Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Raptors_lose.jpgWhat you missed while watching Cinderella leave the ball…

Nuggets 97, Raptors 96: In a just and fair world, Denver does not win that game. Toronto gave their best effort in, well, a long time and outplayed Denver for 28 minutes (starting at the beginning of the second quarter). It was so bad JR Smith blew the chance for three dunks in transition within a minute of each other early in the fourth, including just fumbling one out of bounds. The best in-game dunker in the league was just dropping the ball. Sad.

Then Denver started its run, got physical, and got in position to give themselves a shot at the game winner.

On the final play Toronto coach Jay Triano went with Chris Bosh and a bunch of perimeter players — a lineup that lets them switch off any pick. Smart. A lineup that can be beat for rebounds. A risk. One that came back to bite them. Melo’s first miss was volleyballed and eventually rebounded by Nene, the Nuggets quickly swung the ball around the perimeter back to to Anthony. He was covered by Jarrett Jack, a full five inches shorter, so Melo got a clean look at the game winner. That’s the risk. He drained it.

Bobcats 107, Wizards 96: Usually when Charlotte’s defense isn’t great — and it wasn’t great in this game, it wasn’t good either — they are doomed. But tonight they were playing the lowly Wizards, now losers of 14 straight. Against them, even the worst offense looks like the Showtime Lakers.

Raymond Felton has developed into a consistent, rock solid point guard — 19 points of 8 of 10 shooting with 11 assists.

Pacers 122, Jazz 106: Utah got sucked into playing at Indiana’s pace — 100 possessions in the game, seven more than the average Jazz contest. Flex offense be damned, full speed ahead. Playing that style also means taking a lot of threes — Indiana took 36 and made 17 (47 percent).

Danny Granger is a flat out stud. He dropped 44 in this one on 19 shots.

Magic 106, Timberwolves 97: Al Jefferson and Darko Milicic make a nice front line on paper, or they might if they would  play up to their potential. Dwight Howard is all about the now and he wasn’t nice. He finished with 24 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks. The Magic could have played better, credit the Timberwolves for coming out fast and playing hard and making this one interesting.

Sixers 106, Hawks 98: Philadelphia is one of the few teams that can hang athletically with Atlanta. The Sixers were active on defense, which really threw Atlanta off its game. Example, with 1:25 left in the game Josh Smith got the long rebound off a Bibby missed three and drive into the lane, at 10 feet away leapt up and with no Sixer contesting the shot… tried to slip a pass between two defenders to Horford, which was stolen. The Hawks were not the aggressors we expect.

This was Iggy’s night: 25 points and 10 boards. Jrue Holiday added 13 points, 12 assists and 7 steals. Not bad rookie, not bad.

Celtics 94, Kings 86: This one went as expected. The Celtics are starting to put it together; the Kings were without Tyreke Evans. Boston was up 15 after 12 minutes and never looked back. Rondo had 18 assists.

Nets 118, Pistons 110: Break up the Nets! They have won two in a row and now have nine wins on the season — tied for the worst record ever. One win in the next three weeks and they avoid ignominy.

It is amazing what desperation — in this case to avoid embarrassment — can do. The Nets played hard on defense (not that they were still any good at it, but they tried) and got 37 from Brook Lopez and 31 from Yi Jianlian. It’s a small victory, but the Nets deserve to celebrate it.

Thunder 91, Lakers 75: Oklahoma City is long and active on defense, and that gave the Lakers huge problems at the start — they scored just 15 points on 30% shooting in the first quarter. Faced with an obstacle, the Lakers rolled over and played dead.

Kobe had nine early turnovers and was just sloppy. Darius from Forum Blue & Gold summed it up on twitter: “With all the fumbles, falling down, & passing the ball to the other team, Kobe looks like Kurt Warner, NY Giants version.”

No, Lakers fans, this game has no bearing on a future playoff meeting with the Thunder. Just relax.

Heat 87, Bucks 74: Milwaukee just could do nothing right on offense, and they finished shooting 31 percent on the night. They miss Bogut, but this wasn’t that, it was just a Mr. Magoo night. Meanwhile a Heat team that played the night before looked like they had the fresher legs.

Only concern for heat was Jermaine O’Neal hyperextending his knee and having to be helped off the court. He will be checked in the morning.

Spurs 102, Cavaliers 97: The Cavaliers had the lead early in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs executed better down the stretch. Cleveland’s unimaginative offense makes it that much easier for a good defensive team to stop them. That could be an issue come playoff time.

Suns 132, Knicks 96: You know what this game says about Mike D’Antoni’s system? That it works better with more talented players.

How much will Dion Waiters earn as a free agent?

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Dion Waiters had the best season of his career last year at age 25 in Miami. The Heat pushed Waiters to get in the best shape of his life (just check out his Instagram), and combine that with the fact that Justise Winslow went down Waiters got the ball in his hands more with a chance to create for himself, and you had a little rush of scoring. He’s still not the most efficient player ever (to be kind), but he’s close to average.

Waiters opted out of his $3.2 million he is owed next season, and he is now a free agent. How much is he will he get now on the open market? Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote this:

One scout said he would be surprised if the bidding for Waiters soars much above $10 million, if that, because of his small sample size of high-level play this past season. One prominent agent who does not represent Waiters predicted he would get $8 million to $10 million annually.

That number seems about right, if it’s a two-year deal (or a team option on the third year). The league average salary will be around $8.5 million, and that’s where Waiters should fall next year.

Whether Miami has that money to spend comes down to whether they land a big free agent such as Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin (both max guys). If so, the Heat will not have the money, and what they do have would be more focused on keeping James Johnson. However, if the Heat strike out then Waiters could be back in Miami.

One way or another Waiters is going to get a raise. That doesn’t mean teams are not still leery.

Report: Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose

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Were they watching the games last year?

Derrick Rose put up decent numbers last year — 18 points per game, PER of 17, true shooting percentage of 53 — but was a mess defensively and does not fit in the triangle offense. He’s a decent point guard now, a replacement level player who can help in the right system.

Since the Knicks point guard rotation right now consists of rookie Frank Ntilikina plus whoever the team signs this summer, turns out Rose is not out of the picture, reports Ian Begley of ESPN.

The New York Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose, league sources familiar with the matter said….

The Knicks’ interest in the point guard is dependent on several factors, including his health and his asking price. When asked last week about New York potentially re-signing Rose, team president Phil Jackson said “we’re listening.”

Money will be the key — it’s not going to be anywhere near the $21.3 million Rose made last season. No team is going to offer that.

Can the Knicks get him for less than $10 million? Will another team come in and offer $12 million or more for him? The market for point guards this summer is going to be interesting because after the big name on the free-agent market — Chris Paul (we’re not counting Stephen Curry, he’s not leaving) — there are some quality players out there that can help teams such as Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Patty Mills, Jeff Teague and Shaun Livingston. There aren’t that many teams with money to really spend on free agent point guards, so while a couple (Holiday, maybe Lowry) re-sign with their old teams there are a number of guys who may find the market softer than they expected. Rose is among them.

And that’s where the Knicks come in. Rose is far from a perfect fit, but if the soft market drives his price down closer to the midlevel ($8.4 million) or just above, that may be worth it for the Knicks for a year while they try to develop the rookie.

Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1

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Russell Westbrook is your NBA MVP, coming off a historic season where he averaged a triple-double.

Westbrook also could see a massive pay raise this summer. Yes, you remember correctly that Westbrook signed one last summer after Kevin Durant left, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that kicks in July 1 grandfathered him (and James Harden, who also signed an extension last summer) in to get the “designated veteran” max contract. That would start at about $34.7 million (if the cap is at $99 million as expected) and go up from there.

Thunder management’s first call at midnight July 1 will be to Westbrook to offer the deal, and he may well take it reports Royce Young of ESPN.

Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.

He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.

If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.

If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.

If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.

Bulls: No decision yet on Rajon Rondo’s future with team

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls are not ready to say whether veteran point guard Rajon Rondo will be back for a second season.

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says that “is still to be determined.” The Bulls can pay Rondo $13.4 million or buy him out for $3 million by Friday’s deadline.

Paxson spoke Tuesday during a news conference to introduce newcomers Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who were acquired from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler on draft night. The Bulls were planning to meet Tuesday with Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, who represents LaVine.

Paxson also says a buyout on Dwyane Wade after he exercised his $23.8 million option “has not been broached.” Paxson says the Bulls, at least for now, assume Wade will play for Chicago.