Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Tags Posts tagged with "basketball"

Tag: basketball

The Time Is Now for Rajon Rondo to Resurrect NBA Career After Signing with Kings
Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings and Rajon Rondo both spent the last year spiraling out of control at different times, which makes the former the perfect place for the latter to try resurrecting his career. He'll attempt to do exactly that after agreeing to a one-year deal, as first reported by Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears: 

Rajon Rondo to sign one-year, $10 million deal with Kings, source told Yahoo

— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 3, 2015

Just months ago, the Kings had managed to hire George Karl, who was sure to milk plenty of greatness out of DeMarcus Cousins. But after the "will they, won't they" trade saga centered around, well, the center, nothing is certain anymore.

Vlade Divac is running the show in the front office and getting fleeced by the Philadelphia 76ers, and free agents are consistently turning down extra money from the Kings to go play elsewhere, as Bleacher Report's Bryan Toporek and CBSSports.com's Ken Berger noted:

Wes Matthews turned down a FOUR-YEAR, $64 MILLION offer from the Kings? They are radioactive right now.

— Bryan Toporek (@btoporek) July 3, 2015

Ellis chose the Pacers over the Kings, who offered about $4.3 million more, source says.

— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 2, 2015

But Rondo has no such luxury. If anything, his career has been even more disastrous during the last calendar year. 

Flash back to last offseason and the talented distributor was still expected to run the show for the Boston Celtics, helping Marcus Smart grow during his rookie season but still serving as the Beantown star.

Since then, he's been traded to the Dallas Mavericks, forgot how to shoot free throws with anything that even resembled consistency and left during the first-round playoffs series against the Houston Rockets with a "back injury."

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Turns out, that injury was actually a fake malady, one meant to distance him from the rest of the struggling team. As ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon reported, the decision to spend time apart was a mutual one: 

Rondo never really fit with the Mavs, as the concerns about the impact of his poor shooting in coach Rick Carlisle’s flow offense quickly manifested and were never solved. The hope of a 'Playoff Rondo' sighting was crushed after his poor Game 1 performance and the appearance he gave up in Game 2.

The Mavs and Rondo made a mutual decision to part ways the next day, sources told ESPNDallas.com, framing the reasoning as a back injury as a favor to try to help the four-time All-Star point guard save face.

The truth was that the Mavs didn’t want Rondo, who was going to be replaced in the starting lineup regardless, pouting and rubbing off on other players, Ellis in particular. Essentially, the Mavs made a drastic move in an attempt to do damage control on a chemistry crisis.

Even still, Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle expected Rondo to at least draw some significant interest during the summer. 

"But here’s the other fact: This is a guy that’s going to have a lot of free-agent options in the summer," Carlisle said back in April on The Afternoon Show with Cowlishaw and Mosley, as relayed by the Dallas Morning News. "If we wanted to get him back, we were going to be bidding against multiple other teams with a lot of cap space, and there's going to be a big market for him."

But there wasn't.

And that's how we arrived here. 

Here being where no team but the Kings, barring a token phone call from the Los Angeles Lakers, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, seemed to express interest in the services of a man who once appeared to be tracking toward a coveted spot in the Hall of Fame. Here being where a four-time All-Star and a two-time assist leader had to take a one-year deal with the apparently dysfunctional Kings just so he could attempt to resurrect his career. Here being where a 29-year-old household name is now making just a bit more in 2015-16 than Al-Farouq Aminu (four years, $30 million) and Corey Brewer (three years, $24 million, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) while boasting the same average annual value as Iman Shumpert (four years, $40 million).

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Why would a team be willing to make a larger commitment to such a flimsy and uncertain commodity?

Rondo is now coming off a season that ended with burned bridges and per-game averages of 8.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 7.9 assists. He shot just 42.6 percent from the field and 39.7 percent from the charity stripe while earning a 13.5 player efficiency rating—the worst mark since his rookie season. 

But still, we can cue that immortal clip from Dumb and Dumber, because he's being given another chance.

So long as there's a chance that he starts to polish off the rust and show flashes of his old self, it's impossible to completely rule out the return of vintage Rondo. 

The point guard has never been the same since tearing his ACL against the Atlanta Hawks back in 2013, but he's also been the victim of numerous unfortunate situations. It's actually possible to make valid excuses for him during each subsequent campaign, even if they might not add up to a free pass: 

  • 2013-14: Rondo returned halfway through the year and was only able to play in 30 games, making it tough to gain the chemistry his game is so heavily reliant upon. 
  • 2014-15 (Boston): He was tasked with carrying a young, inexperienced team, when he's far more comfortable serving as a lesser offensive option and making everyone else look good. 
  • 2014-15 (Dallas): He was added midway through the year to an offense operating at historic levels while boasting other players who needed to dominate the ball. 

For the first time in a long while, Rondo will have the chance to develop chemistry with his new teammates before games actually begin to count. He's going to a situation of his choosing and playing with friends (DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay).

Hell, the Kings even made a signing based on what they could do for Rondo, per Spears

Oh, and he's healthy.

That "back injury" should have healed up already, and that affords him the luxury of actually participating in training camp and suiting up during the preseason, both of which he should absolutely do while trying to prove himself once more and simultaneously repair his image. 

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Rondo knows that it's now or never. He has to, or else he never would have accepted such a small contract this early on in the free-agency period while failing to lock himself into a long-term deal. In fact, he's the one who wanted to sign a one-year contract, as Spears tweeted: 

Rajon Rondo is taking one-year deal with Kings with expectation to cash in on major raise in salaries with TV deal next summer, source said.

— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 3, 2015

But to cash in, Rondo has to make positive things happen on the court. He must get rid of his yips at the free-throw line and help the Kings overcome their many off-court and front-office obstacles by thriving on the court.

Lest we forget, his passing is certainly capable of making the many offensive talents on the Sacramento roster look a lot better. 

In some ways, the negativity swirling around this Californian organization could end up being a good thing for the floor general. If he's able to change the general vibe surrounding the franchise by getting rid of the toxic reputation he earned in Dallas and promoting winning basketball, plenty more teams will be willing to give him an even bigger contract next offseason. Of course, he could also just re-up with Sacramento and guarantee his financial future.

Will Rondo resurrect his career in Sacramento?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Will Rondo resurrect his career in Sacramento?

  • Yes

  • No


Even with Darren Collison still in town, the Kings will hand over the reins to Rondo, giving him an opportunity to prove he's still an upper-tier point guard unless he shows otherwise in definitive fashion. The two can certainly play together and should form a solid defensive tandem in the backcourt, but Rondo will also benefit from the scoring talents of Gay and Cousins. 

Strange as it may seem, given the widespread feelings about Sacramento in recent days and weeks, this is actually a good situation for Rondo, if for no other reason than the great opportunity to resurrect his career. 

It's one he simply can't afford to squander. 

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com

Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

Sacramento Kings' Darren Collison Isn't Happy with Latest Free-Agency Rumors
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Am I the only one who remembers how trill @Darren_Collison was before his injury when we had a full uninjured roster?

— Dave Lack (@DaveLack) June 30, 2015

The Sacramento Kings are reportedly interested in Rajon Rondo, who took a meeting with the team Friday, according to Sean Cunningham of News10 Sacramento.

And Darren Collison doesn't seem too happy about it.

In fact, his response to one fan left a pretty salty aftertaste:

It seems so... https://t.co/Jdcg0qOEIN

— Darren Collison (@Darren_Collison) July 3, 2015

The news of Rondo's meeting comes after Sporting News reported the team had also previously targeted Eric Bledsoe.

But don't worry, Darren.

Sacramento fans remember and want you to rest assured it's just a ploy to add depth.


Marcus Morris Trade Shows Phoenix Suns Going All-Out for LaMarcus Aldridge
AP Images

The Phoenix Suns are officially a major player for LaMarcus Aldridge

Even though the San Antonio Spurs have seemed to serve as the leading suitor for the star power forward's services, with other teams—the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers—also in contention, the desert-based franchise is leaving no doubt it wants in on the chase. Trading away Marcus Morris and a few other pieces made that perfectly clear. 

As reported by Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the Suns used the second day of the free-agency period to hand one half of the Morris twins, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to the Detroit Pistons, receiving nothing more than a 2020 second-round pick in return: 

Phoenix has traded Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to Detroit for future picks, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015

The Pistons will send the Suns a 2020 second-round draft pick. So yes, the Suns are clearing salary cap space.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015

Without context, this looks like a horrible move for Phoenix. But as is always the case in the NBA, context is king. 

Morris, Bullock and Granger are obviously worth more than a second-round selection coming so far off in the future.

After all, Granger, at the age of 32, isn't too old to rule out a resilient campaign after dealing with injuries for so many years, and the magical Phoenix training staff could've turned him into a true rotation member. Bullock, meanwhile, is two years removed from the Los Angeles Clippers making him the No. 25 pick of the 2013 NBA draft, but he hasn't really received an opportunity to succeed in a major role. 

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So, what gives? 

Well, it's all about the money. Phoenix would've needed to engage in a sign-and-trade in order to land Aldridge, but this ensures the team can take a more direct route. By giving away three players under contract and receiving only the future pick, the Suns are clearing cap space for that rather obvious reason. 

Salaries of the Departed Suns
Player 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
Reggie Bullock $1,252,440 $2,255,644 (Team Option) RFA ($3,313,541 QO)
Danny Granger $2,170,465 UFA
Marcus Morris $5,000,000 $4,625,000 $5,000,000


Those may not seem particularly significant, but the combination is enough to boost Phoenix's financial flexibility into max-contract territory. General manager Ryan McDonough can now offer Aldridge all the money he desires, absorbing him into the fold without needing to send away even more players. 

The Suns have cleared $20M in salary cap space, allowing them to potentially sign LaMarcus Aldridge without the need for a sign-and-trade.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015

But there's an enduring issue: Getting Aldridge and Tyson Chandler isn't going to be possible without further moves, and the Suns have already committed to signing the ex-Dallas Mavericks center.

Per Marc Stein of ESPN.com, he's coming aboard for four years and $52 million. That eats up over half of the space the Suns have cleared—assuming the money is split evenly over the years—and it means two more players must be moved before Aldridge can actually be brought aboard. As Wojnarowski subsequently tweeted, "Suns need to get off Markieff Morris/PJ Tucker in sign-and-trades or dumps to get closer to space needed for Chandler and Aldridge."

Cameron Browne/Getty Images

Considering the value each of those players enjoys, that shouldn't be particularly tough. The New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers would have use for those rotation members, and they have the cap space to just absorb the current contracts. Even if Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak and Knicks president Phil Jackson don't bite, there should be other teams willing to take a chance on the established talent. 

The Mavericks could also get their hands on some combination of Morris and Tucker, even receiving the both of them in a sign-and-trade for Chandler. He's already agreed to terms, but nothing is truly official until the moratorium lifts July 9, so there's still plenty of time.

Given the shallowness of Dallas' current rotation, it's a move that would make sense for both teams. 

But the overarching points are twofold: Further moves are possible, and, perhaps more importantly, the Suns feel they're worth making. They wouldn't be shipping off talent—essentially for free—without legitimately thinking they were major players in the Aldridge hunt. 

And why wouldn't they after they received such positive feedback from the first meeting? 

Everybody's saying LaMarcus Aldridge's meeting with the Suns went really well http://t.co/vw9r9qp0CL pic.twitter.com/nUeAHXAWWy

— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) July 2, 2015

As KTAR.com's John Gambadoro reported, the Suns played up four factors in the free-agency meeting, and it went rather well: 

  1. Aldridge's ability to serve as the face of the franchise
  2. The stability of a roster with Brandon Knight, Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler
  3. The fact that winning in Phoenix would be more special
  4. That he wouldn't have to play the part of a second or third wheel

All of that is valid, even if the third point is inevitably going to be the most controversial of the four.

But of the five franchises speculated to be in the chase, four have won a championship at some point in their history, and the Lakers, Mavericks and Spurs have all done so in the last decade. 

That's not even remotely the case for the Suns. They've made it to the NBA Finals twice—once with Paul Westphal, Alvan Adams and Gar Heard leading the charge in 1976, and again in 1993, when Charles Barkley couldn't get over the hump against Michael Jordan. But a title has eluded this franchise, and the reward for winning one would be rather substantial. 

In one word: immortality. 

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

"We're going to be aggressive and target the best players," McDonough told azcentral.com's Paul Coro before the start of free agency. "I think you'll see us go after the top guys. We hope to get meetings with some of the top free agents and sell them on all Phoenix has to offer."

So far, he's lived up to his word. Even more importantly, he's committed to a path that leads to Aldridge, and he's not going to go down without putting up a serious fight. 

Trading away Morris, Granger and Bullock is only the start. This pursuit gained quite a bit more legitimacy after that first trade, and it won't end until Aldridge comes to the desert or signs on with a different squad. 

Adam Fromal covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @fromal09.

How Willie Cauley-Stein Can Complement DeMarcus Cousins in Rookie Season
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

The Sacramento Kings bolstered their frontcourt with the addition of Willie Cauley-Stein in the 2015 NBA draft. The big man from Kentucky will join another former Wildcat in DeMarcus Cousins to form an effective duo.

Cousins is known for his offensive prowess, and that shouldn't change just because Cauley-Stein's on board. With Cousins' versatility, the two will be able to coexist without detracting from one another on the offensive end.

But it's on defense where Cauley-Stein will really help the Kings. In recent years, Cousins has made himself into a formidable defensive cog, but there wasn't another front-line player who could match his ability. That changes with Cauley-Stein, and it could change the whole dynamic in Sacramento.

The Elephant in the Room

Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Before we delve into how Cauley-Stein complements Cousins, it would be prudent to mention that the two of them may not play together. That's because of the turmoil in the organization and the chatter of Sacramento potentially trading away Cousins.

Prior to the draft, ESPN's Marc Stein reported the Los Angeles Lakers were trying to acquire Cousins.

ESPN sources: Lakers are actively trying to construct trade scenarios to acquire Kings' DeMarcus Cousins. Link: http://t.co/8OWer1cRfw

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 22, 2015

There was also the report from Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski that head coach George Karl had been talking to other teams and players about trading away the big man.

Yahoo Sources: Sacramento Kings coach George Karl pushing to trade All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins. http://t.co/wUoSkiDdUr

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 23, 2015

Throughout all of this, Sacramento has remained steadfast in its refusal to move Cousins, with both vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac and majority owner Vivek Ranadive saying the team won't trade him.

Vivek has said publicly and privately Cousins is not available via trade.

— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 22, 2015

Just spoke with a very irritated Vlade Divac. Said he is not trading Cousins, and denies Karl pushing for any deal involving All-Star center

— Ailene Voisin (@ailene_voisin) June 23, 2015

For now, all we can do is take the organization at its word. Cousins is a King until we hear otherwise. With that being the case, the possibility of pairing him with Cauley-Stein is intriguing. 

The Defensive Dynamic

Cauley-Stein will make his most profound impact on defense.

Part of that is because the Kings simply aren't a good defensive team. They finished the season 27th in defensive rating, allowing 106.5 points per 100 possessions. The Kings were even worse after Karl took over as head coach, dropping to 28th and seeing their defensive rating increase to 107.2.

While the overall defense struggled, one area where it was particularly porous is around the basket. Opponents shot 63.0 percent within five feet of the hoop. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves allowed a higher percentage (63.2). Teams who normally shot 59.7 percent within six feet saw that percentage increase to 63.0 percent against the Kings.

Defending the hoop was a problem for the team, but it's an area where Cousins was actually pretty robust. Among centers who played in at least 40 games and faced at least two shots per contest within six feet, Cousins held opponents to 51.7 percent shooting. Only six players were better.

[embedded content]

That's important to note because the Kings are getting another player in Cauley-Stein who is a bona fide rim protector.

He averaged 3.6 blocks per 40 minutes during his three years at Kentucky, while his career block percentage of 9.2 is the 10th best in the SEC since the stat was first recorded in the 1997-98 season. He was also one of the nation's premier all-around defenders. The center led the NCAA in defensive win shares in 2014-15, with 3.4. He also averaged more than a steal per game in each of his last two seasons at Kentucky.

Cauley-Stein will really help Cousins and the Kings with his versatility. Despite his 7'0", 242-pound frame, he's athletic enough to guard perimeter players. This dynamic already has Karl thinking about pairing Cousins with Cauley-Stein.

Just got off the phone with George Karl. Didn't go into specifics regarding he and DMC, said he wants to see DMC/Cauley-Stein play together.

— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 29, 2015

Thinks it gives Kings two bigs with different strengths defensively.

— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 29, 2015

One area the coach specifically cited is Cauley-Stein's ability to contest pick-and-rolls, particularly when switching on the ball-handler.

Karl on Cauley-Stein's PnR def at UK: "They switched a lot of pick and rolls and I didn’t see many guards have success getting by him."

— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) June 29, 2015

As Bill Herenda of Comcast California points out, that defensive versatility is one of the main reasons Divac targeted Cauley-Stein in the first place.

Of course, defensively WCS brings versatility to guard 1-5 Vlade feels he can guard 1or2 on p&r situations for a bit but 3-5 all over floor

— Bill Herenda (@billherenda) June 27, 2015

It means the Kings will be able to pair Cauley-Stein with Cousins without having to worry about each other's strengths. Essentially, they can placate the defense to whatever DMC does best and have the rookie fill in the gaps. 

Ability on Offense

How Cauley-Stein complements Cousins on offense isn't as clear. 

At least at Kentucky, Cauley-Stein was seen as a limited offensive player. He never averaged more than 8.9 points per game or 14.2 per 40 minutes. Part of that can be explained by his 17.2 career usage percentage since Cauley-Stein was never a focal part of the Wildcats offense. 

But it's fair to note Cauley-Stein didn't show much creativity in his chances either. According to Hoop-Math.com, 60.6 percent of his field-goal attempts were at the rim, with 69.2 percent of his baskets at the tin coming off assists.

Fortunately, DMC has versatility to his offensive game. Throughout his career, 67.6 percent of Cousins' field-goal attempts have come within 10 feet of the hoop. But he can also stretch his offense to the mid-range, knocking down 38.3 percent of his 253 attempts between 16 feet and the three-point line in 2014-15.  

Cousins is also a willing passer, averaging a career-high 3.6 assists last season. That's important because he's going to continually command double-teams, and finding open teammates is the best way to counteract it. 

Speaking of which, one of Cauley-Stein's strengths on offense is moving without the ball. As noted by Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:

He's also a significant weapon to have as a cutter and roller off the ball, where he finishes 61 percent of his attempts around the basket in non-post-up situations. This was his most frequent source of production in college, especially off lob plays, and will likely continue to be so in the NBA, particularly in pick and roll situations where his ability to just spring up off the floor off two feet for emphatic finishes is a highly coveted skill.

Herenda seems to think it's an area where the two can complement each other.

And then as trailer on secondary break utilize Cousins’ passing ability, shooting, playmaking #Kings #NBA

— Bill Herenda (@billherenda) June 27, 2015

However, the Kings probably aren't expecting much from Cauley-Stein on offense, nor does he need to provide much to be an effective player. As long as he knows his limitations, he should be fine.

After all, while he never scored much at Kentucky, he finished his career with a 59.3 percent field-goal percentage and an above-average 23.3 player efficiency rating. Think of Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan—two players who don't score a lot of points but who stick to their skill sets and are efficient. The Kings would be more than content with that sort of offensive output from Cauley-Stein if they got a similar return on the defensive end.

An Intriguing Future

If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how Cousins and Cauley-Stein play together. For his part, Cousins has already reached out to the rookie and expressed he's looking forward to playing with him.

DeMarcus Cousins texted Willie Cauley-Stein, said he was excited to have him part of the Kings and they are about to 'do big things'

— Sean Cunningham (@News10Sean) June 27, 2015

The argument can be made that the Kings would have been better off adding a big man with the capability to stretch the floor, thereby giving Cousins more room to work on offense. But that may not be necessary with DMC's offensive versatility. He's not confined strictly to the paint and should still be effective regardless.

Not to mention the Kings have drafted floor-spacers in the past in Jimmer Fredette, Ben McLemore and Nik Stauskas, who all failed to make an impact from the get-go. In fact, according to Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, Sacramento traded Stauskas to the Philadelphia 76ers, along with Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and draft considerations in order to clear cap space.

Kings have cleared more than $16 million in cap space.

— Jason Jones (@mr_jasonjones) July 2, 2015

The Kings are also reportedly pursuing Rajon Rondo, Wes Matthews and Monta Ellis with their cap space.

The Kings clearing the salary cap space to pursue free agents Rajon Rondo and Wes Matthews, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015

The Kings are seriously interested in free agent guard Monta Ellis too, league sources tell Yahoo Sports .

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015

Assuming the Kings can sign a combination of that trio, or players who can make an immediate impact, they could have a pretty formidable roster. There will be plenty of players who can put the ball in the basket. But there may not be many who can make an impact on defense.

That makes the addition of Cauley-Stein even more important.

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com

Does Brandon Knight's New Contract Put Eric Bledsoe on Suns' Trade Block?
Noah Graham/Getty Images

It might not have been the summer's most anticipated pact, but it was pretty momentous if you care about the Phoenix Suns' fate. 

Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Wednesday that, "Brandon Knight has reached agreement on a five-year, $70 million contract extension with the Phoenix Suns, league sources told Yahoo Sports."

The deal shouldn't come as a surprise after the organization landed Knight via trade midway through last season. Phoenix presumably imagined him to be more than a rental in the wake of trading away guards Isaiah Thomas and Goran Dragic. 

The busy Suns also reached a four-year agreement with free-agent center Tyson Chandler and still found time to meet with Portland Trail Blazers All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge on Wednesday. So the roster probably isn't finalized just yet, and one of the outstanding questions is whether guard Eric Bledsoe remains a fixture in the organization's outlook.

Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Just days ago, the prospect of trading the Kentucky product was floated by none other than ESPN's Marc Stein:

That Suns will seriously explore their Eric Bledsoe trade options if they indeed strikes the deal w/B-Knight that @GeryWoelfel is reporting

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 29, 2015

Sporting News' Sean Deveney similarly reported in June that, "The Suns have been dangling Bledsoe in trade offers this offseason and are likely to continue to do so after the draft if Bledsoe is not moved this week, sources confirmed."

Now, courtesy of NBA.com's David Aldridge, there's word that such a deal is out of the question:

Told strongly that Suns will not be trading Eric Bledsoe in wake of Brandon Knight deal. FWIW.

— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 1, 2015

With conflicting reports, there's room for legitimate discussion about the organization's plans. And that conversation should begin with the most recent (and germane) evidence, namely the fact that Bledsoe was among the players who helped court Aldridge on Wednesday, according to AZCentral's Paul Coro:

Suns met Aldridge with Robert Sarver, Lon Babby, Ryan McDonough, Jeff Hornacek, Earl Watson, Tyson Chandler, Eric Bledsoe & Brandon Knight.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) July 1, 2015

In his column on the matter, Coro added, "Bledsoe's inclusion in the meeting is another indication that the Suns are not looking to include Bledsoe in an Aldridge sign-and-trade deal, the latest in a series of off-base trade rumors regarding Bledsoe." 

Were Bledsoe legitimately on the trade block, it's hard to imagine the franchise bringing him along. Things can change quickly in this business, but one suspects general manager Ryan McDonough already has a pretty firm grasp on who's a keeper at this point. Anything could happen as the organization approaches February's trade deadline, but there's little sense in speculating so far in advance.

For now, Bledsoe is likely staying with the Suns. 

Note that Deveney—one of the writers originally floating the trade rumor—subsequently suggested that such a move was anything but automatic:

But trading Bledsoe, according to league sources, will not prove to be easy for Phoenix. "There was a reason," one general manager told SN, "that no one wanted to give him that ($70 million) contract last year. I think you still have to worry about his health. I think you worry about how coachable he is, too."

Difficult doesn't mean impossible, but even the imaginative McDonough may struggle to find a taker in short order. Much as this franchise likes to wheel and deal, the market has the final say here.

Matt York/Associated Press

Beyond logistical problems and circumstantial evidence, there just doesn't seem to be much logic behind dealing Bledsoe at this juncture. The Suns didn't quite make the playoffs last season, but that's hardly Bledsoe's fault.

The 25-year-old filled the stat sheet on a nightly basis, averaging 17 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 34.6 minutes per contest last season. Better yet, he played in 81 games after losing about half of the previous season to injury. Concerns about his durability may well persist in some circles, but it's hard to argue with the five-year veteran's ability to flat-out produce.

Production may not be everything, but there's been no evidence that Bledsoe is particularly problematic in terms of chemistry or locker-room dynamics. And there's not yet any firm reason to believe he and Knight are incompatible in that backcourt.

While it's a small backcourt in absolute terms, Bledsoe and Knight are at least somewhat capable of guarding larger players. The former is tough as they come, and the latter boasts a nearly 6'7" wingspan. In many respects, they're both combo guards, and they could well prove perfect complements to one another.

Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

In any event, Phoenix's front office is probably inclined to see how it goes rather than doing anything too hastily. Knight only played in 11 games for the Suns after a late-season injury prevented him from aiding the club's playoff push. That's not nearly enough of a sample size to fairly evaluate his ability to play with Bledsoe.

In theory, they should fit into head coach Jeff Hornacek's preference for an up-tempo, quick-striking offense. Knight and Bledsoe are both versatile playmakers capable of scoring from all over the floor. That perimeter prowess could well be instrumental in attracting Aldridge or—at the very least—another premier free agent, as noted by Wojnarowski:

Sources: Suns have legitimately closed the gap in pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge. Tyson Chandler, perimeter talent. They're a real factor.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 2, 2015

Even without another standout addition, the organization has undergone an overnight upgrade by bringing Chandler into the fold. He'll bring the kind of toughness and consistency that 22-year-old Alex Len is still working on. Indeed, Chandler's ability to mentor the younger center is a valuable contribution in its own right, to say nothing of what the 32-year-old's leadership will mean to the locker room at large.

Why make a trade now, before we've seen how this squad plays out? It might be premature to close the door on further deals, perhaps even one involving Bledsoe. But now isn't the right time. There's enough talent on this roster to make a run in the West, and the big question is whether that talent jells.

Only time and close observation will make that determination definitively—not the NBA rumor mill.

A full training camp with Knight (and now Chandler) in the mix should help, especially as far as Bledsoe is concerned. It may take some time for Bledsoe and Knight to develop rhythm together and find the right mix of ball-handling and off-ball responsibilities. That's not an insurmountable challenge by any means, but some patience may be in order.

Trading Bledsoe prematurely would also send a complicated message to a roster that's largely overachieved in each of the last two seasons. This is a time for continuity, not an admission of defeat.

Brandon Knight Re-Signs with Suns: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Brandon Knight had a whirlwind 2014-15 season in which he didn't get a long-term contract extension from the Milwaukee Bucks and got traded to the Phoenix Suns in February. Now, the 23-year-old has taken some control of his career after signing a deal to remain in Phoenix.  

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the point guard signed a five-year, $70 million deal Wednesday. David Aldridge of NBA.com heard from a source that said the Suns would not be trading Eric Bledsoe in the wake of the signing.

The former Kentucky star told Paul Coro of AZCentral.com in April that he was hoping to return to Phoenix even though he understands there were various factors at play:

If it can be quick and easy, that's the best thing. You don't want to go through a fight or anything like that or you don't want to drag it out as well. Definitely don't want anything that leads up to training camp. For me, it's just about doing what's best for me and my family and the Suns will do the same. I'm optimistic about the situation. I like it here. I like the way I've been treated so far. Top-class organization. I'm looking forward to a future with the Suns.

With a new coaching staff in Milwaukee, Knight became expendable at the trade deadline. The Suns were there to take advantage, though he did struggle in 11 games with the team, averaging just 13.4 points on 35.7 percent shooting with 4.5 assists. 

Knight's season ended prematurely after he underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery April 17.

Sean Deveney of the Sporting News reported in April that Knight was seeking a contract in the $48 million range over four years while with the Bucks:

In discussing an extension last year, the Bucks held the line on Knight at $9 million per year, where Knight wanted something in the range of four years and $48 million. It will might take a little more to sign Knight this summer, given his improvement in his time with Milwaukee, and the fact that he could always sign a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent, which would set him up for the summer of 2016 TV-money bonanza.

It's hard to evaluate a player like Knight at this exact point in his career. He looked much better with Milwaukee when the season started, shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range with a career-high 5.4 assists per game before being dealt. 

The ankle issue certainly hindered Knight's play, and an 11-game sample is impossible to properly judge a player. He's only 23 years old and has shown signs of turning into a solid NBA guard at various points in his career. 

Knight may never be a star who can live up to being the eighth overall pick in a draft in which Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard were taken after him, but he has the skills to be a very good player in the league for a long time to come. 

Stats via Basketball-Reference.com.

Phoenix Suns Would Need Monster Offer to Consider Eric Bledsoe Trade
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

Eric Bledsoe can't catch a break.

Year after year, the Phoenix Suns point guard awaits a time when he can run his own team. So far, that moment hasn't happened.

With the Suns reportedly reaching a five-year, $70 million agreement with no-longer-free-agent-to-be point guard Brandon Knight, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times (via Sean Highkin of ProBasketballTalk), Bledsoe will once again have to share duties with another floor general—unless, of course, he doesn't.

Now, the Suns are "dangling" Bledsoe in the trade market, as reported by Sporting News' Sean Deveney last week.

Deveney added to that report Monday:

The Kings, one source said, are expected to express interest in Bledsoe. While Sacramento has been buried in rumors involving center DeMarcus Cousins, a league executive said the Kings have been far more focused on improving the point guard position. The Kings started Darren Collison at the position, but would like to move him into a backup role. And if Sacramento keeps Cousins, bringing in his former Kentucky teammate and good friend surely would help to keep him happy.

The more likely scenario, though, will have the Suns approaching the Bledsoe situation with patience. There is more cap space available out on the free-agent market this summer than there is talent, and that could leave some teams desperate by mid-July, when the first wave of top free agents signs, and few players are remaining.

It's almost like Bledsoe is cursed. He just can't find a basketball situation that works for him.

First, he was stuck under the wrath of former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro, who was responsible for pulling him from games upon singular, isolated mistakes early in his career.

Bledsoe averaged only 20.4 minutes per game during his and Del Negro's final season in Los Angeles, playing behind Chris Paul when he could've scored more time had he played alongside Paul more often. But I'm done striking up the memories of Bledsoe's stage plopped on the bench. It's too painful for Clippers fans.

David Goldman/Associated Press

When the Clippers traded him to the Suns, he was finally going to have his chance. Instead, he ended up splitting point guard duties with Goran Dragic, who had a breakout season playing the 2 alongside Bled, who works best when he does most of the handling.

This past season put Bledsoe in an even worse situation, even if he did hit 2,000 minutes for the first time in his career. The Suns' three-point-guard experiment didn't work. Their remedy? Trade Dragic and the newly acquired Isaiah Thomas and bring in another point guard, Brandon Knight, in the process.

Now, it's happening again. With Knight re-signing for the same amount of years and dollars as Bledsoe, one of the most powerful and exciting 1-guards in the league, someone who hasn't gotten the national spotlight because he's been hidden for most of his career, is continuing to float into the NBA abyss.

So just as we hear the same stuff we once did in Los Angeles—"Bledsoe never caused any issues publicly or privately, sources said, but his performance suffered," Deveney wrote—Bledsoe's name comes up in trade rumors once again.

But the Suns can't just deal their best player because of a complication they created with their never-ending assembly line of point guards. Even if they're worried about how the roster might mesh, giving away Bledsoe at a discount would contradict the logic Phoenix used when it started accumulating all those point guards last summer.

Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

The result of the three-point-guard experiment was a disaster. There's no question about that. A season after winning 48 games and falling just one win short of a surprise playoff appearance, the Suns fell below .500. And some of the blame for the falloff has to be attributed to the chemistry issues that surfaced because of that three-headed monster at the 1.

There was logic to the original decision-making process, though.

Phoenix put its faith in assets over all else. It's a similar, but less masochistic, spin on what Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie is doing 2,300 miles east. Pick up guys on undervalued contracts and then flip them when they're at the peak of their powers (or at least the peak of their value).

The Suns didn't head into the previous offseason seeking out a third point guard when they already had Bledsoe and Dragic. They merely read the market, saw that Thomas wasn't fielding huge offers and signed a 20-point-a-night scorer to a team-friendly, four-year, $27 million contract. Predictably for some and unpredictably for others, egos got in the way of the process playing out the way general manager Ryan McDonough had hoped.

When Phoenix traded Thomas and some others, at least it got back a haul that included Knight and a draft pick. It gave up an asset and received two more. If the team is to deal Bledsoe, a two-way point guard who's the obviously superior player to Knight, it can't settle for 90 cents on the dollar.

Matt York/Associated Press

Accruing assets only to turn them over for fractions of their value defeats the whole purpose of the method.

We're talking about a 25-year-old with All-Defense potential, someone with the brawn and athleticism few or no other point guards not named Russell Westbrook can match—someone who slashes to the rim with ferocity, who drives and kicks like one of the 10 best 1s in the league, who has shot a phenomenal 67 percent at the rim since coming to Phoenix.

The injury history (he had knee cartilage problems that led to surgery in 2011-12 and meniscus surgery on that same knee in 2013-14) contributes to a decreased trade value, and you have to wonder how the reputation of the Suns training staff affects the way other teams evaluate the health of Phoenix players.

Phoenix has the most respected training staff in the NBA. It's possible that teams are thinking, "Sure, Bledsoe stayed healthy this season, but how am I supposed to know he can do that once he leaves the Suns' ridiculous training regimen?"

Grant Hill broke down after leaving, when the Suns kept him healthy for years. Steve Nash, too. Of course, those guys were of far more advanced ages than a point guard who's barely old enough to rent a car in all 50 states.

But that's all speculation.

In the end, Bledsoe is just a going-on-sixth-year point guard who's yet to find a team to place him in a role that fits. If the Suns do unload him, we should all hope—for our sake and his—that one of the NBA's most exciting players ends up embedded in a cranny in which he can truly shine.

Follow Fred Katz on Twitter at @FredKatz.

All statistics are current as of June 30 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless noted otherwise. Salary information is courtesy of Basketball Insiders.

Early Tuesday morning, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made it official on Twitter.   Welcome @LuolDeng9 to the Cleveland Cavaliers! — Dan Gilbert (@cavsdan) January 7, 2014 Ending one...

Initially, with Jeremy Lin out of the picture due to his ankle injury, the Houston Rockets looked disorganized and selfish. But since the return...

  Kobe Bryant is a perfectionist. The 35-year-old made his season debut with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night, and you might assume he would...

Carl Crawford is going to be a daddy. It was recently revealed that Crawford is the father of Basketball Wives star Evelyn Lozada’s expected baby. Lozada was...

The Rockets are more than willing to deal troubled big man Omer Asik, but that the asking price seems to be extremely high.  So...

http://youtu.be/vEqU7JHkfu0 The NBA will fine Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd $50,000 for dropping a cup of soda on the floor in order to manipulate extra time in Wednesday's game...

  The Houston Rockets try to sing a Hannukah song and they butcher the song.  Watch this video and see your beloved Rockets destroy this...

The Minnesota Timberwolves' starters have logged more minutes than any other starting group in the NBA this season, in part because former No. 2...

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls will be out for the season after having surgery to repair the torn medial meniscus in his right...

Considering how little James Harden does on the defensive end of the court sometimes, it's only appropriate that he find himself in hot water for going on the...

Omer Asik is sad, very sad. It’s only a matter of time before he’s shipped out and happy elsewhere—but the Houston Rockets are wise...

http://youtu.be/PAZkNqX_4FM Terrence Jones speaks with the media after he scored a career high 24 points helping his rockets defeat the Boston Celtics 109-85. Terrence Jones said...

http://youtu.be/S5Oc8iaCA74 Head Coach Kevin McHale speaks with the media after the Houston Rockets beat the Boston Celtics 109-85. Terrence Jones said he is feeling more comfortable...

http://youtu.be/PnRlPFOKrFs Jeremy Lin talks with the media after the Houston Rockets defeat the Boston Celtics 109-85. Terrence Jones said he is feeling more comfortable and confident...