Dan Feldman

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Report: Heat’s Rodney McGruder out 3-6 months with leg injury

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After going undrafted out of Kansas State in 2013, Rodney McGruder climbed into the NBA last season. With the Heat, he even worked his way into the starting lineup and appeared likely to keep his job at small forward this season.

But this is a devastating setback.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The 26-year-old McGruder is in his prime earning years, but he’s so cheap – partially guaranteed at the minimum this season, unguaranteed at the minimum next season – the Heat will probably keep him. They’ll just have to adjust their rotation and hope this isn’t a season-ender.

McGruder balanced the starting lineup, comprised of other players more comfortable with the ball in their hands. He just made enough open 3-pointers to stay on the court, where he focused on playing rugged defense. Without him, Miami must adjust to a new dynamic.

Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow are in line for more minutes at small forward now. Richardson is the far better shooter, but there will be diminishing returns on his playmaking while sharing the court with Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. Winslow brings defense, but his shooting is a liability.

Trickling down, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson, Waiters and Dragic can collectively cover the minutes Richardson would have spent in the backcourt.

Miami is built to withstand this loss. It’s still a bummer, though.

Report: Phil Jackson reportedly floored multiple free agents with unpreparedness in meetings

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Remember that time former Knicks president Phil Jackson reportedly couldn’t get his computer to work during a free-agent pitch meeting? That was just an isolated gaffe, right?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I heard some horror stories about Phil in presentation situations with players – unprepared, just disorganized. And sometimes, he’d have Steve Mills in there, who’d try to re-direct him. But I know of a couple players who walked out of meetings in a couple different free-agent scenarios and, “Wow, that was Phil Jackson? That’s now how I imagined he’d be.”

At least he showed up and stayed awake (I think).

Three questions the Phoenix Suns must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 24-58, missed the playoffs for the seventh straight season

I know what you did last summer: In a quiet offseason, the Suns drafted Josh Jackson No. 4, re-signed Alan Williams, signed Alex Len to a qualifying offer and signed T.J. Warren to a contract extension.

THREE QUESTIONS THE SUNS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Devin Booker and Josh Jackson justify Phoenix’s faith in them? Right off the bat, the Suns assured Booker and Jackson they wouldn’t be traded for Kyrie Irving. Booker and Jackson are valuable players, to be sure, but – especially evidenced by the package the Celtics surrendered – so is Irving.

To a degree it makes sense. Booker is under team control another three years, Jackson another five, and it’d likely take major financial sacrifice by either player to leave soon after that. Irving is locked up just two more seasons until unrestricted free agency. Not close to winning, Phoenix should prioritize the long-term, which means valuing younger, cheaper players like Booker and Jackson.

But Booker and Jackson aren’t even close to the caliber of Irving. Will get they ever get there? It’s far from certain.

Booker is a weak defender whose volume scoring comes at only moderate efficiency. Jackson was the No. 4 pick, and despite plenty of hype he could go higher, that looked about right to me. His jumper is unreliable, and he was old for a freshman.

Again, Booker and Jackson are very valuable. But that’s due in large part to their contract status and age. As they get older, their value will become more directly tied to their performance on the court.

The Suns, at least with Booker, were probably correct to bet on their current players, given the team’s distance from winning even if it had Irving. But for that bet to pay off, Booker must improve and Jackson must hit on the higher end of his projections.

There’s still time – see everything above – but the upcoming season is the opportunity at hand.

2) How patient will owner Robert Sarver be? The Suns have gone a franchise-long seven years without making the playoffs, and they’re unlikely to reach the postseason this year. How desperate is Sarver to return to the playoffs (or, maybe more accurately, return to earning playoff revenue)?

He seemingly signed off on this plan, even extending general manager Ryan McDonough this summer. But Sarver wouldn’t be the first owner with overly ambitious ideas of what his team can accomplish. Even if Sarver is completely realistic about this roster, living daily through losing is another thing.

Phoenix has a nice group of players on rookie-scale contracts: Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender. Another high lottery pick in 2018 and maybe even 2019 and patience could put this rebuild over the top.

But if Sarver gets antsy, the plan could turn in a hurry.

3) What will T.J. Warren show? Warren is the litmus test for this team in a number of ways.

With a four-year, $47 million extension, Phoenix has more money tied into Warren than any other player. In the simplest terms, the more a team pays a player, the more important he plays well. But with so few moves to evaluate this offseason, McDonough could face greater scrutiny for the Warren deal.

Warren is good at weaving his way close to the basket and making close-range shots. But his shooting reliability ends before the 3-point arc, and he lacks all-around skill. He has also missed 42, 35 and 16 games in his three-year career.

The progression of Warren, a combo forward, will affect how Phoenix evaluates Jackson, Chriss and Bender. Which of those players are long-term pieces (and at which positions)? Warren is already paid like one, though it’s unclear whether he belongs or whom he can play with.

If the Suns have a chance of being surprisingly competitive this year, Warren could be the swing piece. Booker is in a league of his own. Eric Bledsoe, Jared Dudley and Tyson Chandler are the known quantities when healthy. Warren – older and more polished than Jackson, Chriss and Bender – is somewhat of a variable.

How Warren fares could say plenty about Phoenix’s season and long-term direction.

Report: Chris Bosh hasn’t ruled out NBA return

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Chris Bosh and the Heat completed a drawn-out, sometimes-difficult parting in July. Bosh – who has not been cleared to play in more than a year due to being on blood thinners following multiple blood-clot episodes – was waived and became a free agent. Expected to remain on blood thinners, Bosh qualified for, essentially, medical retirement. He’ll still earn the $52,127,110 remaining on his contract, but his salary won’t count against Miami’s cap.

The end?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Bosh is living in Southern California and associates say Bosh has by no means ruled out playing again despite his past battle with blood clots.

Bosh always appeared to have a hard time letting go of his playing career, and who could blame him? He spent countless hours making himself a professional basketball player, and that’s how he defined himself.

Why rule out returning?

Doctors might. The medical consensus is that he’ll need blood thinners for the rest of his life and it’s not safe for him to play on blood thinners.

But technology can improve. Perhaps, there’s a breakthrough in treating Bosh’s condition, though it’d have to come relatively quick for the 33-year-old.

If Bosh wants to cling to that hope, let him. I just hope he finds peace in the likely event he’s unable to play again.

Grizzlies to retire Tony Allen’s No. 9

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Marc Gasol, sizing up last season why the Grizzlies must re-sign Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, said of the pair: “One is the president of Memphis. The other is mayor.”

Well, the Grizzlies let Randolph (Kings) and Allen (Pelicans) walk.

Now, the franchise trying to keep the bond, anyway.

Memphis already said it would retire Randolph’s No. 50. Now, Allen is getting similar treatment.

Grizzlies release:

Robert J. Pera: Controlling Owner, Memphis Grizzlies

“Tony was a driving force behind the Grizzlies’ seven straight playoff appearances and he remains a beloved member of the Memphis community. Tony played with a level of passion that is unrivaled. He helped establish a Grizzlies culture focused on toughness and effort, and he challenged every player that put on Beale Street Blue to match his fiery intensity. On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank him for his incredible contributions to the Grizzlies and the unique way that he inspired the city of Memphis. We are proud that the Grindfather’s #9 jersey will hang in the rafters of FedExForum alongside Zach’s one day.”

Chris Wallace: General Manager, Memphis Grizzlies

“Tony will forever be one of the Core Four responsible for the turnaround in the Memphis Grizzlies’ fortunes and our surge in popularity. There would never have been seven straight years of playoff appearances, the incredible electricity in FedExForum for home games, ‘Grit and Grind’ and ‘Believe Memphis’ without Tony Allen’s contributions to the team.  In the process Tony became more than just one of the toughest defenders in the league – he became a true cult hero who was intertwined with the soul of Memphis like few athletes ever have in any city. Tony and his family will be missed but his impact on the Grizzlies and Memphis will never be forgotten.”

Allen was instrumental in creating the Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind persona. Not only did he coin the phrase, his toughness and defense embodied it. His seven years in Memphis coincided with the franchise’s best run – seven playoff appearances, including reaching the 2013 Western Conference finals and upsetting the No. 1-seeded Spurs in the 2011 first round.

The Grizzlies – who began as an expansion team in Vancouver in 1995 – have no numbers retired. In due time, they’ll honor this peak era. Gasol and Mike Conley, who still play in Memphis, will likely join Allen and Randolph with numbers in the rafters.