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Philadelphia transplant Mikal Bridges helping Suns after shocking draft-night trade

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Mikal Bridges lived near Philadelphia his whole life. He was born there. He grew up there. He played collegiately at nearby Villanova. He even got drafted this year by the 76ers, the organization his mom worked for!

But while he was explaining his joy about joining the 76ers, they were trading him to the Suns.

It was a stunning development – one the 76ers insisted even they didn’t foresee when they picked Bridges No. 10. The Suns just made too good of an offer – the No. 16 pick (Zhaire Smith) and an unprotected 2021 Heat first-rounder. Everyone watching sympathized with Bridges having his storybook career derailed.

Yet, Bridges insists he wasn’t bothered.

“It was good to be home. It would have been good,” Bridges said. “But I wasn’t mad about not being home, either. So, it was the same thing.”

Even now, Bridges struggles to pinpoint differences between living near home in Philadelphia and living across the country in Phoenix.

“Just the weather, I guess,” Bridges said.

Bridges has shown tremendous ability to roll with the punches. That’s why he’s one of the NBA’s top rookies.

“We love his poise,” Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. “And we call him, he’s a ‘vet-rookie.'”

Bridges has moved into Phoenix’s starting lineup. He’s averaging 7.1 points and a rookie-high 1.4 steals (minimum: two games) per game.

He also leads rookies in real plus-minus. Here’s the leaderboard (minimum: 10 games):

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Bridges isn’t the best rookie. That’d be Jaren Jackson or Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton. But Bridges handles his limited role well. The 6-foot-7 forward defends versatilely, knocks down open 3-pointers, attacks closeouts and doesn’t try to do too much.

He’s exactly the type of 3-and-D wing Philadelphia could use.

But Bridges tries not to dwell on that. It helps he didn’t grow up a 76ers fan, instead rooting for whatever team had Tracy McGrady.

He can’t completely escape the difference between Philadelphia and Phoenix, though. The 76ers are 14-8 while the Suns are an NBA-worst 4-16. Bridges’ worst record at Villanova was 33-5 – and the Wildcats one the NCAA championship that year, one of two Bridges helped them win. He said he never played for a losing team growing up, either.

“The real you comes out when you start losing, when it’s a tough situation,” Bridges said.

This isn’t the first time Bridges’ composure has shined amid difficulty. Because he was so thin, he redshirted his first year at Villanova. Instead of playing, he spent days working out. He called it “one of the toughest years of my life.”

“I was in pain throughout the whole year,” Bridges said.

That early setback also seemed to signal Bridges would never make the NBA. Nearly anyone who becomes good for the NBA is good enough to play early in college. Just 12 active NBA players redshirted (excluding due to transfer, academics or medical): Bridges, Kent Bazemore, Garrett Temple, Dewayne Dedmon, Jerian Grant, David Nwaba, Hamidou Diallo, D.J. Wilson, Justin Patton, Ron Baker, Johnathan Motley and George King.

Bridges turned pro after his redshirt junior year, letting that saved season of eligibility go to waste. But he says redshirting was still the right call for him, as he developed a stronger work ethic that year.

The 210-pound Bridges still hasn’t grown into the NBA’s strongest or most athletic player. But, even after his difficult experience acclimating to college basketball, Bridges wasn’t worried about a bumpy entrance to the NBA.

“There’s always transition every step you go to. You’ve just got to get used to it,” Bridges said. “I adjust pretty quick.”

NBA players roast Kyle Kuzma over outfit posted to Instagram (PHOTOS)

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Kyle Kuzma is going to be expected to have a big year for the Los Angeles Lakers. He thinks he can have the impact of a third star for L.A., a team that didn’t add Kawhi Leonard to go alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis this summer.

That’s big talk from Kuzma, but perhaps that talk has boosted his confidence a little bit. In a photo posted to Instagram this week, Kuzma could be seen wearing… whatever this is.

Via Twitter:

Twitter had a great time with Kuzma outfit, which looks like something pulled straight out of an early 2000s episode of TRL.

Kuzma’s contemporaries in the NBA thought he was getting a little wild with it, too, with several hopping onto the post to roast the Lakers big man.

Via Twitter:

I don’t know what this means for the upcoming Lakers season, but I’m sure it’s something interesting.

Draymond Green says he’s ‘at a loss for words about’ DeMarcus Cousins injury

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Everyone has been upset about the recent ACL tear suffered by DeMarcus Cousins. The Los Angeles Lakers big man just can’t seem to catch a break, and has injured his Achilles, quad, and now ACL in the span of two years.

Last year was supposed to be one of retribution for Cousins with the Golden State Warriors, but the results were disappointing. Even still, the Lakers decided to take a chance on Cousins as they tried to push for supremacy in the Western Conference.

Meanwhile folks have shown their support for the former Sacramento Kings All-Star, with Draymond Green being the most recent star to offer comment. The former Warriors teammate of Cousins told ESPN how he felt about the injury this week.

Via ESPN and Marc Spears of The Undefeated:

“One of my goals coming into this season was for DeMarcus to destroy everybody and come back and show how great of a player he is and get what I think he deserves,” Green told The Undefeated’s Marc Spears. “I’m really at a loss for words about it. It’s one that really hurt me for sure.”

Cousins is now 29 years old, and the question is whether he will ever return to any kind of form approaching what he had in Sacramento. His injuries have been devastating, and they are the kind that few have returned from to play at an elite level in the NBA.

Cousins appears to be fast approaching a spot in NBA history with other potential greats whose careers were ruined by injury. Hopefully he can find a way to avoid that track.

Rumor: Jeremy Lin, open to playing in China, now in talks with Beijing Ducks

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Jeremy Lin does not appear to be on the radar of any NBA teams at this juncture. It has been an up-and-down summer for Lin, who won a championship with the Toronto Raptors back in June but finds himself a free agent here in August.

Lin has already said that it’s been extremely tough for him to go without a contract this offseason, and it was reported that he turned down a deal with CSKA Moscow to pursue further NBA opportunities.

Now there are murmurs that Lin could be headed to China to play for the Beijing Ducks. According to Sportando, Chinese reporter Sonx Xiang is saying that Lin and the Ducks are closing in on a deal.

NBA players can go on to have lucrative careers in the CBA. Lin is still a decent enough scorer at the NBA level, and it’s most likely he would fit into the Chinese game quite well.

As a branding and personal opportunity, China could fit Lin nicely. He’s currently on his annual tour of Asia, helping kids across several countries with basketball camps and charitable concerns.

The South China Morning Post has reported that Lin said he would be willing to play in the CBA. Lin also told website Radii of his trips to China that, “When I go there, I feel the most at home.”

Make no bones about it, Lin would much rather play in the NBA this season. Looking at his numbers on Synergy, it’s sort of surprising that nobody would want him as a third point guard on a minimum deal. But in the meantime, Lin has spent a significant amount of time in China and feels a kind of purpose when he’s there.

If he’s got to be away from home — and away from the NBA — this might be the best option for Lin available right now.

Victor Oladipo says Pacers “definitely” a playoff team, maybe more in wide-open East

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With a number of new faces — Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday, T.J. Warren — and star Victor Oladipo out until mid-season, predicting where the Indiana Pacers will land in the East next season is difficult.

Oladipo himself has a good idea where, as he told J. Michael of the Indy Star.

“Playoffs, for sure. Definitely.”

And maybe more.

After Milwaukee and Philadelphia at the top, the East is wide open. Last season the Pacers were an impressive defensive team — third-best in the NBA, anchored by Myles Turner — but a middle of the pack offense (before Oladipo tore the quad muscle near his knee and was out, after that they fell off to bottom 10). The challenge was that after Oladipo the Pacers did not have a lot of shot creation options on the roster (Bojan Bogdanovic did well picking up the slack, he’s good but not elite in that role).

Ths season Brogdon can create, Lamb can create for himself, both can play off the ball, and there are just more options, especially once Oladipo returns and everyone gets on the same page.

A team that had difficulty with execution because it had a dearth of ballhandlers should score more on offense and be able to switch more on defense…

“We have the ability now to play that way. We have the personnel to play that way,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who can do things with the ball. Not only me. I don’t think we’ve had that before. It’s going to be a lot of opportunities for guys to go out there and make things happen.”

That kind of team could be very dangerous in the East.

Before that, however, there are a lot of new pieces to fit together in Indiana. Then mid-season their best player in Oladipo returns and there will be another round of adjustments, with guys needing to accept changing roles.

If it all comes together for Nate McMillan and crew, the Pacers are a playoff threat, but there are a lot of “ifs” to get to where the Pacers want to ultimately be.

For now, get to the playoffs, get healthy, and then we will see just what this team is capable of.