Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Monday, or what you missed while deciding how many bottles of the John Calipari bourbon bottles you want to buy….

Mavericks 89, Bobcats 84: Maybe the most interesting thing about this game was the jacket new Charlotte owner Michael Jordan wore. Close first half (and the Bobcats closed that second quarter out well) as Dallas looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back. Flat as that Coke you left out last night.

But change was coming. You knew the run was coming. Everyone watching knew change was coming. Jordan’s jacket even knew the run was coming. Dallas had won seven (now eight) in a row, you don’t get that if you roll over. Charlotte did not have the players to stop the big run, the result was the Mavericks taking the lead and holding on with some key late shots.

Cavaliers 124, Knicks 93: Without Shaq or Big Z, the Cavaliers have to go small. And as Rob Mahoney pointed out, that’s not such a bad thing — especially against a Knicks team that wants to go smaller than you. The Cleveland small is so much more athletic, just so much flat out better than the Knicks’ version. Cleveland had 74 points at the half, and this was over. Of course, some New York fans want to blame this on Mike D’Antoni, as if there is some magical Xs and Os trick that turns Tracy McGrady into a superstar defender. D’Antoni could have a time machine and it would not help much with that problem.

After the game D’Antoni was asked if the 2010 plan was worth suffering losses like this. “I’ll tell you next year.”

Trail Blazers 103, Grizzlies 93: Memphis did not treat this like any other regular season game — they came in 3.5 games back of Portland for the final playoff spot in the West. It’s starting to get late, these are the wins you need. But the reason they are now 4.5 back is that Portland is the better team. Memphis was up at the half then went into hibernation on offense. They provided 15 second half turnovers to make sure the Trail Blazers got some easy transition buckets. It was ugly.

Memphis made some runs when they could get the ball inside to Zach Randolph and Mark Gasol. Still not enough, Portland’s front line defenders may be undersized but Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard did just enough, and Brandon Roy played well off the pick and roll when it mattered.

Magic 126, 76ers 105: The real Jameer Nelson is back, he had 22 points and 10 rebounds. With him at the helm Orlando played maybe their best offensive game of the season (138 points per 100 possessions), and that was far, far to much for Philly.

Hawks 116, Bulls 92: Pound it inside, work inside out. The Hawks should do that just about every night, but they really executed it in the first half against the smallish Bulls and the result was 59 first half points and a 16 point lead. The Bulls made it close in the fourth again, but when it got too close Atlanta went back to dominating inside and that was ballgame.

The result of this game — the Hawks are now two games clear of Boston for the third playoff spot in the East.

Rockets 116, Raptors 92: Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin combined for 56 points on 62.5% shooting, and they hit 9 of 17 from three. Think the Rockets may have found their backcourt?

Suns 101, Nuggets 85: In the second quarter Phoenix went to a zone, and Denver apparently has not practiced much against that. Or ever seen it before. No good shooting over the top, very little attacking the soft middle of the zone. Far too much dribble penetration, and most of it was a step slow. Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony combined for 23 first quarter points, but had none in the second. JR Smith’s always questionable shot selection killed them against the zone.

But Denver has other worries. Like that the small front line of the Suns grabbed 40% of their missed shots for offensive rebounds. Or that while Ty Lawson has been a great story, when they have to go to Anthony Carter the entire state of Colorado winces. He is not playing well.

Clippers 108, Jazz 104: The Clippers led wire-to-wife on this one. They jumped out early, and were still up 12 with 150 seconds left to play — and almost lost it. They had to hang on with free throws. Typical Clippers. Not typical Jazz, who have been red hot lately but looked like a tired team on the road.

Spurs 106, Hornets 92: The Spurs dominated this one, it looked like an old-school, vintage Spurs win. Which is to say not that fun to watch. The fun thing was Hornets rookie Marcus Thornton, who went off for 30 on 12 of 19 shooting off the bench. The kid can play. Byron Scott did a nice job of sitting on Darren Collison and Thornton to start the season, nobody knew New Orleans had this talent buried on the bench.

Report: Wizards trade first-round pick to get Bojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCollough, unload Andrew Nicholson

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards battles Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets for a loose ball during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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John Wall has been so good, he made himself right.

The Wizards’ starters have been awesome, and their bench has been about equally bad. With Washington surging to third in the East, and the fourth-place Raptors making their move with Serge Ibaka, this was no time to idle.

So, as Wall predicted, the Wizards traded for bench helpBojan Bogdanovic and Chris McCollough from the Nets.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Andrew Nicholson, with three years and $19,911,007 remaining after this season, had negative value. He was part of the reason the Wizards’ bench stunk. Likewise, Marcus Thornton provided little in reserve. A 29-year-old on an expiring minimum contract, he was likely included only so Washington didn’t exceed the roster maximum of 15 players.

Essentially the Wizards traded a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, McCollough and shedding Nicholson.

Bogdanovic will provide wing scoring for a reserve unit badly in need of juice. He has been an ineffective defender, but his 6-foot-8 frame offers a path to improvement on that end.

The 27-year-old will be a restricted free agent next summer. Assuming re-signing Otto Porter is the priority, keeping Bogdanovic could push Washington into the luxury tax — likely a non-starter. This could win up just a rental, but there’s plenty of time to evaluate Bogdanovic’s (and everyone else’s) long-term fit.

The Nets drafted McCollough No. 29 in 2015 as a project, and he remains one. The 22-year-old has spent far more time in the D-League than the NBA this season. It’s unlikely he contributes this season, as lower as the bar is for the Wizards’ bench. He has two additional seasons left on his rookie-scale contract, time for Washington to figure out what it has.

Now, Brooklyn has a couple first-round picks this year — the Celtics’ and the Wizards’. That doesn’t amount to much, but the Nets are so far from relevance, getting even younger is a wise path forward.

Report: Pacers both exploring Paul George trade market with Lakers, seeking deals to get him help

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 27:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers celebrates after making a basket during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 27, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  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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The Pacers are coming up on a franchise fork in the road.

Ideally, Pacers’ president Larry Bird and company would like to keep Paul George in Indiana and join Bird himself as one of the legendary basketball players of the Hoosier state, in PG’s case as of the greatest Pacers of all time. But to do that would require building a contender around George in Indiana — and that means bringing in more talent fast.

George was direct with the Pacers owner in a recent meeting saying almost exactly that, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

So when George met with team owner Herb Simon in recent days and told him that the Hoosier state was still the place for him, how he would love nothing more than to eventually go down as the greatest Pacer of them all, it came with one qualifier.

If they can contend for a title.

However, if contending isn’t in the cards, George could bolt as a free agent in 2018 (there are plenty of people around the league who will tell you George would love to be a Laker and be back in Los Angeles, where he grew up). That concern has the Pacers thinking maybe they should see what the trade market is for PG, if they can get something for him rather than nothing in 2018.

So while the Pacers are saying they don’t plan to move him, they are trying to get a sense of that market, reports Adrain Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Pacers are working the trade deadline on parallel fronts: Pursuing deals that will bring talent into Indiana to sell George on signing a long-term extension – and soliciting deal offers on George that would signal a rebuild around center Myles Turner, league sources told The Vertical.

Ultimately, the Pacers will have to evaluate the two paths and make a decision before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. There’s no urgency to make a deal for George, unless the Pacers fear the Boston Celtics could ultimately provide Indiana the best possible package of assets in a deal – and think that option could disappear if Boston makes a deal with Chicago for Jimmy Butler.

One of the teams moving to get in on the George market is the Lakers, according to Sam Amick of the USA Today.

The fact that the Lakers are in the process of trying to land George right now, with new lead executive Magic Johnson moving fast to fill that superstar hole that Kobe Bryant left behind, only makes these next two days all the more compelling.

Magic had said in interviews on Tuesday that the young core of the Lakers was “untouchable.” It couldn’t be in this case, it would take Brandon Ingram and at least another young player from that core to even get the conversation started — is Magic going to sell out the young core in his first days in power to get a star player immediately?

Unless Boston is willing to part with one of their Brooklyn picks this year or next, it’s hard to imagine a deal sending George outside Indiana done in the next day before the deadline (3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday). And the word around the league so far is Boston is not giving those picks up.

It feels like Indiana is more likely to bring in help at the deadline — they have engaged in talks for Jahlil Okafor among many others — but failing that will take a harder look at trading George around the draft or this summer.

There is one complicating factor here — the designated player rule. If George can make an All-NBA team this season or next, he would qualify to get the designated player contract extension, five years and $210 million, at least $30 million more than any other team could offer. If George qualifies the Pacers would offer the deal, and he would take it.

The problem is qualifying. George is a borderline All-NBA player, but there are just six All-NBA forward slots available, and the competition is fierce: LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Giannis Antetokounmpo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, and the list goes on. George made the All-NBA team last year, but he’s on the bubble again this year.

The Pacers likely wait to see if he makes the team again and if they can offer him the designated player deal. If not, George could be moved this summer (or the Pacers could wait until next deadline and see if George is on pace for an All-NBA nod next season, but if not the trade market for him will be less robust because he’s a rental).

PBT Podcast: What does Magic’s return mean for Lakers, with Mark Medina of the LA Daily News

In this Aug. 23, 2016, file photo, former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for a stadium which will be home to the Los Angeles Football Club in Los Angeles. Johnson is returning to the Los Angeles Lakers organization as an adviser to owner Jeanie Buss. The Lakers announced the reunion Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, with Johnson, one of the most beloved players in franchise history. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)
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Magic Johnson has a statue outside Staples Center.

He’s now also in control of the product inside it — Magic is head of the Lakers’ basketball operations after Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak were let go on Tuesday. The shakeup was expected, although the timing caught the league off guard.

It also raises questions about how the Lakers’ front office will now operate with Magic and former agent Rob Pelinka in charge, and what direction do they want to take a team with a quality young core?

Mark Medina, the Laker insider and beat reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News joins me to break down all the questions around the Lakers moves, from why now to what next. He has some great insight into where the Lakers are headed.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Report: Rockets making push for Iman Shumpert, teams ask Rockets about Patrick Beverley

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: Iman Shumpert #4 of the Cleveland Cavaliers jokes during warmups prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The moves you see teams make at the NBA trade deadline are the best indicator of what they think their chances are come the playoffs. Do they stand pat and decide to wait a year, or are they aggressive going for win-now moves?

Based on that, the Rockets think they can make a deep run this season. They have already traded for Lou Williams from the Lakers, who should thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s system and add scoring punch to the bench.

But the Rockets may not be not done, they have been talking to the Cavaliers about Iman Shumpert, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

LeBron has been asking for depth at the point guard spot, Beverley would be a great fit for them. He could shoot the three and score, plus he defends very well.

He’d be a great fit for a lot of teams, which is why the Cavaliers are not the only team with their eyes on Beverley, reports Calvin Watkins who covers the Rockets for ESPN.

According to a source, several teams have expressed interest in Rockets guard Patrick Beverley. Chicago, New York and Cleveland are the main suitors. Rockets front office and coaches value what Beverley brings to the team and that’s being noticed by others. Beverley, according to a source, has a desire to remain with the Rockets.

The Rockets have played have played much better defense since Beverley returned from injury, and they should be hesitant to move him. Watkins tweeted this:

How much of that is a bluff trying to drive up the price and how much of that is serious remains to be seen. The Rockets like Beverley and don’t want to move him, but there is a price for everyone in the league and if some team comes in over the top the Rockets have to listen.

I just don’t think Shumpert is far enough over that top.