Three Stars of the Night: Old Man for Rivers

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The Celtics were already pretty old to start the season. When Rajon Rondo tore his ACL, they got older. When rookie forward Jared Sullinger went out for the season, they were about as young as a men’s rec league team.

Older doesn’t necessarily mean worse, of course. Doc Rivers called it when the injuries happened — the Celtics weren’t going to expire so easily. A game in Utah against one of the youngest and best home teams in the league (21-6 at home going in) wasn’t going to be easy, but Rivers called on his old man to bring it home. To the stars!

Third Star: Bradley Beal – (20 points, 6 rebounds, 8-for-13)

Beal just keeps getting better and better. Every month this season Beal has improved his field goal percentage and points per game. Does it help he set the bar so low? Sure, but it’s clear to see Beal is becoming more confident and really figuring the league out. In January and February, Beal is shooting nearly 50 percent from behind the arc, and this month, he’s scoring 17.3 points per game. It’s too late for Washington to make the playoffs (they’re 9 games back of the 8-seed), but is it too late for Beal to steal some first place Rookie of the Year votes from Damian Lillard? If he keeps trending this way, it might not be.

 

Second StarAl Horford – (23 points, 22 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks)

Horford tied a career-high with 22 rebounds in a blowout win over the Pistons, mainly just by hanging around the rim and swallowing everything up. Horford’s 7 offensive rebounds gave the Hawks plenty of extra chances, and they knew what to do with it. Atlanta shot above 50 percent from the field as a team, thanks in large part to Horford putting in little shots around the rim.

 

First Star: Paul Pierce – (26 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists)

Pierce was great all night, but his incredible scoring in overtime put the Celtics over the top. After narrowly missing a potential game-winner in regulation, Pierce rattled off seven straight points in overtime on a variety of buckets. Even against a really solid individual defender in DeMarre Carroll, Pierce was able to come off screens and get his deadly jumper off with relative ease. Enjoy these performances while you can — it will be a long time before we see another scorer who manipulates space like Pierce does.

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.