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.”

Thunder’s offseason moves start here: Offer Russell Westbrook $220 million contract

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The narrative of Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston — and frankly its entire season — was about how little help Russell Westbrook was given. Game 5 was the perfect example: The Thunder were +12 when Westbrook was on the court, but he rested for 6:07 and OKC was -18 in those minutes. The Thunder’s role players are young and many — for example, Enes Kanter — are very one dimensional, but that’s because their role was supposed to be much more narrow and defined. Then Kevin Durant left and players were asked to do things outside their comfort zones, or grow up fast, and it didn’t go that well.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do this summer to tweak that roster, make it more versatile, and design it to fit better around Westbrook (not to mention take some of the load off him).

But the first thing Presti has to do is keep Westbrook — and that means offering him a five-year, roughly $220 million extension. Royce Young if ESPN has the details on how that works.

After signing an extension last summer in the wake of Durant’s departure, Westbrook can sign another in the ballpark of $220 million over five years this summer. Westbrook is signed through the 2017-18 season, with a player option on the following year, but the Thunder would obviously like to have a longer commitment from their franchise player.

The expectation is that they will make the offer, but should Westbrook decline, all that talk of stabilizing the franchise would get a little more wobbly, and with only a year guaranteed, talk of trading him could spark again. It will certainly be alarming for the front office, especially after what it went through with Durant.

It’s hard to imagine Westbrook walking away from that money — it’s about $75 million more guaranteed and one more year than any other team can offer. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table, I don’t care how much you make in endorsements. (If Westbrook left, signed a max deal elsewhere for four years, then signed a max deal for that fifth year later, he still would get roughly $35 million less than signing with the Thunder now.) Once Westbrook is locked into place, Presti can start looking to reshape the Thunder roster.

But if Westbrook pauses and doesn’t sign, the NBA rumor mill will be moving at the speed of Westbrook in transition. The Thunder wouldn’t want to lose Durant and Westbrook for nothing, it would set their rebuilding process way back, so Presti would have to consider trades. However, because Westbrook is a free agent in 2018, he would almost have a no-trade clause — no team is going to give up much to get him without an under-the-table understanding he would re-sign in that city.

Expect Westbrook to agree to the extension in OKC. Because he likes the team — remember, he signed that extension last summer (which got him a healthy pay raise) — and because it would make him the highest-paid player in the NBA, and that would feed his ego (and pocketbook).

Once he does, Presti’s real work begins.

After tough loss, Chris Paul wasn’t having any of reporter’s inane question

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LOS ANGELES — The Clippers are feeling a lot of pressure these playoffs, and they have suffered a couple tough losses at home now. That can lead to some interesting postgame press conferences, something we’ve already seen this series from Doc Rivers.

Tuesday it was Chris Paul‘s turn.

The Clippers had just dropped Game 5 at home and are staring a 3-2 deficit series deficit in the face, and they have to win those two games without the injured Blake Griffin. That’s when this exchange happened.

I was in the room with this happened. Yes, there were a lot of eye rolls when the question was asked.

This was not a rookie reporter, it was a guy who gets sound for local radio stations and has been a regular at Staples Center games for years. He knew what he wanted, a fairly standard quote about how the Clippers just need to take it one game at a time but they are confident they will be back, that they can still win the series. We have all heard it before, the kind of generic crap that is all over columns about the game and talk radio. The reporter served up the softball and, frankly, most nights savvy players just give the reporter the quote they want and move on.

Tuesday Paul was having none of it. Which led to a pretty amusing exchange, especially with the follow up that was not going anywhere.

That said, I do not know one reporter worth his or her salt who has not asked a question they regret, and been called out for it. Sometimes we get called out for good questions we do not regret. It is part of the gig.

Rajon Rondo says he will not play in Game 5, doesn’t sound optimistic about quick return

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He tried. Rajon Rondo has seen the Chicago Bulls struggle the last two games without him as a strong defender and stabilizing influence at point guard — something nobody thought Rondo would be mid-season — and he wanted to get back on the court for Game 5 against the Celtics. He took some steps toward getting ready to play.

But it’s not happening, Rondo said at shootaround Wednesday. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

And it’s not just the fractured thumb.

If the Bulls are going to win this series, they are going to have to do it without Rondo.

Isaiah Canaan will get the start in Game 5, and he will set a lot of screens in a 1/3 pick-and-roll to try and get Isaiah Thomas switched on to Jimmy Butler. Canaan can do that. He had fallen way out of the rotation and is really a two-guard not a point, but with the terrible play of Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams, coach Fred Hoiberg took a gamble. It worked, at least for one game. Canaan with the other four Bulls starters — Butler, Dwyane Wade, Nikola Mirotic, and Robin Lopez — were +12 in 11 minutes together in Game 4, and played well on both ends of the court. But Canaan was buried on the bench for a reason, he shot 36.4 percent on the season, 26.6 percent from three, and he’s not a great defender. The Celtics will be prepared for him in Game 5.

Hoiberg’s best option is to lean on a no point guard lineup when it matters most, with three wings who can handle the ball in Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and probably Denzel Valentine. That could be a challenging defensive lineup and Boston will try to get the lightning quick Isaiah Thomas switched onto Wade or Valentine (neither of which can guard him). Also, this lineup would be draining and put a big load on Butler, but he could handle it for critical stretches of the game.

Cleveland OKs last chunk of financing to upgrade Cavs’ arena

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland officials have committed the final chunk of financing for $140 million in upgrades planned at the Cavaliers’ home arena.

The makeover of Quicken Loans Arena would include more space for dining and gathering.

The cost of renovations to the concert and sports venue is being split by the city, the team, Cuyahoga County, and a convention and visitors bureau. The final total is expected to be roughly double the initial $140 million price tag, mostly because of interest over the next two decades.

Cleveland’s share is an estimated $88 million over 11 years, starting in 2024. Mayor Frank Jackson signed off on that Tuesday.

The county already approved the deal and agreed to sell bonds for the project.

The team committed to extend its lease at the arena to 2034. It is expected the team will make a bid to host the NBA All-Star game once renovations are complete.