Suns commit to Robin Lopez, things get awkward for Earl Clark

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The option deadline is typically a series of no-brainer announcements, in which NBA teams declare what everyone already knows: that many of their recent draft picks are useful, and worthy of keeping on an economical rookie-scale salary, either on the basis of production or potential. It also gets just a little bit awkward for those young players who find their perfectly reasonable option salaries declined. It’s a very public condemnation of the given player’s talent and ability, and an acknowledgment that said player doesn’t figure into the team’s future, despite having to suit up for them in the coming season.

This is where we find Earl Clark, the confounding but talented forward essentially renounced by the Phoenix Suns. According to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, the Suns announced that they have picked up center Robin Lopez’s 2011-2012 option for a paltry $2.87 million. They did not, however, announce their intent to pick up Earl Clark’s option for next season, which would have put them back just $2.03 million for the No. 14 pick in last year’s draft.

Clark struggled in his rookie season, but he also wasn’t given much of an opportunity. He averaged just 2.7 points per game (13.2 points per 36 minutes) on 37.1% shooting from the field without contributing much in any other statistical category. That said, it was his rookie season. Clark’s summer league showing didn’t exactly help his case, but it’s nonetheless rare for a team to give up on a lottery pick so quickly. It wasn’t so long ago that Clark’s versatility was being lauded by draft pundits, and yet the Suns have already definitively decided that he won’t be worth a rookie-scale salary a year from now.

They may not be wrong. Considering the depth of their familiarity with Clark, they’re probably not. But this is still a bit odd. According to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, only three lottery picks have had their third-year options declined since the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement introduced such options: Joe Alexander, Yaroslav Korolev and Patrick O’Bryant. If one were looking to align themselves with basketball’s most promising, this would not be the company they keep. In fact, Korolev and O’Bryant are no longer in the NBA at all, and Joe Alexander looks to have just barely latched onto the New Orleans Hornets’ underbelly. Clark, once considered a promising prospect, may soon be joining them on the NBA’s fringe.

Scottie Pippen on LeBron James, Michael Jordan: “It’s not a fair comparison”

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The battle has, stupidly, raged on between supporters of Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both sides seem to believe their preference is irrefutably the choice for the best player in NBA history.

And because they did not play in the same era, the question will never be answered. No doubt in 50 years they will write columns about Jordan vs. LeBron, just like their fathers, and their father’s fathers before them.

James has certainly seemed to take a bit of a leap in the eyes of the NBA community this season, likely because of his wonderful performance at age 33. He’s also single-handedly won two playoff series this year. It’s been incredible.

But LeBron rising above Jordan has also brought out some more reasonable takes. Former Chicago Bulls legend and Jordan running mate Scottie Pippen spoke up recently about the debate, giving a measured analysis that I think is pretty strong.

In short, Pippen basically said you can’t compare the two because of the eras, the style, and the fact they just don’t play the same position (if LeBron even has a position, that is).

Via Twitter:

That sounds right to me.

Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins not into “all that new stuff” like Chewbacca

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Chewbacca was at Game 3 in Cleveland Saturday. Sitting courtside.

Why? Because growing up on Kashyyyk he played a little hoop and admires LeBron James‘ skill? Because Drake gave him the tickets? Maybe. I mean, it’s not like that was just a clever little publicity stunt for a movie.

After the Cavaliers’ win, Kevin Love decided to make a little joke of it with noted humorist Kendrick Perkins, and it went over as well as expected (with Dave McMenamin of ESPN catching it).

That’s vintage Perkins.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

Associated Press
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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.