and predictably laughed off the assertion. As for Gortat and whether or not he even has that kind of range, he’s 2-of-8 from downtown in his career, now playing in his sixth season.

No matter what the numbers say, Gortat says he’s feeling it from distance.

“I’ve felt that thing the last five years, since I’ve made it to the league,” he said while laughing.  “I really feel I can do that. I was really close, I guess somebody had to whisper to his ear that ‘Hey, he’s getting close.’ So it was time for me to rest.”

The Suns have lived with Channing Frye going 5-for-30 from the field over the past two games. I think they’d be more than happy to take their chances with Gortat from distance, especially if he’d earned that green light by pulling down those 20 boards.

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.