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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.