Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Where we watch Pistons/Clippers so you don’t have to

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What you missed while being blinded by Oregon’s home court this season

Timberwolves 112, Knicks 103: We talked about Kevin Love’s 31-31 night that sparked the come-from-behind win. Michael Beasley also dropped 35 in this one. He had 42 the other night. We’re far from convinced with him, but we’re watching now.

Jazz 90, Hawks 86: First Miami, then Orlando, now Atlanta — yup, you can give the Southeast division crown to Utah.

Of course, when the Jazz win it is a comeback. Utah was down 11 at the early in the fourth then came back, completing a trifecta of double-digit come behinds against the Southeast division.

It looked like Deron Williams was going to lead this comeback as he took over in the third quarter, scoring 11 in a row for the Jazz. Josh Smith answered for the Hawks 4-4 shooting plus a couple really nice assists and some key boards. All of which meant the Jazz were down 11 when Williams went to the bench at the start of the fourth quarter — then Earl Watson came in and led the charge to tie this one up. It’s that kind of year for the Jazz, Earl Watson is making big plays. The Jazz starters returned finished it.

All of which led to the quote of the day, courtesy Jerry Sloan (from John Hollinger at ESPN):

“Even when we had a little trouble to start the season,” said Sloan, “at least they stayed together, and worked themselves out of it. That’s the only way you have a chance. If you get [in] an ice pick fight out in the parking lot then you have to try to solve that problem.”

Yeah. Exactly like that.

Thunder 110, Blazers 108: Another classic from these two — sign me up for wanting them to meet in the first round of the playoffs. This one saw very little defense or good rebounding by either team, which helped make it all the more entertaining. The key in this one was the ability down the stretch of Oklahoma City’s best players to make plays — Russell Westbrook (36 points) and Kevin Durant (34) scored the final 18 points for the Thunder. For the Blazers Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez had lots of key shots along with Brandon Roy. Fernandez had a good look to win it at the end (and he had been shooting well), but missed. Which is why you want your stars shooting in the clutch, have your best players making the plays.

Bobcats 93, Wizards 85: Charlotte really dominated this game and would have run away and hid but they turned the ball over 22 times. Gerald Wallace with 25 and 14, looking like his old self.

Raptors 110, Magic 106: How does Toronto grab the offensive rebound on 30 percent of its missed shots on against Orlando? Well, because they hustled more, played with more passion. Shockingly. Nobody on either team was really in the mood to play defense (especially in the first half), Orlando was happy to settle for the jumper (they got to the line just 6 times in the first half) and Andres Bargnani was hot early, hitting 9-12 for 21 before the break.

Every team has some clunkers, this is the Magic’s.

Rockets 102, Pacers 99: How does Darren Collison have zero assists in a game? Brad Miller gets the start at center for the Rockets and drops in 23. Chase Budinger had to be carried off the court at the end of this one but it turns out just to be a sprained ankle.

Mavericks 99, Sixers 90: Dirk Nowitzki still isn’t right, shooting 5 of 15 on his bum ankle. Some team is going to make the Mavs pay for that, but the Sixers can’t. Dallas is just too deep.

Suns 103, Kings 89: Steve Nash with 28 points, 14 assists and when the game got close midway through the fourth quarter he came in and took it over. He’s still playing at an elite level, even if the Suns are not the same.

Pistons 113, Clippers 107 (OT): Blake Griffin’s 18 and 18 would be impressive if it were not for Kevin Love. His dunks certainly were. But in a battle of two bad teams desperate for a win, Detroit played better in overtime — the Clips missed 10 shots in a row in OT. Not pretty.

Former NBA player Paul Shirley: ‘Of course’ John Wall and Bradley Beal dislike each other.

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 21:  John Wall #2 and Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards react in the final seconds of their 117-102 win over the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on March 21, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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John Wall and Bradley Beal admitted they clash on the court.

That caused controversy as the outside world expressed dismay at the Wizards guards’ attitudes.

Paul Shirley – who played for the Hawks, Bulls and Suns from 2003-05 – shrugged.

Paul Shirley on NBA.com:

What I learned, when I got to the NBA, was that my dreams of fraternity were naïve ones. I sat in locker rooms where players barely spoke to one another. I endured team plane rides where one guy stared daggers at the next because of a contract dispute.

Consequently, I barely batted an eye at the recent “revelation” that Bradley Beal and John Wall don’t much like one another.

Of course they don’t like each other, I thought. That’s just the way it is.

This is a secret of the NBA: Not all teammates get along. Some are friends, but many are just coworkers – and consider your relationship with your coworkers. Frequent travel for work and the closed-off nature of locker rooms can push players toward forging bonds – but those conditions can also magnify any rifts.

In theory, Wall (a slashing passer) and Beal (an outside shooter) should complement each other well. But it’d be hard to find a team where each of the top two scorers doesn’t believe he should get more shots.

The successful teams manage that tension productively. They can convince each player to accept a role, sacrifice and contain his displeasures.

Maybe the Wizards can get there.

But that – not a fantasy friendship between Wall and Beal – should be the goal.

Report: Lance Stephenson to work out for Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 30:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans looks to pass the ball around Lance Stephenson #1 of the Indiana Pacers at the New Orleans Arena on October 30, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Two years ago, Lance Stephenson was 23 years old and nearly an All-Star.

Now, he’s stuck trying out for a team without an open regular-season roster spot.

Brett Dawson of The Advocate:

The Pelicans have 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries plus Chris Copeland, Robert Sacre and Shawn Dawson on unguaranteed deals.

In other words, Stephenson is trying out just to enter a competition for a roster vacancy that doesn’t even exist.

New Orleans has taken major steps to add perimeter help this summer, drafting Buddy Hield and signing E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and Solomon Hill. If he somehow makes the team, Stephenson likely wouldn’t make the rotation, even with Tyreke Evans injured.

Still, Stephenson is just 25, and he showed major talent with the Pacers just two years ago. He made positive contributions to the Grizzlies last season, too.

But a disastrous stint with the Hornets and an underwhelming run with the Clippers weigh down his résumé.

Stephenson probably did enough in Memphis to prove he still has NBA-caliber ability. More than anything, he’ll have to convince the Pelicans – and other potential suitors – he has the right attitude to work in the league.

Phil Jackson says his goal for Knicks last season was 35 wins

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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Phil Jackson predicted the playoffs for the Knicks in 2014-15, and he’s again drumming up postseason buzz for 2016-17.

Between, he was much more cautious.

The Knicks president didn’t make any bold proclamations entering last season. But, somewhat after the fact, he revealed his goal for the team.

Jackson in a March interview with Charley Rosen of Today’s Fastbreak that was published this month:

I’m also still hopeful that we can win the 35 games I had said was our goal before the season. That would be a vast improvement. More than twice the number that we won last year. We need to go 7-5 to get there.

“I know the guys don’t care about winning 35. They’re not marking it as their own goal. They just feel better about winning.

That’s a pretty pathetic aspiration – and the Knicks still didn’t meet it. They finished 32-50.

Jackson can say the players didn’t care about 35 wins, and they probably didn’t. It’s hard to see Carmelo Anthony appreciating aiming so low (though he might not resent it enough, which is anther issue).

But part of Jackson’s job is setting a tone for the organization. If he’s shooting for merely nearing mediocrity, that trickles down.

Jackson said entering the season he changed the Knicks’ culture. I’m not nearly as convinced.

51Q: Will returning home to Atlanta rejuvenate Dwight Howard?

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets waits on the court before the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Toyota Center on November 27, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:

Will returning home to Atlanta rejuvenate Dwight Howard?

It’s hard to remember an NBA star whose perception has changed as much in five years as Dwight Howard’s has. He hasn’t really helped matters — his messy exits from the Magic and Lakers, as well as his rumored feud with James Harden in Houston and declining production due to injuries have clearly lowered his standing. It’s easy to forget that five years ago, he was a three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, legitimate MVP candidate and had recently been the best player on a team that went to the Finals.

As insane as it is to think about, the three-year deal Howard signed with his hometown Atlanta Hawks this summer is something of a reclamation project for a once-perennial All-NBA player. And the Hawks may be the perfect situation for him to rehabilitate his career.

From a pure talent standpoint, Howard in 2016 is a downgrade from Al Horford, who left Atlanta for Boston in free agency. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s system is predicated on spacing, and Howard offensively is useless from outside five feet. But he does undeniably fill holes. Last season, the Hawks were one of the worst rebounding teams in the league, with the third-lowest rebound rate, per NBA.com. Rebounding is one of the things that Howard can still do consistently at an elite level.

Howard also brings enormous value as a pick-and-roll finisher, when he wants to accept that role. In Los Angeles and Houston, he was still under the impression that his best use was as a post-up big, likely in large part due to Shaquille O’Neal’s nonstop criticisms of his game on Inside the NBA.

If Howard is willing to play the pick-and-roll and doesn’t demand touches, he can still be an impact player in Atlanta. The hope would be that after leaving three teams on bad terms, Howard accepts that at this point in his career, he isn’t a first option on offense anymore, and he’s willing to play a role similar to what Tyson Chandler was on the Mavericks’ 2011 title team: a rebounder and rim protector who feasts offensively on putback dunks and scores in the pick and roll.

If Howard can do that, the Hawks have enough talent to stay in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference despite losing Horford. They have other question marks on their roster — they still haven’t found a full-time replacement for DeMarre Carroll, and the transition from the just-traded Jeff Teague to Dennis Schroder is going to be rocky.

But they have the pieces, the coach and the culture for Howard to be successful in Atlanta if he wants to be.