Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Tuesday, or what you missed while dreaming of a Bill & Ted sequel

Lakers 109, Raptors 107: Ball denial. If the game is on the line, if the Lakers have one last shot to win it, play ball denial. Double team immediately and hard. Get the ball out of his hands, even if it means someone else gets a better shot. Do not – DO NOT – let Kobe Bean Bryant shoot it.

As for the other 47 minutes, 51 seconds of the game: Andrew Bynum is like a microcosm of the Lakers. When he is challenged – like facing Chris Bosh — he rises up with a great performance (both bigs had 22 points but Bynum did it with 8 of 12 shooting to Bosh’s 7 of 18, and Bosh had just one more rebound). Bosh, however, did hit the game-tying three. Toronto had its stretches as well, often fueled by them running the pick-and-roll with some style. They are sort of like Orlando in that Toronto has the depth to space the floor with good shooters, including bigs, that open things up and then they run the pick-and-roll well and they become a very difficult cover.

Magic 113, Clippers 87: The Clippers fell victim to one of the classic blunders — the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” — but only slightly less well-known is this: Never get into a jump shooting contest with the Orlando Magic.

The Magic took away the Clippers penetration (it helped to have Eric Gordon out, and passive Baron Davis came off the bench for LA). So the Clippers had to settle for contested jump shots. The Clippers could not stop the Magic’s penetration, which led to drive and dish for open outside jumpers for Orlando. And there you have your blowout.

Rockets 96, Wizards 88: We got to see a little hot Argentine on Argentine action — Fabricio Oberto matched up on Luis Scola. And both played some of their most inspired ball in a long time — we actually saw a post move out of Oberto. Scola, however, is far more talented and finished with a game high 23 on 8 of 16 shooting.

Pacers 107, 76ers 96: Where the hell have these Pacers been hiding? The ones that move the ball. The ones where the players cut to the basket. The ones that make smart passes. The ones that normally assist on 55 percent of their baskets but did so for 76 percent in this game. Because, seriously, these Pacers were fun to watch. And I have not written that sentence once this season.

Bobcats 83, Heat 78: Good defense from both squads, but he Bobcats really turned it up after the break and allowed just 30 second half points. Wade got is 27 points for the game, but needed 26 shots to do it. Not that anybody shot well in this one.

Jazz 132, Bulls 107: Wow the Bulls defense has gone to hell without Noah. And the Jazz are the perfect team to exploit that. And they did – 132 points in just a 95-possession game. Nights like this have you thinking the Bulls are the team that will end up on the outside in the East.

Bucks 86, Celtics 84: When the Celtics beat the Wizards at the buzzer just two nights before, Mike Miller was wiped out by a Kevin Garnett screen and his man, Ray Allen, came free for a good look at a three pointer. Net and win for the Celtics. In the same situation down two with four seconds to go Tuesday, the Celtics this time run Paul Pierce off a KG screen, but the Bucks play it better and switch it so that suddenly all seven feet of Andrew Bogut comes out on Pierce and he has to put extra arc on his shot, it misses and the Bucks win. That is how you defend late in games, people.

Trail Blazers 88, Kings 81: That is why Portland went and got Marcus Camby at the trade deadline. He can change a game on defense and that is what he did late in this one, after the Kings had battled back to tie it. Overall the Blazers held the Kings to just a 92 points per 100 possessions pace, well off their season average. It wasn’t a pretty win, but they don’t all have to be. The Kings don’t make it easy, while a lot of lottery teams are rolling over right now, the Kings will fight you. Blazers fans should just happily take the win.

Only two of 38 rookies surveyed say No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz will have class’s best career

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The 76ers drafted Ben Simmons No. 1 last year, believing he’d have the best career of anyone in his draft class. This year, Philadelphia traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 for the same reason.

Their fellow rookies – Simmons missed all of last season due to injury – aren’t nearly as enthused.

John Schuhmann of NBA.com conducted his annual rookie survey, polling 39 players who weren’t allowed to vote for themselves or college or NBA teammates. Thirty-eight responded to the best-career question:

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%
Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%
Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De'Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%
Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Simmons might not have come to mind to players at the rookie photo shoot, which was for the most recent draft class. And rookies have tended to pick someone other than the No. 1 pick for this question. Anthony Davis in 2012 was the last No. 1 pick to lead voting. Simmons tied for fourth at 6.7% last year – behind Brandon Ingram, Kris Dunn and Buddy Hield. Even Karl-Anthony Towns landed behind Jahlil Okafor in 2015.

But so few votes for Fultz – the consensus top prospect in the draft – is fairly stunning.

Dennis Smith Jr. received the most votes for Rookie of the Year, but at just 25.7%. A large majority of rookies picked someone other than the Mavericks point guard.

Lonzo Ball (71.8% for best playmaker) was the only player to receive a majority of votes in a category. Luke Kennard (48.6% for best shooter) and Smith (43.6% for most athletic), who each tripled second place, came close.

LeBron James reemerged as rookies’ favorite player after a three-year run by Kevin Durant. Maybe that Warriors backlash if finally catching up to Durant?

Kendall Marshall, Marshall Plumlee headline Team USA’s AmeriCup roster

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AmeriCup, previously called the FIBA Americas Championship, lost its luster when FIBA decided the continental tournament wouldn’t double as World Cup qualifying.

But the U.S. is still sending a team, coached by Jeff Van Gundy. The roster (team last season):

  • Billy Baron (UCAM Murcia, Spain)
  • Alec Brown (Windy City Bulls)
  • Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce)
  • Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns)
  • Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons)
  • Jonathan Holmes (Canton Charge);
  • Kendall Marshall (Reno Bighorns)
  • Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm)
  • Marshall Plumlee (New York Knicks)
  • Jameel Warney (Texas Legends)
  • C.J. Williams (Texas Legends)
  • Reggie Williams (Oklahoma City Blue)

The Americans should still be favored, though obviously not as overwhelming as they’d be with NBA players, in a field also comprised of Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Uruguay, Panama and U.S. Virgin Islands.

This will be a good benchmark, as the U.S. might take a similar roster into World Cup qualifying.

Report: Tampering investigation stems from Magic Johnson’s TV interview

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In April, new Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and discussed then-Pacers forward Paul George:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

Now, the Lakers – at Indiana’s request – are being investigated for tampering.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The investigation, which has been going on since May, stemmed from comments Magic Johnson made on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that angered Pacers owner Herb Simon, according to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

This doesn’t mean the Pacers believe Johnson tampered with his televised comments. It seems as if that was the last straw following numerous rumors about George going to Los Angeles.

However, there’s a case Johnson’s televised remarks alone would constitute tampering. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits “assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind (whether disclosed or undisclosed to the NBA), between a player (or any person or entity controlled by, related to, or acting with authority on behalf of, such player) and any Team (or Team Affiliate)” – and even attempts to solicit assurance of intent or understanding – when the player is still under contract with another team. Johnson sure appeared to do that.

But it’d be shocking if Johnson or the Lakers were punished for the interview alone. Indiana probably needs more evidence.

Then again, the arbitrary way the NBA enforces tampering, who knows?

Report: Nerlens Noel hires Rich Paul as agent, looking for big deal from Mavericks

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It’s been a rough year for restricted free agents (and plenty of unrestricted ones). After NBA teams spent like drunken sailors on shore leave last summer, this time around — with the cap not rising as much as had been expected — the market got tight quickly, and few questionable contracts were handed out. A year ago the Brooklyn Nets were making the Miami Heat pay big to retain Tyler Johnson and the Trail Blazers pay big to keep Allen Crabbe. This year teams were not biting the same way on restricted free agents.

Which left guys like Nerlens Noel, who expected to be maxed out by the Mavericks (or someone), still looking for a deal. Noel was frustrated enough to switch agents, picking up Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders.

Paul is LeBron James‘ agent, and in recent years has done well getting Tristan Thompson and Eric Bledsoe good contracts as extensions to their rookie deals. In both cases, he showed a fearlessness in holding out longer and being willing to push the envelope. That had to appeal to Noel.

But it doesn’t change the underlying dynamics at play — and not just with Noel. Paul also represents restricted free agents this summer Shabazz Muhammad — who has yet to sign a deal — and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who had to take a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million (well below his max). Throw in Noel’s injury history, and teams were not eager to jump in with a big offer for the athletic big man.

At this point, no team has the money to offer Noel a max contract right now — the Bulls have the most available money at $17.3 million, the Sixers and Suns have about $15 million and $14 million. Noel’s max is $24.7 million a year. Dallas is playing hardball because they can — without another offer on the table, Noel’s only real threat is to sign the qualifying offer (about $6 million) and play the season for that, then become an unrestricted free agent next summer. That’s possible, but a guy with Noe’s history of injuries may want to be careful betting on himself like that.

With Paul in the negotiations, expect them to drag out. That’s about the only sure thing.