Playoff chase: Suns season on line Monday night vs. Grizzlies

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We know most of the teams in the playoffs at this point — only one final spot in the Western Conference is still up for grabs, but we have a lot of questions about who will play who in the first round still to be settled.

Monday night we may get a few answers, the biggest one about the last spot in the West — Memphis travels to Phoenix for a game and if the Grizzlies win they are in. If they lose the Western Conference is going to come down to the final games on Wednesday night (and the seeding in the West may anyway).

Here is where things stand heading into Monday night.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Seeds 1-3: The Spurs are locked in as the top seed in the West. So we know that for sure.

In theory the Clippers can catch the Thunder for the second seed but that would require the Thunder to lose their last two games and the Clippers to win out. Monday night Oklahoma City takes on New Orleans (a Pelicans team without Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and pretty much every other name you know) and if the Thunder win they are officially locked in as the two seed and the Clippers are locked in at three.

Seeds 4-5: After their dramatic win Sunday over Golden State the Trail Blazers are just half a game back of Houston (one in the loss column) for the four seed and home court in the first round of the playoffs. However, Houston has the tiebreaker over Portland so the Rockets magic number is just one to clinch home court — they play the Spurs on Monday night. Lose that game and the Rockets will need to beat a depleted New Orleans Wednesday to lock up home court (or they need the Trail Blazers to lose to the Clippers Wednesday).

Seeds 6-8: Golden State and Dallas are in the playoffs, but what seed they are remains in doubt as the Mavs are just half a game back of the Warriors for the six seed. Golden State’s magic number to lock up the six seed (and set up a first round showdown with the Clippers we all want to see) is just one — beat Minnesota Monday night and they are locked in.

Memphis at Phoenix is the big game of the night — it is literally a must win for the Suns. The only way Phoenix can make the playoffs is to beat the Grizzlies then hope the Mavericks beat the Griz Wednesday night (and the Suns would need to beat the Kings that night). A lot needs to go right for the Suns, but without a win tonight the dream is dead (and a 47-48 win team will miss the postseason, in the East that gets you home court in the first round).

If Memphis wins not only are they in they could climb as high as the six seed. If the Grizzlies beat the Suns and Mavs and the Warriors lose out Memphis climbs all the way to six (with Golden State seven and Dallas eight). If the Suns win Monday but Memphis beats Dallas Wednesday then the Grizzlies are the seven seed and Dallas the eight seed).

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Seeds 1-2: With their dramatic win Sunday over Oklahoma City, the Pacers magic number to secure the top seed in the East is one — if Miami loses at Washington Monday the top two are set. If Miami wins Indiana will need to win at Orlando Wednesday to secure home court (or count on Miami to lose Wednesday).

Seeds 3-5: Toronto and Chicago are deadlocked for the three/four seed spots right now after the Bulls odd loss to the Knicks Sunday (are they trying to get the four seed and line up with the Pacers in the second round?). Both teams play Monday night in games they should win, the Raptors host the Bucks and the Bulls host the Magic. If both win it will all come down to Wednesday night for the seeding.

The Nets magic number is one to lock up the five seed, they can get that Tuesday against the Knicks.

Seeds 6-8: Nobody wants the seven seed and to draw Miami (or maybe Indiana) in the first round. Washington has a one game lead over the Bobcats for the six seed but the Bobcats have the tiebreaker. Both teams are in action Monday night — Washington will face a pissed off Miami team (after Sunday’s loss) while Charlotte faces Atlanta. If the Wizards lose and Charlotte wins the Bobcats become the seven seed and will control their own destiny but would need to beat the Bulls Wednesday to secure their spot. If the Wizards go 2-0 to close out the season (Miami then at Boston) they are the six seed and Charlotte the seven (and if the Nets lost out the Wizards could get the five seed, but don’t bet on that).

Atlanta is locked into the eight seed. So at least we know that for sure.

Wizards’ owner Ted Leonsis: “My prediction is John Wall will sign his extension”

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John Wall is one of the handful of NBA players who qualifies for the new designated veteran “super max” contract extension — and the Wizards want to give it to him. A four-year, $170 million extension of his current deal is on the table (it would kick in after the two years, $37 million on his current contract).

Wall has yet to sign it. He said at the time it was offered he wanted to talk about it with his family and see what the Wizards did this offseason. He’s not unhappy, he just wants to be sure before he locks himself in with Washington through his prime.

Washington owner Ted Leonsis told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post he thinks Wall will sign.

Maybe, but there’s not a lot of motivation for Wall to sign right now. Wall can bet on himself that he will make the All-NBA team again next year — there’s a deep class of guards but if he stays healthy he stands a good chance — at which time he’s still eligible for a designated veteran “super max” contract extension that would be five-years, roughly $200 million (and would kick in after the one year on his current deal).

That delay would also keep pressure on the Wizards to find ways to improve the roster. Washington is largely capped out and didn’t make any major moves this summer other than re-signing Otto Porter to a max extension (they matched a Brooklyn offer sheet). Washington is good, likely the third or fourth best team in the East, but a notch below Cleveland and Boston right now. Wall wants to push them to get another star and help Washington move up into contender status — he pushed for the Wizards to chase Paul George and have him replace Porter (a deal that was never going to happen, but you can see what Wall is thinking about being one star player short).

Ultimately, I think Leonsis is right, Wall will sign. It’s just a matter of when. Does he take this deal now, or wait until next summer and do it?

Chicago billboard calls for Bulls to fire Gar Forman, John Paxson

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Gar Forman split Executive of the Year with Pat Riley the same year Riley lured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to the Heat.

Forman’s stock has fallen quite a bit since.

The Bulls general manager – who works with executive vice President of basketball operations John Paxson in a duo (once affectionately) called GarPax – is facing increased scrutiny. The latest: A Chicago billboard organized by Bulls fans and paid for by GoFundMe donators.

GarPax’s recent missteps have been troubling. The breakup with Tom Thibodeau was messy and felt personal, especially with Fred Hoiberg succeeding him. First-round picks – Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott and Marquis Teague – have yielded little dividend. The Jimmy Butler trade was almost unbelievably lousy, even after the Three Alphas plan with Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo fell flat.

But it’s also worth taking a step back. The Bulls have won 59% of their games, made the playoffs seven of eight years and never had a losing season under Forman. This somewhat feels like Chicago fans having unrealistic expectations.

The most important question owners should ask when weighing whether to retain management: Who will best guide the team forward? Prior results should matter only to inform that question.

Based on overall body of work GarPax has a case for staying on the job. The tandem built a 62-win conference finalist around Derrick Rose then saw his injuries sabotage the run. But GarPax has also trended the wrong direction, failing too often (and too often predictably) since Rose declined.

Would the Bulls hire someone who will do better than Forman and Paxson if they fired those two? Maybe, and it’s a discussion worth having. But the answer isn’t as simple as I suspect the people behind this billboard would believe.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Otto Porter: ‘He’s a max person in my mind’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Otto Porter is a quiet, complementary piece to the Wizards’ talented young core. He is also now Washington’s highest-paid player.

At least temporarily.

Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal garner most of the attention as Washington has made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs three of the last four seasons. But for now, Porter makes the most money after the Wizards matched a four-year, $106.5 million max-contract offer sheet the forward signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

There might be questions if the 24-year-old Porter is worth that money. But the Wizards believe he is a good fit alongside Wall, 26, a four-time All-Star, and Beal, 24, one of the league’s top shooting guards.

“You just use that as motivation just like John and Brad did,” Porter said at a news conference Wednesday. “They set the bar high. I’m going to set my bar, high, too.”

Porter entered this offseason as a restricted free agent, and when agent David Falk couldn’t agree to terms with Washington on July 1, he chose to shop his client’s services. The Sacramento Kings showed interest, but the Nets were the most serious and made a run at Porter.

“They felt like they wanted to test the market to see if there was something more out there, and they did,” Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. “But it wasn’t a big decision because all along we said we wanted to keep our young core together.”

It probably won’t be long before Wall surpasses Porter as the Wizards highest-paid player. Wall was named third-team All-NBA this past season, and the point guard is eligible to sign a $160 million, four-year super max contract any time before the 2017-18 season begins. Wall will not become an unrestricted free agent until 2019.

Re-signing Porter was a top priority for Washington this summer. The No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft out of Georgetown, Porter had a breakthrough season. He ranked fourth in field goal percentage among small forwards (51.6 percent) and fifth among all NBA players in 3-point percentage (43.4 percent).

Porter’s ability to fit seamlessly with Wall and Beal without needing the ball in his hands is a huge plus, too, according to Grunfeld. At 6-foot-8, Porter’s length also plays a significant role in the Wizards’ defensive concepts. His skillset was so valuable to Washington the Wizards surpassed the NBA’s luxury-tax threshold by matching the offer sheet.

“I never look at Otto and judge him by the stat sheet,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He does so many little things that the stats don’t show. He dives on the floor for a loose ball, he sets screens. He makes the extra pass to the corner, offensive rebounds.

“You can never have enough high-character guys that are committed to each and that’s what he is,” Brooks said. “He’s a max person in my mind.”

Utah Jazz sign forward Royce O’Neale, first season reportedly guaranteed

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) The Utah Jazz signed forward Royce O’Neale on Wednesday.

Sportando:

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune:

O’Neale gives Utah 16 players on non-two-way contracts, one more than the regular-season limit. Raul Neto is on unguaranteed contract, but he’s a potential rotation player.

A 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing, O’Neale played for Gran Canaria in Spain last season and averaged 8.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. O’Neale was a member of the New Orleans Pelicans’ Las Vegas Summer League team last week and averaged 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists.

The 24-year-old was undrafted out of Baylor in 2015. He adds wing depth to a Jazz team adjusting to life without Gordon Hayward after he signed with the Boston Celtics in free agency.

The Jazz won 51 games last season and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2012. They were swept by the Golden State Warriors after beating the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.