Almost two days after parting ways with Alvin Gentry, Suns name Lindsey Hunter interim head coach

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UPDATE 11:17 a.m. ET: The Suns have named player development coordinator Lindesy Hunter as interim head coach, the team announced this morning. We’ll have more on Hunter following this afternoon’s press conference.

PHOENIX — In case you weren’t sure of what the plan was in Phoenix to right the sinking Suns ship, we have some good news to pass along: You’re not alone; the organization doesn’t seem to have any idea, either.

Well over 24 hours after the Suns parted ways with head coach Alvin Gentry, the team has yet to name an interim head coach. It’s hard to imagine that the search will last beyond Sunday, considering that the team is exclusively looking at internal candidates. But the fact that this all wasn’t worked out ahead of time tells at least part of the story of this Suns team that finds itself at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said at a press conference on Friday that he’d prefer to wait until a coach is named to describe the qualities he’s looking for in the person who will guide the team the rest of the season.

“Let’s wait until we pick the guy and then we can describe why we picked him; maybe that would be easier,” Babby said. “There are so many characterisitics that a good coach should have. Not everyone is going to have all of them. There is a tendency when you pick someone to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative and that’s what we’ll do. We’ll pick the right person internally for where we are and where to go but let’s wait until we pick that person. I’d rather describe the reasons or have [GM Lance Blanks] describe the rerasons or have the person describe why they are the right fit rather than do it hypothetically.”

This deflection was pretty much par for the course during Babby’s presser, where he essentially refused to get into the details surrounding the reasons for Gentry’s dismissal, other than to say that management felt that the team was regressing.

“I don’t want to get into the details of evaluating what led to the decision,” Babby said. “This is not something we planned for. As short as a month ago, Robert Sarver was direct and blunt in saying Alvin would be here for the rest of the year. That was our intent all along. That was a commitment that we had made. But sometimes in this business, you get to a point where it just doesn’t feel right and we just reached that point.

“How you get to that point is something that we look at closely and try to learn from, but I don’t think it serves anybody’s purpsoe to share all of the details and all of the reason, either from his side or from our side.”

Assistant coaches Elston Turner, Igor Kokoskov, and Dan Majerle are all believed to be in the running to ride out the lost season with the interim tag, as is player development coach Lindsey Hunter.

Gentry ended up taking the fall for poor front office personnel decisions, plain and simple. Babby said at one point during the press conference that the change at the head coaching spot doesn’t change the team’s plan from a personnel or player development standpoint, and that management’s plan was “intact.”

That would imply that a plan was in fact in place to begin with, which is hard to imagine considering how long it’s taking to simply appoint a current member of the staff to run the team the rest of the way.

Bucks to retire jersey Marcus Johnson’s number

via NBA.com
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Marcus Johnson is a Milwaukee legend. He averaged 21 points a game in his seven seasons with the Bucks and is sixth on the all-time franchise list in points (10,980), is its all-time leader in offensive rebounds (1,468), is third in total rebounds (3,923), and made 4,546 during his time in Milwaukee. He is now a color commenter for the team.

Now, the team is going to retire his No. 8.

The ceremony will be March 24, a story broken by the Journal-Sentinel.

Johnson will be the ninth Bucks player to have his number retired and the first since the team’s move to its new home Fiserv Forum.

Current Bucks legend Giannis Antetokounmpo told the Journal-Sentinel he was happy. Antetokounmpo turned to Johnson at points for help with footwork, post moves, and more.

“I’m really happy for him, I think he deserves to have his jersey retired,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s amazing. He’s just sitting down there like a normal person, but this guy was one of the best players in the league when he was playing. … He’s a legend.”

Johnson won an NCAA national championship at UCLA under the legendary John Wooden before going on to an NBA career that included five All-Star appearances and three All-NBA teams.

Paul George hits game winner, lifts Thunder past 76ers 117-115

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George converted a four-point play with 5.1 seconds left, sending Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder to a wild 117-115 victory over Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

George’s clutch shot capped a wild finish that included another memorable exchange with Westbrook and Embiid. Westbrook hit the floor out of bounds under the basket after a foul by Embiid late in the game, and Westbrook fouled out with 14.9 seconds remaining after he got Embiid while shooting a 3-pointer.

Embiid made all three foul shots, tying it at 113, and Jimmy Butler‘s driving layup put Philadelphia in front with 6.9 seconds to go. But George drained a 3 while being fouled by Butler and made the foul shot.

Philadelphia had one last chance, but Butler missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds. The 76ers have lost 19 in a row to the Thunder.

George finished with 31 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Westbrook had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City, and reserve Dennis Schroder also scored 21 points.

The Thunder had dropped five of six, including a 138-128 overtime loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.

Embiid, who was a game-time decision because of back tightness, had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. JJ Redick scored 22 points for Philadelphia, and Ben Simmons finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.

Oklahoma City led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter, but Philadelphia rallied in the second and trailed 59-56 at the break.

 

Rumor: Suns, Magic have inquired about Knicks’ Frank Ntilikina

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Where do the Knicks stand on Frank Ntilikina, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft (taken ahead of Dennis Smith Jr. Zach Collins, and Donovan Mitchell)?

This should tell you all you need to know: The Denver Nuggets decided to cast Emmanuel Mudiay aside and the Knicks traded for him and instantly Mudiay jumped Ntilikina on the depth chart.

Ntilikina has played good defense but unimpressive offense for the Knicks this season and there is a thought from other teams around the league they may try to trade the young European.

A few teams are interested, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, but — shocker! — there may be a split in the front office about what to do between president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry.

Despite the Knicks’ clear lack of confidence in Ntilikina, teams have inquired about the 20-year-old, with the Magic and Suns expressing interest, according to a source. And this is where it gets interesting. There seems to be a debate within the Knicks on whether to deal Ntilikina. He was drafted by Mills and has supporters in the front office. But, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, Perry, who took the job after Ntilikina was drafted, recently approached the Atlanta Hawks to gauge whether the team was interested in dealing for the guard (Hawks have Trae Young and weren’t interested).

The Suns and Magic both desperately need point guards. However, neither are offering much in trades knowing that come free agency next July there will be better, more established targets — D'Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier, among others.

Ntilikina is a good perimeter defender whose skills could be developed in the right situation into a rotation point guard. Probably. But because the offers will be lowball, the Knicks would essentially just be dumping the No. 8 pick of a season ago, a guy who is only 20 years old. That would be a mistake — if the Knicks can’t get decent value back, keep Ntilikina and try to develop him themselves. Point guards take longer to come around in the NBA, maybe Ntilikina will develop into a player the Knicks want to keep.

But the rumors are out there and it’s something to keep an eye on.

Markelle Fultz returns to Philadelphia to do shoulder rehab with team

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Markelle Fultz is back with the 76ers.

Not in uniform for games, but he is back from Los Angeles and in Philadelphia working out with the team to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story, then Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia confirmed it.

Fultz was in the arena for the Sixers game Saturday against the Thunder on national television (though not suited up to play).

There is no timetable for Fultz’s return, although his agent has said he expects Fultz to be back on the court this season. Whether that would be with the Sixers is another question, teams have called about the availability of the No. 1 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, but the offers have been so lowball that none of them have been seriously considered by Philadelphia.

After consulting with a number of specialists just a few weeks into the season (and just after the Jimmy Butler trade), the 20-year-old Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a pinching of the nerve through the collarbone area. Since December he has been in Los Angeles is doing physical therapy to relieve the issue.

Fultz has returned to Philadelphia and is continuing that therapy.