Phoenix Suns

NBA Notes: Nerlens Noel to have thumb surgery, miss several weeks

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NBA Notes: Nerlens Noel to have thumb surgery, miss several weeks

BOSTON -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says forward Nerlens Noel will have surgery for a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Carlisle made the announcement Wednesday before the Mavericks game with the Boston Celtics.

Noel will undergo the procedure in Cleveland later this week. Carlisle said he is then expected to be out for several weeks, but couldn't offer a specific timetable for his return.

Noel hasn't played since Nov. 22. He's appeared in 18 games with six starts this season, averaging 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds.

Cavaliers: Thomas plays 4-on-4 as he nears return
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cavaliers All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas played 4-on-4 on Wednesday, a significant step in his recovery from a hip injury.

Thomas, who has yet to make his debut with Cleveland, scrimmaged along with injured forward Tristan Thompson, rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, and members of the coaching staff.

With coach Tyronn Lue and members of the team's front office watching intently from behind the basket, Thomas moved freely and didn't appear to have any restrictions during the half-court workout that took place following the team's morning shootaround.

Lue reported that Thomas "looked good" and absorbed some contact. It was the second straight day Thomas scrimmaged.

However, Lue did not provide any update on when Thomas might play in a game. Lue planned to check with the team's medical staff to find out the next step in Thomas' recovery program, which the 28-year-old has described as his "slow grind" (see full story).

Suns: Booker (groin) expected to miss 2-3 weeks
PHOENIX -- Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker is expected to be sidelined two to three weeks because of a groin injury.

The Suns said Wednesday that Booker strained his left adductor late in a 126-113 loss in Toronto on Tuesday night and would have an MRI. Booker froze in place near midcourt, and trainers came out to examine him before two teammates awkwardly carried him off the floor.

Booker had 19 points against the Raptors after scoring a season-high 46 points Monday night in a victory in Philadelphia.

The 21-year-old Booker is 10th in the NBA in scoring with a 24.3 average. In 25 games, he's also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He had a career-high 70 last season at Boston.

Coming off a six-game trip, the Suns return to play Thursday night against Washington.

Hornets: Coach Clifford out indefinitely with ‘health issue’
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford will be away from the team for an undetermined period of time to deal with a "health issue."

The team made the announcement Wednesday in a release.

The 56-year-old Clifford missed Monday night's game against Orlando because he was not feeling well. Associate head coach Stephen Silas filled in for Clifford against the Magic.

Clifford has battled heart problems in the past, but a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press the issue was not a heart-related. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not released details of Clifford's health issue.

The team said there is no timetable for Clifford's return and that officials would have no further comment.

Silas will continue to coach the team with Clifford out. The Hornets host Golden State Wednesday night.

"I just want to send him my best wishes," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Obviously I have been through some issues, and I don't know what his health issues are, but it's no fun. I'm wishing him well and I hope he gets back on the sideline soon. But more importantly I hope that he's healthy" (see full story).

Nets: Team keeping focus on Thunder in Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- No earthquakes or volcanos are on the back of the mind of the Brooklyn Nets players and coaches ahead of their regular-season game Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Mexico City. At least publicly.

The game will be the 25th in NBA history South of the Border, the most for any country besides the United States and Canada. It also is the first since a 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 19 killed over 300 people, most of them in the nation's capital.

"We talked about it and we talked about precautions with the NBA security on what we should do it happens", Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We are affected by it because it was big news in the U.S. and we saw the pain and suffering and sympathize with the victims. It was very moving to see those images, I can't imagine going through something like that".

The quake was the deadliest in Mexico since the one on 1985 on the same date killed thousands and it came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country's south.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick expressed relief to leave the country after a regular-season game against the Oakland Raiders played in at Azteca stadium.

"I think we're fortunate there was no volcano eruptions or earthquakes, or anything else while we were down there. You have two NFL franchises in an area that I don't know how stable the geological plates that were below us, but nothing happened, so that was good", Belichick said (see full story).

Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

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Rob's Rants: Eagles, Sixers go away from true identity in losses

Here's the latest edition of Rob's Rants in which NBC Sports Philadelphia's Rob Ellis does just that about the hottest topics in Philly sports.

Seventy-seven days passed between losses for the Eagles. So it’s been a while since the Birds have made an appearance in Rob’s Rants. And while I am a firm believer it’s not panic time, they weren’t going to run the table and that it was a tough spot in the ebb and flow of an NFL season, that doesn’t mean the Eagles are immune to a rant or two. The Sixers will be providing the Birds some company this week after a horrific home loss to a terrible Suns team. And since it 'tis the season, I’ll throw in my top-10 Christmas songs of all-time. 

Sleepwalking in Seattle
Winning in Seattle is never easy. The Seahawks were the more desperate team and played like it. The Eagles took a big step up in class from the competition they faced in the previous weeks and they were not up to the task.

However, what was truly frustrating was not so much the play on the field but the approach by both coach and players.

The Eagles have been a swagger team all season. Doug Pederson set the tone Week 1 against the Redskins with his aggressive play-calling and it had carried over through their nine-game winning streak. Look no further than the numerous end zone celebrations, going for it on fourth down, throwing in a run situation, taking a deep shot or whatever the case may be.

Pederson coached at best tentative and at worst scared against Seattle, and it was completely out of character. But was it the chicken or the egg?

Did Pederson just come up small thinking a conservative, run-heavy approach in the first half would work against a Seattle team that was good against the rush? Not to mention, the Seahawks were without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary. Surely attacking them through the air was the way to go, right?

Pederson twice passed on opportunities to go for it on fourth-and-short in the first half. Very much out of character. But is it possible the head coach decided he needed to play things safe because he felt his team wasn’t prepared? Both the players and Pederson himself admitted the team had not practiced well in the weeks leading up to its game against the Seahawks.

This wasn’t the Bears or 49ers it was facing. Either way, it was inexcusable. Pederson needs to stay true to this team’s personality and the players need to stop sniffing themselves. The hope is this loss will serve as a wake-up call and clean up either scenario. 

We may be only 23 games into the season, but the 2017-18 Sixers are a far cry from the tank-ridden doormats they were the previous four years. They should be a playoff team. They now play to win the games as Herm Edwards once said. In fact, they were 13-9 leading into Monday’s game against the Suns.

So when a loss to any team was no surprise when Tony Wroten was your best player on the floor, those days are gone. Losing at home Monday to a garbage Suns team that entered the game 8-16 and ranked last in points per game allowed is inexcusable. The Sixers are beyond this kind of thing now. And much like the Eagles, the team admitted after the game that it took Phoenix too lightly.

First, who is this group to look past anyone? There is a foundation for a sustained run and the Sixers have two superstars on the roster in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Still, this cast has no right looking past anyone.

The Sixers commit the second-to-most turnovers per game with 17.4 a night. Monday followed that troubling trend, as the Suns scored 22 points on the Sixers' 14 giveaways.

They are not good enough to cut corners and lack preparation, regardless of the opponent. Monday better have served as an alarm clock for this young group.

Top-10 Christmas songs
This is just to pivot off of the Eagles' and Sixers' losses and provide a little holiday cheer as we are less than three weeks away from the big day. Here are my top-10 Christmas songs. I can feel the comments and mentions coming already.

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas Time — Band Aid 
2. Happy X-Mas — John Lennon and Yoko Ono
3. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town — Bruce Springsteen    
4. Christmas Song — Nat King Cole
5. Someday At Christmas — Stevie Wonder
6. Father Christmas — The Kinks
7. Christmas In Hollis — Run-DMC 
8. All I Want For Christmas — Mariah Carey
9. Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy — Bing Crosby and David Bowie
10. White Christmas — Bing Crosby

Sixers provide lackluster effort in letdown loss at home to Suns

Sixers provide lackluster effort in letdown loss at home to Suns


Remember those games in recent years when teams simply didn’t bring it against the struggling Sixers?

That’s how the Sixers looked Monday in their 115-101 loss to the Suns (see observations)

“I think we lost that game from the jump ball,” Joel Embiid said. “I think we took them lightly and we paid for it.” 

The Suns, on paper, looked like they could be an easy victory for the Sixers. They entered the game well below .500 (8-16), ranked last in points allowed (115.8) and were tied for the third-highest opponent three-point shooting percentage (47.1). 

Instead, the Suns held the Sixers to nearly 15 points below that average and limited them to 23.3 percent (7 for 30) from three. The Sixers also gave up 22 points off 14 turnovers that included five giveaways in the first quarter alone. 

“We didn’t play our best game,” said Ben Simmons, who pushed through flu-like symptoms to record 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals. “Didn’t respect them enough. We didn’t come in with the energy we needed to.”

The performance was a contrast to the Sixers’ solid win over the Pistons on Saturday, and really how tough they’ve been playing this season. Brett Brown said the Sixers lacked “a sting” and described their defense as “flat” as they dropped to 13-10. 

“We’re all disappointed,” JJ Redick said. “That’s not good enough. That’s not our team. That’s not who we’ve been. I can’t give you a reason why, whether it’s we overlooked them or I don’t know. I don’t know. That was not our team.” 

The Sixers had no answer for Devin Booker as he scored a season-high 46 points in less than 40 minutes (see highlights). Booker actually started out a slow 2 for 11 in the first quarter, but the Sixers didn’t take advantage of his early struggles. They were tied after the first quarter and, after Booker scored 10 in the second, trailed by 13 at halftime. 

Booker went on to score 19 points in just eight minutes in the fourth as the Suns fended off a Sixers’ comeback attempt. 

“You have to guard him is what you have to do,” Brown said. “And we didn’t.” 

The Sixers are trying to compile a playoff-qualifying record this season. Each game, whether it is against the defending champion Warriors or a seemingly lottery-bound team like the Suns, needs to be approached with the same level of attention and energy. That wasn’t the case on Monday. 

“A game like this is without a doubt a missed opportunity,” Brown said. “You only have so many times that you’re able to poke yourself in the eye. Tonight was one of those for us here at home. We walk out of this gym not feeling great at all about very much of what we did tonight.”

The Sixers will have to bring a higher level of intensity Thursday when they host another young team, the Lakers. They could get some of that "sting" back if T.J. McConnell (sprained AC joint, left shoulder) is cleared to play. The backup point guard is hopeful he will be available but isn't going to force a return if he is limited.