Baseline to Baseline, where the Johan Petro was relevant

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What happened Saturday while you were dying Easter eggs…

Raptors 128 Sixers 123: Antoine Wright can be a difference maker if put in the position. He hauled in a hayuuuuge offensive rebound which sealed the game for Toronto. Say what you want about Andrea Bargnani, and Raptor fans will, but if they’re going to play defense the way they do, Bargs hitting 3 of 6 from the arc is a big deal.

Elton Brand had no rebounds for the first time in his career. Wow.

Hawks 91 Pistons 85: Joe Johnson was out, and the Pistons made  a respectable fourth quarter run, but Detroit’s offense is just too miserable to outwork a Hawks team at home, short-handed or not.

Ben Gordon is a complete disaster. There’s no other way to put it. 0 of 7 from the field, and I can’t even tell you many of them were close but rimmed out. That has to be the worst offseason acquisition in the league.

Nets 115 Hornets 87: Well, then.

This, THIS was what the Nets were supposed to look like. Terrence Williams had a breakout game, with 14 points and 14 assists, and Chris Douglas Roberts got on track to get some buckets, while Brook Lopez and Devin Harris took it easy.

The Hornets? That whole “we’re gonna keep trying to build momentum for next year” thing was a lie. Big fat lie.

Heat 97 Wolves 84: Miami’s got it going, at just the right time. Not coincidentally, Dwyane Wade is at his hottest of all season.

Wade scored 82 points in 27 hours, dropping 39. And it was the whole bag of tricks. Drawing fouls, leaners, the pull-up, the transition buckets, the big shebang.

The Wolves? They are officially the worst team in the league in point differential. But hey, they’ve got more wins! That should help! In…. nothing. Nothing at all.

Bulls 96 Bobcats 88: While everyone else is getting banged up, the Bulls are healthy. And hungry. And ready to rock.

Noah was big in this game, getting back to his hot rebounding. But Kirk Hinrich? Dang.

If Hinrich shoots 9-12 from the field? Bulls are going to win most nights. They just are. Because it means he can do what he does best (play defense) and do what he doesn’t do well (play offense) well. And that’s tough to stop.

The Cats just didn’t have enough. Stephen Jackson is banged up, Raymond Felton wasn’t plugged in, and the team didn’t have a big enough lift. They are not securely in the playoffs yet.

Bucks 107 Suns 98: You know about the injury. No need to rehash that. But even after Bogut went down, the Bucks continued to work on the defensive end. And against a team without a real dominant post presence, they could skate with this one.

It’s a testament that the Bucks went out and finished this after what happened to Bogut, and it says something that if you commit to defense and swallow up the perimeter penetration, Phoenix still turns back into a pumpkin.

Thunder 121 Mavs 116: Yeah, I don’t get it either. The Mavs shot well. And if the Thunder don’t play terrific defense, they usually struggle. The Mavs shot 53% from the field. And were never really in this.

Dallas’ defense was worse, even with a lower opponents’ field goal possession, but it’s still a weird outcome. Dallas kept Kevin Durant at least frustrated if not shut down, forcing a low field goal percentage. But man, OKC just always has guys to come out of the woodwork. Last night it was James Harden. Versatile, quirky, interesting OKC.

Officially in the playoffs.

If Dallas plays a team without a legit center when they have two and get worked? That’s a real bad sign.

Nuggets 98 Clippers 90: Uh, the Nuggets are better than the Clippers. If you think there’s something I can tell you about this game, then…

Fine.

Clips had the lead, and then Denver started to work. Clips were working it inside, then started settling, because that’s what Denver’s defense does. Makes you quit.

Johan Petro had 14 points, continuing the theme of “Denver can make a good big out of damn near anyone.”

Blazers 98 Kings 87: I keep waiting for the clock to run out on Portland. And it doesn’t. Never does. This team fights tooth and nail at every turn, and when it has to, comes up with plays. We’ll have to see if they can do it in the playoffs, but the fact that they’re here is something in and of itself.

The Kings are well screwed whenever Tyreke Evans has a bad night. And he had a bad night. And a bad night for him means he still gets 5 rebounds and six assists.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.