Phoenix Suns could be next to board the D-League gravy train

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According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Phoenix Suns are interested in creating a new D-League team to operate out of Prescott Valley, AZ.

That’s a big move in itself, and a signal of just how far the D-League has come this season. Having the resources to develop players on the minor league level and dig up talent like Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Williams, or Alonzo Gee is now a serious competitive advantage. One that teams around the league would be foolish to ignore.

Coro indicates that the Suns would be leaning toward the hybrid affiliation of D-League ownership, which could actually be the most beneficial to the team. The model would grant the D-League team autonomy on the business side of the operation (though at the NBA affiliate’s expense for three years), but the NBA team (in this case, the Suns) would have complete control over the basketball side. Coaching staff, system, playbook, roster — everything would be in the hands of the Suns to control, and that’s a very powerful tool.

The only existing hybrid affiliated team is the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, which are operated by the Houston Rockets. Houston remains one of the best examples of a team using the D-League for internal development and as an additional source of playing time, and have called up the likes of Mike Harris and Garrett Temple this season for stints in the big leagues.

The Suns could be poised to do the same, as the utility and malleability of the hybrid model are what make it so enticing. It helps Phoenix to keep better tabs on prospects they find intriguing (and by extension, better tabs on other D-League opponents whose worth is more accurately gauged by comparison), work on specific skills and plays that are useful to the Suns, and work daily on the development of draft picks without sacrificing anything. That’s a hell of a deal for an NBA team, and the potential benefits it can provide in a jam (i.e. a major injury that creates depth problems) are quite significant.

This plan is still early in the developmental process, but keep an eye on its progress. The Suns are catching on to the D-League process, and they’ll be all the better for it.   

Lakers fans give Dwyane Wade standing ovation, check out L.A. tribute video

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Lakers fans take a lot of abuse from other fan bases, some of it well deserved, but the core fans know the game.

And they know how much Dwyane Wade has meant to it.

Which is why they gave him a standing ovation when he checked into the game Monday night in Los Angeles.

The Lakers also put together a tribute video that played in the arena.

Classy move, Lakers. Well done.

Pacers’ Myles Turner shuts down Bradley Beal at the rim (VIDEO)

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Myles Turner owned the paint in the first half — the Pacers’ center had five blocked shots in the first 24 minutes.

The big shut down was on Bradley Beal, this is how a big man recovers and goes after it.

Then later there was this play leading to a bucket on the other end.

Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).

Washington learned that the hard way.

 

Report: Houston kicking tires on J.R. Smith trade with Cavaliers

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The Houston Rockets desperately need help on the wing (among other things, but wing is the personnel focus). The Rockets would also like to have less salary on the books next season, giving them some flexibility and lowering the tax bill.

J.R. Smith fits both of those bills, so Houston and GM Daryl Morey are at least taking a look at a potential trade, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

While there is some logic to this, we are a long way from it being a reality. Smith does not exactly have a positive trade value, at least as a player right now.

Smith was part of the rotation that helped the LeBron-led Cavaliers reach the NBA Finals last season, but he will be best remembered for the Game 1 blunder in the Finals that deflated the Cavs. Without the playmaking of LeBron, Smith struggled to start this season, shooting 34 percent for the Cavaliers in limited minutes, before going on hiatus from the team. That said, in a better situation where he was asked to play a small and specific role, maybe he could still help.

Smith is guaranteed $18.59 million this season but only $3.87 million of his $15.68 million salary for next season is guaranteed.

Houston seems a logical fit. Money wise, a Brandon Knight for Smith trade works, but the Rockets will have to throw in picks or other sweeteners to get the Cavaliers interested. Cleveland also likely will be patient, hoping that as the deadline gets closer there is a little bidding war for Smith.

Still, the Rockets are active on the trade market (as always), and they need wings, so this is worth keeping an eye on.

Lakers’ Rajon Rondo has fluid drained from hand slowing his recovery from surgery

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Rajon Rondo has been out more than three weeks following surgery to repair the third metacarpal bone in his shooting hand (his right hand), and while there has been no official timeline he was expected back in the next week or two. He’s been out on the court before recent Lakers’ games getting in some work.

But he has now hit a bit of a setback, Lakers’ coach Luke Walton said on Wednesday. Here is what Walton said, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“There’s a little bit of swelling,” Walton said at Lakers shootaround on Monday in advance of his team’s game against the Miami Heat. “We’re going to shut him down for a few days then get back out after it again.”

It’s not clear when Rondo will return. He was averaging 8.5 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game before the injury.

The Lakers have gone 8-4 since Rondo went to the bench with his fractured hand. Without the veteran point guard, LeBron James has had the ball in his hands more as a playmaker (to Magic Johnson’s frustration at times), paired with Lonzo Ball (who has started to show some real chemistry with LeBron). The Lakers offense hasn’t been particularly good in these past dozen games, bottom 10 in the league, but they have balanced that with a top 7 defense. The Lakers are getting wins thanks to that defense and enough LeBron shot creation to get it done.

The Lakers are going to have to keep getting it done and now without Brandon Ingram, too, who is expected to miss a few more games with a sprained ankle.