Dan Feldman

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 09:  Eric Bledsoe #2 of the Phoenix Suns celebrates with Devin Booker #1 during the final moments of the NBA game against the Orlando Magic at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 9, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Magic 107-104. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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51Q: What’s the Suns’ plan for their top three guards?


We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off).

The Suns thought they had problems sorting out an Eric BledsoeBrandon Knight backcourt.

Then, Devin Booker emerged.

Booker, still a teenager, looks like the best-case scenario of what Phoenix could’ve reasonably sought when drafting him No. 13 overall last year. He’s an ace 3-point shooter, and his off-the-dribble game is far ahead of projections – which only complicates matters for the Suns.

Neither Bledsoe nor Knight seemed quite happy enough with his amount of time running the offense. With Booker demanding a major role already, now what?

The first issue is minutes. When healthy, that’s 32 minutes for the three players in the backcourt (though Leandro Barbosa might also want to play). A December knee injury sidelined Bledsoe the rest of last season, clearing the way for Booker’s ascension. But Bledsoe should be back, and if his athleticism hasn’t waned, he’s still the team’s best player. Booker can play some small forward, but that leads to another problem…

The fit is tough. Phoenix has not recreated the magic of the 2013-14 duo of Goran Dragic and Bledsoe. Not all two-point guard backcourts are created equally, and Bledsoe and Knight have not meshed as much as they’ve taken turns. Add Booker’s adept passing for a young wing, and there’s even more room for confusion.

Any permeation of the backcourt – Bledsoe-Knight, Bledsoe-Booker, or Knight-Booker – works well enough. Using all three simultaneously has a fighting chance of success. There’s at least not a combination to actively avoid at face value.

But it’ll take a major leap to turn this from three players taking turns with the ball to a trio dangerously passing and attacking from all angles.

And then there are the chemistry issues. Knight has longed viewed himself as a point guard, even if his court vision has been dicey. Bledsoe has worked himself into being a legitimate lead guard, and he’s the team’s highest-paid player. Booker – by virtue of his age, health and production – is the Suns’ most valuable player. That Bledsoe and Booker are leading Phoenix’s offseason workouts could be telling.

Booker is the best of the bunch off the ball, and that could alleviate some short-term issues. His spot-up outside shooting could be big. But teams don’t make a habit of asking their emerging star teenagers to take a lesser role. The Suns will want Booker to initiate the offense at times.

Bledsoe, Knight and Booker are under contract three more seasons, and Knight has a fourth year. The Suns can be patient – if their young guards go along with it. Otherwise, Phoenix is ripe for a trade.

Report: Iman Shumpert also cited for marijuana possession in traffic stop

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 10: Iman Shumpert #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers is seen against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 10, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Iman Shumpert was arrested near Atlanta on suspicion of driving under the influence last month.

The Cavaliers guard could also face a marijuana charge.


During the stop, the officer says Shumpert reeked of weed — and his eyes were bloodshot.

The cop administered a field sobriety test and determined Shumpert was high. Shumpert also admitted he had smoked weed before leaving his friend’s house.

Cops searched the car and found a mason jar with marijuana.

Shumpert was handcuffed and arrested for DUI marijuana and possession of weed (less than an ounce). He was also cited for failure to maintain his lane.

It’s not exactly a newsflash that NBA players – like many other Americans – smoke weed. It’s when they put others at risk by driving that it should be a real problem. Unfortunately, Shumpert’s case will be more complicated as a result of the substance he happened to use.

Kobe Bryant congratulates ‘big brother’ Shaq on Hall of Fame

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
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There was a time Kobe Bryant would’ve loathed calling Shaquille O’Neal his big brother and heaping praise on the center.

Shaq didn’t work as hard as Kobe. Shaq didn’t take basketball as seriously as Kobe. Shaq didn’t always play with the ferociousness of Kobe.

But, man, Shaq sure could play.

So, no matter how much he once resented his former Lakers teammate, Kobe is paying respect as Shaq enters the Basketball Hall of Fame:

Most dominant big of all time? I’ll take Wilt Chamberlain, but Shaq certainly has a case.

Pistons assistant Tim Hardaway pleads no contest to drunken driving

Tim Hardaway
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Pistons assistant coach and former Heat/Warriors star Tim Hardaway was charged with drunken driving for an April incident.

John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Pistons assistant coach Tim Hardaway faces up to six months in jail after pleading no contest Thursday to violating Michigan’s so-called “super-drunk” driving law.

Hardaway refused a breath test, so officers obtained a search warrant to draw a blood sample. It showed Hardaway’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.17%, more than double the legal limit, and enough to trigger the super-drunk provision of the law, which includes tougher penalties.

“The man is 50 years old and never been in trouble in his life,” Ribitwer said. “It was an aberration, and he took responsibility for it.”

Expect the NBA to impose a suspension. If Hardaway finds a way to and from The Palace, he’ll serve it with the Pistons.

Pat Riley says he didn’t coach Lakers in 2004 because they wouldn’t address Shaq-Kobe feud

MIAMI - DECEMBER 25:  Head Coach Pat Riley of the Miami Heat chats with Shaquille O'Neal #32 during a break in the action against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 25, 2005 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)
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Pat Riley met with the Lakers about succeeding Phil Jackson as coach in 2004, a job that ultimately went to Rudy Tomjanovich.

Why didn’t Riley, then and still the Heat president, return to Los Angeles?

On his end: The Lakers’ approach to the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant feud.

Riley, via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

“We sat and we talked about the team,” Riley says. “And I remember the one conversation that came up and I asked them the question, I said, ‘What about Shaquille and Kobe?’ And they said . . . ”

Riley pauses, as if conjuring the tension of two decades earlier between O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

“They really didn’t want to talk about it,” he says of the meeting with the since-deceased Lakers owner. “And I said the only way that I could come and coach the team is they give me a chance to put these two back together, to build this relationship and to keep this thing going forward, because I thought with their team, and what they had just accomplished, that they could win more championships together in Los Angeles.

“And right after that, we all went upstairs to dinner and that was the last I heard about them wanting me to coach —  but they definitely would like to make a trade with us. So I don’t know if he brought me out there to really coach the team, or if he brought me out there to speculate on whether or not we would trade Wade and Caron Butler and everything else. And I said no. But when they called back, when Mitch [Kupchak, the Lakers’ general manager] called back, there is no doubt we had interest and that then formulated into an offer and then a trade that was made for Caron and Lamar [Odom] and Brian Grant with the first-round pick. And we ended up getting Shaq and we ended up getting the championship. “

Lakers management knew better than Riley the depth’s of the Shaq-Kobe feud. Riley had the cachet where maybe the superstars would’ve tried to continue coexisting in Los Angeles. But the divide was real.

As is, it worked out for both sides. Riley greased the wheels on a Shaq trade, which Riley called the best acquisition in Heat history. Shaq helped Miami win the 2006 championship, and Riley has won a couple more titles as the Heat’s top basketball executive. The Lakers stuck with Kobe, brought back Jackson, traded for Pau Gasol and won a couple more titles.

But Shaq, Kobe and Riley joining forces in 2004 is a great “what if?” for the Lakers.