Kurt Helin

Phoenix Suns Media Day

Suns GM admits roster is guard heavy

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When the Phoenix Suns went after, then won the bidding for Isaiah Thomas last summer, the question was always fit. They already had an interesting backcourt with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, plus they were trying to fit Gerald Green into the mix. Thomas is a good player and the Suns wanted to play fast and small but seemed to be overkill.

Turns out it was. Sure, the Suns are a solid team at 29-25 (the eight seed in the West) and Thomas is averaging15.2 points a game off the bench. However, the Suns have struggled in close games, in part because their three-guard lineups have the team playing small and good players are getting quality looks over them in crunch time.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough admitted the roster was guard heavy on Arizona Sports radio Wednesday.

“I think our roster balance is a little off, and that’s my fault,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “We are a little too backcourt heavy, especially in terms of guys who, you know, I think you’d define primarily as scorers in the backcourt.

“So I think at some point we’ll need to balance that out, try to get a little more size, a little more frontcourt scoring and rebounding.”

The Suns are 3-7 in their last 10 and go into the All-Star break just half a game ahead of surging Oklahoma City. The Suns look like once again they will finish with 45 or more wins only to miss the playoffs in the stacked West.

Could a trade change that? Sure. Teams are calling about Goran Dragic in particular, but the Suns are demanding at least a good first round pick. It can be hard to get value at the trade deadline (especially with Dragic becoming a free agent this summer, so teams can just bid on him then).

McDonough admitted making a deal will be difficult.

“At the same time it’s a challenge because we do have talented players, they’ve all had success individually and team success in the NBA,” he said, “so those are some of the decisions we’ll kind of mull over the next week or so and we’ll see where we are on the 19th next week.”

Three Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: Tony Snell’s becoming a thing for Bulls

Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Tony Snell
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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while knitting sweaters for penguins….

1) The Bulls can put together an impressive game. Sporadically. Before the season — heck, even now — you look at the Bulls on paper, and you think that should be the best team in the East. But over the course of the season we have seen only flashes of that Bulls team — we saw it again on Thursday night as the Bulls handled the hot Cavaliers. Derrick Rose was attacking and put up 30 points, putting pressure on the improved Cavaliers defense the whole time. Pau Gasol had his 14th straight double-double. Most importantly, the Bulls defended like we expect them to (something that has not happened much this season). In no way was this a playoff preview; there was no Jimmy Butler, no Kevin Love, and by mid-April both of these teams will be different anyway. But if you’re a Bulls fan, you can see  a statement win and a reason for hope in this.

2) Tony Snell is becoming a thing. That’s how our man Sean Highkin described it to me — he was at the game writing the dispatch for PBT. And he’s right. Snell put up 22 against the Cavaliers on 9-of-11 shooting, more importantly he played good defense on LeBron James all night (LeBron had eight turnovers on the night). Snell stepped up in the absence of Jimmy Butler, but it’s becoming a regular occurrence. He had 24 points against the Kings Tuesday night, last weekend he had 19 against New Orleans. If Snell can become a consistent force for the Bulls, they get that much better. But consistency has been the key with all things Bulls this season.

3) George Karl will try to bring stability to Kings organization. In his five years with the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins has now had five coaches. While there were reports he and his agent were trying to block the hiring of Karl, in reality they wanted to express concern about how this franchise has seemed to shift plans every couple years. Part of that was the mess that the Maloof family ownership was its last few years. However, Vivek Ranadive hired Mike Malone to provide that structure and bring some professionalism to the organization, then once Malone didRanadive either decided or allowed (depending on what source you want to believe) the coach to be canned so they could become more of a running team. Karl is the kind of coach with the gravitas to change this pattern, and more than anything else he does that needs to be the ultimate goal. Pick a style, and then stick with it long enough for it to take root.

Report: Anthony Mason’s condition has “improved slightly”

New York Knicks v Golden State Warriors
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Things sounded dire when news of Anthony Mason’s condition broke on Wednesday. He had congestive heart failure that led to multiple surgeries — one lasting nine hours — in the last few days and was fighting for his life.

But there is a ray of hope, with the news coming courtesy the New York Times.

Don Cronson, who was Mason’s agent when he played in the N.B.A., expressed slight optimism during the day on Thursday after a member of Mason’s immediate family gave him an update on Mason’s condition. “Right now, it’s day to day, but that’s an improvement from moment to moment,” Cronson said.

He said Mason, 48, who last played in the N.B.A. in the 2002-3 season, had gone to a hospital for a checkup for heart issues and had the heart attack there. Cronson said family members had been told that Mason might need a heart transplant if he survived.

There is no good news here, but if you’re going to have a heart attack the hospital is the best place to do it.

Mason played 13 NBA seasons for a number of NBA teams but is best remembered as a fan-favorite in New York. His toughness, ability to defend multiple positions, and physicality were a big part of the Pat Riley’s New York grinding teams in the Patrick Ewing era. Riley recruited Mason to Miami when Riley went south, and with the Heat Mason was named the Sixth Man of the Year in 1995. He averaged 10.8 points and 8.3 rebounds a game over the course of his career. He made the All-Star Game in 2001.

Our thoughts remain with Mason’s family in this difficult time.

Jared Dudley says he played last season with fractured knee because Doc Rivers asked him to

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat
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Jared Dudley’s numbers with the Clippers last season look like an aberration.

Three seasons ago he shot 39.1 percent from three (for Phoenix), that fell to 36 percent last season for the Clippers, then this season it is up to 44.2 percent for the Bucks. His numbers bounced like that across the board. Maybe the best example is his Player Efficiency Rating (PER): It went from right at the league average of 14.9 in Phoenix, to a “send him to the D-League” 8.9 with the Clippers, and now is back up to 14.4 with the Bucks.

Dudley says there is a reason for that: He was playing with a fractured knee. Because Doc Rivers asked him to.

That’s what Dudley told Zach Lowe on the Grantland podcast (hat tip Arash Markazi of ESPN).

“Here’s the thing with the Clippers,” Dudley said. “When I hurt my back in Vegas, I show up there in September trying to get with the training staff, and sometimes when you have an injury it leads to another injury, so basically I was nursing what I thought was tendinitis at the time in my knee, basically I really couldn’t bend my knee 90 degrees so I had to deal with that for the first month or so. I basically went to Doc Rivers and said, ‘Hey, I’ve never had to deal with this, I can’t bend my knee, all my shots are short, I can’t move laterally, I need to sit out.’ At that time Matt Barnes was out with a calf injury and J.J. Redick was out with a herniated disk and he said, ‘Hey, I need you to give me 10-15 games and when those guys come back, I’ll give you a rest.’

“Well, during that time I just couldn’t guard anyone. I couldn’t make a shot, all my shots were short and then confidence happened. By midseason, I get my X-ray and I had a little fracture in my knee so I knew what I was feeling was more than tendinitis. By midseason, [Rivers] brings in [Danny] Granger and I was sent to the pine. The trade [to Milwaukee] was the best thing for my career, where I got with a training staff that got me healthy and when I’m healthy, I’m the player you see now and the player you saw in Phoenix.”

Dudley said his understanding with Rivers was he would play through the injury as best he could and the Clippers would bring him back this season once he had the summer to get healthy. Instead, they traded him to Milwaukee.

“I talked to Doc maybe a week and a half before I got traded,” Dudley told Zach Lowe on his Lowe Post podcast on Grantland. “That was in August. He was basically like, ‘Hey, you’re young. I don’t know what happened this season.’ I basically told him, ‘You know what happened. I wasn’t right and I thought I would be able to come back.’ “

It’s worked out well for Dudley, but the Clippers might have wanted to get him healthy as they could certainly use his depth on the wing and his three-point shooting right now.

Steve Kerr says he’s still deciding between Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge to start for Anthony Davis

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers
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Steve Kerr has had a lot more decisions to make as the Western Conference All-Star Game coach. Usually this is a “roll the ball out there and let them play” kind of gig. But this year, with three fan-elected starters dropping out due to injury, Kerr has had to chose who moves into the starting rotation (the Commissioner chooses who gets the empty roster spot).

James Harden and Klay Thompson will start in place of Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant; that was already decided.

Now Kerr has to choose who starts for the injured Anthony Davis, who sprained his shoulder recently. Kerr told Marc Stein on ESPN Radio it’s down to Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge.

https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/566018851666542592

Duncan all but said a couple years ago he didn’t need the All-Star experience anymore, he’d done it enough. Last season the coaches took it easy on him and didn’t vote him in as an alternate, but this season he got in.

And apparently nobody loves that more than Kerr.