Alex Len

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Blazers’ C.J. McCollum suspended for opener for leaving bench during altercation

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The lessons of Amar’e Stoudemire and leaving the bench during an altercation are still being learned.

Portland’s C.J. McCollum has been suspended for one game without pay for “leaving the bench area during an altercation” the league announced on Saturday. He will set out Portland’s season opener in Phoenix next Wednesday.

You can see it clearly on the video below from Wednesday’s game. Trail Blazers rookie Caleb Swanigan gets tangled up with Suns center Alex Len in a fight for rebounding positioning, and it turns into a little shoving match shoving match. Watch the Blazers bench, where McCollum walks off of it toward Len until an assistant coach pushes him back. By then it’s too late.

McCollum owned his mistake, texting to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“I’ve been in the league way too long to have a mental lapse like that. I want to apologize to my teammates and the organization for putting our team in this situation. The Western Conference is already tough enough as it is. It won’t happen again. Lesson learned. I take full responsibility for those eight expensive and costly steps.”

Expect a little more Evan Turner and maybe Pat Connaughton for Portland with McCollum out.

Report: Grizzlies, JaMychal Green not close to deal

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A few weeks back, it appeared the Grizzlies and their likely starting power forward JaMychal Green were moving toward a two-year contract extension, reportedly for just less than $10 million a season. Green probably sees that as below market value, but he’s a restricted free agent big man in a tight market and others in his position — Nerlens Noel, Alex Len just to name a couple — have felt the brunt of the market this summer and struggled to get deals they thought they deserved. The Grizzlies have the leverage, and they are using it.

With no deal, Green has yet to appear in training camp. By Sunday the two sides need to have reached an agreement or Green will sign his qualifying offer, play this season for $2.8 million, then be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Right now, the two sides are nowhere near a deal, reports Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

As of Tuesday night, the Grizzlies and restricted free agent forward JaMychal Green weren’t close to making a deal…

“Everyone knows how we feel about him. I love him. He knows that,” (Memphis coach David) Fizdale said. “The fact that I was willing to start him over an All-Star (Zach Randolph) means my actions say enough about how I feel about him. Right now, I have to coach the living, the guys on the court.”

The Grizzlies have about $12-$15 million to go before they reach the salary tax line (which they will not pay), so they could go a little higher, but they don’t have much motivation to do so. The Grizzlies do need Green to take another step forward and play well this season if Memphis dreams of the playoffs (they have to stay healthy), but Green doesn’t have another option.

Green’s other problem is that next season the free agent market is again going to be tight, particularly for bigs, and there will be quality guys on the market ahead of him. He can bet on himself, but it’s a risk.

A two-year deal makes sense for both sides — Green gets back on the market sooner, the Grizzlies keep him for a couple more years with Mike Conley and Marc Gasol — and sometimes the pressure of the deadline leads to gaps being closed. We’ll see if that happens in Memphis, or if Green bets on himself for next summer.

Suns’ center Alex Len expected to sign qualifying offer, head to camp

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In the free-spending summer of 2016, Bismack Biyambo got a $72 million contract. Timofey Mozgov got $64 million.

Those kinds of contracts — and there were plenty more of them — had a lot of NBA big men (and players in general) heading into this summer thinking they were going to get PAID. Instead, teams learned the lessons from their drunken spending binge and the market got tight. Especially for centers.

Which leads us to the news Suns big man Alex Len is going to bet on himself and sign his qualifying offer before coming to camp, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen change of events, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len is planning to sign the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, clearing the way to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, league sources told ESPN….

Phoenix wants to study’s Len’s progress in the 2017-18 season before committing to a long-term, lucrative contract extension to him. Len has started 80 games over the past two seasons, including 34 in 2016-17 when he averaged eight points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game.

Phoenix wants to leave its options open. Len is mobile, can protect the rim, and has some skills that would help him fit in a modern NBA style offense — he could play with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson — plus last season he improved his shooting around the rim and in the paint. However, he’s not consistent on either end of the court. He shows his potential in flashes, but the Suns need to see more.

Len will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer — he is playing for his next payday. If that can’t motivate him, nothing will.

Suns hire NBA veteran James Jones for front office position

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James Jones spent 14 years in the NBA, was a trusted sidekick of LeBron James and with that has been to seven straight NBA Finals had has three rings. It’s been a good career, one where he was back in the Finals with the Cavaliers last season.

Now he’s stepping out of that uniform — and into a suit. Or, at least a pair of khakis and a Phoenix Suns’ polo shirt.

On Wednesday the Suns announced that they have extended the deal of general manager Ryan McDonough, and created a new role in the organization for Jones, the new Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“James has a wealth of experiences that will greatly benefit our organization,” McDonough said in a statement. “He is a three-time NBA Champion and has been one of the top executives with the National Basketball Players Association over the past few years. We welcome ‘Champ’ and his family to our Phoenix Suns family.”

Jones has a good basketball mind and can help the Suns evaluate both players in the league now and college guys coming up. At the press conference announcing the moves the Suns as an organization preached patience and development, things Jones can help with (if they stick to that plan, the Suns don’t always stick to the plan).

Also, make no mistake this is part of the “we’re going to make a run at LeBron next summer” potential in Phoenix. The Suns often swing for the fences, have the ability to have max cap space (moving Brandon Knight or Tyson Chandler for an expiring contract would help), and they can boast a good young core of Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Alex Len. I wouldn’t move the Suns to the top of the list of likely LeBron landing spots, but Jones may at least get them a meeting. The Suns are smart to put themselves in position to go after him, and if not him pitch other big time free agents next summer — Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and more.

Top 15 Free Agents still on the market

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The pickings are slim — the biggest names and best players have been snatched up.

Also, the market is now tight — teams have spent most of their money and now are just rounding out their rosters. There are no more massive contracts to be handed out.

Still, there are some players who can help teams still out there. Here is our list of the Top 15 free agents still available. We’ve broken the list down to unrestricted (the top 10) and restricted (top 5) where the team has the right to match any offer.

TOP 10 UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

1) Pau Gasol. He remains the best player still on the board as an unrestricted free agent — he is still a fundamentally solid big who can score inside, make smart passes, and defend the rim all with a high IQ. There is also no drama here. He will re-sign with the Spurs, he opted out only to help them make moves in free agency. In the coming days, he should re-sign with San Antonio, likely for something around the $16 million he opted out of.

2) Derrick Rose. The music has stopped in the point guard market, and Rose is the one standing without a chair. He’s the best point guard left available, but the market is tight now and he’s going to get a short deal with a team for the minimum or little more. Rose put up solid numbers last season in New York and on paper he looked like an average NBA point guard, but he’s still a defensive liability and is not versatile offensively (nor is he much of a jump shooter). Rumors on where he will land have slowed way down.

3) Shabazz Muhammad. He’s had a couple respectable seasons for the Timberwolves, last season averaging 9.9 points per game and shooting 33.8 percent from three (he was Minnesota’s leading scorer off the bench). He’s not a great defender, but he has improved. He reportedly has drawn some interest from the Knicks, Hawks, Bucks, and Nets but no deal has been forthcoming.

4) Andrew Bogut. There’s an obvious injury risk here — the 32-year-old’s last season ended with a fractured tibia, and he has a history of missing chunks of the season. That said, in a tight free agent market for big men he is the best one on the market when healthy. He is a smart defender, a very good passing big, and he’s an efficient scorer. Cleveland tried to pick him up last season for a reason (then had to waive him after the injury), another contender should consider the move.

5) JaVale McGee. He may be unhappy that the Warriors didn’t offer him more money after last season, but with the market drying up he may need to decide whether he wants to chase another ring or move on. McGee brings some athleticism at the five, some rim protection, and a guy who can finish at the rim.

6) Gerald Henderson. He was solid for the Sixers last season, averaging 9.2 points and 2.6 rebounds a game, shooting 35.3 percent from three. With their backcourt getting crowded, the Sixers waived Henderson, and at this point he’s not going to get close to the $9 million he was going to make last season. There has not been much buzz about where he may land.

7) Matt Barnes. He picked up a ring last season after getting picked up by the Warriors, and at age 37 the feisty forward is still an above replacement level player. Barnes helped the Warriors through the Kevin Durant injury last regular season and still has something in the tank. He’s not going to get more than one year at the veteran minimum level, but at that price there are teams who could use him.

8) Ty Lawson. There’s not a lot of teams looking to add a point guard, but Lawson will get a call from someone. He was above replacement level for the Kings last season and averaged 9.9 points per game, however, he does not space the floor with his shooting. He’d make a respectable backup point.

9) Boris Diaw. The market for the veteran forward is pretty small, and Diaw is now 35, but he could certainly help a team looking for a guy who can provide versatile minutes off the bench, smart passes, and some high IQ play. Plus he comes with his own espresso machine. Diaw averaged just 4.6 points per game and had a PER of 9 last season in Utah, yet they considered him part of the stabilizing veteran influence that helped that team take a step forward.

10) Tony Allen. Grit n’ grind is dead in Memphis, but if another team is looking for a defensive guard who can come in and help them get some stops, Allen is still on the market. His lack of shooting is well known, but there are still teams that could use him. He said he didn’t want a lot of money but wanted to be taken care of by the Grizzlies, now with the market tight he may not get more than the minimum

TOP 5 RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

(Note: The market is very tight for all of these guys, there are no max offers out there, and frankly no more $20 million ones either. These guys mostly have to negotiate with their teams.)

1) Nerlens Noel. He and his agent seemed to think that a big offer sheet — the kind we saw last summer for guys like Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson — would be on the way for Noel, setting up his big payday. Instead, there has been nothing. Part of is that other teams knew Dallas would just match, but part of it was also a tighter market this summer. Noel is a rangy, defensive-minded center who Dallas traded to get at the deadline last season, they see him as part of the future of the franchise. All the money for a massive offer has dried up, and Dallas can play hardball and offer a deal that is in the mid-teens in millions per year. Noel will want north of $20 million per year, but considering his injury history he’s not likely to take the qualifying offer and bet on himself.

2) JaMychal Green. Even more than Noel, this is the guy I thought some team would max out and try to poach, but nothing has come down the line for him. There was this odd note on the Fourth of July…

But since then nothing. Crickets. With Zach Randolph gone there is a bigger role for Green in Memphis, expect him to reach a deal eventually.

3) Mason Plumlee. Last summer his brother Miles Plumlee got a four-year, $52 million deal, and Mason is going to get nowhere near that. The summer of 2016 has proven to be an outlier — everyone got paid, and this year teams sobered up. Denver has the rights for Plumlee, who would be the backup to Nikola Jokic, and with a tight market the Nuggets will get to keep this Plumlee at a very affordable price. The only question now is the number.

4) Nikola Mirotic. Stretch fours are in demand across the league, the fact that Mirotic has had no offer sheets speaks to his inconsistency. He’s a stretch four who shot just 34.2 percent from three last season and doesn’t defend well. He did average 10.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game, he has some strong showings in the final six weeks of the season, but those seem the aberrations. The Bulls will play hardball, but with No. 7 pick Lauri Markkanen being unimpressive at Summer League, the Bulls will want Mirotic back and ready to play.

5) Alex Len. You can’t blame him if he saw Meyers Leonard get four-years, $41 million last season, and Bismack Biyambo get $72 million, and Len thought his payday was coming. As with a lot of guys on the restricted free agent market this year (and still on this list) that big offer sheet from another team never came, now their home team can play hardball. He was solid last season averaging 8 points and 6.6 boards per game, but if Noel and Plumlee aren’t getting offer sheets, neither is Len. He’s going to have to reach a deal with the Suns or play for the qualifying offer and test what will be a tight market next summer.