Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Where the Clippers are fun to watch

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Our game of the night was Kevin Durant doing Durant like things all over the Bulls in the closing minutes. Which was a great choice because after the slog of ugly basketball that was much of Heat/Celtics opening night we needed new energy.

But that wasn’t the only good show Wednesday night. Blake Griffin’s first regular season game was a dunk fest, and Baron Davis looked like he was having fun. Halfway through a Clippers game people across the nation were saying, “I like these guys, they’re entertaining.” Griffin is a monster on the offensive glass. East Coasters, stay up late and watch you some Clippers.

Here’s a rundown of the fun.

Miami 97, Philadelphia 87: Early on it looked like the same movie as Tuesday — LeBron dominated the ball and had five turnovers in the first quarter alone. And the Sixers want to run, so those turnovers fueled them and kept it closer than it should have been. But the Sixers defense is not the Celtics defense and Miami found the gaps, blowing it open with a 31-13 third. James Jones was bombing threes, playing the Mike Miller role, and that in part is what opened up everything else.

We should note that Evan Turner, the rookie No. 2 pick overall of Philadelphia, looked pretty good (which if you saw him in Summer League is a change). He had 16 points on 7-10 shooting. Not bad rook.

New York 98, Toronto 93: It was not pretty. Especially the rebounding. By both teams. But an 18-9 run by the Knicks in the fourth quarter was the difference. A run that came with starting center Timofey Mozgov sitting and Wilson Chandler in — Chandler had 22 and looked like a guy who wants to be Sixth Man of the year.

New Jersey 101, Detroit 98: The Nets had success when they could get a stop and push the pace, which was not often enough. That is, until an 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter that put this one away. A run that started just as Ben Wallace replaced Jason Maxiell in the lineup. The Pistons bench played well in this one, but why ride the hot hand. Go back to your starters, what could go wrong? Oh, that.

New Orleans 95, Milwaukee 91: The Bucks looked like a team whose players did not really get the chance to play together during the preseason and were rusty. Coincidence? New Orleans, on the other hand, has Chris Paul (17 points 16 assists) and David West (22 points) and that is enough some nights.

Sacramento 117, Minnesota 116: The Kings were without Tyreke Evans (suspension for reckless driving arrest), so Francisco Garcia stepped up with 22 points. Carl Landry had 22 and 11. Key for the Kings was getting to the line 19 more times. Well, that and the ability to hang on for deer life at the end.

Note to Kurt Rambis — Michael Beasley is playing 34 minutes but Kevin Love got 23? Really? What do you have against this guy?

Atlanta 119, Memphis 104: All hail Zaza Pachulia, who had 17 and 11 for the Hawks is this one. Why Zaza? With Marc Gasol out for the Grizzlies, his team had nobody who could really do the job for him protecting the paint. Atlanta owned this one the whole way.

Dallas 101, Charlotte 86: The Mavericks controlled this one in the second half and here isthe big secret why — they shoot better. Dallas hit 54.7 percent of their shots, Charlotte 39.7 percent. Game over.

San Antonio 122, Indiana 109: San Antonio got out and ran with the Pacers, 101 possessions on the night — that is faster than Golden State were tonight. Spurs pulled away with a 15-2 run in the fourth fueled by their bench. Spurs bench outscored the Pacers 32-17.

Denver 109, Utah 88: This was just an old school, “go get me my belt” whooping. Denver started on a 9-0 run and never looked back. Utah, try to put it behind you and just move on, it happens to everyone.

Golden State 132, Houston 128: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry can’t play together, it’s not like they’ll score 71 points between them… oh, yes they will. Both teams put up gaudy offensive numbers, but the Rockets did what teams do on the second night of back-to-backs — they were a step slower and shot just missed some shot.

Portland 98, LA Clippers 88: Blake Griffin is just fun to watch — he had two highlight dunks, one off an ally-oop, another off an offensive rebound, that brought the house down. He just overwhelms. Really, the Clippers could become everybody’s guilty pleasure this season. But Griffin and Chris Kaman allowed 21 offensive rebounds for Portland and it is far too good a team to just give it second chances. Blazers closed this game on an 18-1 run to win it.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.

Report: Kyrie Irving believes LeBron James leaked trade request

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Kyrie Irving reportedly requested a trade from the Cavaliers, noting his desire to leave Cleveland was based on parting ways with LeBron James.

That all remained under wraps for a couple weeks.

Why did it become public now?

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

According to my sources, they believe LeBron James had everything to do with news getting out that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, because Kyrie Irving and his representation and others met with the Cavaliers a couple weeks ago, and not a word got out until recently. They believe that LeBron James got word of it and was put off by it and leaked it. I’m not going to accuse LeBron of such a thing. I don’t know that to be true at all. But I know that’s what Kyrie Irving believes.

To reemphasize, Smith is not reporting that LeBron leaked Irving’s trade request, just that Irving believes LeBron did. That alone speaks to their disconnect.

Why would LeBron leak it?

Just speculating, but maybe to ruin Irving’s chance at a smooth exit. Irving is trying to bail on LeBron, and LeBron might take that personally. Leaking the trade request would be in character for LeBron as a passive-aggressive response.

But the trade request becoming public also hinders Irving’s trade value – which hurts LeBron’s team. However, people don’t always act logically when they’re upset. And maybe the Cavs won’t be LeBron’s team long enough for it to matter.

Again, though, nobody is reporting LeBron actually leaked it. Irving’s reported accusation means enough in itself.

Cavaliers really lamenting non-trade for Paul George

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The Cavaliers were reportedly close to trading for Paul George before the Pacers sent him to the Thunder.

Just how close?

Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

a text message from Indiana Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard undid an agreement on a blockbuster deal for George the Cavs were just starting to celebrate, a moment that now lives in infamy within the organization.

On draft night, as the Chicago Bulls were finalizing a deal with the Wolves to move Butler, the Cavs were feverishly trying to assemble a three-team trade with the Pacers. The Denver Nuggets had a strong desire to acquire Kevin Love and became a legitimate trade partner with Indiana. The Nuggets were willing to include wing Gary Harris and the No. 13 pick in that night’s draft to get Love, and the Cavs would reroute the assets to Indy for George, sources said.

But they couldn’t complete the deal. Indiana was working on another option with the Portland Trail Blazers, sources said, as they were offering a package with three first-round picks for George. Eventually, everyone moved on and the Nuggets traded the No. 13 pick to Utah in a package for Trey Lyles.

On the afternoon of June 30, the sides thought they had a deal. On a conference call between the teams, everyone tentatively agreed. George to the Cavs, Love to the Nuggets, Harris and other pieces to the Pacers, sources said.

Plans were put in place for a call to be arranged between George and Gilbert, an important step before the trade would become final, sources said. The front office began making other plans to complement George as free agency was about to begin.

But then Pritchard, who had been on the conference call when the deal was tentatively agreed to, sent the message that his team was backing out, sources said. There was no deal.

The teams tried to save it, but shortly thereafter, news broke that George was being traded to Oklahoma City.

I’m always skeptical of reports that a trade that never happened was close. Just because one team – or two teams in a three-team trade – thought the deal was close doesn’t mean the other team was actually close.

Heck, just because one team thought the trade was agreed upon doesn’t even mean the other team actually agreed.  According to this report, Pritchard “tentatively agreed.” What does that mean? The Cavaliers and Nuggets might think that was purely a procedural delay. Pritchard might have considered it contingent on other factors. A simple misunderstanding could easily be painted as something more nefarious – one team backing out of an agreed-upon trade.

But there are a lot of details here, lending credence to the notion a deal was actually close. So, let’s break down each team’s involvement:

The Trail Blazers entered the draft with three first-rounders – Nos. 15, 20 and 26. But they lacked cap room for George, so they would have had to send salary to Indiana. With Portland’s numerous bad contracts, maybe that offer wasn’t as good for the Pacers as it appears here.

The Nuggets wound up signing a star power forward (Paul Millsap) without losing Gary Harris, so they came out ahead by not completing this deal. Given how much of free agency is decided before July 1, did Denver really not know it’d land Millsap or just prefer Love that much?

The Pacers probably missed out. I’d prefer Harris (younger, cheaper and arguably better) to Victor Oladipo, and I’d prefer the No. 13 pick to Domantas Sabonis.

And then there are the Cavs, who have been thrown into disarray since this trade fell through. Would Kyrie Irving still have requested a trade with George in Cleveland? The Cavaliers would have had a better chance of winning a title, but Irving would have been further overshadowed – a key component of  his trade request. Would LeBron have been more likely to re-sign next summer? There was so much on the line.

Whether or not Pritchard actually agreed then backed out, it’s easy to see how the Cavs are having a hard time letting this one go.