Here is what we know:
• All 16 teams that will be going to the playoffs. With Memphis beating a resilient Suns team on the field is set in both the East and West.
• Indiana (1) vs. Atlanta (8). With the Heat resting LeBron James and Chris Bosh then promptly losing to the Wizards the top two spots in the East are set. The Hawks were already locked into the 8 seed. This is great for Indiana in the same way Florida State’s football home opener is against the Citadel — it’s a tune up round where they can work out the kinks.
• Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (5). Out west the middle of the field is set (as are the Spurs in the top slot), but everything else is up for grabs. This is a pretty interesting series. Can Portland slow the James Harden train with Nicolas Batum? Do you play more Jeremy Lin to exploit the “defense” of Damian Lillard or do you need Patrick Beverley on the court to try and slow Lillard on offense? How does Houston match up with LaMarcus Aldridge?
Aside that, pretty much everything is still up in the air.
In the East, Monday night’s win by the Wizards over the Heat not only set Miami as the second seed, it kept the dream of the Wizards slim chance of getting to the five seed alive. That Wizards win also kept Charlotte one game back in the battle not to be the seven seed and avoiding Miami in the first round. If the Wizards beat Boston on Wednesday they can finish no lower than 6th. The Bulls and Raptors both won on Monday keeping Toronto as the three seed. If Toronto beats the Knicks on Wednesday they are the three seed, if they lose and Chicago beats Charlotte then the Bulls are the three seed.
Out West, the Clippers slim hopes of the two seed are alive but they need to win their last two games then hope Oklahoma City loses to Detroit on Wednesday. Good luck with that. Locked in out West are the Spurs at No. 1, the Rockets at No. 4, the Trail Blazers at No. 6 and the Warriors at No. 6. Winner of the Dallas/Memphis game Wednesday is No. 7, loser is No. 8.
There are just two games on Tuesday night’s board but both have playoff Implications.
If the Nets beat the Knicks, the Nets become locked in as the five seed in the East.
If the Clippers beat the Nuggets, their slim hopes of being the two seed are still alive, lose and they are locked in as the three.
Eric Bledsoe reportedly requested a trade from the Suns before the season then tweeted yesterday:
After sending home Bledsoe today, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough explained his rationale:
The hair salon! What a wonderful excuse.
Is it true? I’m not going to call Bledsoe a liar. It might be.
It’s also probably true that Bledsoe isn’t long for Phoenix.
In a shocking twist, the Suns firing Earl Watson did not end the dysfunction in Phoenix.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
That is a first-rate tweet by Bledsoe. It’s great that he’s having fun with the wild situation, because the rest of us sure are amused peering in.
This was always going to be a long season in Phoenix, but things got out of hand in a hurry. The 0-3 Suns have been outscored by 92 – the worst three-game start in NBA history by 16 points. Now, comes the fallout.
At 27, Bledsoe was getting to be a little too old for a rebuild centered on Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender and T.J. Warren. The Suns could have dealt Bledsoe in the offseason. Now, they’re negotiating from a position of weakness.
Bledsoe is a good starting point guard when healthy. He’s earning a reasonable $14.5 million this season and due $15 million in the final year of his contract next season. There should be suitors, and Phoenix can gain long-term assets while stepping up its tank.
But this sure seems like a crisis-control move more than anything else.
Knicks president Steve Mills started his second tenure talking about rebuilding and listed Willy Hernangomez as a core piece.
But Hernangomez, coming off an All-Rookie first-team season, barely played in New York’s season-opening loss to the Thunder– drawing scrutiny.
Then, he didn’t play at all in a loss to the Pistons – eliciting a strong reaction from Hernangomez himself.
Hernangomez, via Fred Kerber of the New York Post:
“The same. I’m still mad,” Hernangomez said. “I cannot help the team win if I’m sitting on the bench. Two games in a row. It’s tough. I have to wait my moment. I cannot say nothing more.”
The Knicks are moving in different directions. Management is talking about building for the future. Coach Jeff Hornacek, who was hired by previous president Phil Jackson, is trying to win now.
There’s a fine line between developing Hernangomez through playing time and making him earn his minutes. Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn might be better right now.
But being marginally better this season won’t get the Knicks anywhere meaningful except lower in the lottery. On the other hand, even on rebuilding teams, winning is most important to a coach’s job security. Earl Watson implemented the Suns’ tanking scheme, and look where that got him.
Hornacek is backed into a corner, and now one of the team’s most important young players is publicly expressing his displeasure. It’s the latest troubling sign in a locker room already suspicious of Hornacek.
Suns guard Eric Bledsoe tweeted yesterday:
In light of Phoenix’s 0-3 start and Earl Watson getting fired yesterday, that sure looks like a trade request. Still, there’s risk in making assumptions about vague tweets.
John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:
Why wouldn’t Bledsoe want out? The 27-year-old is in his prime and stuck on a young team that would rather tank than play him.
It’ll be interesting to see how Bledsoe explains the tweet. He previously paid lip service to his situation in Phoenix, but it appears he’s ready to open up. On the other hand, public trade requests typically draw fines from the NBA.