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.

Steve Kerr: Luke Walton not being credited with W-L record ‘the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard’

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The Warriors have surged to a 16-0 start with interim coach Luke Walton, as Steve Kerr is out after a bad reaction to his offseason back surgery.

Walton’s coaching record: 0-0.

Per NBA policy, the 16 wins are credited to Kerr.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN:

Kerr and Walton are engaged in a brutal war of deferential humility. To hear Walton tell it, he’s just a functionary, carrying out Kerr’s well-laid plans. To hear Kerr tell it, Walton deserves all the credit.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Kerr told when asked about getting all of Walton’s wins. “I’m sitting in the locker room and watching the games on TV, and I’m not even traveling to most of the road games. Luke’s doing all the work with the rest of the staff. Luke is 15-0 right now. I’m not. So it’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, to be honest with you. I don’t even understand it.”

Walton expresses no angst over being winless, saying of Kerr, “Steve’s done a lot for me. It’s the least I can do to add a couple wins on his total for him with all he’s done for me.”

This is purely an academic argument. It doesn’t really matter which coach gets the wins.

But we care about records in sports, so it is important to get this right. Personally, I think Walton should get credit. He’s the head coach for these games.

The biggest counterargument is that Kerr is still involved, which is true. But he’s involved on a level more in line with an assistant. Several people are involved in a team’s coaching for every game. Only the head coach gets the win or loss on his record.

The Warriors have designated Walton their head coach. He should get the wins.

The biggest hindrance in changing the policy is probably retroactively altering other coaches’ records. Specifically, Don Nelson is the all-time wins leader with just three more than Lenny Wilkins. But the Mavericks went 10-4 in 2004-05 while coached by Avery Johnson as Nelson attended to health issues, both his own and his wife’s. Nelson stepped down for good later in the season, and Johnson’s 16-2 finish goes to Johnson. But Johnson’s first 14 games as acting head coach are credited to Nelson. Does the NBA want to revoke Nelson’s wins record over this?

So, this issue is bigger than the Warriors.

For them, the key facts much simpler. An undefeated team has two people fighting to credit the other for its success.

Whomever officially gets the wins, this is a healthy organization.

Report: 76ers supporting, not blaming, Jahlil Okafor

Jahlil Okafor


76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor fought a man in a Boston street.

The team has released a short, vague statement. CSN Philly:

“We are aware of the report and we are currently working to gather additional information. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”

But what do the 76ers really think?

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

I spoke with somebody close to him. They’ve talked to the 76ers. They’ve talked with the NBA.

The Sixers are very supportive of Okafor. They understand the situation, but they have to do their due diligence and look into it.

The Sixers are supporting him. They’re not blaming him. If they have to discipline, it still won’t sully him in their eyes.

Again, I’m told that they’re very supportive of him.

If the 76ers really support Okafor, they’ll do so publicly. Leaking their support anonymously doesn’t really move the needle.

I also find this report a little dubious, because Broussard only said he talked to someone close to Okafor. If the 76ers’ viewpoint came filtered through an Okafor rep, there could be a lot of spin – though it’s possible Broussard also spoke with someone from the team.

What choice do the 76ers have but to support Okafor, anyway? He’s a promising young player on a team that desperately needs hope. It seems he made a major mistake, but it’s not a career-ender. And as long as the 76ers are keeping him, they might as well stand by him.

However – based on what we’ve seen, which is obviously not everything – this incident should “sully him in their eyes.” He appeared to be the aggressor, and the team should be concerned by that. Perhaps, further investigation has provided extenuating circumstances, but absent new evidence, the 76ers should view him less favorably – and be proactive about helping him correct any underlying issues.

That’s the support Okafor needs from them.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on Brad Stevens: ‘He’s a keeper’

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has never finished a season with a winning record. He’s over .500 this year only because Boston came back to beat the lowly 76ers. He has never won a playoff game.

But Stevens – who signed a six-year, $22 million contract in 2013 – has plenty of job security.

Celtics president Danny Ainge, in a Q&A with Chris Forsberg of ESPN:

You’ve joked about it before, but are you ready to give him another six-year contract yet?

Ainge: [Laughs] Yeah.

You have to start thinking about that. Sure, we’re only in Year 3, but you can’t risk letting a good coach get away.

Ainge: No, listen, he’s a keeper. He’s great. He’s great to work with. Like I said, I think he’s going to be — if he stays in this game long enough — he’s going to be one of the great coaches.

I tend to agree with Ainge’s assessment. Stevens has looked like an excellent coach so far – implementing a sound defense, creating space on offense and communicating clearly with his players.

But Stevens has benefited tremendously from low expectations, arriving in Boston after Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retired. Expectations sunk even lower when the Celtics traded Rajon Rondo last season.

That’s when Stevens appeared to do his best work, guiding a starless team to a 24-12 finish.

Expectations will keep rising, though. Some expected the Celtics to break out this year, but they’re just 8-7. Stevens faces the difficult task of managing a rotation full of pretty good – but no great – players. This might be his hardest NBA assignment yet.

Stevens has done plenty to earn praise from his boss. But to actually get a contract extension, he’ll have to keep meeting higher and higher expectations.

I believe Stevens is up to the challenge, but I’m not completely certain of it. He wouldn’t be the first coach to impress early in his tenure and then fizzle. Just look at how many Coach of the Year winners lost their jobs a short time later.

Again, I think Stevens will meet any reasonable expectations he faces. He just must actually do it to get a longer deal.

League executives, players wince watching this Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Over the last few days, we’ve written in more detail about Kobe Bryant‘s shooting troubles. He’s jacking up threes his fastest pace ever, he can’t create space to get off clean shots, he’s hitting 31.1 percent overall and 19.5 percent from three. There are flashes of vintage Kobe, but they are fleeting (and mostly because poor shot choices are falling). Byron Scott is still in Kobe’s corner, saying they just need to get the veteran better looks.

However, talk to people around the league about Kobe and you hear some variation of the phrase “hard to watch.” After 20 seasons, more than 55,000 minutes on the court, and coming off two major injuries, Kobe clearly is not the same player everyone admired for so long.

Over at the Los Angeles Times Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner got a number of sources to wince about Kobe for a story — except nobody wanted their name attached to attacking a legend of the game.

“Man, I don’t want to see Kobe go out like this, looking this bad and not able to do what he once could do,” said a retired guard who faced Bryant. “He doesn’t have anything else to prove to anybody. He was one of the greatest. I know he’s owed that $25 million, but he should just walk away now. He ain’t got it anymore.”

“He’s one of the few players in NBA history to have gotten everything possible out of his body. Now his body has nothing left to give,” (an Eastern Conference executive) said. “But that’s life in the NBA, in professional sports. At some point, the body just can’t do it anymore and Kobe’s body can’t do it anymore.”

One West scout said Bryant looked “disinterested” at times. A current player in the West went a step further.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him play and it’s disgusting,” he said. “He’s one of the best of all time. But he really hasn’t played that much in the last two or three years. He’s got nothing left. It’s sad to watch because he used to be so great, and I mean great.”

Kobe is not going to walk away mid-season, and nobody wants an injury to force him out of the game.

But it’s hard to see how anything is going to dramatically change. Kobe may shoot a little better than his current but it’s not likely going to change in a meaningful way. Which will just make things hard to watch for a full season.