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.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says Stephen Curry is the best player in the world

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the top of pretty much every “best player in the world” list right now.

Except his own.

For Antetokounmpo, the best player in the world is the one that leads his team to the title, so today, it is Stephen Curry (hat tip to Lance Allen of NBC Milwaukee).

It’s easy to see where Antetokounmpo is coming from, but basketball is a team game. The best player may not be on the best team, despite his skill set, and that team may not win. Curry was spectacular in leading the Warriors to their fourth banner since he arrived, he’s near the top of the best in the world list, but it’s not all about winning.

The takeaway from what Antetokounmpo said is how much he wants to win — he wants a second ring.

The Bucks enter the season as one of the favorites to win that ring, but it’s going to take a lot of things going right for that to happen.

Including Antetokounmpo showing he is the best player in the world.

 

Is Matisse Thybulle ready for a big step forward with 76ers?

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Matisse Thybulle brings a valuable NBA skill to the table — he is an elite perimeter defender. Two-time All-Defensive Team in three years in the league.

But when the 76ers got up against Miami in the playoffs, Thybulle’s role shrank dramatically. While Doc Rivers needed his defense, Thybulle’s lack of an offensive game became a problem — the Heat largely ignored him and helped off him, allowing Miami to muck up the Philly offense (he was limited in the Toronto series because he was not vaccinated and could not play in road games). The 76ers tried to solve that problem this offseason by bringing in DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House and P.J. Tucker — solid role-playing defenders who can contribute on offense, too.

Thybulle wants to be part of the solution, too, and told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he spent the summer focused on his offensive game.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

No doubt Thybulle put in the work, we will find out soon if it paid off — and if that will get Thybulle paid.

Thybulle is entering a contract year — the 76ers can extend him up until Oct. 18, after which he would become a restricted free agent next summer. Thybulle said his goal is to remain in Philadelphia (and he’d like an extension).

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

With a win-now Sixers team, Daryl Morey may be in a wait-and-see place with Thybulle, letting the market set his price next offseason. If he signs now, it will likely be on a team-friendly deal (but maybe one that still works for the 25-year-old).

If Thybulle gets on the court this season and shows an improved offensive game, one where he can make teams pay for helping off him, his price goes up and there may be multiple teams bidding for his services next summer. And Doc Rivers would be happy in the short term.

It’s up to Thybulle to prove it now.

 

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

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The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

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If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.