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NBA AM: Suns Bottom Out, But Have Options
Posted By Lang Greene On April 23, 2013 @ 8:45 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Blazers' big man JJ Hickson talks with the media about his situation in Portland and what he expects in free agency.Watch More Video Here
Suns Will Have Options This Summer
In the Phoenix Suns’ first season without former league MVP Steve Nash, the franchise posted a 25-57 (.305) mark and finished the campaign with the fourth fewest wins in the league. The record was also the second worst in team history with only the 16 win 1968-69 edition keeping the club from setting a new all-time low. To be fair, most expected the 2013 season would be the start of a long rebuilding process for the Suns when it became known Nash was headed to Los Angeles.
But the winds of change haven’t stopped with Nash’s departure.
On Monday, the club announced general manager Lance Blanks was fired from his position of general manager, a role he held since 2010. He had just signed an extension with the team earlier this summer.
The Suns have missed the playoffs just six times in the past 25 seasons, so while the team may have bottomed out a bit in 2013 their cupboard is hardly bare heading into the offseason. The Suns will have options to change their fortune via the draft, free agency or trade market.
The on-court struggles this past season could be a blessing in disguise. Only Orlando, Charlotte and Cleveland will have more ping pong balls in the lottery this year than Phoenix and the club is set to have its highest draft pick in 25 years (Tim Perry was selected No. 7 overall by the team in 1988).
The Suns will have an 11.9 percent chance of landing the number one overall selection, 12.6 percent chance of walking away with the second overall pick and a 13.3 percent chance of moving up a slot and securing the third overall pick. Phoenix also holds the 30th pick of the first round as well as a second round pick.
The Suns currently have just over $44 million in salary commitments for the 2013-14 season and could choose to be active on the free agency front. Veteran guard Shannon Brown holds a $3.5 million player option for next season, so the team could have more cap room available should he choose to opt out.
The team’s notable unrestricted free agents this summer are former lottery pick Wesley Johnson and former All-Star Jermaine O’Neal.
Johnson went from a seldom used end of the bench type guy early in the season to producing 12 points and 3.6 rebounds per game after the All-Star break. O’Neal appeared in 55 games, his most since the 2010 campaign, and looked better than he has on the floor in years at times.
Phoenix could also get active on the trade front with veteran center Marcin Gortat entering the final season of his deal. Gortat is owed $7.7 million next season and remains a coveted interior piece throughout the league. Forward Luis Scola, an amnesty claim, also could generate some interest around the league. Scola wasn’t eligible to be s0hopped at this year’s trade deadline because of his amnesty status, but will be eligible for the team to evaluate options starting in July.
Blazers’ Hickson Ready To Test Free Agency Waters
Portland Trail Blazers forward J.J. Hickson joined rarified air by averaging a double-double this season despite playing out of position at center for the majority of the campaign. Hickson will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and at 24 years old will be an intriguing option for teams looking to make waves in free agency.
Hickson says he has enjoyed his time in Portland, but will fully evaluate his options this summer before signing a new deal.
“It’s still to be determined,” Hickson said about his free agent status during his end of season presser. “You never what’s going to happen in the offseason with different trades and things like that. So right now I’m just sitting back and getting ready for the summer and letting the cookies crumble where they may.
This is my first time in free agency so I’ll sit down and talk with my agency and see what the best options are and go from there.”
One area Hickson will be keeping an eye on when evaluating his options is more opportunities to play power forward, his natural position.
“Of course,” Hickson said on his desire to play more of his natural position. “I think for a fact everyone knows who knows basketball knows that’s my natural position is power forward. This season I think I sacrificed a lot by playing the five but once again I have to thank coach [Terry Stotts] for giving me the opportunity to thrive in his system and to start.”
Wherever the offseason lands Hickson, the forward finally seems to be at a confident place in regards to his career after some struggles early on in his career.
“I think the sky is the limit,” Hickson said. “I believe I have a long way to go before I reach my ceiling, so that’s why I am so excited for the summer. It’s a time period where I can get better and try to further my career.”
Will Warriors Forward David Lee Be Able To Return To Form?
Golden State Warriors forward David Lee waited eight years to get whiff of the postseason but in his first playoff game this past weekend the forward completely tore his right hip flexor. Lee is done for the season and the Warriors’ upset bid versus the Denver Nuggets took a huge hit in the process.
But what does this injury mean long term for Lee and will the veteran be able to return to form before the start of training camp? Lee is on the books for $44.3 million through the 2016 season and figures to be a cornerstone for Golden State’s reemergence.
HOOPSWORLD spoke with Dr. Derek Ochiai, a leading Orthopedic Hip Surgeon and Sports Medicine expert based in Arlington, VA, about the rareness of Lee’s injury in elite athletes and what it will mean to his career over the long term.
“Lee’s injury is pretty rare,” Dr. Ochiai told HOOPSWORLD. “It is not a common injury. People typically get hip flexor tendinitis caused by wear and tear or some overuse. You will see that, but a complete rupture of your hip flexor is unusual. Looking at the video, his hip and his pelvis were flexing to the left and his right leg was extended so he snapped his hip flexor because he overstretched it, not because of the movement of his right leg but because he was moving his other side.
It is not an uncommon condition in some people who have hip arthroscopy surgery anyway. Sometimes you do that in a controlled fashion. In those surgeries, sometimes you perform a hip flexor cut. Lee had less trauma to his hip and should be fine by training camp.”
Dr. Ochiai also believes the long term evidence of Lee’s setback will be minimal and the forward should be able to return playing at a high level.
“I think with adequate rehab it won’t be an issue long term,” Dr. Ochiai said. “I think he’ll recover just fine and be performing at the same level he was before suffering the injury.”
Lee averaged 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds on 52 percent shooting in 79 games, was named an All-Star for the second time and won two player of the week awards this season.
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