Baseline to baseline (game recaps)

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Billups_game.jpgWhat you missed while watching the Stooges finally get inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame…

Rockets 125, Nuggets 123: What I was left wondering after Carmelo Anthony missed a three pointer with Shane Battier right up on him for the final shot — would that have been different if George Karl was coaching?

Denver probably thinks it shouldn’t have come to that shot in the first place, but it did because they got beat at their own game. Houston ran on them. The Rockets had 60 points in transition. They had 60 from their starting backcourt of Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin. Those guys got Chauncey Billups in foul trouble and out of the game before it was time for a final shot. The Rockets new backcourt won that one — including Aaron Brooks pull up jumper at the elbow that was the game winner — and that bodes well for their future.

Lakers 124, Warriors 121: Worst part of this for fans watching at home: Listening to Mark Jackson campaign for the Warriors coaching job all night long on a national broadcast.

The Lakers beat the Warriors at their own game — Los Angeles ran and shot jumpers rather than go inside (although Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol had good numbers). Los Angeles can’t really play at that pace and the ball over a lot to fuel the Warriors transition game. Everyone pounds the Warriors inside — the Lakers didn’t do it enough and there may be no better sign of how screwed up their offense is.

Los Angeles shot the ball better, got to the line a lot more, and controlled the glass (grabbing the offensive board on 43.8% of their missed shots).  LA didn’t play great defense and gave up a late 9-0 run to make it close. The Warriors had a chance to tie with the clock running down on threes from Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis (who settled for an off-balance three as opposed to passing to a wide open Anthony Morrow). That kind of decision is how the Warriors keep losing games.

Knicks 94, Sixers 84: Without David Lee, the Knicks are useless in the paint. He had foul trouble in the first half, he played just a handful of minutes, so Samuel Dalembert had seven offensive boards and the Sixers grabbed the rebound on more than half of their missed shots. The result: Sixers up 11 at the half.

Second half, Lee stays in (Dalembert has two offensive boards the rest of the way) and the Knicks step up their defense at the same time that the Sixers legs started to get tired on the second night of a back-to-back. Toney Douglas provided a great spark — smart move by the Knicks to pay the Lakers cash on draft day to pick him up, the guy has some game. Knicks pull away in the second half, part because of them and part because the Sixers got tired and their shot went missing.

Celtics 119, Pistons 93: It seems like cause for a party — the Celtics played up to their potential for a night. The Pistons played down to their potential for a night. The result was ugly for lovers of basketball, great for Celtics fans.

Jazz 112, Wizards 89: The Jazz are a very disciplined team that works the flex offense until they get good shots. I’m not sure the Wizards players have ever herd the word “disciplined.” They certainly don’t know what it means. Hence, your result — Utah was up 14 at half and went from there. Mehmet Okur looked good in his return from a back injury.

Hornets 108, Clippers 100: Good Baron sighting!!! There should be a league pass alert for these rare nights when Good Baron Davis shows up to play.

The appearance of Good Baron– the guy who drives and dishes and sees the game like few guards in the league — made this one interesting. The final tally: 18 points (on 14 shots) and 17 assists for Davis. He took just four shots outside the paint; the usual barrage of pull up jumpers was gone. Usually that will get the Clippers a win.

But not when the Hornets are draining every outside shot — New Orleans shot 69% in the second half. Not when the Clippers center can’t throw a pea in the ocean (Chris Kaman was 3 of 15 and a couple of those makes were dunks). Even on a rare Good Baron night the Clippers find a way to lose.

Jimmy Butler shrugs off idea he’s a “diva”

Chicago Bulls' Jimmy Butler goes up for a dunk past Charlotte Hornets' Marvin Williams during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose to New York, in hopes that the locker room, “whose team is this?” drama would head East with him. This is Jimmy Butler‘s team, with Dwyane Wade now assisting.

But the drama isn’t gone yet.

On their way out the door, the camps around Rose and Joakim Noah tried to paint Butler as a Diva who was the real problem. When Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Butler about it, he basically laughed off the idea.

“Am I a diva? I don’t call it that,’’ Butler said before Thursday’s 97-81 loss to Atlanta in their final preseason game. “My will to win rubs people the wrong way sometimes. I can blame it on that, but won’t apologize for it. Never will.

“As far as that talk goes, I don’t care. I’m going to keep working and if people don’t like it, people want to say what they want to say, that’s fine. I know, and I think these guys know, where my heart is and how I want to do right by everybody.’’

Rose and Noah thought Butler tried to jump the line to be the leader of the team, which they saw as still their right as the veterans. Butler didn’t care what they thought then, he certainly doesn’t now.

What matters more, Nicola Mirotic and Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis don’t care, and they are the guys still there.

Who will finish with the better record, Bulls or Knicks, is one of my favorite subplots of the NBA season.

Spurs Danny Green has strained quadricep, out three weeks

SAN ANTONIO,TX - APRIL 30: Fans celebrate a three with Danny Green #14 of the San Antonio Spurs against the Oklahoma City Thunder during game one of the Western Conference Semifinals for the 2016 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center on April 30, 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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The Spurs are counting on Danny Green to regain his top-flight “3&D” form this season and give them another defender and weapon when they go up against that potential juggernaut out West. And the Clippers, too.

But that comeback is getting off to a slow start, the team announced Friday.

This likely means a little more run for Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin to start the season, plus some funky lineups from Gregg Popovich.

Green played great defense last season but struggled from three (where 60 percent of his attempts are taken). Green shot 33.2 percent from deep on the season, which is well below his career average of 40.3 percent (and last year’s down numbers were buoyed by a red-hot January, he was much worse the rest of the season).

It’s something for Spurs fans to monitor, they need to get his legs right before his shot can return.

PBT Extra: Who wins MVP, other NBA end-of-season awards?

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The NBA’s award season seems more wide open than ever.

Ben Simmons was going to enter the season as the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but with him out injured the door is flung open to a lot of players. Coach of the Year is always a game of “which coach exceeds expectations.” Even MVP seems more open with Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant — the award winners the past three seasons — teamed up in the Bay Area.

In this latest PBT Extra I throw out my predictions for the awards, but let’s get on with the games next week and see who earns them.

Sixers Nerlens Noel to miss time following surgery on sore knee

CAMDEN, NJ - SEPTEMBER 26: Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during media day on September 26, 2016 in Camden, New Jersey. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

During the ProBasketballTalk podcast with Sixers coach Brett Brown, you could hear the frustration in his voice. He has all these talented young front line players — Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor — but he can’t begin to figure out how they all fit together if he can’t get them on the court at the same time.

That problem just got worse.

The Sixers announced that Nerlens Noel will miss time following surgery to deal with soreness in his left knee. Here is the word from the press release itself:

During the normal course of evaluation and treatment for his left adductor strain, which was identified on October 6, Noel reported localized soreness in his left knee. After consulting with multiple specialists, the source of the soreness was identified as inflamed plica. Noel has elected to address the injury via a minor surgical procedure in the coming days.

The team gives no timeline for Noel’s return. Soreness from the plica — a band of tissue around the knee that is not important following birth — happens in some players and can be fixed by an arthroscopic surgery that removes the area being irritated. While the surgery is minor, it usually takes around six weeks to bounce back from this.

That likely means a little more run for Jahlil Okafor (just coming back from an injury of his own) and Richaun Holmes. But it’s just another injury setback for a Sixers team plagued by them.

The Sixers also announced that Jerryd Bayless will not have surgery on his wrist, but will remain out and be evaluated in two weeks.