Nash to the Lakers the right move for Phoenix, but a bitter one for Suns fans to swallow

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The Lakers appeared to be a longshot at best to acquire Steve Nash, but unexpectedly pulled off the deal that will send multiple draft picks back to Phoenix in exchange for the two-time MVP’s services.

The sign-and-trade deal will net Nash a contract of three years and more than $25 million to play for the Lakers, while the Suns will receive two first-round and two second-round draft picks that they’ll use to rebuild, all without having to take on any additional salary or unwanted bad contracts in return.

Essentially, this was the very best the Suns could do under the circumstances — which, to be fair, were created by the team when it allowed Nash to play out the final year of his contract in Phoenix without attempting to trade him sooner for some assets that would help the team in the more immediate future.

As soon as the Nash deal went final, the Suns wasted no time in locking up some free agent talent to begin that rebuilding process. Goran Dragic was signed to replace Nash at the point guard spot, and Michael Beasley was brought in to provide scoring from the wing position. There’s still the matter of Eric Gordon, whom the Suns signed to a large offer sheet but that New Orleans is almost certain to match.

The Phoenix front office did what was best for the team in its long-term plans to reconstruct a contender while moving forward with life after Nash. But despite the fact that stockpiling draft picks is the way to enter a rebuilding scenario in the NBA, and that going about it that way doesn’t unnecessarily saddle the team with bad contracts, Suns fans are going to be absolutely livid with the fact that the team helped facilitate the face of the franchise ending up on one of the two teams they absolutely cannot stand.

The Spurs are probably at the top of the list for Suns fans’ hatred, considering they were the ones that kept Phoenix from getting out of the West and into the Finals on more than one occasion. But the Lakers are a close second, and while the rivalry has been more than a bit one-sided, it exists in the minds and hearts of fans of the Suns. Phoenix residents have an angry little brother complex when it comes to their counterparts in Los Angeles, and Suns fans hate the Lakers with the same passion and fervor that you’d expect from that type of dysfunctional, familial relationship.

Simply put, seeing Nash in a Lakers jersey happily playing alongside Kobe Bryant will make Suns fans physically ill. They will have a visceral reaction to the unholy teaming, and will struggle mightily with the fact that this move couldn’t have been completed without the complicity of the Suns organization.

For the Lakers, the outlook is a bright one. The respective ages of Bryant and Nash shouldn’t be a concern, especially when you consider that both played the majority of their team’s games in a compressed, lockout-shortened season a year ago. With the coaching staff having almost four full months to gameplan and scheme for their revamped roster, and with a long, 82-game schedule being more than enough time for the players to learn to play together and work out any kinks, L.A. should be primed and ready for a run deep into the postseason come April.

On the Suns side, things are obviously much murkier at this point. The team brought some immediate free agent talent into the fold, but if nothing else is done beyond Dragic and Beasley, Phoenix will be still be a team near the bottom of the draft lottery stuck trying to develop rookie Kendall Marshall, while waiting for future drafts to come along so they can build a competitive roster over time with young, rookie talent.

The rebuilding in Phoenix was inevitable, and was something the front office had resisted to this point while Nash was still on the roster. The Suns made the right decision in terms of what they were able to get in return for him once it became clear he was no longer in the team’s long-term plans.

But that doesn’t change the fact that seeing Nash play for the Lakers will be extremely difficult for long-time fans of the franchise to stomach.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue on Kyle Korver’s playing time: Brad Stevens ‘threw us for a loop’ by not playing Semi Ojeleye

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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LeBron James is obviously the Cavaliers’ best player. Cleveland’s second-best player? Usually Kevin Love, but Kyle Korver has made a case lately.

So, how did Korver play just 19 minutes, including none in the first quarter, in the Cavs’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night? That was his playoff low, besides Game 1 against the Pacers, when he was still recovering from injury.

Blame Boston coach Brad Stevens removing Semi Ojeleye from his rotation.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue:

Well, initially, he’s been putting [Semi] Ojeleye in, so that’s been kind of Kyle’s matchup when he comes in the game. He didn’t play him tonight, so it kind of threw us for a loop.

This won’t slow the talk of Stevens being a genius. He neutralized one of Cleveland’s best players simply by not using a limited rookie.

Still, Lue’s strategy held some merit. Korver is a defensive liability, but Ojeleye’s offensive limitations make it hard to take advantage. Ojeleye’s biggest strength, his physical strength, is of limited utility in trying to stick tight to Korver on the perimeter.

In Games 1-4, Cavaliers with Korver on and…

Ojeleye on:

  • Offensive rating: 111.9
  • Defensive rating: 102.1
  • Net rating: +9.9

Ojeleye off:

  • Offensive rating: 97.0
  • Defensive rating: 109.5
  • Net rating: -12.5

That said, Korver is too good to plant on the bench. Other perimeter options – J.R. Smith, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Jeff Green (who actually played fine last night) – are just so unreliable. Lue shouldn’t just wait for the perfect matchup to use Korver.

But will Lue get it, anyway?

Stevens:

We believe in Semi and we think he’s a big, huge part of our team. It would not be a shock if he plays a ton for us in Game 6.

Lue better develop a plan for using Korver in Game 6 Friday, with contingencies based on Stevens using or not using Ojeleye. I wouldn’t trust Stevens’ declaration one bit, and Lue doesn’t want to get thrown for a loop again.

PBT Extra: Rockets showed defense, resilience, can Warriors show same in Game 5?

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Game 4 was an epic game, and the Houston Rockets proved they are a serious threat to knock the Warriors off the top of the mountain. They took Golden State’s big punch to start the game (a 12-0 run) and Stephen Curry haymaker in the third, cranked up their defense, got a great game from Chris Paul, and evened the series at 2-2.

Heading back to Houston, we can expect more of the same out of the Rockets Thursday night — they know a win in Game 5 puts them in a very dominant position in the series.

The question is, do the Warriors have another gear? That’s one of the topics I get into in this PBT Extra. For a few seasons now, the Warriors have been able to play lockdown defense and hit tough shots in the clutch, with Kevin Durant making them especially hard to stop, but in Game 4 when it got tight they looked tired and slow. Houston’s ball pressure threw Golden State off its game, and fatigue had set in for the Warriors. Can they not only go on big runs but slow down Chris Paul, James Harden and the Rockets’ attack?

Thursday night is going to be interesting.

LeBron James recalls six turnovers with striking precision (video)

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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LeBron James showed off his memory after the Cavaliers’ Game 1 loss to the Celtics, detailing every play of the beginning of the fourth quarter:

He was at it again after Cleveland’s Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

Asked about his six turnovers, LeBron perfectly described six turnovers:

The turnover LeBron very noticeably said went off Jeff Green‘s hands was actually assigned to Green. So, that meant LeBron omitted one of his own:

Still, this was incredibly impressive. It was also maybe a little passive-aggressive, the way LeBron notes the ball going off Green’s and J.R. Smith‘s hands.

So, it was quintessential LeBron.

Celtics top Cavaliers in Game 5, setting up Game 7 in Boston?

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LeBron James and a couple Cavaliers teammates left the court well before the Celtics dribbled out their 96-83 Game 5 win Wednesday.

The Cavs are already moving on.

Game 6 will be Friday in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers – down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals – must win to avoid elimination. The way Boston has played on the road, it’s even easy to look ahead to Game 7, which is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.

Still, the Celtics bought themselves leeway with their decisive win in Boston tonight. They led by double digits the final 20 minutes, breaking the Cavs’ momentum after two straight wins in Cleveland.

“It’s tough going on the road, playing against somebody else in their house with their crowd,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks tonight. “So, we were just comfortable. We came back home and defended home-court like we have all playoffs.”

Boston is now 10-0 at home this postseason – but just 1-6 away. Fueled in part by that historic split, no game in this series has been close. All five have been decided by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory – 18 – is in the 97th percentile for largest ever in a 3-2 best-of-seven series.

So, just as two big Celtics wins in Games 1 and 2 didn’t deter the Cavaliers, this one likely won’t, either. The Cavs should be heavily favorited in Game 6.

Beyond, if it gets that far? That’s a much bigger tossup.

Teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series have won 85% of the time. But Boston is missing a key reason it secured home-court advantage, including a chance to break the 2-2 at home rather than on the road – Kyrie Irving. And LeBron James is downright scary in a Game 7, even on the road.

The Celtics at least took care of business tonight, showing a far greater sense of urgency than Cleveland. Brad Stevens changed his starting lineup, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris, and tightened his rotation to just seven players until garbage time. Boston ran the floor much harder than the Cavs, decisively outrebounded them and beat them to loose balls. Even in altercations, the Celtics had a man advantage.

LeBron (26 points, 10 rebounds five assists and six turnovers) never made his presence felt in the way usually necessary for the Cavaliers to win. Cleveland’s four other starters combined to score just 24 points, two fewer than LeBron did himself.

After Boston seized control early, the Cavaliers made few adjustments in strategy or effort – as if they’re saving those for later.