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Michael Beasley may be heading to the bench in Phoenix

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The Suns are currently riding a five-game losing steak, after coming close but ultimately falling short in a 97-94 loss to the Mavericks on Thursday. And fair or not, the blame for a lot of the team’s struggles, especially offensively, is being placed squarely on the shoulders of Michael Beasley.

Beasley was benched for the fourth quarter of Thursday’s contest, after scoring just nine points on 3-of-12 shooting in 21 minutes of action. It isn’t the first time Beasley hasn’t played when the game matters most, and those fourth quarter benchings have been occurring more frequently, with the man the Suns planned to feature in their offense this season simply not getting the job done on anywhere close to a consistent basis.

Phoenix already abandoned its starting lineup once this young season, trading out two players who on paper were deserving for two who actually would produce. Jared Dudley was replaced by Shannon brown, and Luis Scola was replaced by Markieff Morris. Now, it might be Beasley’s turn to head to the bench until he can figure things out.

From Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic:

Forward Michael Beasley was the epitome of the team’s struggles. He shot 3-for-12 and during one stretch missed seven straight shots. Afterward, Gentry said it’s “more than likely” time to move Beasley out of the starting rotation and the switch “could possibly” be as soon as Saturday’s tilt in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

“I don’t know what it is,” Beasley said. “I come in every game optimistic about my play and my shots. It’s just not good right now, and it’s not what anybody’s doing. It’s all me. I’m getting extra shots. I’m getting extra shots on top of extra shots. I’ve just got to be patient. Let the game come to me. Just sort of ride it out.”

The Suns troubles aren’t anywhere close to all Beasley’s fault. Goran Dragic has been up and down running the point, and while the team has tried to feature Beasley and give him the green light as much as possible, a lot of his shot attempts aren’t coming in rhythm, or after he’s been set up cleanly for an open look.

Beasley may find consistency with the second unit; his minutes aren’t likely to drop, and Gentry has always maintained that he’ll go with whoever is getting it done on a given night when crunch time rolls around.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.