Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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fight.jpgOur game recaps from Saturday, or what you missed while wondering why anyone would shoot a man in a chicken suit

Suns 113, Pacers 105: Who knew the Pacers had any fight in them? Earl Watson kept pushing Channing Frye in the third quarter and finally Frye had had enough and one of those NBA “fights” broke out. It’s not exactly a Baylor women’s game, but by NBA standards this was a decent little fracas, with Danny Granger and Frye taking swings that missed everything. Frye got tossed, other guys picked up techs, and it was over.

As for the game, the Pacers want to run but the Suns are much better at it. Better shooters, better finishers. Ballgame.

Heat 100, Hawks 94: One of the symptoms of tired legs is a team willing to shoot jumpers rather than drive the lane. That was particularly noticeable with Atlanta — second night of a back-to-back and a team that usually attacks the rim with ferocity didn’t venture near the paint (and that was even with Jermaine O’Neal leaving the game late in the fist quarter with a knee injury). The Heat really took over late (again signs of a tired Atlanta team) and pulled away for the win.

For Miami, back-to-back wins against the Lakers and Hawks should help them in the fight for that final playoff spot in the East.

Bobcats 101, Warriors 90: It’s a sentence I could just cut and past from every Warriors game recap and just change out the opposing team’s name: The Bobcats dominated the Warriors inside, grabbing 44% of their missed shots on the offensive glass and outscoring Golden State by 34 points in the paint. The Warriors tried to shoot their way back into it from three, but until they get some interior defense that last sentence will be valid. Good win for the Bobcats on the back-to-back.

Nets 113, Knicks 93: The Knicks made history Saturday — they were 0 for 18 from three point range, a new NBA record for attempts without a make in league history. Meanwhile the Nets hit 14 of 24 (58.3%). Ballgame.

Mavericks 122, Bulls 116: Everything Rick Carlisle touches right now is gold, which happens when you win 11 in a row. He decides to start talented rookie Rodriguez Beaubois, at the two, and he goes off for a career high 24, and brings some real athleticism to the Dallas starting unit. The Maverick’s defense was not great, but the Bulls defense has gone into the tank — Tyrus Thomas is in Charlotte and Joakim Noah is out, throw in some assorted other guys playing through bumps and bruises and the Bulls are just not stopping anyone. Derrick Rose tried to lead a furious comeback in the fourth, but the Bulls didn’t get any stops.

Rockets 112, Timberwolves 98: The Rockets were just more physical, more organized and shooting better from the outset. The NBA is often described as a game of runs, but this was just more of a slow, steady beat down. Houston just was flat out better. Props to Luis Scola for the 25 and 21 on the night as he controlled the paint for Houston.

Spurs 102, Grizzlies 92: Give this win to the Spurs bench, which was the best unit on the court last night. San Antonio just got 36 points from their starters, and they lost Tony Parker. Nice win for the Spurs on a night the rest of their season seemed to just go down the toilet.

Bucks 92, Cavaliers 85: Here’s a news flash: Cleveland isn’t a very good team without that LeBron guy. Don’t worry, Mo Williams is there to pick up the backcourt slack… wait, he went 3 for 17? You get the picture. Brandon Jennings found his three-point shooting touch hitting 5 of 7 from deep and he attacked and got to the line nine times as well. (Don’t tell me he got his shooting touch back, however, as he was 1 of 7 inside the arc.) Bottom line for a Bucks team trying to make the playoffs — you beat the top seed in the East. Doesn’t matter who played when they put the mark in the win column.

Jazz 107, Clippers 85: The Clippers have a 2.5% winning percentage in Utah in the last two decades (one win there in 20 years), and this time had to go there on the second game of a back-to-back. How did you think this was going to end?

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.