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Hassan Whiteside leaves game vs. Suns with hand injury

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MIAMI (AP) Hassan Whiteside now has more rebounds in a season than any player in Miami Heat history.

Now Miami needs him to rebound from another hand injury.

Whiteside had 23 points and 14 rebounds before leaving late in obvious pain and with blood on his right hand, and the Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 112-97 on Tuesday night. He was getting stitches postgame to repair a cut between his middle and ring fingers, and the team said he will be evaluated again on Wednesday.

Whiteside had a similar injury – same place, same hand – late in the 2014-15 season and missed three games.

“It’s in the awkward place in his hand,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I know everybody will be thinking, `Oh, is this the same, is it worse, how do you compare it to two years ago?’ We’ll see.”

Whiteside now has 936 rebounds in 66 games this season, two more than Rony Seikaly had in 79 games in 1991-92. He was hurt with 2:08 left and the Heat leading by 24, when his hand got caught in the foam attached to the bottom of the backboard. He let out a loud scream and headed to the locker room.

Tyler Johnson scored 17 for the Heat (35-36), who had seven players in double figures. Goran Dragic scored 16, Josh Richardson had 14 and Willie Reed added 12 for Miami.

Marquese Chriss scored 24 for Phoenix (22-49), which lost its fifth straight and used only an eight-player rotation until the final minutes. Leandro Barbosa scored 13, Alex Len scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and T.J. Warren scored 12 for the Suns.

Miami trailed by five midway through the second quarter, and then outscored Phoenix 53-27 over the next 20 minutes. And it came on a night where the Heat were far from sharp offensively – they shot 44 percent, with Whiteside and Dragic combining to miss 16 of their first 20 shots.

It didn’t matter.

The win, combined with Detroit’s loss in Brooklyn, moved Miami back into a top-eight seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Heat are a game ahead of the Pistons.

TIP-INS

Suns: Phoenix listed rest as the reason for sitting Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler. Knight – a native of nearby Fort Lauderdale – also missed Phoenix’s game in Miami last season. … Barbosa returned after missing two games with an illness. … The Suns’ starting frontcourt outscored Miami’s 23-2 in the game’s first 18 minutes.

Heat: Dragic was fouled while attempting 3-pointer for the 24th time this season. He has yet to record a four-point play. … Tyler Johnson had three first-quarter baskets in March, and then made five in a five-minute stretch of the first quarter Tuesday. … The Heat are 14-15 this season against the West. They can finish .500 against the league’s other side with a win over Denver on April 2.

MORE WHITESIDE

Whiteside now has 57 double-digit rebound games this season, a Heat record – one more than Seikaly in 1991-92. Whiteside also extended his franchise records for consecutive double-digit rebound games (17) and consecutive double-doubles (13). His 49th double-double of the season is four shy of Seikaly’s record in that department, also in 1991-92.

SETTING SUNS

The loss was Phoenix’s 49th of the season. The Suns are one defeat away from consecutive 50-loss seasons, something the franchise hasn’t endured since the 1973-74 and 1974-75 campaigns.

UP NEXT

Suns: Visit Brooklyn on Thursday, the third game of a six-game trip.

Heat: Host Toronto on Thursday, the finale of a five-game homestand.

Rumor: Tension between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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Chris Paul sacrificed $10,083,055 last season by opting in to facilitate a trade to the Rockets rather than opting out and signing somewhere for a max salary.

He expects to be made whole. And by most accounts, Houston understands the arrangement.

But here’s a rumor otherwise.

Undisputed:

Chris Broussard:

From what I’m told, there is tension now between Houston and Chris Paul. Because there was definitely some type of handshake, wink wink, “we’re going to max you out” last summer. But here’s the thing: Now, they’re not so sure. Houston, with good reason, doesn’t want to do that. But they’ve got an out, because they have new ownership. So, Daryl Morey can go to Chris Paul and be like, “I want to do it, but we’ve got the new owner doesn’t want to give you five years, four years.”

Former Rockets owner Leslie Alexander committed to big expenditures. New owner Tillman Ferttita has talked about his spending limits – for good reason. He sunk so much of his personal wealth into buying the team. He might not be able to afford outrageous luxury-tax bills.

Starters Clint Capela and Trevor Ariza will also become free agents this summer. Houston definitely wants to keep Capela. A large contract for Paul would be prohibitive.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. Already 33, he almost certainly won’t produce enough on the court to justify that amount. Players that age just decline and face greater injury risk.

But the downside of not paying him that much could be losing him. Even playing hardball could offend him given the circumstances that brought him to Houston. The Rockets are contending. A bad contract a few years down the road would be worth it if they win a title, and Paul is instrumental to that push.

This could be a delicate situation, and Morey can probe at least a little if he chooses. Would Paul be understanding of the ownership change? What options will Paul have better than a large, but sub-max, contract from the Rockets? Would Paul take a discount if Houston got his friend LeBron James?

But push too hard, and would Paul bolt to play with LeBron on the Lakers?

There has been too much insistence that Paul re-signing with the Rockets was assured to completely trust Broussard’s report. But it’d also be a mistake to completely ignore the possibility talks have broken down.

Hawks GM: We might have traded up with Bucks if their draft pick didn’t leak first

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Let’s pick up with the No. 16 pick in last night’s NBA draft.

The Suns were on the clock and planning to pick Donte DiVincenzo. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

But then 76ers called Phoenix about trading No. 10 pick Mikel Bridges for the No. 16 pick and a future first-rounder. The teams agreed to the deal (causing this heartbreaking moment), and the Suns picked Zhaire Smith for Philadelphia.

The next three picks:

17. Donte DiVincenzo, Bucks

18. Lonnie Walker, Spurs

19. Kevin Huerter, Hawks

Atlanta general manager Travis Schlenk on 95.7 The Game, via ESPN:

“Last night, for instance, we had the 19th pick, and we’re coming down and we’re actually talking to Milwaukee on the 17th pick, talking about trading up to get a guy we like,” Schlenk said. “There’s were a couple of guys we felt really good about on the 19th pick, obviously Kevin [Huerter] was one of them, and it leaked who Milwaukee was going to take.

“So, all of a sudden, we were able to pull back out of that deal and keep the draft pick instead of packaging picks to move up because we knew that, two guys on the board we felt really good about and only one team in between us, so that was beneficial to us last night.”

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports and Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported the Bucks picking DiVincenzo at 9:18 p.m.:

The pick became official at 9:22 p.m.:

Clearly, Atlanta wanted Huerter or “Mystery Player Not Named Donte DiVincenzo.”* Once they learned Milwaukee would take DiVincenzo at No. 17, the Hawks knew at least one of Huerter or “Mystery Player Not Named Donte DiVincenzo” would be available at No. 19.

*I think there’s a good chance it was Walker, whom San Antonio picked No. 18.

That saved the Hawks an asset(s) and cost the Bucks an asset(s), though perhaps Milwaukee couldn’t have gotten DiVincenzo at No. 19. Maybe the Spurs would’ve selected him at No. 18.

Still, the Bucks didn’t protect their internal plans well enough. Maybe that’s an organizational flaw. But this also could have been a fluky sequence of events. Perhaps, after hearing Phoenix would take DiVincenzo, someone in Milwaukee felt comfortable sharing that the Bucks wanted him. Then, when he surprisingly fell, it was too late. The information was already out there – allowing Atlanta to stand pat.

Danny Ainge unwittingly leaks Celtics’ draft pick on call with Terry Rozier during live show (video)

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Terry Rozier takes solace in how much Danny Ainge believes in him.

But I didn’t appreciate how deep their bond went.

Appearing on Bleacher Report’s live draft show, Rozier was asked to predict the Celtics’ No. 27 pick. So, Rozier called Ainge to ask. Shockingly, Ainge answered – with Boston on the clock. Almost certainly not knowing the call was public and live, Ainge revealed the likely selection:

Good thing the Celtics stuck with Robert Williams. That would have been extremely awkward otherwise.

As is, it was only a little awkward. Williams said today he doesn’t like to be called Bob.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.