SH Blog: Knicks waiting for 2015; Cavs want to keep Spencer Hawes

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Jeff Hornacek SunsMonday night. 10 p.m. Eastern. Memphis Grizzlies. Phoenix Suns. Only one of them can make the playoffs. The Grizzlies will be coming off a game the previous night against the Lakers. If they win that game, they’re a game up on the Suns. If they lose, the two teams are tied. Phoenix has to be praying the Lakers get the win, because they’ve lost all three games against the Grizzlies this season, and they need to claim the eighth spot outright.

If Memphis wins tomorrow night and again Monday, they’re in. If they lose both, they need to beat Dallas on Wednesday. So it has to be said that while the clock hasn’t struck midnight on the Cinderella Suns, it’s 11:58.

Regardless, they’ve won 47 games with a lineup full of players only the most diehard fan could have named at the beginning of the season. In an era where NBA coaches are more expendable than ever, Jeff Hornacek is proving that the right guy can make a huge difference.

Now let’s get to the latest from around the NBA:

Vogel to Bench All Five Pacers Starters Tonight in Milwaukee

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IND_VOGEL_FRANKThe Indiana Pacers just keep getting more and more interesting. And tonight, we’ll find out if their second unit is good enough to defeat the worst team in the NBA.

Why the second unit? Because all five members of the starting five — Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Lance Stephenson and George Hill — are being rested tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks.

It is one of the most bizarre moves by a coach in an important stretch run, ever. The Pacers sit in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind the Miami Heat. Vogel said all five starters will return to practice Thursday and will play Friday against Miami as the Pacers try to win the season series and the accompanying tiebreaker.

Bernucca: Have Pacers Lost Belief in Themselves?

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Believe it or not, there’s someone out there who doesn’t think the Indiana Pacers are coming apart at the seams. Lance Stephenson

“Everybody goes through this,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said last week after San Antonio manhandled Indiana, 103-77, on the Pacers’ home court. “I’m not worried about them. They’ll still make it to the Eastern Conference finals and they’ll still play Miami.”

Parker is somewhat right. From time to time, every championship contender has a stretch during a season where they look ordinary. Addled. Even awful at times.

Last month, the Miami Heat lost three in a row and seven of 11, including a home contest to Denver and a visit to New Orleans after which Chris Bosh plainly said, “We suck.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder welcomed back Russell Westbrook as they came out of the All-Star break and immediately lost three straight and five of eight, including a home loss to Cleveland and a road setback to the L.A. Lakers. The Houston Rockets were a pedestrian 8-8 in December, losing at home and on the road to Sacramento, at Utah and being blasted at Oklahoma City and Indiana.

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SH Blog: Big-3 to hold end of season meeting; Hibbert says Pacers don’t deserve 1-seed;

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lebron-wade1The playoffs may be just right around the corner, but when talking about the bigger picture when it comes to the landscape of the NBA, it all starts with the Miami Heat.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have the ability to opt-out of the last year of their contracts with the Heat on June 30th, thus potentially making them free agents at the end of the season.   

Roy Hibbert Receives NBA Officiating Memo, Plans To Be “On Point”

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Mike Bantom, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Referee Operations, is cracking down on a very specific point of contention.

The issue at hand? Verticality.

Secondary defenders are permitted to challenge an oncoming offensive player so long as they stay “vertical.” However, according to a memorandum sent to all owners, general managers, coaches and officials over the weekend, there has been a noticeable increase of players bending, if not breaking, the rule.

We have noticed that defenders have been turning sideways when jumping to defend
an oncoming offensive player on drives to the basket. This is illegal and referees are
being instructed to call this a blocking foul.”

The memo contained links to videos showcasing examples of rule violators, including Spencer Hawes, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe and Jared Sullinger. It also contained one linked example of a slight turn which is deemed legal, as illustrated by Alexis Ajinca.

In addition to those addressed in the memo, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert was also a recipient.