Khris Middleton scored 40 points and Bledsoe added 30 in his return to the desert 15 days after being traded, leading the short-handed Bucks to a 113-107 overtime victory over the Suns on Wednesday night. “My teammates did a hell of a job. I couldn’t credit them any more. As much as I wanted to win this game, they had my back,” Bledsoe said. “It is what it is. They’re just cheering for their team, doing what they are supposed to do. You can’t blame then for that.”
DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).
Scott Bordow: McDonough reiterated to me today that Suns want to sign Mike James to standard NBA deal before his two-way contract expires Dec. 6. My guess how they’ll do that: Create roster spot by dealing 1 of 3 centers.
Jusuf Nurkić struggled to find his form upon his return, and he was bothered by his coach’s decision to bring him off the bench late in 2015-16. “Mike Malone came to me with all this sweet talk, saying that I was going to be fine and that he couldn’t wait to see me back,” Nurkić recalled. “If you like somebody else, play them. But don’t come to my home and say that I’m going to be the starting center and then play someone else.” Although the Nuggets experimented with starting the 6’10” Jokić and Nurkić together, that hardly seemed like a winning long-term combination with small ball sweeping the league. Reading the tea leaves, Nurkić went to Connelly and requested a trade in April 2016.
As both sides waited for a trade, Nurkić took heat from local media members for pouting over his demotion, and he received multiple DNP-CDs from Malone. Rumors swirled that he had even left the arena during a game in frustration. Nurkić acknowledged that Malone was “mad” about his body language, but added that he never missed a practice or a team commitment and insisted that he bears no ill will toward Jokić over their position battle. “People assume I had an attitude problem and people like to make up stories that paint me as a bad guy,” he explained. “Once I asked for a trade, there were even more rumors that I wasn’t happy. But I shouldn’t be happy! No one in that situation should be happy. I put in the hard work to play and someone was holding me down.”
Nurkić also denied that he ever left the arena during a game. “I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “I can’t change the whole world’s opinion. Ask anyone who has played with me and they will say the same thing: I’m a funny dude, I work and I have never had a problem with one of my teammates in my life.” Denver mercifully pulled the trigger on a Nurkić deal last February, sending the center and a first-round pick to Portland in exchange for Mason Plumlee, a second-round pick and cash. Plumlee’s inclusion in the deal ensured that Nurkić would step in as the Blazers’ starting center, fulfilling Nurkić’s top request. “I needed a change of scenery. Both sides needed it,” he said. “I’m thankful Denver let me go where I wanted to go. If I was doing all the bad things that people said, the Nuggets wouldn’t have traded me where I wanted to go, and they probably would have gotten a way better deal than they got.”
Derrick Favors will be a free agent at the end of the season, and has already become the subject of speculation. He emphatically told The Salt Lake Tribune this week that he wants to remain with the Jazz long-term, but also knows the reality: He could be a trade asset for the Jazz as they rebuild in the wake of Gordon Hayward’s own free agency departure last summer. “The key is for me not to think about it,” Favors said. “I don’t read the articles. I don’t read twitter. I just don’t pay attention to it. I just have to understand that I can be here one day and gone the next. So I have to work hard while I’m here. I have to keep working on my game. And when I’m in the game, I just have to know that I’m not only playing for my team, but I’m showcasing my talent as well.”