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.
 

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.

Report: Nerlens Noel switches agents in hopes of max deal with Mavericks

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Is Nerlens Noel worthy of a max contract? Not on your life.

But will he get it? That remains to be seen after reports that Noel recently fired his agent and will make the switch to Dan Fagen.

According to NBC 5 in Dallas, Noel has done just that and will be seeking a huge deal from Mark Cuban’s organization.

From NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs:

No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.

Even with the increase in the cap, and with big contracts flying around for young talent, Noel has done nothing to prove himself worthy of an offer like that for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, his advanced numbers from his third season in the NBA looked much better, and that was great news as young big men often take time to develop.

Yet the body of work for Noel is simply not there. Fifty games of good play over a 200 game career does not, or should not, earn you a max contract.

Then again, this could simply be Noel preying on Cuban’s need to rebuild.

With Dennis Smith Jr. at the helm, an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and the team that could soon be irrelevant in a increasingly tough Western Conference, Noel stands as a future franchise piece if he does indeed fulfill his potential.

The question now is, especially after how this summer has gone, do you pay upfront for potential talent to an extent that seems unreasonable to a fault?

I would still doubt that Noel ends up with that max contract, but some positioning here could earn him a few extra bucks.

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for potential tampering with Paul George

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Paul George is not a member of the the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet.

The California native has one year to go on his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded there by the Indiana Pacers. Rumors have been swirling for months about whether George would stay in Indiana, a new city, or if he would bolt for his hometown in LA after the upcoming season comes to a close.

Even more rumors have said that the Lakers have felt confident enough that they are going to get George in the summer of 2018 that they weren’t grabbing him wasn’t considered so urgent that it was a matter of life or death.

Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the Pacers have filed tampering charges against the Lakers, and that the league has hired an independent law firm to conduct the investigation.

From the NBA’s press release:

At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting all the investigation is ongoing.

The rumor first broke this weekend when Peter Vecsey published it on his Patreon.

Magic Johnson has spoken publicly about George, explicitly stating that he knows he is not supposed to tamper with players. However, on an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Johnson did say that he would give a wink to George if you happen to see him.

Via Jimmy Kimmel:

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school. You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

“We gonna say hi because we know each other. You just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’

Punishment from tampering charges are rare in the NBA but are not unheard of. In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings were fined for name dropping Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

According to ESPN, Johnson is at the center of the investigation for tampering with George. If evidence is found, the punishment could be significant for LA, and could include future restrictions when it comes time to acquire George.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.

If the league office’s probe can prove the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.

It’s still unclear at this point if anything is going to come out of this investigation, but it certainly does seem as though Los Angeles is confident that they are going to be able to sign George next summer.