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.

Phil Jackson says his goal for Knicks last season was 35 wins

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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Phil Jackson predicted the playoffs for the Knicks in 2014-15, and he’s again drumming up postseason buzz for 2016-17.

Between, he was much more cautious.

The Knicks president didn’t make any bold proclamations entering last season. But, somewhat after the fact, he revealed his goal for the team.

Jackson in a March interview with Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak that was published this month:

I’m also still hopeful that we can win the 35 games I had said was our goal before the season. That would be a vast improvement. More than twice the number that we won last year. We need to go 7-5 to get there.

“I know the guys don’t care about winning 35. They’re not marking it as their own goal. They just feel better about winning.

That’s a pretty pathetic aspiration – and the Knicks still didn’t meet it. They finished 32-50.

Jackson can say the players didn’t care about 35 wins, and they probably didn’t. It’s hard to see Carmelo Anthony appreciating aiming so low (though he might not resent it enough, which is anther issue).

But part of Jackson’s job is setting a tone for the organization. If he’s shooting for merely nearing mediocrity, that trickles down.

Jackson said entering the season he changed the Knicks’ culture. I’m not nearly as convinced.

51Q: Will returning home to Atlanta rejuvenate Dwight Howard?

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets waits on the court before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Toyota Center on November 27, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:

Will returning home to Atlanta rejuvenate Dwight Howard?

It’s hard to remember an NBA star whose perception has changed as much in five years as Dwight Howard’s has. He hasn’t really helped matters — his messy exits from the Magic and Lakers, as well as his rumored feud with James Harden in Houston and declining production due to injuries have clearly lowered his standing. It’s easy to forget that five years ago, he was a three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, legitimate MVP candidate and had recently been the best player on a team that went to the Finals.

As insane as it is to think about, the three-year deal Howard signed with his hometown Atlanta Hawks this summer is something of a reclamation project for a once-perennial All-NBA player. And the Hawks may be the perfect situation for him to rehabilitate his career.

From a pure talent standpoint, Howard in 2016 is a downgrade from Al Horford, who left Atlanta for Boston in free agency. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s system is predicated on spacing, and Howard offensively is useless from outside five feet. But he does undeniably fill holes. Last season, the Hawks were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, with the third-lowest rebound rate, per NBA.com. Rebounding is one of the things that Howard can still do consistently at an elite level.

Howard also brings enormous value as a pick-and-roll finisher, when he wants to accept that role. In Los Angeles and Houston, he was still under the impression that his best use was as a post-up big, likely in large part due to Shaquille O’Neal’s nonstop criticisms of his game on Inside the NBA.

If Howard is willing to play the pick-and-roll and doesn’t demand touches, he can still be an impact player in Atlanta. The hope would be that after leaving three teams on bad terms, Howard accepts that at this point in his career, he isn’t a first option on offense anymore, and he’s willing to play a role similar to what Tyson Chandler was on the Mavericks’ 2011 title team: a rebounder and rim protector who feasts offensively on putback dunks and scores in the pick and roll.

If Howard can do that, the Hawks have enough talent to stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference despite losing Horford. They have other question marks on their roster — they still haven’t found a full-time replacement for DeMarre Carroll, and the transition from the just-traded Jeff Teague to Dennis Schroder is going to be rocky.

But they have the pieces, the coach and the culture for Howard to be successful in Atlanta if he wants to be.

Little kid in silly green hat eliminates Avery Bradley in knockout (video)

Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, left, gestures as Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) steps on the court in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacrament Kings, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Boston. The Celtics won 128-119. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne
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Tired of NBA players dominating kids during the summer?

Here’s the video for you.

Celtics guard Avery Bradley loses in knockout – thanks to the smallest kid in the clip, who’s wearing a shirt way to big for him and a silly green hat.

Brian Robb of Celtics Hub:

Children in NBA player camps everywhere, you have been avenged.

Marc Gasol says he nearly played in Olympics, his foot seems fine

MEMPHIS, TN - APRIL 24:  Marc Gasol #33 of the Memphis Grizzlies celebrates against the Oklahoma City Thunder during  Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum on April 24, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Marc Gasol missed the final two months of last season and Olympics with a foot injury.

When will the Grizzlies center return?

Gasol in L’Esportiu, as translated by Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype:

On his foot injury:

“I’m really well and looking forward to starting (the season). I miss the competition, playing and enjoying basketball. All indications are that the foot is fine. I’ve practiced with the (Girona basketball club) juniors all I could, especially half-court sets.”

On almost making it to the Olympic Games:

“I was a couple of weeks away.”

After hurting his foot, it always seemed highly improbably Gasol would play in the Rio Games. But maybe he wasn’t that far off.

It’d be a huge boost to Memphis if Gasol is healthy as he sounds. The Grizzlies kept their window for winning open by re-signing Mike Conley and signing Chandler Parsons this summer, but Gasol is central to that. If healthy, Gasol is in the running for the NBA’s best center.  Memphis went 30-22 with him and 12-18 without him last season (though other injuries contributed to the downfall).