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.

Report: Jimmer Fredette, playing in China, engaging NBA teams on March return

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the New York Knicks in action against the Toronto Raptors during their game at Madison Square Garden on February 22, 2016 in New York City.  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 Al Bello/Getty Images)
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It has been six years since Jimmer Fredette entered the NBA with a cult following out of BYU. After five lackluster NBA seasons, will he get a sixth?

His play in China has generated buzz among those already inclined to support him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Errick McCollum is averaging more points per game in the Chinese Basketball Association and taking fewer shots than Fredette. Also averaging 30 points per game in China: MarShon Brooks, Jared Cunningham, Jabari Brown, Jamaal Franklin, Lester Hudson, Darius Adams and Dominique Jones.

In other words, a bunch of borderline NBA players who most likely belong outside the top league.

That includes Fredette, whose selfish style doesn’t lend itself to the smaller role he’d likely have to fill in the NBA.

It takes only one team to take a chance on Fredette, but I wouldn’t bank on immediate help or upside from the 28-year-old.

Report: Jim Buss initially promised to fix Lakers in only one year before being talked into three-year pledge

Los Angeles Lakers part-owner Jim Buss attends a news conference held to introduce the team's new draft picks, Monday, June 29, 2015, in El Segundo, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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The Lakers mercifully ended Jim Buss’ lousy tenure as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, promoting Magic Johnson to run the front office.

Maybe it could have happened sooner if his siblings just listened to him in the first place.

After the 2013-14 season, Jim pledged to re-sign if the Lakers weren’t “contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship … in three to four years.”

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Jim’s much-publicized promise to step down within three years—meaning this year—if the Lakers weren’t “in contention” was not what he originally said, according to sources close to the family.

When Jeanie asked Jim what they could do to hold him accountable, what Jim actually said first was:

“I only need one year.”

The others, knowing their brother so well, chuckled a bit and gave him a chance to amend his statement. He then made it “three years.”

The Lakers went 21-61 in 2014-15 and 17-65 in 2015-16. Jim was wholly incapable of engineering a quick turnaround.

But I understand Jeanie’s hesitancy to oust Jim. Their late father, Jerry, wanted Jim to run the front office. I’m sure Jeanie wanted Jim to have a fair shot at that opportunity.

However, she also should have realized that giving Jim three years meant setting back the franchise for far longer. The Lakers owe Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov $102 million over the next three years — a substantial burden.

Paul George joining a blossoming Lakers team in 2018 is all the buzz, but Los Angeles doesn’t project to have enough cap space to sign him outright. It’d require dropping at least one positive asset, either directly or attached to Deng and/or Mozgov in a salary-dump trade.

That’s a reasonable tradeoff to land a star like George, but if Jim weren’t chasing wins late in his tenure, the maybe the Lakers could have had George and their full complement of recent draft picks.

Again, there was no simple answer here. The Busses wanted to let Jim try, and maybe family should have come first.

But Jim was too big of a dreamer, and even with his pledge extended to three years, he was still angling to keep his job after clearly failing in his stated mission. One way or another, this was bound to become a problem.

The Lakers just took a route where they’ll still feel the problem for years, even if Jim is now ousted from the front office.

 

Kings GM Vlade Divac: Pelicans were team that offered more for DeMarcus Cousins two days prior

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 13:  Vice president of basketball operations and general manager of the Sacramento Kings Vlade Divac attends the team's preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers at T-Mobile Arena on October 13, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sacramento won 116-104. 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 Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Kings general manager Vlade Divac, explaining his modest return in the DeMarcus Cousins trade, said, “I had a better deal two days ago.”

That statement probably made Divac look more foolish than he should have. Cousins’ agents, wary of losing a designated-veteran-player extension only Sacramento could offer, were threatening not to re-sign with any team that traded for the center. That could dissuade a team from offering as much for Cousins, because any offer for him must account for the probability of him staying long-term. It’s unclear the Kings could have pushed through the earlier offer before the other team heard from Cousins’ agents and recanted.

But, in addition to causing uproar and mocking, Divac’s statement also sparked another question: What was that “better deal to days ago”?

Divac, via Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee;

When I was first talking with the Pelicans, it was about Buddy (Hield) and two first-round picks. I talked to DeMarcus’ agents (Dan Fegan and Jarinn Akana) to inform them we were having talks, negotiating terms, and they called teams and threatened them, saying that if Cousins was traded, he would not sign an extension. (Only the Kings could offer a fifth year, at a higher percentage of salary cap, because of Cousins’ designated veteran status.) They got scared and dropped it down to a second-round pick. I thought if I waited longer, I would get less. I needed to act.

Cousins signing a straight contract extension is practically infeasible. The Pelicans almost certainly won’t have enough cap space to offer a renegotiation-and-extension. He’ll probably become an unrestricted free agent in 2018 — which presents major risk for small-market New Orleans. (It’d be a bigger risk if the Pelicans blew up a quality team to land Cousins, which they very much didn’t.)

I don’t blame the Pelicans for lowering their offer once they heard from Cousins’ camp. I especially wouldn’t blame the Pelicans if they leveraged the agents’ threat, which should have come at no surprise, into a lesser offer to the Kings.

Instead of a deal based around Buddy Hield and two first-rounders, Sacramento got Hield, a first-rounder and a second-rounder. The second-rounder is this year’s 76ers’ selection, on pace to be No. 35 in a loaded draft. So, it’s far more valuable than the average second-rounder. We also don’t know what the protections would have been on the first-rounders in the earlier offer. The first-rounder actually conveyed is top-three protected this year, top-one protected the next three year and unprotected in 2021.

Still, with the prospect of DeMarcus Cousins leaving New Orleans next year, I would have loved to get my hands on another Pelicans first-rounder after his free agency.

Instead, the Kings settled for a package with far less upside.

Report: George Hill advised he can get ‘much better deal’ this summer than Jazz offered now

SAN ANTONIO,TX - NOVEMBER 01: George Hill #3 of the Utah Jazz pushes the ball during game between Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center on November 1, 2016 in San Antonio, 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 Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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After last-day negotiations, the Jazz and George Hill didn’t agree on a renegotiation-and-extension.

Why?

Does he want to leave Utah? Do the Jazz not value him enough?

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune:

That doesn’t mean Hill doesn’t want to stay with the Jazz, sources tell The Tribune. In fact, Hill is fond of the franchise and Salt Lake City. He has been a leader in Utah’s locker room and is very close to Jazz star Gordon Hayward — both are from the Indianapolis area. He has developed friendships off the court in Salt Lake, and he enjoys playing for the Jazz.

The Jazz, sources say, are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Hill with the franchise.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

A much better deal? That might be in the eye of the beholder.

The most the Jazz could have offered Hill before last night’s midnight deadline was $88,684,652 — a $13,644,808 raise this season via renegotiation and a three-year, $75,039,844 extension.

As an unrestricted free agent this summer, Hill’s max contract projects to be worth about $177 million over five years if he re-signs or about $132 million over four years if he leaves.

Here’s what Hill’s max would have been in a renegotiation-and-extension and what his maxes project to be next summer:

Season Extension Re-sign Sign elsewhere
2016-17 $13,644,808
2017-18 $23,268,169 $30,600,000 $30,600,000
2018-19 $25,013,281 $33,048,000 $32,130,000
2019-20 $26,758,394 $35,496,000 $33,660,000
2020-21 $37,944,000 $35,190,000
2021-22 $40,392,000
Total $88,684,652 $177,480,000 $131,580,000

There’s no guarantee Hill will receive a max offer in free agency. Though he’s having an excellent season, he’ll be 31. Plus, he has played through multiple minor injuries this season. If one of those becomes major, he has no safety net.

And even if Hill receives higher-paying offers, those aren’t necessarily better offers. Does he want to leave Utah for the 76ers, Kings or Knicks? Those are the type of teams that are both desperate for a point guard and have max-level cap space.

Plus, if Hill signed a renegotiation-and-extension, he still could have earned some money on a new contract in 2020-21 and 2021-22. That has to be weighed against four- or five-year options in free agency.

I would have advised Hill to take the renegotiation-and-extension if the Jazz offered the max amount, but it’s an extremely close call. There’s definitely upside in Hill’s risk of bypassing an extension.

The best hope for Hill to secure a bigger contract with a good team is the Jazz. They hold his Bird Rights, so they can exceed the cap to re-sign him. They’re winning now, and he’s a big part of that. They also might have their point guard of the future already on the roster in Dante Exum. So, while a lucrative long-term contract for Hill might become an albatross on the backend, Utah would at least have the opportunity to reduce his role and elevate Exum rather than being stuck with no options.

Because Hill will be unrestricted, the Jazz should be proactive. They can’t idly wait for the market to determine Hill’s value and then try to match or barely beat it. By then, he might be gone.

Hill can use teams like Philadelphia, Sacramento and New York — maybe to get an offer he’s truly willing to accept, but at least to gain leverage over Utah.

There are many paths to Hill coming out ahead. Let’s acknowledge, though: Rejecting an extension is the more daring route.