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.”

Russell Westbrook, Paul George call out Zaza Pachulia for “dirty” fall on Westbrook

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Zaza Pachulia has a reputation. The league even created a rule — the “Zaza rule”  — after he stepped under Kawhi Leonard last playoffs and twisted the forward’s ankle, ending Leonard’s playoffs and the Spurs chances.

Then Saturday night, as the Warriors pulled away in the second half and routed the Thunder, this play happened, where Pachulia fell on Westbrook’s leg.

While there was some contact, was that really enough to knock Pachulia over? It doesn’t look like it, it looks intentional, but remember Pachulia falls into a lot of guys — including Kevin Durant last season. This, however, was ugly.

After the game Westbrook and Paul George called Pachulia out.

Even the Celtics’ Kyrie Irving chipped in on this.

It will be interesting to see if the league does follow up. There is some history here.

After two lopsided losses to OKC, Kevin Durant leads Warriors rout

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 28 points for Golden State while avenging an embarrassing home loss to his former Oklahoma City team earlier this month and another on the road in November, leading the Warriors past the Thunder 112-80 on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry added 21 points with five 3-pointers, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals as Golden State put on the kind of defensive performance coach Steve Kerr has been seeking from the defending champs.

Russell Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, which failed to reach 100 points for the first time in the last five games. The Thunder had scored at least 100 in 14 of their last 16.

Durant’s pretty layup off a perfect pass by Curry with 3:06 left in the third put the Warriors up 75-66. That was part of a 37-11 Golden State run that included 30 points over the final 8:48 of the third – when Zaza Pachulia subbed in to relieve JaVale McGee.

The Warriors held Paul George to five points. George’s 3-pointer at the 7:52 mark of the third with Durant’s hand in his face was his first basket after going 0 for 9 to begin the game. He finished 1 for 14 after going off for 38 points in the last meeting when Oklahoma City left Oracle Arena with a 125-105 rout on Feb. 6.

Golden State also lost at OKC by 17 on Nov. 22.

Draymond Green added 10 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He picked up his 15th technical of the season with 1:04 left in the first half, moving him within one of an automatic suspension. That came after Durant and Carmelo Anthony pushed, shoved, yelled from close range and had to be separated, receiving double technicals.

It was a testy rematch after the Warriors received five technical fouls in the previous meeting. That prompted general manager Bob Myers to address the importance of keeping poised.

Durant announced his decision to join the Warriors and leave OKC on July 4, 2016, making him an instant villain in his former city.

He scored 33 in the Feb. 6 meeting but got plenty of help this time.

Earlier this month against the Thunder, Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 11 of 27 from the floor and 4 for 15 on 3-pointers as the Warriors lost for the third time in four games. Thompson had 11 points Saturday, shooting just 1 for 11 from deep.

The Warriors on Saturday improved to 8-1 this season in the next game against an opponent after losing the previous meeting.

After Shaun Livingston‘s jumper at the 8:47 mark of the second quarter, Golden State went nearly five minutes without scoring before Curry’s basket at 4:51 started a 7-0 burst.

The Thunder grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the opening quarter to score 10 second-chance points, with Westbrook getting eight boards and George five. But Oklahoma City went 2 for 11 on 3s in the initial 12 minutes – Anthony, George and Westbrook a combined 1 of 8.

 

Steve Kerr “disappointed” in alma mater Arizona; wants to see NCAA follow new model

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Before he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, before he was a five-time NBA Champion playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, Steve Kerr was one of the great players the University of Arizona ever produced. The crowd would echo the announcer after ever made three — “Steeeve Keerrr” — where he was an All-American and helped lead a team (with future NBA players Sean Elliott and Tom Tolbert) to the Final Four.

There is a crisis around Arizona basketball right now. Coach Sean Miller was caught on a federal wiretap discussing a $100,000 payment for star recruit Deandre Ayton (expected to be a high lottery pick in June, possibly the No. 1 pick). Miller did not coach Saturday and changes are coming to Arizona.

Kerr was asked about it before the Warriors took on the Thunder Saturday.

Kerr said he was “disappointed” in his alma mater over the incident. Which is understandable.

Not to completely excuse it, but what Miller got caught doing is commonplace — money is funneled to families or the players of top recruits on a regular basis. What is more troubling (in my mind) is the money paid under the table to AAU coaches, family members, and others close to elite recruits to funnel them to a specific “financial planner” or agent, or a specific university. People in positions of trust with the player are bought and paid for.

Kerr put out one solution that would certainly be a big step forward: follow the Olympics model and let elite players get sponsorships that don’t end their college eligibility.

This system has its flaws as well, but it gets some of the dirty money out in the open. It would be better than the hypocritical facade of amateurism the NCAA has hit behind for years.

Joel Embiid has 28 points, 14 rebounds leads Sixers to Seventh straight win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their season-high win streak to seven with a 116-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Six 76ers scored in double figures. Ben Simmons had 17 points and seven assists, and 3-point specialist J.J. Redick added 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting – and just one 3-pointer. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Robert Covington had 12 and Dario Saric scored 11.

Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 20 points, including four 3s, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Evan Fournier scored 16 points, and former Sixer Nik Vucevic had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost five straight.

Philadelphia led 58-40 at halftime and 71-49 in the third when Orlando used an 11-2 burst, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer, to close within 13.

But the Sixers put on a show to finish the quarter.

Embiid overpowered a few Magic defenders for a slam, and then gestured to the crowd after being fouled while soaring to the hoop on a dunk attempt. After Embiid and Trevor Booker swatted consecutive shots in the final seconds, T.J. McConnell used a crossover move to finish a drive at the buzzer and give the Sixers an 87-71 lead entering the fourth.

Orlando used a late 15-2 run to get within nine and nearly cut it to six with 1:21 left, but a 3-point attempt by Mario Hezonja spilled out.

Midway through the first quarter, Philadelphia had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and trailed 15-6. The Sixers then erupted for a 21-3 run and ended the quarter up 27-18.

E-A-G-L-E-S

Orlando head coach Frank Vogel wore an Eagles Super Bowl champions T-shirt during his pregame media availability. A native of Wildwood, New Jersey, Vogel makes sure to get a taste of home when he returns to the Philadelphia area.

“Cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Yuengling beer if we beat the Sixers,” Vogel said. “Wawa coffee, but I get Wawa in Orlando now. I did get a cheesesteak today.”

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the game.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “He can come over and ring as many bells as he chooses.”