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Markieff Morris is slipping out of the Suns’ rotation

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Markieff Morris, a rookie forward the Suns selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, began the season with a level of competence that was above expectations. But as this lockout-shortened season has worn on, while the Suns have finally started to find themselves by winning seven of their last nine games, Morris has faded. And he may soon find himself out of the team’s regular rotation because of it.

Morris’ production level has gone from acceptable to great, average to dismal. As this Suns team has locked in recently, giving maximum effort to claw back from double-digit deficits in five straight home victories, Morris hasn’t been able to keep up — which has the team’s head coach, Alvin Gentry, ready to move on to other players if things don’t change.

Hakim Warrick provided a spark from the end of the bench in a win over the Mavericks on Thursday, so it was only natural to ask Gentry if Hak would once again get the call against the Grizzlies on Saturday. Gentry said they’d still like to stick with the rookie, but only if it’s warranted based on the results he can provide when he’s out there.

“I still think that we’ll try Markieff,” Gentry said. “But the one thing that I talked to him about today is that you have to produce. As a bench player, that’s what it’s all about is production. You get an opportunity — and I’m not really talking about making shots, or whatever — but there’s things that you can do to always help the team. I used Channing Frye (as an example), I mean last week Channing was 2-for-18 (in the win over the Clippers) but he played 30-something minutes because of his defense, and rebounding, and things like that.

“It’s not always about making shots, but you’ve got to have production when you’re out there, and if you’re not producing then you have to go somewhere else (as a coach). Because ultimately I’m responsible for the production of guys, and if you’re not producing, then I’ve got to look elsewhere.”

In six games this month — five of which were Suns victories — Morris is shooting a combined 3-for-25 from the field, while collecting just 14 rebounds in total. His minutes have dipped significantly the past two games, and in the win over the Grizzlies on Saturday, Morris logged just three minutes, but still managed to pick up two personal fouls and miss three field goal attempts during that very brief amount of time, while getting screamed at almost the length of the court by Gentry for being completely out of position defensively.

Gentry has shown a fearlessness this season when it comes to his rotations; he messed with the starting lineup on a road trip earlier in the year, and the bench minutes have seemingly changed on a game-to-game basis, depending on who’s bringing the results on any given night. So if Phoenix continues to respond with wins, and is able to make a push towards the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture, Morris may find himself learning from the bench, rather than the floor.

Whatever the result, there are no hard feelings on Gentry’s part, and he seems to be wide open with Morris — both in terms of his communication, as well as what the expectations are. Essentially, as long as the Suns have a shot at the postseason — distant as it still may be — Morris will need to produce if he wants to see the court.  What’s clear now is that he won’t be given additional minutes this season simply for player development purposes.

“He’s a good kid, but he understands that (with hitting the) rookie wall or whatever you want to call it, you’ve still got to have energy when you go out there,” Gentry said. “I still believe in him, and I think he’s going to be a very good player. There’s growing pains involved in whatever you do, but I think the energy thing is key.”

Rudy Gobert says if officials don’t start protecting him from fouls ‘it’s gonna get ugly’

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Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert has been no stranger to NBA officials this season. The Frenchman has already been fined for his comments on what he believes is poor officiating, and he doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

After the Jazz lost a heartbreaker to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, 122-113, Gobert again decided to make it known how he felt about the folks in gray.

Specifically, Rudy Gobert said that if officials weren’t going to start protecting him against other players fouling him with disregard, he would have to take it into his own hands.

Via the Salt Lake Tribune:

“Tonight, someone grabbed my arm, pulled me down — that was a very dangerous play, and I got called for the foul. So if I gotta do justice myself, I’m gonna do justice myself. And it’s gonna get ugly,” Gobert said. “Hopefully I don’t have to do that. I just want to play basketball.”

That’s about as close as we’ll ever get to fighting words in the NBA, and Gobert was probably pretty heated after the loss when he said those things.

Still, officiating has been a question around the league this season, and it’s possible that Gobert has some legitimate complaints. Hopefully the coaching staff and front office in Utah is doing what they can to lobby the league so that Gobert doesn’t take it out on his fellow players. He’s already slapped a water bottle off the scorer’s table this year, and the Jazz can’t afford Gobert boiling over.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim to take over as president of the G-League

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You likely remember Shareef Abdur-Rahim as No. 3 overall pick in the 1996 Draft out of Cal who went on to play a dozen seasons in the NBA, even making an All-Star Team in 2002 as a member of the Atlanta Hawks.

Since his playing days, he has stayed in basketball. He was the GM of the G-League’s Reno Bighorns, assistant general manager of the Sacramento Kings, and most recently has been the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations. He’s climbed the ladder fast at age 42.

Now he will take over as president of the G-League, the NBA announced Tuesday. Abdur-Rahim replaces Malcolm Turner, who is leaving the position to take over as the athletic director at Vanderbilt University.

“I am thrilled to have this extraordinary opportunity with the NBA G League,” Abdur-Rahim said in a released statement. “I’ve seen firsthand the NBA G League’s remarkable growth under Malcolm’s leadership, and I look forward to working with the players, teams and my colleagues to take the league to even greater heights.”

“Shareef’s unique experiences as a player, team executive and member of the NBA’s Basketball Operations department make him a fantastic fit to be the next President of the NBA G League,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in a statement.

The NBA is working to turn the G-League into a true minor league where teams develop players — they have had success in the past year with two-way contracts bringing us guys such as the Knicks’ Allonzo Trier — as well as making the league a real option for young players leaving high school who don’t see a year or two in college as a fit for them. It’s also where the league experiments with rule changes before putting them in action in the NBA, such as resetting the shot clock to 14 (instead of 24) after an offensive rebound.

For Abdur-Rahim, running the G-League could prove to be another stepping stone in his career.

 

 

Anthony Davis hears your cheers, reiterates he wants to win in New Orleans

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When Anthony Davis was introduced and stepped on the court at the Boston Garden Monday night, Celtics fans did their best to recruit him and show their love.

Davis has gotten the same reaction in Los Angeles and other cities. If the Pelicans ever decide they have to trade him — something that will not happen until this summer, if it happens at all — or if he decides to leave the Big Easy as a free agent in 2020, the Celtics, Lakers and every other team in the NBA will be lined up for the chance to get a transformational player entering his peak.

Davis has heard the cheers. He knows the situation. He knows every other fan base in the NBA covets him.

And he reiterated again Monday night — after his squad fell to a shorthanded Celtics team — that what he really wants to do is win In New Orleans. Davis told Tim Bontemps of ESPN he thinks the Pelicans can repeat or improve on their trip to the second round from last season.

“For sure,” he said after scoring 41 points to go with 7 rebounds in Monday’s loss. “We had everybody healthy the first four games, and we went 4-0. Then Elfrid [Payton] goes down, I’ve been out a couple games, Niko [Mirotic] … a lot of guys have been out. Every time we’ve had a full roster, we’ve been a tough team to beat….

“I heard it tonight,” the 25-year-old said when asked if he heard the local fans cheering for him during the game. “But I’m just focused on this team. I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team get wins with the roster we have. It’s been a rocky season, so it’s on me to try to figure it out….

“So for me, I just go out there and play with this team and go out there and try to have fun and get wins. That’s all I’m worried about is getting wins for this team and hopefully we can get further than we did last year.”

The 14-15 Pelicans sit as the current 10 seed in the West, just two games out of the final playoff slot. If they can get healthy, if they can string some wins together they can certainly make the playoffs. There it will become all about matchups, but the Pelicans showed last season that behind Davis they have the talent to advance.

Will that be enough for the competitive Davis, who wants to take his seat with the best in the game today?

Only Davis knows, and all he has ever said is he wants to win in New Orleans.

Come July 1, the Pelicans will offer Davis the designated veteran max extension, which is in the ballpark of $230 million (or more) over five years. That’s more than any other team will be able to offer him, and it’s A LOT of money. Not something someone walks away from lightly. He may well re-sign in New Orleans (he would sacrifice $33 million guaranteed if traded to another team and he re-signs there, he would give up $84 million guaranteed to leave as a free agent).

If Davis and new agent Rich Paul say no to the contract extension, then the Battle Royale to trade for his services would be on. Probably. Would the Pelicans trade him or try to woo him for another season, players like this don’t come around often? Would Davis try to exert control over the trade process saying he would only re-sign with certain teams? Would a team roll the dice with an over-the-top offer thinking that they could win him over (sort of like OKC did with Paul George and Toronto did with Kawhi Leonard)? There are a lot of variables.

But that is all just speculation. Right now, Davis is just trying to win with the Pelicans.

Jimmy Butler says he shot only once while leading Timberwolves’ third-stringers to practice win over starters

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Fed up with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins not matching his competitiveness, fed up with the Timberwolves for not trading him yet and apparently fed up with being told he must practice… Jimmy Butler unleashed hell during a scrimmage before the season.

Butler reportedly arrived late, led third-stringers to a win over the starters, talked smack and then left early. The Minnesota practice instantly became legendary.

And we didn’t even realize the full extent of Butler’s showing.

Butler, via The Ringer:

The most interesting detail of that whole scrimmage that nobody knows: I only shot the ball once.

Oh, I was dominating, but I only shot the ball once. Dimes, boom, boom, boom. Steals, blocks. I only shot the ball one time.

That is peak Jimmy Butler. He is so good. Though he’s a quality scorer, he affects the game in so many ways. Nearly all stars are excellent with the ball, but the ones who contribute to winning without the ball give their team an extra edge.

Butler has those skills, and it allows 76ers teammates like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid more room to operate in their comfort zones. With so many questions raised about Butler as a teammate, I’d take him on my team any day.

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