UPDATE 8:05 p.m. ET: LeBron James will be in the starting lineup tonight in Phoenix, though Erik Spoelstra did say before the game that they’ll be monitoring his vitals very closely.
The schedule-makers didn’t do the Suns any favors, but some injury concerns from their next opponent may give them a bit of a break after all.
Phoenix played well in spurts in Los Angeles Friday night, and the team was closer than expected until an 18-point fourth quarter ultimately sealed its fate. The Suns host the defending champion Miami Heat on Saturday to complete the back-to-back set, but won’t have to face them at full strength.
Dwyane Wade has already been ruled out, as he’s still dealing with the sore foot that kept him from participating in the Heat’s win over the Nuggets on Thursday.
With Miami not scheduled to play again until four days from now, it makes sense to sit him if there’s even a hint of a lingering effect of the injury, so the team is taking the smart approach.
LeBron James skipped the team’s shootaround, and will be a game time decision due to illness.
The Heat come into Phoenix with a record of 7-3 overall, but are just 3-3 on the road to begin the season.
Report: Knicks grumbling about Jeff Hornacek’s lineups and rotations
Privately, players have been grumbling about lineups and rotations during the recent losing skid, according to sources. Brandon Jennings hinted at this after Monday’s loss when he spoke with frustration about the inconsistent nature of the Knicks’ recent lineups.
“Every day is something new. So just got to be ready I guess. You never know when you’re going to play,” he said.
Jennings was asked if the inconsistent rotations make things difficult for players.
“Yeah, when you come in here you don’t really know what’s going to happen, so it’s kind of no consistency and it’s really tough right now,” he said. “Right now, you come in here you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m struggling. It’s difficult for me, because I don’t really know what’s going on. Just take it one day at a time.”
Jennings isn’t the only player expressing dissatisfaction beyond anonymous leaks.
After the game, Courtney Lee – whom Hornacek removed the starting lineup – posted and deleted photos of Dumb & Dumber on Instagram. Lee then followed with this caption:
I posted a pic of dumb n dumber cuz that was my mood, no jab at no1. It’s dumb that we have a talented team and we’re in position to win games n keep losing by 1 possession. We’ll figure it out collectively as a team but that was my mood after the game. Has nothing to with any change, rotation, system, players, coaches, so let that be clear.
Are we reading too much into vague social media postings and distant body language? That is a real risk.
But Hornacek still appears to have issues with these Knicks. The debate should be a matter of the depth of the problems, not whether they exist.
This is what happens when teams lose 11 of 13. Players get frustrated and grumble.
The coach also often adjusts the rotation, which Hornacek has done, including starting Ron Baker. Jennings and co. haven’t earned stability in their roles. When they had that, they were losing.
The question now: Can Hornacek reclaim the players’ trust, which would help the team break its skid? Or does the griping – and, partially as a result, the losing – continue in a season-destroying snowball?
PBT Extra: Carmelo Anthony/Phil Jackson rift just adds to Knicks stagnation
Carmelo Anthonyand Phil Jackson had a chilly talk, and Anthony told Jackson the star forward wants to stay in New York. Which, based on the mind games we’re seeing, is not what Jackson wants — although you get the feeling Jackson wants to move Anthony to bring in more stop-gap, win now pieces rather than try to build a future around Kristaps Porzingis.
Which all speaks to why the Knicks have made the playoffs just three times in 13 years. What is the Knicks long-term plan?
I discuss it all in this latest PBT Extra. Well, except the long-term plan because nobody knows what that is.
Rajon Rondo strangely runs behind Rick Carlisle during play (video)
It’s not exactly Seven Seconds or Less Part 2 in Houston, but it may be closer to Mike D’Antoni’s ultimate vision.
The Rockets are 32-12 with the third-best offense in the NBA (Toronto and Golden State), and it’s an analytics wet dream of threes and shots at the rim. It’s all come together because James Harden bought in. Steve Nash ran the offense brilliantly but differently — Harden is as good or better with his style (which gets him to the line more often).
“I thought he was crazy,” says Harden, who earned his stardom at shooting guard….
Or as D’Antoni put it, “James Harden was the perfect superstar for how I would like to coach.”
“People always ask, ‘You traded for him; did you know he was this good?'” (Rockets GM Daryl) Morey says. “I’m like, ‘F–k no!’ I mean, we thought he was extremely good and better than other teams probably did.”
But not top-five good or, say, top-three, which Morey would make the case for today.
Harden is MVP-level good. What’s more, the Rockets are knocking on the door of contender good. The pedestrian defense isn’t there yet (18th in the NBA for the season, 15th for the month of January), questions about depth and if young key cogs like Clint Capela can grow into the roles the Rockets need them to, and there are the health concerns considering the histories of Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
But the Rockets are dangerous right now and could reach the Western Conference Finals this season if healthy and things break right (their style and athleticism would be a tough test for the Spurs). And the story of how it all came together is fascinating.