Kurt Helin

Report: Suns not looking to trade Eric Bledsoe. Also not shopping Brandon Knight (for now)

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The Phoenix Suns are loaded with guys who can play the point — Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyler Ulis, and Leandro Barbosa. Considering there are a number of teams around the league that could use a solid point guard, you can be sure the trade rumors are coming, even as the Suns see Knight more as a scorer coming off the bench.

But right now, the Suns aren’t looking to make a move, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.

Still, the Suns did not flip a coveted Lakers pick for Knight, and then pay him $14 million per season, to be a backup. The league is cool on Knight now, but given the dearth of wings, the Suns might find a palatable trade market if Knight starts strong. (There is no indication that they have any interest in trading Bledsoe right now, sources say.)

This is one of those cases where the Suns may not be looking to make a move, but if the calls start coming and offers follow, they will listen. Knight hasn’t found a groove in Phoenix since being traded from Milwaukee, the Suns can’t be holding out forever for that to change.

The Suns have some nice young pieces. Devin Booker is locked in as the starting two guard, and players like Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, and Alex Len are working to establish themselves. But there are holes on a roster that once again doesn’t look playoff bound. If Knight — or Bledsoe for that matter — can be flipped for a wing player that fills a need, the Suns need to at least listen, right?

Kyrie Irving has a new shirt with himself as “The Ankletaker”


Kyrie Irving could make a lot of money selling these. (Yes, I know he already has a lot of money, and the next time you meet a rich person who says they have enough money let me know.)

The Cavaliers’ point guard, who is known for his wicked crossover, had a shirt made with an image of himself in the WWE star The Undertaker’s hat and outfit, and it’s called “The Ankletaker.”

That shirt is savage. And whoever he got to do the graphics on it deserves double what he got paid.

Seriously, Irving and the Cavaliers (or, Nike) should start selling these.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki pushed for disastrous Rajon Rondo to Dallas trade

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Back in 2015, Rajon Rondo and Rick Carlisle mixed about as well as ammonia and bleach. Or alcohol and late-night texting. You get the idea. The high-IQ, strong-willed player who likes to do things his way, and the coach who wants to micromanage, were destined to be a disaster. Rondo’s time on the court kept dropping and dropping to the point when he was deactivated midway through a first-round playoff series and left the team.

Carlisle knew what was coming before the trade. Dallas gave up a lot of quality — Jae Crowder, Jameer Nelson, Brandan Wright, and a first-round draft pick — to Boston in a deal Carlisle didn’t want to happen.

Why did it? Dirk Nowitzki. That’s what Mavericks writer Tim MacMahon of ESPN said to Nate Duncan on the Dunc’d On’s Season Outlook for the Dallas Mavericks. (Hat tip Real GM. Also, if you’re not listening to the Dunc’d On podcast, you’re doing it wrong.)

“The Rondo deal, that’s the one that stands out. Rick Carlisle told them he did not want him. He said he was going to kill the spacing. He said Rondo is going to be a really bad fit. But essentially what happened there, and Rick stood down once he understood this, Dirk wanted the deal done. Dirk has traded for two point guard during his time. He’s traded for Jason Kidd; that one helped deliver a championship here. Got off to a rocky start but certainly ended up with a ring. He made one great deal for a point guard while the Rondo trade was a total disaster.”

Consider this your 1,672,341st reminder that in the NBA superstars wield a lot of power. A lot of them also think they know how to be GMs, when in fact they are horrible at it.

Rondo was given a lot of freedom by Geroge Karl in Sacramento last season, and he put up better numbers — he shot 36.5 percent from three — but the Kings were not happy with the fit on or off the court and didn’t chase him hard as a free agent this summer.

Rondo is going to be a huge key to just how good Chicago is this season. Can he help provide some spacing? He’s a clever passer still but will he be willing to share offensive control with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler at times? Will he be better than he has been on defense? Can he make this team of assorted pieces mesh? He will be at the heart of whatever success the Bulls do or do not have.

Phoenix Suns tracking team’s high-fives this year (because winning teams do it more)


Back in 2010, a study was done that found a correlation between how much teams high-fived and how much they won (other congratulatory contacts were counted, too). For the most part, the more high-fives, the better the team.

One of the authors of that first study took it another step last year and in a study of high-fives on teams — accounting for likelihood of winning and other factors — and it found teams that high-fived more not only tended to win more, they tended to be the teams that shared the ball more on offense, set more screens, helped more on defense and generally played better team ball.

You can add high-five tracking to the advanced stats the Suns are keeping this season. From Cody Cunningham of Suns.com (hat tip Dan DeVine at Ball Don’t Lie).

“We have a high-five stat,” Head Coach Earl Watson said following the 91-86 victory. “I’m being honest with you. This is true. So we want to keep track of how many high-fives we get per game to each other.”

This, of course, aligns with Watson’s philosophy of preaching trust, family and selflessness to his team. When asked about Dudley and Chandler’s morale-boosting high-fives on Monday, the first-year coach said “I’ll let them know you said they led the team in high-fives.”

I assume Dean Oliver is not adding high-fives to his four factors.

Obviously, the increase in high-fives is not causing teams to play better, it’s more a byproduct of better chemistry on a squad. That said, if tracking the high-fives can provide a little insight into which players are more comfortable and play better with each other, why not?


51 Questions: Is Harrison Barnes ready to be a primary option?


We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we 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. Today:

Is Harrison Barnes ready to be a primary option?

Harrison Barnes didn’t put together a max player resume during the playoffs last season.

During the Western Conference Finals, even as a key part of the “death lineup” in Golden State, Barnes found himself watching games from the bench. During the Finals the 6’8” swingman was in a severe shooting slump, a situation he exacerbated by trying to do too much off the ball to make up for it and creating other problems. By the end of the Finals, the Cavaliers were treating Barnes like he was Tony Allen taking an open jumper.

Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks gave Barnes a max four-year, $94 million deal anyway.

“I think he can do a lot more than he’s been asked to do, and that’s what we expect to see…” Cuban said. “Maybe not first year, but I think he’s going to grow into (the role of a go-to player). Just because a guy hasn’t done things doesn’t mean he can’t do it.”

That’s a big bet the Mavericks have made — Barnes had a below-average PER of 12.3 last season.

Is Harrison Barnes ready to be a primary option?

Cuban is right about one thing, Barnes is certainly going to have to grow into that role.

In Golden State, both of Mark Jackson and then Steve Kerr, Barnes struggled when asked to create his own shot. Remember Jackson’s last year as coach when he designated Barnes as the sixth man and asked him to dominate the ball with the second unit? Barnes shot 39.9 percent with a PER of 9.8 (the kind of number that usually screams “time in the D-League” for young players). Kerr moved Barnes back into the starting lineup where he thrived because he got cleaner looks — on 128 of his 214 three-pointers last season there wasn’t a defender within six feet of him. The gravity of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson opened up the floor for Barnes.

Dirk Nowitzki is still a quality player, but he doesn’t have that kind of pull.

Barnes has an adjustment ahead of him, and one didn’t need to watch his 4-of-18 shooting through the first two preseason games to figure that out (to be fair, Rick Carlisle said they like the looks Barnes was getting). Barnes is taking on an entirely new role with a lot more to carry on his shoulders. Maybe he can do it, but it’s unfair to expect him to be able to do it right away.

How fast Barnes adapts will depend, in part, on those around him: Does Nowitzki stave off father time for another year? Is Wesley Matthews healthy, have his explosion back, and is he a dangerous offensive threat? Does Deron Williams continue to be a solid contributor at the point? Is Andrew Bogut still himself in a new setting? If those things come together it becomes harder to defend the other options on the floor, the easier it is for Barnes. Late in the clock, expect the Mavericks to still use Nowitzki as a crutch.

Barnes is an upgrade in Dallas over Chandler Parsons, both defensively and just because Barnes likely will play the majority of games this season.

But patience will be the word in Dallas.

Barnes is part of the transition to a post-Nowitzki world in Dallas, and Cuban has bet on Barnes growing into a true No. 1 player. A guy who the offense can run through, who can create for himself and others. It’s fair to look at Barnes NBA time and question if he can become that guy, but there certainly is talent and potential there. Rick Carlisle and crew need to tap into it.

The answer to “is Harrison Barnes ready to be a primary option?” will not be answerable until the summer of 2018. Then we should have a good idea. For now, we just need to see growth. And a few more made buckets.