Phoenix Suns’ 42-Point Loss Saturday Marks Historically Slow Start to NBA Season

Prior to the 2017-18 season, no team in NBA history had ever opened the year with multiple losses of at least 40 points in its first three games.

That changed Saturday, when the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Phoenix Suns 130-88 and made Phoenix the league’s first time to lose two of its first three games by a margin of 40 or more, per ESPN Stats & Info

The Suns’ previous two defeats came against the Los Angeles Lakers (130-132) and Portland Trail Blazers (124-76), with teams combining to score 386 points against them. That mark represents the most any team has allowed over the first three games of a campaign over the past 27 seasons, per Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN.com).

While it is early in the season, the Suns are poised for a trying year if their first three games are any indication as to where their campaign is going. Over said games, they have shot just 39.7 percent from the field, ranking worst in the league.

As evidenced by the 386 points allowed, the Suns’ opponents have also scored with ease. Opposing players have shot a league-high 51.5 percent when facing Phoenix.

Although a rough season appears to be in store, Suns fans will look for signs of promise from many of the youngsters on their rebuilding squad. With a team comprised largely of prospects, the average age of the Suns is just 24.5 years old, the youngest in the league. Among them are 2017 lottery pick Josh Jackson (20) and Devin Booker, the third-year sharpshooter who averaged 22.1 points per game in the 2016-17 season. 

Phoenix will have the chance to pick up win No. 1 when it hosts the Sacramento Kings on Monday.

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Predicting Which NBA Teams Will See Biggest Wins Increase in 2017-18

The 2017-18 NBA season will be littered with risers and fallers. But since our cup is a good three-quarters full, we’re focusing only on the former.

Stocks can spike for any number of reasons, and these eight teams reflect that variety. Each is pegged for at least a five-win improvement, a cutoff the Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers came the next closest to surpassing.

Some follow the more traditional model of developing young talent and supplementing the incumbents through trades and free agency. For others, their previous campaigns were such a mess that even a modest improvement would be enough to clear our five-victory hurdle.

No matter the method, these eight teams are ready to see the biggest increases in the win column during the 2017-18 campaign.  

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NBA Rumors: Latest Trade Buzz on LaMarcus Aldridge, Hassan Whiteside and More

The NBA rumor mill never stops, even when the regular season is less than a week old.

This past offseason showed how quickly things can come together regarding a landscape-changing trade. Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony were all expected to move, but the timing of their deals—and the terms of each trade—shocked many fans.

LaMarcus Aldridge, Hassan Whiteside and Dennis Schroder all remained with their current teams through the summer, but it wasn’t through a lack of effort—at least in the case of Aldridge and WhitesideSchroder, meanwhile, may prove difficult to move for the Atlanta Hawks.

                    

LaMarcus Aldridge

It’s no secret the partnership between LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs hasn’t gone according to plan. Per ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Spurs tried to trade the five-time All-Star last season.

Wojnarowski reported on his podcast (which begins at around the 25:00 mark) that not only did the Spurs shop Aldridge, the player himself was also open to possible trades. San Antonio discussed deals around the NBA draft and through the summer, with Wojnarowski reporting the Spurs had hoped to land Irving.

Instead, Aldridge is still a Spurs player, and he now has a three-year extension that could pay him up to $72 million. Wojnarowski reported last Tuesday the contract includes his $22.3 million option for next year, and ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe reported only $7 million in the final year of the deal is guaranteed.

Aldridge’s situation feels somewhat like Kevin Love’s Cleveland Cavaliers career. Trade rumors swirled around Love for much of his first few years in Cleveland until the team won a championship in 2016. Now, he’s the Cavs‘ second-best player, behind LeBron James, until Isaiah Thomas returns.

Shortly after his extension was announced, Aldridge said he had talked with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich this past summer.

I feel like the talks this summer were very constructive,” Aldridge said, per ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright. “I felt it was kind of needed, having the heart to heart where you just say how you feel. Pop has been great about the things that I’ve said I kind of needed or wanted. So far, it’s been great.”

For as much as Aldridge had trouble fitting in with San Antonio, re-signing him made sense for the team. He averaged 17.6 points and 7.9 rebounds through his first two years, which is solid production. And replacing Aldridge with a player of similar quality would’ve been very difficult.

At least for the short term, Aldridge’s extension seemingly ends the doubt about his future in San Antonio.

           

Hassan Whiteside

Last January, Lowe reported on his podcast the Heat were open to trading anybody on their roster, including Hassan Whiteside, who was in the first year of his four-year, $98.4 million contract.

The report came as the Heat were stuck in a brutal start to the 2016-17 season. They finished the second half with a 30-11 record, which changed the general attitude around the team. Miami could potentially challenge for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference this season, especially after Gordon Hayward’s ankle injury knocking him out for most—if not all—of the year with the Boston Celtics.

Still, questions about Whiteside‘s long-term fit with the Heat have yet to fully subside.

Lowe floated a hypothetical trade in which Whiteside would switch places with New Orleans Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins before adding “both teams swear up and down this won’t happen.”

On the Oct. 17 edition of The Hoop Collective, ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan expressed a level of skepticism about Miami building its roster around WhitesideAround the 1:30:50 mark of the podcast, MacMullan called making Whiteside the foundational player of the team “problematic” and reported the Heat had “tried to trade him all over the block.”

Whiteside averaged 17.0 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a game last year but still struggled to maintain a high enough level of consistency from game to game.

His field-goal percentage also slipped for the third straight year. After making 62.8 percent of his shots in 2014-15—his first year in Miami—Whiteside connected on 55.7 percent of his attempts in 2016-17. And that’s despite Whiteside still taking 44.5 percent of his shots from within three feet, according to Basketball Reference.

The 28-year-old limited opponents to 61 percent on shots inside six feet last season, per NBA.com.

There’s little reason to think a Whiteside trade is on the horizon. Particularly given the Hayward injury, the Heat will likely want to give their current core at least a full season before making any significant changes.

The fact Miami entertained the idea of a Whiteside trade before illustrates he may not be untouchable in the future, though.

           

Dennis Schroder

Lowe reported on his podcast in September that some Atlanta Hawks players were all too happy to learn of Dwight Howard‘s trade to the Charlotte Hornets. Somewhat overlooked at the time was a comment by Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com.

As one person inside the locker room told me, ‘Do you know how hard it is to make Dennis Schroder the good guy in an internecine warfare between players?'” Arnovitz said (h/t Deadspin’s Patrick Redford). “Do you know how hard it is to have a locker room pro-Dennis in terms of just mood and personality?”

According to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, the negative perception around Schroder isn’t limited to Hawks players.

Mannix wrote that Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk generally isn’t a fan of long-term contracts, such as Schroder‘s four-year deal worth $70 million. Unloading Schroder‘s contract may not be an option for Atlanta, though.

But more importantly, there is no real market for him,” Mannix reported. “I ran Schroder‘s name by a few team executives this week, and each recoiled. There’s a toxicity surrounding Schroder right now. A reputation as a selfish player has gained significant traction throughout the league.”

Mannix also spoke to a Western Conference front-office executive who said they “don’t need that kind of headache” in terms of acquiring Schroder.

Schroder only turned 24 in September, and he averaged 17.9 points and 6.3 assists per game after taking over for Jeff Teague as Atlanta’s starting point guard last year.

In theory, he should be a key part of the Hawks’ rebuild. Having strong chemistry inside the locker room is important to building a contender, though. If Schroder is causing friction with some of his teammates, then trading him should be a strong consideration for Atlanta, even if the team has to take a lesser return in doing so.

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Lonzo Ball Flirts with Triple-Double as Anthony Davis, Pelicans Beat Lakers

Lonzo Ball flirted with a triple-double for the second game in a row, but he narrowly missed out on the gaudy statistical achievement once again as the Los Angeles Lakers fell to the New Orleans Pelicans 119-112 at Staples Center on Sunday night.

In his third regular-season outing, the 19-year-old registered eight points, a new career-high 13 assists and a team-high eight rebounds over 36 minutes.

     

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Twitter Reacts After Suns Eric Bledsoe Appears to Ask for Trade

It’s no secret the Phoenix Suns have struggled this season. Eric Bledsoe‘s name has been in trade rumors for the last two years, and it seems as though he’s ready to leave.

And Twitter has plenty to say.

 

 

Even DeAndre Jordan, Bledsoe’s former teammate on the Los Angeles Clippers, chimed in:

Suns coach Earl Watson was fired Sunday after the team’s 0-3 start. With all the chaos in the desert, it’s no wonder Bledsoe seemingly wants out. 

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Clippers’ Milos Teodosic Reportedly Out Indefinitely Due to Foot Injury

The Los Angeles Clippers announced Sunday that point guard Milos Teodosic is out indefinitely after he suffered a plantar fascia injury in his left foot during the second quarter of Saturday’s win over the Phoenix Suns

The New York Times‘ Marc Stein relayed the Clippers’ official release: 

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Earl Watson Reportedly Fired by Suns After 0-3 Start to Season

The Phoenix Suns reportedly fired head coach Earl Watson on Sunday following an 0-3 start to the 2017-18 season, according to ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski.   

Wojnarowski added Suns associate head coach and former Toronto Raptors boss Jay Triano is likely to be named as the interim head coach. The 59-year-old Triano owns a lifetime record of 87-142, including two seasons (2008-09 and 2010-11) that featured 25 or fewer wins. 

The reported move came a shade over an hour after Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe seemingly tweeted his displeasure with the franchise: 

Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan later tweeted an apparent response to his former teammate:  

The Suns, who finished last season a Western Conference-worst 24-58, surrendered an average of 128.7 points per game over their first three games and ranked dead last in net rating (-26.2) through Saturday, according to NBA.com’s stats database. 

In addition to the porous defense, Phoenix’s offense has struggled mightily through the season’s opening week with a 76-point outing against the Portland Trail Blazers and 88-point effort versus the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The lone offensive bright spot was a 130-point outburst against the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Suns’ anemic defense overshadowed positive takeaways in the scoring department. 

Moving forward, the onus will be on the Suns’ interim coaching staff to simply aid in the development of promising youngsters Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender as the franchise tries to avoid a second straight finish in the Western Conference cellar. 


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