Report: Suns’ Eric Bledsoe out indefinitely, needs knee surgery

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And the stars just keep on falling in the NBA.

Eric Bledsoe, the scoring guard who is at the heart of the Phoenix Suns being the biggest surprise in the NBA, is out indefinitely and needs knee surgery, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, one of the leading contenders for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, is out indefinitely after the team determined that Bledsoe needs a surgical procedure to repair cartilage in his right knee, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com that the exact scope and severity of the injury will not be known until Bledsoe is in a surgeon’s care, but he is suspected to have suffered meniscus damage in his Dec. 30 return to Los Angeles to face the Clippers.

Bledsoe had been out the Suns’ last four games due to what the team had called a sprained knee.

This season he has averaged 18 points a game along with dishing out 5.8 assists a night, and he’s hitting 35 percent from three. He has a PER of 20.2, which is borderline All-Star level.

Before the season the Suns were expected to be part of “Tankapalooza 2014” that is the NBA’s hot trend, but thanks to Bledsoe — and how he paired with Goran Dragic in the backcourt — plus the coaching of Jeff Hornacek the Suns are 21-13 and the seven seed in the West.

Without Bledsoe for an extended period it’s a legitimate question if they can hold on to a playoff spot in the West. Currently they are four games ahead of the ninth seed (Denver Nuggets) but there is a lot of season left and teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves will make a run.

The bigger question for the Suns could come this summer.

If Bledsoe misses extended time what would the Suns do if another team comes at the restricted free agent Bledsoe with a max or very large offer? Not long ago the Suns GM said they would match any offer for Bledsoe, and while publically they will continue to say the same thing you have to wonder if their internal calculations will changed based on what the surgeon finds.

Bottom line, this is another big blow to the NBA where its best players seem to be particularly struck by injuries this season.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.