NBA Playoffs, Magic Celtics: Brandon Bass is giving the Magic a nice boost

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Bass_dunk.jpgAfter playing sparingly throughout the regular season and in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Brandon Bass has been unearthed.

After two successful seasons with the Mavs averaging nearly 20 minutes a game, Bass was boxed up and hidden away in Stan Van Gundy’s attic. There were just too many big bodies worthy of playing time on the Magic roster, and between Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat, Ryan Anderson, and Bass, something had to give. Or, y’know, be banished to the end of the bench.

No longer, as SVG turned to Bass in Games 4 and 5 as an energy big off the pine. He doesn’t have Howard’s size or finishing ability or Lewis’ mobility, but Brandon does have offensive utility. The limitation to Bass’ production — and the reason he didn’t play significant minutes in the regular season — is his defense.

Bass is not a bad one-on-one defender, particularly in the post. He makes up for his lack of height with strength and reach, and he fights for defensive position down low. It’s when he’s asked to rotate and help that things get a bit difficult. If the ball is anywhere but in the hands of his defensive assignment, Bass looks lost, and that’s problematic.

That much was true even in the last two games. But you know what? Brandon can contribute. He was fourth on the team in points per 36 minutes in the regular season, and his time with the Mavs shows that it’s no sample size error. He can hit an open jumper, nail the turnaround in the low post, and work the offensive glass. Bass’ defensive value is certainly limited, but given what he’s been able to offer on the offensive end in his last two outings, he could definitely be useful as Orlando looks to stay alive tonight.

This isn’t a J.J. Redick parallel, where a guy clearly deserves an increased role even it comes at a cost. Redick was outplaying Matt Barnes and Vince Carter in phases, and was facilitating the Magic offense when he was on the floor. Bass doesn’t have such a clear advantage to his rotational counterparts, but if Orlando is in need of scoring and energy in Game 6, Brandon should see (and likely will see, given Van Gundy’s willingness to adjust) additional time.

Bass’ strong play in Game 5 doesn’t change his faults. It doesn’t mean that SVG was wrong to hide him on the bench all of this time, or to look to Ryan Anderson or Marcin Gortat at the 4 instead. All it means is that against the Celtics, Brandon can be an asset. The Magic won’t lean on him or rely on him, but could benefit from his presence tonight if things start to get sluggish. And against the Celtics’ defense in Boston? You better believe that it could be.

Report: Patrick Beverley to drop from All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge title

Patrick Beverley
Associated Press
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Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.

He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.

Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.

This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.

The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.