Three Stars of the Night: Super Sub Edition

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The towel waver. The dancer. The 27-step handshake guy.  Every bench player has their role, but our Three Stars of the Night broke the mold and did a whole lot more than watch the starters. On a night where Brooklyn beat up on their big brother and the Hornets bested Chris Paul, anything seemed possible…so long as you weren’t a Wizard or a Bobcat. Only sadness was possible for them. But cheer up, kick your case of the Mondays to the curb, and check out the Three Stars of the Night: Super Sub Edition:

Third Star: Tiago Splitter (15 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists in 23 minutes)

Unless you’re some kind of crazy person (or Bradley Beal) you’ve probably already accepted the fact that the Washington Wizards are really, really bad. They’re the only winless team in basketball and it’s often uglier than the final score lets on. Against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that actually runs plays (a novel concept in Washington), the Wiz stood virtually no chance of winning. Likewise, no Spurs player had any chance of totaling a starter’s share of the minutes. But still, could you imagine what Tiago Splitter could have done with a full load? Splitter flirted with a triple-double and set a new career high for assists (7) in a game he played just 23 minutes. Doing some quick, possibly inaccurate number crunching (Math: not even once.), Splitter was on pace for about 23 points, 18 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks had he received 36 minutes of time. Tiago Splitter was LeBron James tonight, which is something I plan on writing never again.

Second Star: Derrick Favors (19 points, 7 rebounds, GW free throws)

If you’re not watching Derrick Favors whenever you can, stop that. He’s like a young Amar’e Stoudemire that actually defends and doesn’t punch fire extinguishers. It’s not always easy to get him minutes, but Favors came up big down the stretch in a tight game against the Nuggets. After an Al Jefferson miss in a tie game with under a minute to play, Favors nabbed a huge offensive rebound and got fouled. After calmly sinking what would end up being the game-winning free throws, Favors grabbed a defensive rebound off Andre Miller’s miss and sealed the win with another big free throw.  It’s early, but Favors has some serious 6h Man of the Year appeal so long as Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap stay put in Utah.

First Star: Ersan Ilyasova (18 points, 6 rebounds, 12 4th quarter points)

On a night where key subs shined, no team exemplified the theme of the night quite like the Milwaukee Bucks did. The Bucks, for all intents and purposes, were dead. They were down 27 points to the Chicago Bulls, who don’t let numbers go up on the scoreboard very easily. When Bucks head coach Scott Skiles trotted out his entire second unit to start the fourth quarter, it might have been mistaken by the Bulls for a white flag. While the Bulls let off the gas, the Udrih-Lamb-Dunleavy-Ilyasova-Udoh lineup played the entire fourth period – and with good reason. In a huge comeback win, Ilyasova scored 12 points in the fourth, which also happened to be all Chicago could muster in the game’s final period He may not have started the game, but Ilyasova sure finished it.

Report: Austin Rivers signing with Grizzlies

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The Wizards, Suns and Grizzlies are trapped in a transaction triangle.

After a three-way trade between the teams fell through due to Brooks confusion, Washington and Phoenix completed a simplified version of the deal. The Suns sent Trevor Ariza to the Wizards for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers, whom Phoenix is waiving.

Rivers’ landing spot? Memphis of course.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Don’t expect Rivers to be a major difference maker in Memphis. He’s a solid defender who had been a decent 3-point shooter the last couple seasons but not at all so far this year. When not spotting up, he’s often overly ambitious – but occasionally impressive – as a driver.

Rivers will add depth at shooting guard, where the Grizzlies have Garrett Temple, Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden, MarShon Brooks and Shelvin Mack.

Memphis must waive one player now. It could be MarShon Brooks. We know how the Grizzlies (and Suns) view him.

This signing leads to a conspiracy theory I don’t believe, but find interesting: The Grizzlies agreed to the trade with Dillon Brooks… learned the full parameters of the deal… realized they’d rather just sign Rivers outright than deal Dillon Brooks, Selden and a second-rounder for Kelly Oubre… claimed they meant MarShon Brooks all along… let the Wizards ship Rivers to the Suns, who’d waive him… signed Rivers.

When undermining the original three-team deal, the Grizzlies would have had to know Washington and Phoenix would complete their own trade with Rivers getting waived. Perhaps, Memphis surmised that while the teams negotiated, but the timing – and complexity – makes that unlikely. But still fun to consider.

Nets once thought they were trading for No. 2 overall pick, would have gotten Bulls’ second first-rounder

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A Wizards-Suns-Grizzlies trade just fell apart because the teams confused which Brooks was involved. Phoenix thought it was getting Dillon Brooks. Memphis thought it was sending MarShon Brooks.

But this isn’t the first time wires got crossed in trade discussions.

Former Nets executive Bobby Marks of ESPN:

The closest it’s ever happened – and this is a funny story – is that in 2006, we thought we getting the second overall pick in the draft from Chicago. And we were going to pick LaMarcus Aldridge. And it wound up being that Chicago was offering us their second first-round pick in the draft, which was pick 16. It turned into Rodney Carney. So, that’s the closest that we’ve ever come to backing out or a deal was agreed upon and going from there.

The Bulls might as well have sent the No. 2 to pick to the Nets. On draft night, Chicago dealt No. 2 pick LaMarcus Aldridge to the Trail Blazers for No. 4 pick Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. The Bulls got more value from No. 16 pick Rodney Carney, trading up with the 76ers for No. 13 pick Thabo Sefolosha, who was a helpful role player in Chicago then flipped for a pick that became Taj Gibson. In that 2006 draft, the Nets picked Marcus Williams No. 22 and Josh Boone No. 23.

The big difference between this non-deal and the Brooks mishap: It didn’t reach the point active players were informed and details were leaked to the media. That’s harder to walk back and maybe part of the reason the Suns and Wizards still swapped Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers after the Grizzlies pulled out.

Report: Trevor Ariza ‘checked out mentally’ with Suns

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Why did Trevor Ariza leave the Rockets, who came as close as anyone to beating the Kevin Durant-boosted Warriors in the playoffs, for the lowly Suns?

Money.

Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix last summer. That salary likely far surpasses what Ariza could have gotten elsewhere – especially Houston, where the Rockets are wary of the luxury tax.

Predictably, a veteran signing with bad team for a quick paycheck turned out poorly. The Suns traded Ariza to the Wizards essentially as soon as he became eligible to be dealt.

Duane Rankin of azcentral:

According to league sources, this was a “mutual” decision between Ariza and the Suns.

Ariza checked out mentally early in the season, according to sources. After practices would ended, he’d leave before everyone else, when that’s usually an opportunity to bond.

He’d break from the team huddle before his teammates and wasn’t engaged.

Signing Ariza to that contract was always part of a bad plan. He didn’t put the Suns over the top, and that money could have gone to a player with a future in Phoenix.

Sure, it would have been nice for Ariza to lead and mentor more. He could have served as a better example for the young Suns.

But it’s not easy to go from the peak of competition to a quickly lost season. Ariza’s misery was predictable and understandable.

It spread to the court, too. He’s having arguably the worst season of his career.

Washington hopes Ariza will play better there. He’s better cast as a glue guy on a good team.

However, it’s unclear whether Ariza will actually be rejuvenated by the Wizards, who’ve been stuck in their own turmoil. There’s also risk Ariza, 33, has declined due to age in ways that won’t simply reverse in a better environment.

At least he ends his depressing Phoenix chapter. This will be the lasting scene of his time there. Gina Mizell of The Athletic:

Devin Booker calls out Enes Kanter’s defense after Suns beat Knicks

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In a Knicks’ win over the Suns last January, Enes Kanter irritated Devin Booker into pushing him. The Phoenix guard got ejected then had to deal with Kanter’s online trash-talking afterward.

So, this retweet – following the Suns’ win over New York last night – was nearly a year in the making.

Booker:

There are two possible responses here. I’m not sure which is correct.

1. Booker shouldn’t criticize anyone else’s defense before looking in the mirror.

2. Kanter’s defense is so bad, even Booker is mocking it.