Suns’ Eric Bledsoe targets Wednesday return

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LOS ANGELES — Phoenix is in a fight to make the playoffs in the West – it entered Monday night tied with Memphis for the last and final playoff spot in the West — and they could use this:

Eric Bledsoe is on track to play Wednesday, coach Jeff Hornacek said Monday night before his team took on the Clippers. Bledsoe will not play Monday night.

Bledsoe has been out since surgery Jan 10 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

“We’ll have to see how many minutes he can play without getting really tired,” Hornacek said. “But I think with him coming back at this point we have a chance.”

Bledsoe is averaging 18 points and 5.8 assists a night for the Suns and formed with Goran Dragic one of the best and more aggressive backcourts in the NBA.

In his absence Gerald Green has stepped up and played very well of late, leaving Hornacek with a good problem to have with distributing minutes. He said the one goal is to reduce Goran Dragic’s minutes and load.

“That’s always a tough thing when a guy comes back,” Hornacek said. “If you’re out a week or two it’s pretty easy to put them right back where they were before, but he’s been out over eight weeks now. Gerald (Green) has come in and played well, and that’s the initial plan, is to bring (Bledsoe) off the bench and get him acclimated to the guys and playing again, and we’ll go from there. If we feel the best thing for our team is to have him back in the starting lineup we’ll do it at that point.”

Damian Lillard ‘obsessed’ with beating Warriors

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The Warriors just eliminated the Trail Blazers for the second straight year.

Portland star Damian Lillard sounds hardened by the experience.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

After the Portland Trail Blazers were swept by the Golden State Warriors on Monday, point guard Damian Lillard told ESPN he’s developed a newfound obsession with trying to take down the Warriors.

“You have to be obsessed with that because you know that they’re so good that they’re going to be there,” Lillard said after a 128-103 loss in Game 4. “That’s who you’re going to have to get through to get to where you want to get to. That’s what it is.”

I have no doubt this will drive Lillard. He just finds way to lift himself.

But will the rest of the Trail Blazers keep up with a team that features Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson?

C.J. McCollum is a solid co-star, but it gets dicey beyond that with several players locked into expensive long-term contracts. Portland will have to pry enough production from Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Allen Crabbe, Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard and the Nos. 15, 20 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft.

The Trail Blazers have a path upward, but needing to climb as high as Golden State, the road is narrow.

Pat Riley says he wishes he gave Chris Bosh’s max contract to Dwyane Wade

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Heat president Pat Riley has said he should’ve given Dwyane Wade a max contract in 2014 after LeBron James left Miami.

Instead, Wade stayed with the Heat on what became two one-year contracts. That lack of long-term security bothered Wade, who took discounts in prior years, and contributed to his exit to the Bulls.

But paying Wade and Chris Bosh, who got a max contract from Miami two years ago, so much into their late 30s likely would have cost the Heat dearly. It’s nearly impossible to build around two declining max players.

Riley apparently has a retroactive plan for that – re-signing only Wade, not Bosh.

Wright Thompson of ESPN:

But of course, Riley says, almost immediately after LeBron left, Bosh’s camp wanted to reopen a deal they’d just finished, knowing the Heat had money and felt vulnerable. Bosh threatened to sign with the Rockets. In the end, Riley gave Bosh what he wanted. Now he wishes he’d said no to Bosh’s max deal and given all that money to Wade.

Riley says that Wade’s agent asked to deal directly with the owners instead of Pat, so he merely honored that request. Mostly, he just wishes the whole thing had gone differently. “I know he feels I didn’t fight hard enough for him,” he says. “I was very, very sad when Dwyane said no. I wish I could have been there and told him why I didn’t really fight for him at the end. … I fought for the team. The one thing I wanted to do for him, and maybe this is what obscured my vision, but I wanted to get him another player so he could end his career competitive.”

When he describes his reaction to Wade’s leaving, it’s always in terms of how sad it makes him feel

Riley has done a much better job explaining to the public how sad he is about Wade leaving rather than actually doing something while he had the chance or even expressing his regret to Wade after the fact.

It’s almost as if Riley knew excommunicating a Heat Lifer would be both good for the franchise long-term and a terrible look in the short term and is trying to mitigate the damage. Wade might even realize that, too.

To a certain degree, Riley could be speaking in hindsight. Bosh’s deal has not worked out, with Riley believing the big man’s career is over due to blood-clot issues. But hindsight also says giving Wade, now 35, a five-year contract two years ago would’ve been disastrous.

There’s sentimentality at work here. Wade is the greatest player in Heat history. Riley drafted him, groomed him and built three championship teams in two eras around him.

I just can’t figure out how much Riley is exploiting that sentimentality to warm Miami fans after coldly letting Wade walk and how much Riley genuinely regrets contract negotiations with Wade. This is almost certainly shades of both.

Raptors’ Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wear same outfit to Game 5 (photo)

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I can’t verify Raptors forwards Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker wearing the same outfit to last night’s Game 5 against the Bucks is the happenstance Patterson presents it as. But there’s a saying in journalism: It’s too good to check out.

Whatever led to this, Toronto ought to keep doing it. The Raptors smashed Milwaukee.

Patterson:

Isaiah Thomas’ sons giggle about Fred Hoiberg’s carrying complaint (video)

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Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg diverted attention to Isaiah Thomascarrying – perhaps the lamest attempt ever of a coach angling for calls through the media, made worse by it following one of the best of all time.

Thomas’ sons saw how silly it was, laughing as the Celtics guard responded.

“It’s not that funny,” Thomas said, sparking even more laughter.