Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns

Alvin Gentry out as Suns head coach

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PHOENIX — The Suns and head coach Alvin Gentry have parted ways effective immediately, according to multiple reports. The official release from the team says that the two parties have mutually agreed to the decision, and given the talk around the team over the last week or so, that makes perfect sense.

There have been discussions about changing the player rotations to focus more on player development than on wins and losses. Gentry is a players’ coach, and a veteran of the game whose competitive fire wouldn’t be best suited in that situation, so the decision to go in another direction from a leadership standpoint is an understandable one.

Gentry talked about the situation a little bit on Thursday, and said that any choice made to deviate from competing solely to win games would be determined by the organization as a whole.

“Well yeah, it will be,” he said, when asked if it would be an organizational decision to move in more of a player development direction. “It’s not going to be something that I just decide. It will be something that’s going to be discussed with [president of basketball operations Lon Babby] and [team GM Lance Blanks] and [team owner Robert Sarver]. It’s not something that I’m just going to decide on my own to do because there will be other things that would have to be discussed also.

“We’ve talked about it,” he said. “We haven’t met formally about it, but we’ve talked about it some. It’s something that I’m sure at some stage we’d look at.”

Gentry also said that the move in that direction could be coming soon, especially considering the team’s schedule that doesn’t have them playing another game for six days.

“There’s a possibility we could sit down and talk, but I think there’s some other things that would have to be discussed along those lines too,” he said.

What Gentry kept referring to was clearly the fact that if Suns management determined that player development was to be more valued than wins and losses, his contract situation would need to be addressed first.

Gentry was in the final year of his deal, so obviously he would have liked to have some job security firmly in place before the losses continued to pile up with, for example, rookie point guard Kendall Marshall getting extended minutes when there are more talented options on the roster.

Gentry was asked if his future would need to be addressed, and he responded with “no comment.”

The Suns suffered another frustrating loss on Thursday, blowing an eight-point fourth quarter lead to a Bucks team that hadn’t won in Phoenix in over 25 years. The Suns are 13-28 on the season, dead last in the Western Conference standings.

A press conference is scheduled for this afternoon, and an interim head coach is expected to be named in the next 24-48 hours. Current Suns assistant coaches Elston Turner and Dan Majerle are potential candidates, as is player development coach Lindsey Hunter.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.