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.

Luka Doncic with 42-point triple-double, sticks dagger in Spurs for Mavericks win

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Luka Doncic is having a “we’ve got to talk about this guy as a possible MVP” kind of season so far.

The latest addition to the resume: A 42 point, 11 rebounds, 12 assist triple-double to lead the Mavericks past the Spurs. That includes sticking the dagger in the Spurs late.

Dallas won 117-110 and improves to 8-5 on the season.

The 42 points is a career-high for Doncic, and he is the first player in Dallas history to record a 40-point triple-double. This is Doncic’s sixth triple-double of the season.

And he’s still just 20 years old.

Here’s the full list of NBA players who have had 40-point triple-doubles at the age of 20 or younger:

LeBron James
Luka Doncic

That’s it — and that’s some impressive company for Doncic.

Kings’ Buddy Hield fined $25,000 for kicking ball into stands in celebration

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This was a $25,000 celebration by Buddy Hield.

Sacramento led by one in the final seconds against Boston Sunday, but the Celtics had a final shot and Marcus Smart‘s attempt at a game-winning floater hung on the rim seemingly forever… then fell off. The ball was tipped out to mid-court and — as you can see in this video — Heild kicks the ball into the stands as part of the celebration.

Kicking or throwing the ball into the stands is a standing $25,000 fine, and the league came down with that on Hield on Monday. It was not a surprise.

Hield was the reason Sacramento won the game, scoring 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three. He’d likely make that trade for the win again.

Kawhi Leonard out vs. Thunder Monday night, third straight game due to knee bruise

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This isn’t load management. This is a bruised knee.

The first Clipper game with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George sharing the court will have to wait as Leonard is going to miss his third straight game with a knee contusion Monday night against the Thunder. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news.

The Clippers are going to be cautious with bringing Leonard back from this, thinking long term with his health, as they should. Los Angeles is playing for games in May and June, not games in November.

This means tonight the Clippers will be the Paul George show again — in two games he has scored 70 points in 44 minutes. This will be George’s first game against the Thunder since he demanded a trade out of the city last summer, landing him on the Clippers with Leonard.

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, ‘let the chips fall where they may’

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.