Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Clippers

Suns’ president reiterates team will match any offer for Eric Bledsoe

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The Phoenix Suns are going to have to pay big money to keep Eric Bledsoe this summer. They know it. They’d just like to keep the price down a little.

The Suns are committed to Bledsoe, having traded Jared Dudley for him. They thought Bledsoe could be a cornerstone piece. However, that’s different than the Suns and Bledsoe seeing eye-to-eye on a price — before the season the two sides couldn’t reach a deal on a contract extension. Which means this summer Bledsoe is a restricted free agent (other teams can make offers but the Suns have the right to match it).

Since then Bledsoe has gone out and played at an All-Star level — 18 points and 5.8 assists per game, with a true shooting percentage of 58.7 and a PER of 20 (although he is currently out injured). Those kinds of numbers mean there is going to be a lot of interest from other teams this summer trying to poach the young guard.

As their GM has before, Suns president Lon Babby said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM the team will match any offer for Bledsoe this summer.

“I think our answer to (would we match any offer) is yes, that we know enough about Eric as a player,” Babby said. “Even more importantly, we’ve lived with him now for almost a year as a person. We like everything about him. Like him as a teammate, like him as a representative of our franchise and everything that he stands for.

“He’s got a tremendous future.”

With these public statements the Suns are trying to save a few dollars.

Bledsoe is going to be an eight figure a year player after this season, what the Suns don’t want is another team to come in and make a max or near max offer they have to match. Worse yet, they don’t want to see an offer with a poison pill that makes it more painful for the Suns. Less competition for Bledsoe’s services means a better price for the Suns, so they are trying to scare off suitors now.

It’s all a negotiation. It’s part of the game. They just need to be careful not to spoil their relationship with their young star in the effort to save a few dollars.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.