February 24, 2018, 1:38 pm
OPPONENT: Phoenix Suns
RECORD: 18-42 (9-22 at home, 1-9 last 10 games)
MEASUREABLES: 101.6 offensive rating (29th), 110.7 defensive rating (30th), -9.1 net rating (30th)
WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 9:00 EST, Talking Stick Resort Arena (Phoenix), NBC Sports Northwest/FOX Sports Arizona
The Phoenix Suns have reached a nadir. Not even their bottom-ranked status in the standings or overall net rating does this team’s putrid recent play justice. Three of the Suns’ last four losses were highlighted by embarrassing quirks that served as the latest, mounting evidence that they’re playing as poorly as they have since the beginning of the season, when Earl Watson was fired after three games for overseeing a defense that allowed at least 124 points in successive season-opening losses.
The first one came in a 123-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets on February 10, when Troy Daniels, miffed by comments Denver guard Will Barton made on the “Road Trippin” podcast about the Suns being sent to the G-League following a 48-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs, initiated a shoving match with Barton in the game’s opening minutes. Next was Steve Kerr letting Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and David West coach his team, suffering from a midseason malaise reserved only for overwhelming title favorites, during the Golden State Warriors’ 129-83 lashing of the Suns two days later. And finally, on Friday night, after a more routine loss to the Utah Jazz and a nine-day All-Star break to regroup, Phoenix fell behind 19-0 in a 128-117 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We can’t come out with mindset here we have to get punched in the face and then fight back,” Devin Booker said after the game. “We’ve got to be the aggressors.”
Even more than Booker’s imminent flammability, rookie Josh Jackson playing the best basketball of his career and the inevitable pitfalls of the second half of a road back-to-back, the Portland Trail Blazers’ concern on Saturday should lie with the Suns finally getting sick of being basketball’s laughingstock. Friday night’s impressive win over the Utah Jazz will loom large to Portland’s playoff hopes regardless of what happens in Phoenix. Tie-breakers could very well come into play in deciding the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff field, and the Blazers, 2-1 against the Jazz so far, play their season finale in Salt Lake City on April 11. The margins will matter when it comes time for teams to emerge from this middle-class muck.
Still, the obvious momentum the Blazers have established with consecutive victories over the defending champions and the hottest team in basketball would be squashed with a loss in Phoenix. It’s not like the Suns don’t have enough talent to be competitive, either. Interim coach Jay Triano had his young team playing hard in the immediate wake of Watson’s dismissal, winning four of its next five games – including a 114-107 victory at Moda Center on October 28, 10 days after Portland beat Phoenix by 48 points in the season-opener.
Booker had 34 points in that game, and 43 points, six rebounds and eight assists in the Suns’ 118-111 loss to the Blazers on January 16, a game that wasn’t as close as his incredible fourth-quarter shot-making making made it seem by the final buzzer. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard’s sustained success against Portland this season is no accident, though, indicative of the same personnel deficiency that always plagues Stotts’ team against oversized guards. Putting Maurice Harkless, recently living up to his sky-high defensive potential, on Booker would be ideal, but leave C.J. McCollum tasked with checking 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward T.J. Warren, a bucket-getter of old-school variety from inside the arc. The Blazers’ lack of perimeter size comes into play when Jackson is running the wing next to Booker, too.
Pace could also be in Phoenix’s favor. The Suns average more possessions per game than all but three teams in the league, and have been running to an almost reckless extent of late. Elfrid Payton, a former lottery pick acquired at the trade deadline for a second-rounder, has an on-court pace factor of 103.25 in his four games with the team, per NBA.com/stats, a hair higher than the Los Angeles Lakers’ season-leading mark. Somehow, Phoenix has played even faster with Payton on the bench, at an absolutely breakneck pace of 109.35. If Portland comes out flat and the Suns punch first, will the Blazers have the energy to comeback and keep up?
Saturday marks a golden opportunity for Portland. This is a game a playoff team should win, circumstances of calendar and standings be damned. But considering the tenuous nature of the their postseason hopes, even after ending Utah’s double-digit winning streak, it’s almost one the Blazers need to win, too.
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, Miami Heat
Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.
Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, Miami Heat
Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".
It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.
Source: Miami Herald
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, Philadelphia Sixers
According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.
Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia
Source: The Athletic
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, Brooklyn Nets
On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.
Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.
Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, Houston Rockets
Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.
Source: The Athletic
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.
The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, Washington Wizards
On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.
The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.
Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, New York Knicks
Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.
Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, Boston Celtics
On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.
That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.
Source: Celtics PR on Twitter
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter