Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Saturday while you were remembering there is no spoon, nor floating kitty

Hawks 86, Magic 84: Best. Finish. Ever. Of The Season. Words are inadequate. Seriously. Just watch the video.

This felt like a second round playoff matchup because both teams played very good defense. Atlanta got a signature win, a confidence booster. Orlando can say they lost because of two things: 1) Box out on the weak side, just box out; 2) Defend the three point line, Atlanta shot 53.8 percent from there.

Man, this little taste made me hungry — the playoffs can’t get here soon enough.

Jazz 113 Raptors 87: It’s going to be a rough couple of years, Toronto.

Kyle Korver is a huge swing vote for the Jazz. When he plays well, like he di tonight, there’s just a lot of trouble in stopping the Jazz offense. And that’s if you’re a good defense and not the affront to nature that the Raptors defense is.

The Jazz were all over the passing lanes and if you disrupt the Raptors, they fall over and go to sleep. Meanwhile, Deron Williams always, always initiates, and had himself 16 assists. The Jazz look like a lock for homecourt in the first round.

Celtics 113 Nuggets 99: Write this one down. Pay attention to it and come back to it later. Because the Celtics looked as fearsome in the second quarter of this game as they did in the first part of this season. Tough, determined, focused, and nigh on unstoppable.

Denver on the other hand just looked pedestrian. Some teams go from terrible to awesome, from sharp to dull. The Nuggets just fade into mediocrity so comfortably, it makes me uncomfortable.

Pierce is the go-go-gadget-engine, and that is the truth.

Nets 93 Kings 79: A double digit win for the Nets? It can’t be!

There was no Tyreke Evans. There was a Devin Harris. That ended, well, not as you’d expect, but somewhere in there.

Sixers 101 Bucks 86: How odd.

The Sixers can defend. They don’t care to more often than not. And they’re not usually aware of what they should be doing, but the Bucks didn’t really disguise anything. And the Bucks couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Couldn’t hit a ban door with spray paint. Couldn’t shoot a lick and the Sixers got their offense going inside out. Still very weird.

Thunder 122 Rockets 84: This baby was close, but then something weird happened in the second quarter and it just ballooned. The Rockets were trying to grab soap in a bath, that was their offense, and they just couldn’t grip it. Mostly because the Thunder was locked in. And when Jeff Green is spreading the floor and driving, it’s a tough matcuhup. Even for Luis Scola.

Lakers 92 Spurs 83: Ron Artest blew this open. You can say Odom, but that was in the gameplan, in the flow, in the script. It was Artest, changing the script on both sides, that made this thing happen. Meanwhile, the Lakers adjusted to Greg Hill by respecting him and concentrating on him.

And when they do that, your night is over.

Bobcats 108, Timberwolves 95: You knew the Timberwolves were in trouble at the half –Al Jefferson was 7 of 10, but rest of team shot 33 percent. And they were down 10 to a good Charlotte team that would figure out how to slow Jefferson.

Stephen Jackson 17 in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 37. As a whole the Bobcats shot well, 53.6%. The win moves Charlotte into the sixth spot in the East, by the way.

Pacers 99, Wizards 82: Lottery be damned! That is four wins in a row for the Pacers. And 13 losses in a row for the Wizards.

Washington is just a terrible offensive team right now. It’s hard to watch. They had plenty of chances, plenty of really good looks and shots at the rim, and they shot 36.5 percent. And after all the drama last night, Andray Blatche got the start and scored a team-best 21 on 8 of 17 from the floor. But Danny Granger was the best player on the floor, he had 31 and seemed to be everywhere.

Cavaliers 105, Hornets 92: Cleveland is better than New Orleans. What? You want more detail? Cleveland is a lot better than New Orleans, Aside that, both Chris Paul and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are adjusting to playing again and neither was impressive. There wasn’t much to see here.

Warriors 128, Grizzlies 110: Memphis got sucked in to playing the Warriors game at the Warriors pace in the first half. That is a cardinal sin — letting the other team dictate the game to you. There were 60 first-half possessions (league average is 46) and at that pace Golden State put up 78 points. Memphis played a nice second half (45 possessions, 50 Warriors points) but at that point the damage was done and they couldn’t come close to making up the deficit.
 

Rajon Rondo on signing with Knicks: ‘The triangle’s not really a good look for me’

Sacramento Kings guard Rajon Rondo, left, saves the ball from going out of bound as New York Knicks center Robin Lopez, right, defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Mike Conley threw the point-guard-needy Knicks a bone, saying he’d consider New York (and everyone else) in free agency.

They better hope that’s more than lip service.

This free-agent class doesn’t run deep, especially at point guard. And the second-best unrestricted point guard – a one-time target – doesn’t sound interested in the Knicks.

Kings guard Rajon Rondo, via Mike Mazzeo of ESPN:

“The triangle’s not really a good look for me, I don’t think,” Rondo said.

“[The] coach. And style of play. The biggest thing for me is the style of play,” he replied before the Kings were destroyed by the Nets, surrendering 18 3-pointers and 55.8 percent shooting in a 128-119 loss. “I wouldn’t want to go to a system where I don’t really have the ball in my hands and they have you stand in the corner and shoot 3s. That’s not my style of play. … The style of play is the biggest thing, and then obviously personnel on the court and coaches.”

This is the drawback of Phil Jackson’s triangle attachment. The Knicks know what they want to do, but that also means they lack the flexibility to acquire players who don’t fit their scheme. To their credit, the Knicks have bent more this season – but not enough to change perception of their methods.

If they want to change Rondo’s mind, they weren’t going about it by flattery.

Just ask former Knicks coach Derek Fisher, who played for Jackson’s Lakers that beat Rondo’s Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals (and conveniently ignore Boston winning the same Finals matchup two years prior).

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

Rondo has earned a big raise with a bounce-back season. The Kings will likely pay him, but if not, he’ll have other suitors – likely including the Knicks’ crosstown rivals, the Nets. I doubt this tiff with the Knicks will affect him.

New York, on the other hand, faces grimmer prospects. Conley seems to legitimately enjoy playing for the Grizzlies. After Rondo, the Knicks could make a longshot offer to restricted free agent Jordan Clarkson, but the Lakers would likely match. Then what? Brandon Jennings? He’s alright, but he also might leave New York wishing its system accommodated choosing from a wider pool of players.

Hey, maybe firing Fisher will change Rondo’s perception of the Knicks. Then again, its essentially impossible to see Jackson hiring a coach who won’t run the triangle.

Tony Parker to play with France despite wife’s pregnancy

AP Photo/Michel Spingler
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PARIS (AP) San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker says he has found a deal with his wife that will allow him to take part in France’s Olympic qualifying tournament this summer.

Parker had raised the possibility of missing the tournament from July 4-10 and the Olympics – if France qualified – because of the expected birth of his second son in July.

But Parker told L’Equipe newspaper Monday that he will be available for both events, saying: “I will be at the Olympics if we qualify.”

Parker says his wife is making a “big sacrifice” by letting him go and has warned him he “should better bring a medal back home.”

The Olympic basketball tournament in Rio de Janeiro will be held from Aug. 6-21.

Rumor: Lakers would fire Byron Scott for Luke Walton

Golden State Warriors interim coach Luke Walton, left, walks off the court with Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant after an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. The Warriors won 111-77. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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The Lakers reportedly view the rest of the season as a tryout for Byron Scott.

Unless Warriors assistant Luke Walton wants the job. Then, Scott is out.

So says a notable Lakers rumormonger.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN LA on Scott:

I’m hearing he’s gone if Luke Walton wants to come in and take the job next season, that if he wants to do that, that obviously they would move beyond the Byron Scott era and bring in Luke Walton, that Luke Walton, however, as much as he loves the Lakers and California, may not find that to be an attractive job unless they position themselves to acquire somebody like a Ben Simmons. That is what I have heard.

I have also heard that it’s very, very possible that Jeanie Buss is going to keep her word and fire her brother Jim Buss – thank the good lord – and that Mitch Kupchak may very well not be safe as well.

How definitive that is remains to be seen. But that is the chatter in NBA circles.

Walton played for the Lakers, and Kobe Bryant still respects him. Though Kobe will retire after the season, his endorsement could still carry weight – especially as it speaks to players’ perception of Walton.

The Golden State assistant impressed while filling in for Steve Kerr as acting head coach. He has already been linked to the Knicks and Suns, and he could get other offers.

If the Lakers keep their top-three-protected first-round pick, they’d have an intriguing job with D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, a promising rookie, matching rights for Arenas-provision-limited Jordan Clarkson and tons of cap space. If the Lakers lose their pick, the job would look a lot worse. Either way, staying in California and leading one of the NBA’s premier franchises could appeal to Walton.

It’s this interest that makes me believe Scott’s “tryout” is little more than a courtesy for a former player who helped the Lakers win championships. If they’d fire Scott for Walton, how many other replacements would warrant dumping Scott? My list would be long enough to ensure he gets canned.

As far as Jim Buss, his deadline for turning around the team or losing his job has been a source of contention. But even Jeannie, who gives him less time than he gives himself, said he had until the summer of 2017.

Lakers fans might have to settle for exercising one one of their demons.

Report: Luke Walton and Brian Shaw top Knicks’ candidates to replace Derek Fisher

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 06:  (L-R) Assistant coach Brian Shaw, head coach Phil Jackson and assistant coach Frank Hamblen of the Los Angeles Lakers sit on the bench in the second half against the Boston Celtics Game Two of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 6, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Out: Derek Fisher.

In: Kurt Rambis.

That’s only the first step of the Knicks’ coaching change.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Of course, Luke Walton and Brian Shaw – like Fisher and the other top candidate in 2014, Steve Kerr – played for Phil Jackson. The Knicks president has a type, one that includes both good and bad candidates.

The good: Walton. He impressed with his handling of the Warriors in Steve Kerr’s absence. He’s one of the hottest coaches on the market. I have some doubts, given Kerr’s and Golden State’s players’ influence. But Walton has done plenty right to be in this position.

The bad: Shaw. Jackson reportedly preferred Shaw to Fisher two years ago, but Shaw was under contract with the Nuggets. Denver since fired him, because he did a stunningly awful job connecting with his players. Perhaps, he has grown in that area since, though.

It seems inevitable Tom Thibodeau’s name will come up. The former Bulls coach isn’t a Phil Jackson disciple, but he previously worked as a Knicks assistant. Maybe his New York connection will allow Thibodeau to overcome his lack of a Jackson tie.

A direct connection to Jackson clearly puts someone on the fast track for this job.