Baseline to baseline (game recaps)

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Our game recaps, or what the city of New Orleans missed because it is still partying.

capt.f8d00097b3214ec98a4100f1ed62e376.hornets_magic_basketball_doa111.jpgOrlando 123 New Orleans 117 Game of the night because in the third quarter the 2005 NBA Live version of Vince Carter showed up and took over. Gone was settling-for-jumpers Carter, replaced by the-rim-is-scared-of-me Carter. Vince dropped 48 on 70% shooting (6 of 10 from three), most of that in the second half. He hit circus shots with defenders draped on him. This is two good games in a row for Carter — not a full blown trend yet, but if it becomes one the Magic just got a lot more scary.

This was a quality win in what was the worst kind of trap game for the Magic — second night of a back-to-back where the first game was an emotional game against a rival. They came out flat, and credit New Orleans for taking advantage by pushing the pace and getting 70 first half points.

By the way, can’t say enough good things about former UCLA Bruin Darren Collison, who has the unenviable task of filling in for Chris Paul. As a West Coaster I’ll tell you he didn’t look this good at UCLA, in part because he didn’t have the offensive freedom. He plays fast but in control, plus he can shoot. You put up 27 with nine assists on the Magic and that defense? You can ball.

I can say enough about the NOLA Mardi Gras uniforms, they burned my retina. However, my wife thought they were cute, and she is a far better judge of fashion than I so no more jokes.

Los Angeles Lakers 101 San Antonio 89 The Lakers are not a better team without Kobe. Just aren’t. Same with Bynum, who was also out with a sore hip from the Portland game Saturday. However, without those two in the lineup the Lakers ran the triangle offense through Gasol — and man, it was beautiful. A big man who ca pass makes all the difference in that offense, and the Lakers kicked it out and worked the ball strong to weak with the extra pass to get open looks. Tex Winter was at home smiling.

Pau Gasol controlled the paint — 21 points, 19 boards (8 offensive) and five blocks. Lamar Odom added 16 and 10. The Lakers did everything a little better — shot a little better, got to the line a little more, rebounded better and turned the ball over less. All that adds up. The only question is, can they do all that — will the ball movement still be there — when Kobe does return.

San Antonio still struggles to beat good teams. And play on the road. And win a game that is close. While early in the season it was easy to dismiss that as just another slow Spurs start, the season is past the midway point and nothing has changed. The Spurs players and front office need to be asking themselves some hard questions.

Dallas 127 Golden State 117 The players have changed, but that 2007 playoff match up was not a fluke — the Warriors just give the Mavericks trouble. They did for much of this game, leading by 13 with seven minutes left in the third. But then the Mavericks found their offensive rhythm (Jason Terry with 36), which they live and die by lately, and made the charge back. That said, after the All-Star break Dallas needs to find the defense they had the first couple months of the season if they are serious about contending. That or make big trade.

Monta Ellis had a sprained knee — it wasn’t pretty, but he walked off under his own power — and will undergo an MRI Tuesday.

Here’s LeBron James trying on Lonzo Ball’s weirdo jump shooting form (VIDEO)

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Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range this season. That’s up a little more than six percent from last season, and three percent better than his career average. He doesn’t need much help there this season, but you know that LeBron is always looking for ways to improve.

Including, apparently, trying on UCLA star Lonzo Ball’s shooting form.

During warmups on Thursday before the Cavaliers took on the Chicago Bulls, LeBron messed around with Ball’s awkward shooting form. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an odd draw from right-to-left, with the right-handed Ball almost shooting from the left side of this face.

Ball was a 41.3 percent shooter from deep during his one season at UCLA and will be a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, perhaps much to the chagrin of whichever team has to deal with his dad, LaVar.

Scottie Pippen throws blame for Knicks woes at feet of his former coach Phil Jackson

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Apparently, it’s not “be kind to your former boss month.”

Bulls legend and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen was on ESPN’s “The Jump” — the Rachel Nichols hosted NBA show on each afternoon — and the topic turned to how much the Knicks stink. And why. Of course, there’s plenty of blame to go around for just about everyone on that front, but Pippen threw his former coach under the bus (transcription via the New York Daily News).

“To be honest with you, I’m going to have to go at my old coach Phil Jackson,” Pippen said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think he just hasn’t put the right pieces on the floor. I give a lot of credit to Carmelo who is being very professional in getting through these 82 game season. And now he’s being benched to some degree, they’re taking a lot of his minutes away. But this team just hasn’t had it. They haven’t had it since Phil Jackson landed there. There hasn’t been any upside.”

After saying “fans would love to see Carmelo in New York and Phil out,” Pippen was asked by host Rachel Nichols if he believes Jackson “should be out.”

“Yes,” Pippen replied emphatically.

Most of Jackson’s former players have his back, most recently Shaquille O’Neal who laid blame at the feet of the Knicks’ players. The ones that Jackson assembled into a mismatched team.

Phil Jackson’s record may be 77-162 since taking over the Knicks, but reports are he isn’t going anywhere. While owner James Dolan can flip like a pancake on a griddle, the sense is that Jackson will keep collecting his $12 million annual salary and will keep trying to build a triangle-offense team. That means Carmelo Anthony likely gets moved this summer.

Jackson has seemingly fallen into the trap the Knicks have been unable to climb out of for years — since James Dolan took over as owner seemingly — of not just picking a system, sticking to it, being patient and avoiding quick fixes. Triangle, Rhombus, pick-and-roll heavy, whatever offense the Knicks use should be built around getting Kristaps Porzingis touches and playing to his strengths. Get younger players who fit that system to go around him and let it grow together. Be patient. Instead, it’s Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Jackson deserves blame. A significant amount. So do the players. So does Jeff Hornacek as coach. But make sure Dolan gets a big slice too, this team has struggled since he was given control, and he is the one constant.

Frustrated Kyrie Irving on another ring: “And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

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Since the All-Star break, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked like a championship team. They have been in a malaise going 8-10 with the second-worst defense in the NBA during that stretch. The Cavs like a team that is just waiting for the games to have meaning again in the playoffs. It makes one tempted to say this will come back to bite them in the postseason, but which team in the East is going to beat them?

The Cavaliers players are frustrated with their play of late, too.  Kyrie Irving vented about it after practice, as reported by Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Obviously it was just a frustrating game and there have been a few frustrating games for all of us,” Irving said. “Just getting back to what we do, having fun with one another and being truthful with one another — we’ll be good…

And then Irving said: “You can’t rely on just thinking that one championship is enough. It’s natural for human beings to just get comfortable. To rely on just having won a championship. But if you a (competitor) you want two, you want three, you want four. And if you dedicate yourself more like you say you do, then you want more. And I want more. I’m going to go take it.”

Injuries have had key players, most recently Kevin Love and J.R. Smith out of the rotation of late, and working them back in has not gone smoothly. Still, this is the same core from the team that won the title last season, it shouldn’t be that difficult to get back into a groove.

Cleveland is acting like a team that thinks it can flip the switch.

Maybe they can, but there are some powerful teams out West who seemed to have flipped theirs long ago.

 

Rumor: Bulls ready to move on from Jimmy Butler this summer

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Predicting what the Chicago Bulls front office will do this summer is a game of roulette — the ball can land anywhere and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Is Dwyane Wade coming back? Is Nikola Mirotic part of the future? Fred Hoiberg? What kind of team are the Bulls trying to build, anyway?

Then there is the biggest one: Is Jimmy Butler still part of the long-term plan? Or is he going to be moved to facilitate a rebuilding process?

Last summer when the Bulls had the chance to trade him, they kept Butler to build around him… then made some interesting choices in trying to do that. They didn’t get enough shooting, players didn’t fit well, and others didn’t develop, and the Bulls are struggling to even make the postseason.

So what do the Bulls do this summer? One exec told Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer that the Bulls were going to move Butler.

Paul George and Jimmy Butler were involved in trade rumors at the deadline, and all indications are that those conversations will resume this offseason. One front-office source told me recently that Butler is “as good as gone,” while George sounds like a player who wants out.”

Paul George wanting to contend (or if not, be in Los Angeles) is not news, but whether the Pacers decide to be serious about trading him this summer depends on a number of factors that we’re not going to get into here. This article is about Butler.

Do the Bulls want to trade Butler? Some in the front office do, some don’t. There were reports the Bulls wanted an All-Star level player for him so the team did not take a step back, but nobody was giving that up. Everyone in Chicago from ownership through management is not on the same page, which helps explain some of the stop-gap team building moves by the team. Chicago needs to decide if it wants to go for the full rebuild, which is what happens if they trade Butler. The playoffs are out of the questions for a few years if they do, but that’s not a bad thing if they draft well and commit to the plan. However, there is a sense that ownership thinks “this is Chicago, we don’t rebuild.”

All of which is to say, if the Bulls trade Butler it’s not a huge surprise. If they keep him, it’s not a huge surprise. But other teams — hello Boston — may be prepping for him to come back on the trade market around the draft.