Suns GM: Since trading Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, ‘vibe around our team is better’

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When the Suns traded two of their point guards at last week’s deadline, it raised a few eyebrows, at least initially.

Seeing Goran Dragic get dealt wasn’t a huge surprise, after he came out and said he didn’t trust the front office anymore and wouldn’t consider re-signing in Phoenix as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

But things were quiet publicly where Isaiah Thomas was concerned, and he was traded too, after Phoenix went to the trouble of acquiring him before the season began.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough didn’t appreciate Dragic’s comments, and fired back somewhat pointedly, essentially stating that the selfishness of Dragic and Thomas was the reason both were no longer with the franchise.

McDonough doubled down on those remarks, reiterating many of the same points when explaining the deadline day deals to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

“If a player makes a mistake because he’s being too aggressive on the court and playing hard, that’s fine, we can live with that,” he said. “If players don’t play as well or make mistakes because they’re being a little more selfish and not as concerned about the team success, then that’s something we have a hard time with. I think the message was pretty simple. Anybody that buys into our culture, does what it takes to win and sacrifices for the team, will be here, hopefully for a long time.

“The guys that are more worried about other things and their top priority is not winning basketball games, then we’ll get rid of them. We have no problem doing that.” …

“Despite all the changes and the turmoil, we’re two games out of the eighth spot right now. We’re going to see what we can do. Since we made the moves, the vibe around our team is better. The players have more energy. I feel good about our direction.”

Reshaping the roster for the future is nice, and having a positive atmosphere is important. But while the three-guard thing didn’t work as planned, perhaps due to selfishness creeping in as McDonough mentioned, the reality is that the Suns were more talented before these deals were made.

Phoenix really needs to make the playoffs this year in order for the fan base to feel good about the midseason trades, and it’s going to be difficult, to say the least. Not only is Oklahoma City coming on strong, but the Suns finish the season with a brutal stretch of games — at Atlanta, at Dallas, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, vs. the Clippers — that would seem to make the task an even taller one than usual.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward warming up, available to play in Game 3

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The Celtics are getting their X-factor back — Gordon Hayward is available for the must-win Game 3 for Boston.

This had been expected, but he was out warming up pregame as reports he would be available started to bounce around the web.

Even 20 minutes of Hayward would be a big boost for the Celtics. Hayward suffered a grade III ankle sprain in the first game of the playoffs against Philadelphia. He’s been out ever since, even leaving the bubble for a while to get treatment.

Hayward’s return gives the Celtics another versatile player who can create his own shot and knock down the open looks others create for him. Hayward can run pick-and-rolls with the second unit while Tatum and Walker get rest. He’s the Celtics’ fourth-best scoring option right now, but he’s more dangerous than any other team’s fourth scorer.

Miami leads the series 0-2. If Boston doesn’t find a way to break down Miami’s zone defense and defend the rim better themselves this series is going to be short. Maybe Hayward can help with that on Saturday night.

Ty Lawson dropped by team, reportedly banned from Chinese league after social media posts

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Ty Lawson’s off the court challenges were among the reasons he was playing in China and not the NBA this season. He signed for good money in China instead.

That era of his career after some social media posts, apparently of him at a strip club in China, has him dropped by his team and rumored to be banned from the league.

Lawson’s team, the Fujian Sturgeons, apparently gave this statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua:

“His inappropriate words are inconsistent with the social responsibilities and values abided by our club and have brought serious adverse social impacts to the club and the league. We will not sign him for the new season.”

Emiliano Carchia, the CEO of Sportando, reports that Lawson is out of the Chinese Basketball Association for good.

Lawson’s quickness and ability to create space and score could help some NBA teams, but incidents like this make it less likely an NBA team would roll the dice on the 32-year-old point guard. Lawson spent eight seasons in the NBA then the last two in China.

Mike Brown reportedly on list of Indiana coach interviews

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The buzz for a while has been the Indiana coaching job is Mike D’Antoni’s to lose — the Pacers want to update their offense, and no one is more qualified to do it.

But other names are circulating and people being interviewed: Dave Joerger, the Spurs’ Becky Hammon, Miami’s Dan Craig, Dallas’ Stephen Silas, Milwaukee’s Darvin Ham, Minnesota’s David Vanterpool, Philadelphia’s Ime Udoka, Brooklyn’s Jacque Vaughn, Portland’s Nate Tibbetts, and don’t forget Chauncey Billups.

Now add veteran coach Mike Brown to the list, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Brown was the head coach of both the Cavaliers and Lakers, leading the Cavaliers to the Finals in 2007 and being named Coach of the Year two years later. Brown has been the lead assistant under Steve Kerr for a few years now and has undoubtedly soaked up knowledge on setting up a modern NBA offense.

Whoever fills Nate McMillan’s shoes in Indiana has a tough job. Expectations may be high from ownership, but McMillan’s Pacers’ teams played hard and defended, making them difficult to play against. Their offense also was old school, which is why McMillan was fired after the Heat swept the Pacers in the first round, but it wasn’t terrible. How big a leap this team makes may rely less on the style of play and more on if Victor Oladipo has returned to his All-NBA form.