Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

2018 Draft proposal rumored on Suns’ table: Draft Luka Doncic, go after free agent Clint Capela

13 Comments

When the Phoenix Suns hired Igor Kokoskov as head coach back in May 2018 — the first European born head coach of an NBA team — there was an assumption in many corners of the league this meant Phoenix wanted to draft Luka Doncic (Kokoskov was Doncic’s national team coach). When the lottery ping-pong balls gifted Phoenix the No. 1 pick, they could then land whoever they wanted.

That was not Doncic. Reportedly at the urging of owner Robert Sarver (who wanted the Arizona guy), the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton first overall.

Friday night Doncic dropped 42 on Phoenix, and considering Doncic’s MVP-level start to his second season, there is some buyer’s remorse in Phoenix (Ayton remains out following a PED suspension). Later Friday, Marc Stein the New York Times Tweeted this:

Getting Clint Capela would not have been that easy. While he was a free agent and could have gone anywhere, the Rockets really liked him and may have gone higher than the 5-years, $90 million they signed him for. Plus, the Rockets were a winning team with James Harden, which is an excellent reason to stay. That said, the Suns could have made a run at him.

Sarver wants desperately for the Suns to have their own superstar, so much so he put goats in the GM’s office to remind him (at least they didn’t poop much). Would the Suns have drafted Doncic over Ayton if Sarver hadn’t taken a side? We will never know. Ayton was a highly ranked prospect seen as an offensive force who could play the modern game (and he averaged an impressive 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds a game as a rookie, while his defense was a challenge it did improve so there is real hope for the future).

Whatever happens, it looks like there are going to be some “how did you miss” questions in Phoenix and Sacramento (and, maybe, Atlanta, although Trae Young mitigates things some) for a long time.

Former Celtic Guerschon Yabusele fined for not looking at flag during Chinese national anthem

Guerschon Yabusele
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Guerschon Yabusele washed out with the Celtics.

So, now the former first-rounder is playing in China – and running into trouble.

The Chinese Basketball Association fined him for not looking at the flag during the national anthem:

Though Yabusele is French, this comes amid heightened tension between the NBA and China. Most Americans will probably find it ridiculous that looking at the flag during the national anthem is required in authoritarian China.

Meanwhile, let’s ostracize anyone who dares not to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.

Portland reportedly applies for disabled player exception after Rodney Hood injury

Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rodney Hood‘s season coming to an end because of a ruptured Achilles was a real blow to Portland — he had become a critical part of their rotation. That has led to a lot of speculation about already shorthanded Portland jumping into the trade market soon looking for someone to absorb those minutes, as well as hitting the buyout market hard next February.

Portland is now looking for a little more money to spend to bring someone in, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The “disabled player exemption” allows a team over some space to go after a replacement for a player lost due to injury. This is a fairly standard process and likely will be approved. Portland can use that money on a free agent (Iman Shumpert is available again) or someone bought out by another team.

Portland is 10-16 on the season, set back in part due to injuries to the front line. The Blazers knew Jusuf Nurkic would miss most of the season, and he was vital to them, but they were counting on Zach Collins to step up and absorb those minutes. Then he needed shoulder surgery. Portland eventually turned to Carmelo Anthony to help along the frontline, and he has performed well enough for them to guarantee his contract for the season.

Portland is going to be active, both looking at free agents and on the trade market. Just don’t expect a Kevin Love deal (he may want it but his contract makes that nearly impossible).

Rumor: Dwight Howard and Chris Paul stated intent to join Mavericks until Howard backed out

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.

Somewhat by choice.

Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.

Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.

Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.

This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.

This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?

Serge Ibaka says he nearly goaltended Kawhi Leonard’s iconic shot: ‘I would’ve retired’

Leave a comment

Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.

Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”

In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.

The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.

Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.