Kurt Helin

Phoenix Suns Media Day

Suns wonder about Markieff Morris’ state of mind after they traded his brother

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Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris are the kind of twins who are very tight, they are best friends. They played their high school ball together at APEX Academy in New Jersey, they played in college together at Kansas, and they have played together as pros the past two and a half seasons in Phoenix.

Then this summer the Suns traded Marcus to Detroit, part of their salary clearing moves in the chase for LaMarcus Aldridge (who chose San Antonio).

Markieff is apparently not thrilled about this.

Here is Suns GM Ryan McDonough speaking to Dave King of Bright Side of the Suns (hat tip Ball Don’t Lie).

“I think he’s at a reasonable place now,” McDonough said of what he’s heard via others in the organization. “I don’t know if it’s a good place or not. I think he’s processed all of it, he had time to let the rawness, the emotional part of it wear off.”

 

And here is coach Jeff Hornacek, speaking to ArizonaSports.com (hat tip Bright Side of the Suns).

JH: I’ve texted him a few times. We might try to go see him this week. We’ll be out on the East Coast.

BG: Does he seem like he’s doing OK with how everything went about?

JH: Yeah, I’m sure just like anything else, whenever a trade, especially with as close as him and his brother are, there was some hurt feelings for a little bit. It’s a case where they’re going to do their best wherever they’re at. Once you get into the season, and you get with your team, they’ve played apart before too, they will be fine.

The Suns locker room was not a place of harmony and love last season, and frankly the Morris twins were part of that. Bright Side of the Suns described them as “cranky.”

Hornacek and McDonough are taking the big picture view. As they should. And the Morris brothers should know very well by now that the NBA is a cold hearted business at its core. They were not going to get to play together forever.

But some guys let go of things easier than others. We’ll see how good Markieff is at that skill.

 

Pacers trade for Rakeem Christmas from Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Rakeem Christmas was not going to be part of the Cavaliers roster — they are win-now, he is a guy in need of development.

Indiana has time to develop guys, so they have traded for him. The Pacers announced the move, saying they gave up the future second-round pick they acquired in the Roy Hibbert trade.

“We really liked Rakeem when he came in for pre-draft workouts,” Pacers basketball operations guru Larry Bird said in a statement. “He is a solid player who was a contributor all four years at Syracuse and we look forward to having him on our team.”

Christmas showed flashes of good defense and shot blocking, plus a little offense, at Summer League. However, he shot 33.3 percent and didn’t exactly blow any doors off. He’s a guy who spent four years at Syracuse and still needs to develop his game.

Christmas is 6’10” and incredibly long — a 7’5” wingspan. He was a shot blocker camped in the middle of the Syracuse zone in college, but he has the body to defend in the NBA post. He seemed to struggle against more athletic, smaller players.

For a Pacers team that just moved Hibbert from the middle of their defense, taking a flier on Christmas makes some sense. We’ll see if he can make the roster behind Jordan Hill, Myles Turner and Ian Mahinmi. That seems a long shot, but he’s got a better chance there than Cleveland.

Lance Stephenson: “Definitely it hurt me” that Michael Jordan traded him

Lance Stephenson
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The Lance Stephenson era in Charlotte was a disaster. He went from shooting 49.1 percent his last season in Indiana to 37.6 percent in Charlotte. His defense wasn’t the same. As a good snapshot, his PER fell from 14.6 in Indy to a “he should be in the D-League” 8.8. He was being shopped by the middle of last season.

He landed this summer in a potentially great spot with the Los Angeles Clippers, but that doesn’t make getting traded by Michael Jordan any fun.

Stephenson talked about that and much more with Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling in a fantastic interview worth reading.

“Yeah, definitely it hurt me (getting traded by Jordan). I felt like I could’ve done more for the organization, I felt like we had pieces, and we just couldn’t get over that hump. There were a lot of injuries, a lot of things that just held us back from having a successful season….

“(Jordan) was communicating with me, telling me to keep a positive head even though I had a rough year. This was one of the roughest seasons—injuries, not getting my spot back. I felt like I could help this squad, but it just didn’t go the way I planned it to go. It’s a good learning experience and it really humbled me, because when you have high expectations, you feel like you’re that guy. It made me feel like, “Hey, you’ve got to keep working. Never stop grinding. Don’t take this stuff for granted because playing basketball is a blessing and you’re getting paid for it.”

Stephenson said that he and Kemba Walker didn’t blend well because they were too similar in style, both wanted the ball in their hands. That could be an issue with Chris Paul on the floor for the Clippers, but you could see Stephenson leading the second unit with the ball in his hands more.

The real question is off the court with Stephenson — how will he impact the chemistry of a team trying to get that right now after DeAndre Jordan’s free agency and what that brought to the surface. Stephenson continues to say his off-the-court issues are overblown.

“You can ask any of the guys that I played with. When I’m on the floor, I want to win. They know how I am. If I yell at them, it’s just because I want to win. They’re not looking at me like, “Lance is an assh–e.” Some people are intimidated to come up to me because of the way I play.”

I expect we will see a bounce-back season from Stephenson, he will be key to the Clippers’ improved bench. And if he gets the chance to blow in LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs again, that would mean the Clippers are in the Finals, and they will be good with it.

Knicks’ Summer League standout Maurice NDour headed to Mavericks’ training camp

Golden State Warriors vs New York Knicks
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Maurice NDour looked good for the Knicks at Summer League. He had great energy and outworked people at both ends of the floor, was disruptive on defense thanks to his length, and a averaged 9.6 points and 4.8 rebounds a game, while shooting 51.2 percent.

Knicks coach Derek Fisher said they liked what they saw from NDour, but they were not sure they would have an open roster spot for him come training camp.

So instead NDour is headed to Dallas, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

There are two reasons for NDour — who is from Senegal and played his college ball at Ohio (not State) — to make this move, and money is the first one. If you’re going to get cut, get the largest payday you can.

Second is not getting cut at all — where can he make a roster?

Dallas gives him a chance as a reserve center. Zaza Pachulia will be the starting five this season in Dallas, but they are bringing a lot of players to camp to see who might back him up . Greg Smith and Bernard James could return after playing in Dallas last season but neither are for sure. Jarrid Famous got a camp invite like NDour, and Satnam Singh will be in camp but is much more likely destined for a season in the D-League.

Dallas famously lost out on DeAndre Jordan this summer, and that left the team in need of rim protection inside. NDour and Famous will get a chance to prove they can provide that.

LaMarcus Aldridge says Lakers meeting was “blown out of proportion,” same with Knicks non-meeting

LaMarcus Aldridge
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There’s a theory that LaMarcus Aldridge always knew what team he would choose this summer. He took the meetings, had a few nice steak dinners, but so long as the Spurs could work the cap situation out, he was coming to San Antonio.

True or not, those other meetings became big stories — particularly the Lakers meeting, which did not go well at all. The Lakers pitch was reportedly heavy on selling Los Angeles as a marketing and lifestyle destination — but Aldridge already has a home in the area (Orange County), they needed to sell him on basketball but didn’t. The Lakers went from being one of the co-favorites to land him to being voted off the island. The Lakers got a second meeting, but it didn’t change things.

Then Aldridge didn’t even meet with the Knicks.

Both of those were huge stories, but Aldridge told Basketball Insiders it got blown out of proportion.

“With the Lakers, it wasn’t anything crazy,” Aldridge said. “It was just the [first] meeting didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, so I did another one.  People blew it out of proportion about things happening in the meeting. That wasn’t correct. It just didn’t go as good as I wanted it to so I had one more….

“About the New York Knicks, they told me that they wanted me to play strictly [center],” Aldridge said. “So they didn’t want to meet with me. People was saying it was me, but it was both parties agreeing that we shouldn’t meet.”

 

Why the second meeting with the Lakers? Because Aldridge’s agent Arn Tellem has an excellent relationship with GM Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers, he’s has done a lot of business with them and would like to do more in the future, and how that story broke nationally was an embarrassment to the Lakers. Online and on sports talk radio, discussion of what the Lakers were doing wrong in their pitch meetings became a thing. Tellem was looking for a way for the organization to save face.

As for the Lakers pitch being light on basketball, what could they sell him right now? They had won 21 games the past season, and their hope for the future on the court — D’Angello Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle — were years away from helping the team contend for a title. Kobe Bryant is a legend but is entering likely his final season. The rest of the cupboard was pretty bare. Even with Aldridge (and another max free agent to come in the next couple years) this team was years away. Aldridge is 30 years old, he can’t wait around for that to come together. The on-the-court pitch was doomed before it started.

Or, maybe I’m just blowing it all out of proportion like Aldridge said.