Suns did not draft Kendall Marshall for his athleticism

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Kendall Marshall was selected by the Suns with the 13th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, and by listening to the team’s GM Lance Blanks — as well as to the loud applause that rained down from the team’s war room as the pick was announced — it was clear that the organization was extremely pleased to get him.

“That was the guy that we were targeting all along,” Blanks said after the pick was announced. “Kendall came here and he had a wonderful visit. He came back, we had a second look at him and quite frankly, Kendall represents where we are as an organization. Don’t read too far into this with free agency, but he represents everything we want to be about, as a player and a person.”

Marshall plays point guard, so the remark about not reading too much into things references of course the very real possibility that Steve Nash may go elsewhere in free agency. Whether Nash is here or not, however, Marshall will get a chance to play immediately. Phoenix rotated the backup point guard spot between Sebastian Telfair and Ronnie Price last season, with limited and very mixed results.

Blanks mentioned a lot of positives about Marshall while gushing over the pick, but was also well aware of the areas where his new player may fall short.

“I can tell you now, we did not — we did not — get Kendall for his athleticism,” Blanks said with a smile. “Kendall knows that. We got him for his brain, his ability to make people better, who he is off the court for our locker room. He is in perfect alignment with what we want to be about as people and as an organization.”

Blanks has talked up the Suns’ improved talent evaluation process in recent weeks, and mentioned it again Thursday night. If the team’s process is to be trusted, then the selection of Marshall should ultimately be proven to be a success.

“Everything we did in terms of our process of analyzing him, there were converging lines, and everything lined up,” Blanks said. “Not only from our analytics piece, (but) our performance evaluation, our eyes-and-ears scouting, the background checks that we did — this young man is very special in every way.

“I’m not sure we can make him more athletic, but he’s all 10s everywhere else as a basketball player and as a person.”

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

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It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

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After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.