Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Kobe_game.jpgOur game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while your wife had control of the remote so she could watch women’s figure skating.

L.A. Lakers 99, Memphis 98:
Kobe Bryant can cover up a multitude of sins for a team. Memphis deserved this one, largely because the Lakers decision making is often terrible. Shannon Brown over dribbles then jacks up bad shots, Jordan Farmar breaks the offense, Derek Fisher has lost a few steps, and seemingly the only guy who can consistently make a good post entry pass is Pau Gasol, but he is usually in the post.

The game winner from Kobe, and the ensuing miss by OJ Mayo, came because of better execution by the Lakers. When the Lakers had to shoot, they inbounded the ball to Gasol, who passed to Odom then Gasol set a moving downscreen pick that took Rudy right out of the play and Kobe got a clean look at a three. You cannot give Kobe a clean look like that. Cannot.

When the Grizzlies get their chance they run the high pick-and-roll for their last shot and the Lakers switch it so Pau Gasol and his massive wingspan are there to disrupt Mayo, who is forced to take a fade away a fade away three and misses it. Bottom line: Gasol and Bryant executed under pressure, and the Lakers win a lot of games because of that.

Cleveland 105, New Orleans 95: Marcus Thornton? Who? Rookie second rounder Marcus Thornton? The scouting report back on draft night said he could score and eventually might develop into a nice spark plug off the bench.  Turns out eventually is now. He had 37 on 15 of 22 shooting, with 23 in the second quarter alone.

Thornton took advantage of something that other teams are going to try to exploit in the playoffs — against really quick guards, whether on penetration or the high pick-and-roll, Shaq has to lay back and give up the jumper. He is just not quick enough to recover and guys can just blow by him, so rather than give up the layup he concedes the jumper. Which is fine, until you run into somebody as hot as Thornton with the jumper. Then all bets are off. Not that it mattered that much, Cleveland still won.

It says a lot about the Cavs — and the expectations of the fan base now — that they snapped a three-game losing streak and Cleveland guru/beat writer Brian Windhorst tweeted after the game that it still “felt like a loss.” They not only expect wins, but convincing ones. They will learn that in an 82 game season sometimes you just take the win. (Well, maybe not, Lakers fans never learned that.)

Boston 110, New York 106: For three quarters this was played exactly in the pace and style the Knicks would want — fast and without defense. Then the fourth quarter was an ugly cocktail of bad decisions, missed shots and a splash of good defense. Left a bad taste in your mouth if you watched it. The Knicks stayed true to themselves in that quarter — they kept shooting threes and they kept missing them, hitting zero of their last seven attempts. The Celtics played about five minutes of good defense. That is basically your ballgame.

But you want to know about Nate Robinson, don’t you? He looked a little uncomfortable, like he was thinking not just reacting and playing. He was trying to facilitate the offense, not just score (and when he did he was just 2 of 7 and got rejected by Lee once). Don’t read too much into one game, there is going to be an adjustment for the Celtics second unit, getting used to Nate’s game and him adjusting to their team style.

Minnesota 91, Miami 88: What do you want me to say, Miami without Wade is just not very good.

Portland 102, New Jersey 93: He’s a Blazers big man so this was bound to happen — Marcus Camby twisted his ankle five minutes into the game, left and did not return. Post-game X-rays were negative, but it is unknown how long he will be out.

As for the game itself, a very slow pace (81 possessions, about 10 off the Nets normal speed of play). But Portland jumped out early and if they had cared about playing defense at the end it wouldn’t have been this close.

Phoenix 104, Oklahoma City 102: Just like so many games this year, the Suns blow a 15 point lead and find themselves down by 10 in the fourth quarter as the Thunder were on their way to another… what do you mean the Suns came back and won? That’s not how the story has gone this year for the Suns. Well, good on them for showing some grit.

Impressive game winner for Phoenix — Jason Richardson beat the Thunder’s defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha off the dribble, found all the help defenders late to arrive and got to put up a pretty little floater in the lane that dropped in with 0.7 left. On another note, credit to Goran Dragic, who took over for Steve Nash but played within himself and didn’t make too many mistakes. He finished with 16 and 10.

Detroit 101 Sacramento 98: This is the kind of game the Pistons lost for much of the season, when Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince were out. Those two combined for 52 points on 62 percent shooting.

Philadelphia 110, Golden State 102: The Sixers were up by 24 in the third in this battle of mismatched rosters, in part because Lou Williams stepped into AI’s starting spot and had a night, finishing 26 points, 10 rebounds and 7 dimes. But the Sixers lost interest, the Warriors got hot from the outside as they do at times, and a 16-2 run later the end was in doubt. Williams hit a late three to seal Philly’s win.

Timberwolves new CEO knows exactly what he’s getting into

This 2016 image provided by the San Francisco 49ers shows Ethan Casson posed at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. In 1998, Casson called sports teams all over the country asking to get a foot in the door. The Minnesota Timberwolves answered, giving him an entry-level position. Almost 20 years later, Casson returns to the franchise as the team's new CEO hoping to help a team that has struggled on the business side almost as much as it has on the court. (Terrell Lloyd/The San Francisco 49ers via AP)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) In the winter of 1998, Ethan Casson started calling professional franchise after professional franchise, begging them to get his foot in the door in any capacity.

One night, a human resources employee for the Minnesota Timberwolves picked up the phone and Casson talked his way into a meeting. He flew from the East Coast, met with several Timberwolves executives and, during the third quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors, was offered an entry-level position on the business side of the operation at $24,000 per year.

“To think that what started as a cold call of me begging an HR person to let me come in and prove my worth 18 years later turned into me coming back as a CEO is amazing and certainly very special to me,” Casson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Casson had to sell his car and some other possessions to raise the money to pay for his move from Boston to the Twin Cities, but the leap of faith has paid off. Six years after he left the Timberwolves to climb the ladder with the San Francisco 49ers, he is returning as CEO to breathe new life into one of the NBA’s struggling operations.

Timberwolves President Chris Wright remembered the impression Casson left in those first face-to-face meetings.

“I told him we’re going to find a place for you in this franchise because you are exactly the type of person that we want build this franchise around,” Wright said.

Casson’s first stint with the Timberwolves lasted 11 years. He worked his way up to senior vice president of corporate partnerships and met his future wife here before leaving for the 49ers in 2010.

When he arrived in the Bay Area, the once-proud 49ers were in the midst of an eight-year playoff drought. Their revenue had dropped to near the bottom of the league and they were playing in an outdated stadium that couldn’t compete with the shiny new ones popping up around the league. He leaves after helping to secure a 20-year, $220 million naming rights deal with Levi’s for the new stadium and rebuilding the franchise’s business operations.

The Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since 2004, the longest active drought in the league. That futility has contributed significantly to plummeting revenue and a dwindling season ticket base.

“I’m not saying it’s apples to apples, but I certainly feel I’ve been on a six-year journey that involved a lot of similar themes,” Casson said. “And I’ll apply all of those lessons to this next phase of my career.”

Casson replaces Rob Moor, the longtime CEO who stepped aside to work more closely with Wolves owner Glen Taylor’s other business interests. At 42 years old, Casson is part of a youth movement coming into the organization. Taylor also brought in 41-year-old New York real estate mogul Meyer Orbach and 35-year-old Chinese entrepreneur John Jiang as minority owners, and he hopes the three of them help bring a new perspective and energy to the business side that mirrors the vibe youngsters Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine are bringing to the team.

“I was very aware and respectful that taking on this role wasn’t about coming in and fixing things that were broken,” Casson said. “I don’t look at opportunities like this as somethings not working. I look at it as an opportunity to reset and plot out a different course or a different version of a course that moves the business forward.”

The challenges are real. The Timberwolves’ competitive dormancy buried them in a crowded sports marketplace. Tickets have been hard to sell and the NFL’s Vikings, the NHL’s Wild and MLB’s Twins are competing for the corporate dollars.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” said Wright, who is entering his 25th season with the Wolves. “I’ve tried to do it what I consider the best way for the franchise given all of the different sort of environments we’ve found ourselves in over the last 12 years as we’ve not been making the playoffs. And I think Ethan is going to just bring a completely fresh, new look to all of that and lead us in the direction we need to be as a club in the 21st century.”

The Wolves have one of the most promising young cores in the league, a brand new practice facility in downtown Minneapolis and have begun renovations on the dusty Target Center.

“There’s a lot of momentum in and around the organization that made it very exciting for me as a fan and now as someone who is coming back as CEO,” he said. “That will come and go. The renovation will eventually be complete. The team will stabilize and be competitive. You still have to make sure the business model is sustainable and drivable. That’s what we’re going to be.”

Joel Embiid arm wrestled Justin Bieber in a club? Yup. There is video.

THERMAL, CA - APRIL 16:  Professional basketball player Joel Embiid attends the Levi's Brand and RE/DONE Levi's presents NEON CARNIVAL with Tequila Don Julio on April 16, 2016 in Thermal, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Tequila Don Julio)
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Joel Embiid is officially 7’0″ tall and 250 pounds, although when you see him in person now that number seems low, he looks thicker and stronger.

Justin Bieber is a 5’9″ waiflike person.

So of course, they arm wrestled at the club Hyde in Los Angeles. It went about as you’d expect. Here is some video, hat tip to Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie (arguably the best arm wrestler in the NBA media).

If you’re about to make an “at least Embiid didn’t get hurt” joke, be more creative.

Hopefully, we get to see what Embiid can do on the court this fall, where the competition will be a lot tougher than any Canadian pop star.

Larry Sanders asks in Twitter poll what team he should play for next season

Larry Sanders
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Larry Sanders is talking about getting back into the NBA. He walked away in 2015 to say he needed to deal with anxiety and depression, to find a balance in his life. Recently he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders this:

“But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”

But where? A lot of teams could use an athletic big who averaged 1.4 blocks per game over the five years he was in the NBA, although with the conservative nature of NBA front offices they will not want to take much risk (Golden State reportedly thought about it and decided not to offer him a contract).

Sanders decided to ask Twitter where he should go, putting Twitter’s poll feature to good use.

The question becomes, where is there mutual interest from any of these teams?

If Sanders and his agent can win a team over in an interview, the contract will be small and the number of guaranteed years is not exceeding one (if even that). From the perspective of an NBA team, Sanders has to prove himself again.

But never underestimate how many chances big men get in this league.

(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Warriors’ just re-signed Anderson Varejao leaves Brazil to have back examined in USA

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16: Anderson Varejao #18 of the Golden State Warriors warms up prior to Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Anderson Varejao was spending the past couple days helping his nation prepare to host the 2016 Olympics in less than two weeks, including carrying the Olympic flame.

#tochaolimpica #varejao #olimpiadas #rio2016 #brazil #sampacool 😍⚾⛳🎾⚽🏀🏁🏂🏆🏊🏇

A video posted by Marcus Bado (@marcusbado) on

But now he is on his way back to the United States to have his chronically bad back examined. Again. From Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.

The Warriors re-signed Varejao on a one-year, veteran minimum contract where he will make $980,431. He is expected to back up Zaza Pachulia at the five spot, although his run would have been limited (which is good, he’s not terribly effective anymore).

A variety of injuries — back, Achilles, wrist — have meant the most games Varejao has played in a season since the 2010-11 season is 65. Last season that number was 53, the final 22 of it with the Warriors.

If Varejao can’t go or is limited, the Warriors may look around at other options. But the pickings are slim at this point.