Sunday some things got settled — the Knicks locked themselves in the two seed in the East, for example — and now with 11 games on the slate for Monday night a few more things will get settled.
So here’s a rundown of what to watch for Monday night (all times listed are Eastern).
Jazz at Timberwolves (8 p.m.): It’s very simple for the Jazz — win and you’re still alive. Lose and the Lakers get the final playoff spot. (If Utah wins they would still need to beat Memphis Wednesday and hope the Lakers lose to the Rockets. But first things first.)
Nuggets at Bucks, Grizzlies at Mavericks (both 8:00 p.m.): If Denver wins they will have home court advantage in the first round (where they are 37-3 this season). A Memphis loss also means Denver is home in the first round. A Denver win puts pressure on the Clippers to win Tuesday or Denver locks into the three seed (meaning Clippers/Grizzlies in the first round). Memphis is currently the five seed and is tied with the Clippers (the four seed), but Los Angeles has the tiebreaker. If Memphis wants home court in the first round they need wins.
Kings at Thunder (8:00 p.m.), Spurs at Warriors (10:00 p.m.): A Thunder win or a Spurs loss and the Thunder will be the top seed in the West (OKC’s magic number is one).
Rockets at Suns (10:00 p.m.): Houston controls its own destiny — win this game and against the Lakers Wednesday and they are the six seed. If Houston wins and Golden State loses to the Spurs the Rockets lock up the six seed tonight.
Bulls at Magic (7:00 p.m.): The Bulls are the six seed and with a win can move within half a game of the five-seed Hawks. The Bulls have the tiebreak with the Hawks so if they can catch them they would get Brooklyn in the first round instead of Indiana.
The Cavaliers are 2-1, but their starting lineups have been outscored by 19 points in 32 minutes. Dwyane Wade has been so bad as the starting shooting guard, his struggles have overshadowed J.R. Smith‘s miserable play as the backup.
But at least Wade volunteered a solution to this predictable problem.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
Dwyane Wade is headed for the Cavaliers’ bench at his own request and J.R. Smith is returning to the starting lineup.
Wade, 35, a 12-time All-Star who struggled in his first three games with Cleveland, asked coach Tyronn Lue to make the change, Lue said. But this wasn’t exactly Wade’s idea, either.
Lue told him when he signed with the Cavs Sept. 27 that the second unit may be the best fit for him.
“I just decided, earlier than later, just to get to the unit where I’d be more comfortable in and can probably better with this team in that lineup,” Wade said. “Why wait? Three games in, why wait? Wanted to get in there with those guys.”
Cleveland’s starting lineup needs more shooting and defense around LeBron James – especially with Derrick Rose starting over an injured Isaiah Thomas (though Rose is out a couple games with his own ankle injury). Smith provides that.
Bench-heavy units need more playmaking. Wade provides that.
This was a tricky situation given Wade’s status as a future Hall of Famer and friendship with LeBron. Whether Wade simply suggested the change or Lue is trying to give Wade public credit after coaxing it behind the scenes, the result is the same.
The Cavs can now use their most logical rotation, and they should be better for it.
Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:
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.
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:
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.
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.