The Phoenix Suns are a playoff team. It wasn’t the plan management envisioned heading into this season — they had gotten Eric Bledsoe as a building block but they had a young roster with a lot of questions — but Jeff Hornacek has gotten the team to defend, share the ball and win.
Now, they are all in for the playoffs.
So when other teams are looking to sell at the deadline, the Suns want to buy and make a playoff push — and if we learned one thing from “Trading Places” it’s that it is good to be buying when everyone is selling in a panic. (Looking good Billy Ray! Feeling good Lewis!)
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The Suns have a lot of assets that could net them quality players at the deadline, particularly the contract of Emeka Okafor, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports.
Once Phoenix reached the midway point of its season on Wednesday with Okafor still sidelined with a neck injury, an insurance policy began to take over payment on 80 percent of the remaining $14.4 million on his 2013-14 contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Whoever deals for Okafor before the trade deadline will receive an insurance payout of $5.7 million – roughly $141,000 per game.
For the Suns, the appeal of Okafor’s financially friendly deal – armed with approximately $5 million in remaining salary-cap space – has general manager Ryan McDonough on the search to fortify his roster for a playoff run….
(Suns GM Ryan) McDonough has expressed publicly his willingness to explore using his draft picks, young assets and cap space to explore possible deals for All-Star-level players who could become available on the market.
The Suns have four first round picks in this draft and two in the 2015 draft — those are very valuable chips to trade.
Just something to keep in mind as you see trade rumors start to ramp up as we crawl toward the Feb. 20 deadline — the Suns could land themselves a quality addition just in time to make somebody’s life difficult in the playoffs.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.
Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.
Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:
“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”
Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.
But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.
He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.
If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.
The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.
Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green
Get Up on ESPN:
I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.
I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.
Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.
And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.
Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.
If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.
So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.
His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?
"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.
He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.
Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.
Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.
LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.
A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:
Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.
Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.
The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.
Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.
Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.
Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.
This was the risk.
We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.
That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.