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Kendall Marshall, Suns’ brass talk about the rookie’s fit in Phoenix

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The Suns couldn’t be happier with their choice in this year’s NBA Draft, and the feeling was mutual as Kendall Marshall met the media in Phoenix on Friday.

“I’m extremely happy to be here,” he said. “Best case scenario, this is exactly where I wanted to be.”

The team’s management echoed much of the same sentiments they expressed on draft night, gushing over the player and person they feel they’ve gotten as someone who can be a leader for the franchise. Marshall explained why he feels the fit is a good one in Phoenix.

“You look at the way Steve Nash distributes the ball, and how he’s been able to be successful with that, Phoenix has been able to get up and down the court and I feel like I can thrive in that system,” he said. “But as well as off the court, I feel like there were great vibes between me and the management and the coaches. I really feel like we really connected on and off the court. That’s something I was excited about.”

Marshall said it would be tough to compare his game to anyone currently in the league, but did express a desire to borrow some of the skills that have made others successful.

“I feel like I have a very unique game,” he said. “There are players such as Steve Nash, the way he uses pick and rolls and the bounce pass, where I may try to steal things out of his game. Jason Kidd is very versatile, and being a big point guard the way he’s able to rebound, I’d love to take that out of his game. I have so much to learn, and I’m excited about it. I do plan on learning from those players that have been in this league for a while.”

One of the skill sets Marshall needs to improve upon is his defense. But he’s the first to admit it, and believes that the way teams defend in the NBA will help his cause.

“I feel like I can definitely get better (defensively),” he said. “I know it’s something that I have to work on. But I think the defensive schemes are highly underrated. People don’t realize in the NBA, with the spacing, how important that is. I’m looking forward to really learning those concepts and trying to make it as tough as I can on the opposing point guards in this league.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Marshall said his pass-first mentality was instilled in him by his father at a very young age. As for whether or not that will work for him in Phoenix, Marshall pointed out the way other point guards around the league are used, and feels his success will be helped along by the team’s style.

“I think it’s all about the team,” he said. “You look at players like (Russell Westbrook) and (Derrick Rose) who are extremely dynamic, that’s what their team needs. Then you have other guys such as (Rajon Rondo) and (Ricky Rubio) who maybe don’t have to get 10 dunks and run super-fast, but they’re still able to get the job done. So I think it all depends on what the team needs and hopefully what I’m able to bring to the Phoenix Suns will make us successful.”

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry will be responsible for bringing Marshall along in his system, so it’s probably a good thing that he was 100 percent on board with the team’s draft night selection.

“People throw phrases out like ‘he’s a player’s coach,’ Gentry said. “Well, he’s a coach’s player. And by that I think it’s almost as if you will have a coach on the floor. I love what he does as far as pushing the basketball. Obviously we’re an uptempo team. But more than anything the cerebral part of it is really important where I think he’s going to be a guy that can very much control the game.

“At the end of the day, I wanted him, and I think everyone else really wanted him.”

Suns GM Lance Blanks certainly did. And as the team treads into the very uncertain waters of free agency, where its face of the franchise appears more and more likely to be gone, Blanks is confident that with Marshall, the team made the right choice.

“No matter what happens through free agency from our analysis, there’s a risk of tough times in the near future,” Blanks said. “And you need a stabilizing force — not only in the locker room, but on the court and in the community. You need someone basically that can represent what we’re about. And from A-Z, Kendall embodies all of those things.

“He’s not the perfect person, just like none of us are. But he is the perfect person for us at this time in the organization’s history.”

Jimmy Butler still begging Fred Hoiberg to coach him harder

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Head coach Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls talks with Jimmy Butler during a game against the Golden State Warriors
at the United Center on January 20, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly has chemistry issues last season stemming from the Jimmy Butler-Fred Hoiberg relationship. Butler’s most public critique of Hoiberg came in December, when the wing said, “We probably have to be coached a lot harder at times.”

A reasonable criticism for the mild-mannered Hoiberg? Perhaps, especially for a team that responded so well to the hard-driving Tom Thibodeau for the better part of five years.

The best delivery? Probably not, considering Hoiberg was still trying to find his way in his first NBA season.

But Butler hasn’t changed his message.

Butler, via CSN Chicago:

“I told Fred, ‘As much as you can, use me as an example. I want you to really get on my tail about every little thing.’,” Butler said. “Because if Doug or Tony or whoever it may be is watching coach talk to me like that, it’s going to be like, ‘If he can talk to Jimmy like that, I know he’s going to come at me a certain way.’ That’s what I try to remind him every day. I think he’s ready for that. I’m a player. I’m coachable like everybody else. I want that. I need that.”

Tim Duncan was celebrated for years for taking the brunt of Gregg Popovich’s criticism in San Antonio, setting an example for younger Spurs. So much of what Butler has done lately has been spun into a negative, but it seems he’s really trying to sacrifice his pride to help teammates like Doug McDermott and Tony Snell.

If Hoiberg goes along, this could quiet complaints about Butler’s leadership and preferential treatment.

With Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah in New York, the Bulls are Butler’s team now. Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have said as much.

It seems Butler is doing what he can to lead the Bulls – his way. The question: Does Hoiberg also think that’s the best way?

Jeremy Lin: My race made Linsanity bigger

Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks
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Jeremy Lin might want to move past Linsanity, but  he’ll always be linked to that period in 2012. It was so enthralling for numerous reasons, including:

  • Lin played unsustainably great basketball, leading the Knicks to a 7-1 record while starting with Carmelo Anthony injured and averaging 25.0 points and 9.5 assists per game in that span.
  • Lin was excelling in New York, America’s biggest media market.
  • The Knicks were desperate for success, having not won a single playoff game in the last decade.
  • Lin was undrafted and relatively unknown before breaking out.
  • Lin played at Harvard, which is universally known for academics and barely known for basketball.
  • Lin is Asian-American, a rarity in high-level basketball.

Yes, that last factor mattered.

Lin, via Peter Botte of the New York Daily News:

“In some ways, Linsanity wouldn’t have been Linsanity if I was a different skin color, most likely, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal, and that went to my advantage, too, but if you look prior to that, a lot of the obstacles to even get to that point where I could get to a position of getting on the floor, those were definitely obstacles that were very much stereotypes that I had to fight along the way. So I’ve always understood that there’s good and there’s bad and you have to take them together and just be thankful for it all.”

Linsanity was a culmination of all the elements listed above. Maybe it would’ve happened without one or two, but THE essential factor was Lin’s on-court production. Without that, he never would’ve become a national phenomenon.

Lin’s heritage – he was born in California to Taiwanese-born parents – accentuated his basketball skills, but the basketball skills were the base for his popularity.

And as Lin said, his race was a double-edged sword. It made him less likely to get the benefit of the doubt when rising through the basketball ranks. I believe that coaches, scouts and other players were less inclined to believe in his basketball ability because of his race.

But Lin overcame that and eventually reaped the awards of being an outlier.

Lin has long seemed to possess a keen understanding of himself and a willingness to discuss it. I think he’s spot-on here, and it leads to a better understanding of one of the biggest NBA stories in recent years.

51Q: Will we see what the Trail Blazers saw in Evan Turner?

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JULY 27:  NBA player Evan Turner of the Portland Trail Blazers speaks to members of AS Roma during a friendly match against the Boston Bolts at Ohiri Field on July 27, 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.

Last season, Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey received the most Executive of the Year first-place votes.

This offseason, he signed Evan Turner to a four-year, $70 million contract.

How could someone who engineered such a smart 2015 offseason – nailing move after move – give Turner so much money? He earned the benefit of the doubt by rebuilding on the fly without LaMarcus Aldridge, but Olshey spent a lot of his capital (and Paul Allen’s money) on a mid-level, seemingly ill-fitting small forward.

Is this another example of Olshey outfoxing us, or did he finally get tripped up?

I expected brilliance from Portland this summer given Olshey’s successful retool around Damian Lillard last year, when Aldridge bolted. Olshey traded Nicolas Batum for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson, signed Al-Farouq Aminu (four years, $30 million) and Ed Davis (three years, $20 million) to team-friendly contracts, traded a late first-rounder for Mason Plumlee, practically got Maurice Harkless for free and carved out bigger roles for C.J. McCollum, Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard by letting Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez and Arron Afflalo walk. The Batum trade is the only move that’s not a clear victory, but Batum was headed into unrestricted free agency and might have left Portland empty-handed, and the 21-year-old Vonleh could still develop.

Not only did the younger Trail Blazers come together far more quickly than expected, winning 44 games and a playoff series, they did so under budget. Portland had enough cap space at the trade deadline to extract a first-rounder for eating Anderson Varejao‘s contract – the type of move usually reserved for tankers like the 76ers.

The 2016 offseason brought even more possibilities. Thanks to low cap holds for Crabbe, Leonard and Harkless, the Blazers were flush with cap space.

And they spent a big chunk of it on… Evan Turner.

Turner is an alright player, but I don’t think he’s worth $17.5 million per year in a vacuum – and Portland presents a tough fit.

His strengths – passing for his position, mid-range shot creation – matter less on team where the ball is frequently in Lillard’s or McCollum’s hands. Portland shouldn’t take the ball from Lillard and McCollum to give Turner more touches, either.

When off the ball, Turner’s poor outside shooting is a liability to efficient scoring and floor spacing. He made 24% of his 3-pointers last season and 30% for his career. Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts believes Turner will shoot better in Portland, but that optimism is usually wishful thinking. For his part, Turner sounds more focused on the mid-range, where he’s not efficient enough to take shots from the typical looks generated by Stotts’ space-strong scheme.

Portland could use defensive help, and Turner is fine at that end. But he’s not the stopper his 6-foot-7 frame would suggest. He’s just not quick or bouncy enough to stay with many opponents.

It just doesn’t add up – unless Olshey knows what he’s doing, which he might. After impressing so much in his other dealings, Olshey has put the spotlight on Turner this season – with the rest of us watching to see just how Turner will add $70 million of value to the Trail Blazers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo tells terrible joke at Bucks media day (video)

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts to his foul during a 103-90 Los Angeles Clippers win at Staples Center on December 16, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Thankfully, Giannis Antetokounmpo has a lucrative career and doesn’t need  to make ends meet through stand-up comedy: