Three Stars of the Night: Two All-Stars and a guy who should have been

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I wanted to do an all All-Star edition of three stars tonight, but I couldn’t leave Josh Smith off (representing he and Al Horford, who alone almost beat the Magic)… but he should have been one. So I’m calling this the All-Star edition anyway.

As always some guys are close but just missed out. Joe Johnson was last guy cut, with 26 points and nine assists. Derrick Williams had a career night with 24 points and 16 boards. Ricky Rubio had a nice line (18 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds) but if you shoot 3-for-13 you don’t make the cut. Nice to see the recently slumping Anthony Davis bounce back with 21 and 11. Monta Ellis had 27 points but needed 24 shots to get there. Jason Terry had a game-winning block and just the oddity of that almost got him in.

Third Star: Tony Parker (24 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists)

While we’ve been talking about that LeBron guy and his nice little run Tony Parker has been tearing it up, too. In his last 10 games he is averaging 25.4 points a game on 60 percent shooting, plus 9.1 assists per game. He had another big game in this one — 8-of-14 shooting and that seventh assist was to Kawhi Leonard for the game winner with 1.5 seconds left. It was a final smart decision in another night of smart decisions by Parker.

Second Star: Josh Smith (30 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists)

Smith gets his name up here but it was really him combined with Al Horford (26 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) that together overwhelmed the Magic. And I mean overwhelmed — at one point in the third quarter Smith/Horford alone had a five-point lead over the Magic. Smith was very efficient on the night shooting 13-of-20 from the field plus 2-of-3 from three. It has been a few games in a row where his outside shot has fallen and with that comes big numbers.

First Star: Paul George (23 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists)

Yes, it was against the Bobcat’s “defense” but it was still a career first triple-double for Paul George and he’s not giving it back. He has literally had an All-Star first half of the season but had not played well against the Nets last game. So this time he came out aggressive from the start and the Cavaliers had no real answer. In the second half when the Pacers pulled away for the win George was doing the little things — 10 of his rebounds and 7 assists came after halftime. That’s what a team leader does: Whatever is needed to win.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough: Eric Bledsoe hair-salon claim about tweet was unbelievable

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Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:

Clear message?

Apparently not.

After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:

The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.

Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.

It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.

Report: Suns send Eric Bledsoe home, expect to trade him

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In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Bledsoe:

That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.

This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.

At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.

Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.

But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.

Willy Hernangomez ‘mad’ about falling from Knicks rotation

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Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.

But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.

Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.

Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”

The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.

There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.

But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.

Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.

Report: Eric Bledsoe requested trade from Suns before season

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Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:

In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.

It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.