Baseline to Baseline, where Portland persevered

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What happened Sunday night while you were formulating Tiger Woods jokes…

Blazers 91 Lakers 88: That was messed up. Seriously. Just messed up. The final two minutes of this game saw the Blazers with a five point lead only to see Derek Fisher get away with murder on an illegal moving screen as Kobe Bryant hit a shot from Long Beach, then a questionable offensive foul returned the ball to the Lakers. Kobe Bryant got an and-one, sank the free throw, and the Lakers led. Marcus Camby hit a huge putback to put the Blazers up one, then on the ensuing possession, Martell Webster apparently thought they had a foul to give. They did not. The result was Bryant at the line to hit game tying free throws like he’s done thousands of times.

Except he didn’t.

He missed both. Except Pau Gasol grabbed the rebound and dished it to Derek Fisher, who pump faked and drew another foul on Andre Miller. Okay, Derek Fisher will take care of busine…

CLANG.

Derek goes one of two, and the Lakers tie the game. Then, then, THEN, Derek Fisher, notably clutch human being makes a terrible foul on Webster who parlays it into three shots at the line. The final Lakers possession? A Pau Gasol three pointer. Which is great, since he’s a 22% three point shooter in his career.

It was a bizarre game for most of it, with the Lakers looking strong early, then fading, and Brandon Roy going down to injury.

Marcus Camby played like a guy that can make a difference in the next month. Kobe Bryant played yet another in a series of terrible games.

Magic 98 Cavs 92: The Magic went down 16 in this one, then realized “Oh, they don’t have LeBron.” What’s odd is they stopped trying to create penetration and instead just creating opportunities on the perimeter. The Cavs had little invested, but Antawn Jamison continues to look like he’s fitting in, which is bad news for the rest of the East.

Bulls104 Raptors 88: Like we told you, this was the prototypical Raptors loss and Bulls win.

Jannero Pargo is still not good. But the Raptors’ defense is worse.

Heat 111 Knicks 98: If the Heat are going to do anything at all in the playoffs, it will be QRich who will help them, behind Wade, of course. Richardson makes huge plays and is in sync with Wade often.

Imagine the Knicks with a point guard.

Hornets 114 Wolves 86: The Wolves were annihilated inside and couldn’t defend anyone. When Julian Wright gets his season high? You know you’re playing the Wolves.

The Hornets really do have some good pieces going forward.

Suns 116 Rockets 106: Rockets surged. Took the lead. Then Nash did his thing.

He probed, drifted, and curled around screens to find three shooter after three shooter, and the Suns connected. And the Rockets effort was wasted again.

Amar’e Stoudemire is not someone you want to see for the next month.

Thunder 120 Warriors 117: The Thunder couldn’t close the deal, and Stephen Curry was too good. He hit huge shot after huge shot, and made all the right passes. The Thunder still worked their way into a position to tie, but Durant’s three came up short. The Thunder look to face the Lakers in round one if they can’t defeat Portland next.

Kings GM Vlade Divac on Rudy Gay’s communication complaints: ‘He has my number’

Vlade Divac
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Rudy Gay complained about how the Kings are handling the trade rumors swirling around him.

Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac, via James Ham of CSN California:

“He has my number,” Divac told CSN California. “If I do something, I will call him. Obviously, if I didn’t call him, we didn’t do anything.”

“Look, I was a player, 16-17 years in the league, nobody called me everyday and tell me what management is doing,” Divac said. “Management was doing their job. If something big happened, they called and told me. Obviously, nothing big happened (so) I’m not going to call anybody.”

I suppose Divac can take that tack. He’s obviously not obligated to provide Gay regular updates.

But the Kings already have a reputation for putting their players in bleak positions. This doesn’t help.

Even if Divac feels calling Gay is going out of his way, so what? The alternative — Gay either coming to training camp unhappy or spreading word of Sacramento’s mistreatment of players to his new teammates after a trade — is far worse.

It’s not enough for Divac to just wait for Gay to call him — especially because Divac might not be as reliable with the phone as he thinks.

Union to fund health insurance for retired NBA players

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 23:  Professional basketball player Chris Paul commentates during the CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational Charity Bowling Tournament presented by GoBowling.com at Lucky Strike Lanes at L.A. Live on February 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Professional Bowlers Association)
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Professional Bowlers Association
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The National Basketball Players Association has talked for more than a year about covering medical expenses for retired players.

Today, the union announced a formal plan.

NBPA release:

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that its player representatives have voted unanimously to fund health insurance for all retired NBA players with at least three years of service in the league. This program is the first of its kind among North American professional sports. It also exemplifies the NBPA’s focus on the health and welfare of its current, retired and future members.

“The game has never before been more popular, and all the players in our league today recognize that we’re only in this position because of the hard work and dedication of the men who came before us,” said Chris Paul, NBPA President and nine-time All-Star. “It’s important that we take care of our entire extended NBA family, and I’m proud of my fellow players for taking this unprecedented step to ensure the health and well-being of our predecessors.”

The unanimous vote – which took place during the NBPA Summer Meeting in New York on June 26 – established a multi-faceted health insurance program through UnitedHealthcare, the country’s leading health benefits provider. The current proposal includes:

  • Retired players with between three and six years of NBA service time but who are not yet eligible for Medicare would be offered a plan that includes medical, hospital and prescription drug coverage with modest out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays;

  • Those with between seven and nine years of service would be offered the same coverage with even lower out-of-pocket costs;

  • Retired players with at least 10 years of service would be offered the same coverage as the seven-to-nine year players, and would include coverage for their entire family;

  • Retired players with three-nine years of service who are eligible for Medicare would be offered a $0 deductible and $0 co-pay plan along with a low-cost prescription drug plan; those with 10+ years of service to receive this coverage for themselves and their spouse.

  • The open enrollment period for retired players would begin this fall, with coverage beginning on January 1, 2017.

This is a good thing.

It also could become a bargaining point in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Should current players face the entire burden of insuring retired players, or should owners split the cost? (The fact that the question is even being posed paints players in a positive light.)

But back to the bigger point: This is a good thing. It’ll help retired players who need it, retired players who helped position the current generation to afford this. Kudos to the union for stepping up.

Report: Bulls’ Cristiano Felicio ‘strong favorite’ to replace Anderson Varejao on Brazilian Olympic team

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 19: Cristiano Felicio #6 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center on February 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 116-106. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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Warriors center Anderson Varejao will miss the Rio Olympics due to a back injury.

Where will Team Brazil turn now?

Likely to Bulls center Cristiano Felicio.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Felicio came on strong late last season. He puts his 6-foot-10, 275-pound frame to good use protecting the paint and rebounding. He showed potential as passer and mid-range shooter, too.

At age 24, he’s a candidate to break out in the Olympics.

If he’s not ready, Brazil can turn to a steady veteran at center, Nene.

Report: Equipment staffer punched by Blake Griffin no longer works for Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin stands on the court as equipment manager Matias Testi, left, stands behind the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. Griffin broke his hand last month when he punched Testi in the face. The Clippers won 105-86. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Blake Griffin broke his hand punching Clippers equipment manager Matias Testi in January.

Make that former Clippers equipment manager Matias Testi.

TMZ:

The L.A. Clippers equipment staffer who was punched in the face by Blake Griffin during a fight in Toronto earlier this year is off the team — and will NOT be back for the ’16/’17 season … TMZ Sports has learned.

We spoke with a rep for the Clippers who confirmed Matias Testi “no longer works for the team.”

#Family