Robin Lopez, Marcin Gortat

Robin Lopez says Suns made a ‘fair offer’ to him in free agency, but needed a fresh start

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The Robin Lopez era in Phoenix lasted four seasons, and had its ups and downs. But ultimately, when Lopez was a restricted free agent last summer, the Suns couldn’t come to an agreement to retain his services, so they worked out a sign-and-trade that sent Lopez to New Orleans.

We’re only 11 games in, but the move has already been a positive one for Lopez, who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, and minutes as a starter — something he wasn’t in any of his 64 games in Phoenix last season.

The Suns had every intention of retaining Lopez, and planned to match any reasonable offer that was made for him in restricted free agency. But once they made their offer, and Lopez wasn’t immediately sold, they agreed to part ways.

From Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:

Lopez, who was booed during player introductions, agreed to a three-year, $15.3million contract to become New Orleans’ starting center in the sign-and-trade deal, but the final two years are team options — a curious concession by Lopez, but he is happy.

“Who doesn’t want to start, first of all?” said Lopez, who started 94 games for the Suns, including some after Marcin Gortat’s arrival. “It wasn’t so much starting, but maybe more minutes and just a fresh opportunity.

“I think it was something definitely that was needed for both myself and the Suns as well.”

“They definitely made a fair offer. I just think it was time for a change.”

The opinion of the Phoenix front office may have been consistent where Lopez was concerned, but the conclusion of exactly how much he could impact the game seemed to fluctuate wildly with the coaching staff during Lopez’s years there. It affected how he was used, and affected his playing time, as well.

Lopez would have been a serviceable backup in Phoenix, but he’s getting to show more of what he can do so far in New Orleans. And, he’ll likely get more of a chance to develop being featured in a bigger role. But putting up better numbers while playing starter’s minutes on a bad team is easier to do, so we’ll need a larger sample size before declaring Lopez’s move a complete success.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).