PHOENIX — Kendall Marshall was selected by the Suns with the 13th overall pick in last summer’s draft, but a chance to take the reigns as the team’s starting point guard has been far from guaranteed due to a combination of his need to develop, along with the constant personnel additions the team has made to shore up that position.
The Suns went out and got Goran Dragic in free agency the same summer Marshall was drafted, and now, ahead of Marshall’s second season, the team used a late first round pick on a guard in Archie Goodwin, and traded for a dynamic one that will likely play starter’s minutes in the deal that sent Jared Dudley out of town and brought Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix.
While Marshall is excited by the additions in talent, he wants to make sure that he remains a part of his team’s future plans — something he made clear when asked after practice on Tuesday what he’s looking to get out of the Summer League experience.
“First of all winning, but my second goal is to kind of prove that I can be a contributor on this team,” Marshall said. “I’ve been in prove-it mode since I got here, I think. With them bringing in [Goran Dragic] last year, bringing [Eric Bledsoe] in this year — they’re two great guys, I’m very excited to play with them. But at the same time, I want to prove that I can play with them and be on the court with them.”
New head coach Jeff Hornacek is planning an uptempo attack for the Suns’ offense this season, and given that speed isn’t one of Marshall’s assets, it’s worth wondering where he might fit in. But Hornacek is on Marshall’s side at this early stage of things, and believes he’ll be able to use his second-year player in different ways that play to his strengths.
“I like what he does in pick-and-roll situations,” Hornacek said of Marshall. “He’s not maybe the type of guy that’s going to fly around the court and penetrate and put pressure on the defense that way, but he’s a great passer in that when he gets into drag actions and pick-and-rolls, he can hit those rollers and make those extra passes, and those guys can put the pressure on the defense.”
“It doesn’t matter who’s going to be here,” Hornacek said, referring to the upcoming addition of Bledsoe. “We can put guys at different positions. He’ll have his opportunities.”
As for Marshall, he doesn’t seem the slightest bit concerned about the rest of the players who will be vying for minutes at his position. He’s exhibiting a positive outlook, and is only thinking about ways he can improve in order to earn his team’s trust.
“At the end of the day, you can only control what you do,” Marshall said. “And all I can control is how hard I work, so that’s all I’m worried about.”
As tension rises, players and coaches are taking it out on the officials. The NBA releases daily two-minute reports assessing calls late in close games. The referees’ union keeps complaining about that practice.
It all boiled over to a rare show of the league publicly calling a National Basketball Referees Association claim “not accurate:”
A fundamental flaw with the L2M leads to this sort of media reaction. The 5-second violation should not have been an INC – our stopwatch has it within a couple tenths of a second. To expect a human to be as exact as a stopwatch is unreasonable. The referee followed protocol. https://t.co/EVAFKAJyfy
Our issues are not with the media, but with the L2M. It is a flawed process where analysts without officiating experience are using different protocols to evaluate plays than the referees are taught. It breeds inconsistency and frustration for fans, teams, and referees. https://t.co/blAJ2bvWbe
This is not accurate; all calls in L2Ms are evaluated by reviewers trained to rate plays the way officials are instructed to call them; their decisions are approved by ref ops senior staff (former officials) and senior b-ball ops personnel, all with many years of NBA experience https://t.co/KVDXrfDBrm
If the reviewers were trained as referees are trained, they would not have called this an INC. This is a textbook execution of what we are trained to do. We're talking about fractions of a second, undetectable without technology. Watch the visible count: https://t.co/WUDps5DjA9https://t.co/som0PtI0mi
The NBRA is doing its members no favors with all these attempts to defend the process behind incorrect calls. People want correct calls and calls that favor their team. There’s nothing referees can do about the latter. They should focus on the former.
The inbound took longer than five seconds. It should have been a violation. The end.
Want to curry favor? Advocate for the NBA adopting the technology necessary to get these calls right. There’s no reason, in the year 2018, five-second calls should be determined by a referee tracking time with arm waves while watching for other calls. Nobody expects refs to count out the shot clock. Other timed calls – including three-second violations – should be handled with digital timers.
Instead, the referees union picks these lame public fights. The league’s response only increases the off-putting pettiness all around.
Nobody wants to root for referees. This is not going to turn mass opinion.
Watch Justin Timberlake drain half-court shot, a couple of three pointers
Maybe the world’s biggest performer right now — and part owner of the Memphis Grizzlies — swung by the Washington Wizards practice facility and drained a few shots like it was nothing. The man can’t stop the feeling.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) As playoffs near and pressure mounts, coach/player release valve is to vent at referees. Sunday we saw the latest in the run of coaches or players ripping NBA officials, leading to questions of just how strained are the relationships between the two sides. The most recent guy to vent was DeMar DeRozan after the Raptors did not get calls down the stretch in a loss to the Thunder at home Sunday.
DeRozan on officiating: "The league needs to do something because it's not just us, it's every game. But tonight… common, man. That can't happen. It can't happen."
DeRozan, asked if the Raptors are treated fairly: "No, we’re used to going against the odds… It’s been like that. We fight through it, but as soon as we say something, we’re the bad guys, we get fined, we get criticized… but we’ve all got a breaking point & it’s frustrating."
DeRozan is about to get his second fine of the season for criticizing officials.
Also, in this case DeRozan is right — Corey Brewer absolutely fouled him on a drive to the basket when the Raptors were down two with :30 seconds left in the game. It was a critical missed call by Marc Davis and the crew. Then a frustrated DeRozan got tossed. Then Serge Ibaka got tossed for continuing on the same arguments DeRozan was having. Then Dwane Casey got thrown out for something a fan said behind him because by this point the officials had a case of rabbit ears (the best part of the Casey ejection was OKC’s Brewer laughing and shaking his head at the bad call). The Last Two Minute Report on this should be ugly.
That follows on the heels of Pelicans’ coach Alvin Gentry venting “you can’t guess on plays.” Which itself was on the heels of Stan Van Gundy venting “we got absolutely screwed all night” after a loss to red-hot Portland. Both of those coaches were fined $15,000 Sunday for their outbursts.
What gives with all the venting at officials?
Welcome to the stressful time of the NBA season. With playoff chases going on and pressure mounting on coaches and players, they need a release valve and so the officials take the brunt of it. Sure, there have been enough tensions between players and referees all season that there was a sparsely attended meeting All-Star weekend between the players and referees unions, but the reality is tension between coaches/players and referees existed when George Mikan was playing and it will exist 25 years from now. Players are trying to gain every advantage, referees are trying to enforce the rules in a fast-paced, hard-to-officiate sport, and the tension is natural. There are peaks and valleys, but it’s always there. It always has been.
Right now, the Raptors feel the pressure that this is their window — with Cleveland and Boston stumbling (and banged up), this year is Toronto’s best shot at a trip to the Finals, and they know it. Alvin Gentry and the Pelicans are in the midst of a fight to make the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy feels the pressure of keeping his jobs (GM and coach) in a league where the buzz is he’s going to lose at least one of those titles. Every game takes on added meaning, the pressure makes everything feel heavy, so guys need to vent and the officials become the target. That doesn’t mean the coach/player is wrong — DeRozan was not, the officials were terrible at the end of Sunday’s game — but that’s not the only reason Toronto lost (Serge Ibaka was bad, Steven Adams pushed the Raptors around inside, and I could go on).
It’s the time of year in the NBA when the referees get an outsized portion of the blame when teams and fans are frustrated with a loss. And that will continue right through the playoffs.
2) By the way, Thunder won and Russell Westbrook has five straight triple-doubles. The mess with the officiating obscured what was an entertaining basketball game Sunday in Toronto.
Oklahoma City was a team that looked on the playoff bubble a couple of weeks ago, but since has rattled off six straight wins. There are three reasons for that. First, their defense is back to being top five in the NBA (it had fallen way off when Andre Roberson went down). Second, Corey Brewer has become the rare buyout signing that actually has a real impact — he has stepped into Roberson’s starting spot and given them three-point shooting and a solid veteran presence on both ends.
The third reason, Russell Westbrook is a beast. He had 37 points, 14 assists, and 13 rebounds against the Raptors.
For those of you out there who are saying, “See, this loss is why I can’t trust the Raptors in the playoffs,” you’re just wrong. You need some context. This was the Raptors third game in four days, and it had an early (1 p.m. ET) start. At the end of the game, the Raptors just looked tired. If you’ve watched Toronto all season, they have done well in the clutch. They are 22-14 in games within five points in the final five minutes this season. Nothing to see here, move along.
3) West playoff chase update: Thunder, Pelicans, Rockets, Trail Blazers all pick up wins; Timberwolves, Clippers pick up losses. There were some key games in the West playoff chase on Sunday. The Pelicans picked up a quality win against Boston as Anthony Davis went off for 24 points and 11 rebounds. James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists as the Rockets beat the Timberwolves. Finally, Portland had little trouble getting their 13th straight win, knocking off the Clippers.
Sunday’s action means Portland remains the three seed and the Thunder the four seed, and those teams seem to be moving toward locking in those spots. The Pelicans are the six seed, and with a couple of losses in a row now the Timberwolves have fallen back to the eighth and final spot. Still, Minnesota is 1.5 games up on Denver (ninth seed) and 2 games up on the Clippers, who have lost three in a row at the wrong time of the season.
James Harden scores 34, Rockets hold off Timberwolves 129-120
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) —James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets’ 26th win in 28 games.
The West’s top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.
Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.
The Wolves got a burst of energy after a fourth-quarter scuffle between Gorgui Dieng, Paul and Gerald Green. Green was ejected for coming to Paul’s defense after a frustrated Dieng pushed him down after a foul. With the pumped-up crowd chanting “Gor-Gui!,” Derek Rose had back-to-back layups to pull the Wolves to 109-102. But Paul hit a jumper with Crawford in his face, and Harden easily drove past Dieng for a layup to give the Rockets some breathing room.
Minnesota’s 19-6 run made it 115-110 with 3:58 to play before Trevor Ariza hit a 3, and the Rockets were able to answer every Wolves bucket to hold off the rally.
The game was seemingly over by halftime; Houston shot 63 percent, hit 11 3-pointers and led by as many as 24 in the first half while turning the ball over only three times. Harden had 10 assists in the first half, when the Wolves were as close as three before Houston reeled off a 12-0 run and didn’t allow Minnesota to recover.