Baseline to Baseline Weekend Edition: The hits just keep on coming

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What happened while you were falling backwards into the endzone….

Friday

Bulls 88 Lakers 84: I’m just saying. At some point, maybe, if the Lakers are in a one-possession game with less than 40 seconds remaining, two-for-one or no, maybe the Lakers should work for a quality shot instead of giving Kobe Bryant the ball and a license to thrill the road crowd by launching a 40-foot prayer. In the meantime, the Bulls widened the gap enough in the fourth to hold on here, and by the Bulls, I mean Derrick Rose, who is somehow pulling all of his potential skills into the nexus. He’s simply dominating late in games. Meanwhile Pau Gasol is still tired. But hey, who cares, it’s December, right?

Jazz 117 Magic 105: Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson teamed up on Dwight Howard, and by attacking him low and on the ball not the body (the Lakers approach, versus the Celtics approach which is to attack the body), and that was enough to distract him enough to keep him out of being involved. And that’s your ballgame. Vince Carter’s a nightmare on offense right now, the rest of the Magic don’t have the confidence to step up, and their defense couldn’t stop C.J. Miles.

Heat 106 Warriors 84: You want to see the power of this fully functional Death Star? Find a replay of this game’s third quarter some where. Dwyane Wade lighting up the baseline fadeaway J. LeBron James stepping into heat-check threes and making them. Wade splitting to the middle on the break instead of leaking baseline afraid of contact, which allowed the backdoor alley-oop cut for LeBron. A sprinkle of Bosh, some Zydrunas Ilgauskas floor spreading, and that’s how you blow out the Warriors. David Lee is not healthy yet, and it’s too obvious. The Heat keyed in on Ellis and Dorell Wright, and without Stephen Curry, there was really no hope.

Saturday

Celtics 93 Bobcats 62: If you’ve seen roadkill, you’ve seen this game. In a blowout, Boston outscored the Cats 29-15 in the fourth quarter. It was a slaughter. Right now the Celtics aren’t content with winning. They want to beat you and leave no doubt to you, your family, your fans,or the next team. They are in control.

Raptors 120 Pistons 116: A massive comeback for the Raptors, but an even bigger collapse for Detroit. Jerryd Bayless with a ridiculous 31 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists. He had the outside game going and down the stretch he played with intensity and focus getting to the rim to force the foul. This was a quality win for the Raptors, even against a bad team. But the Pistons have to be killing themselves over giving this one up. Ben Wallace hit a three at the end, because weird things happen on this rock of ours.

Sunday

Knicks 129 Nuggets 125:  Another 30+ performance for Amar’e, and the Knicks made a statement. They needed a quality win to cap off the win streak before the Celtics and Heat put them back in their place this week. The Knicks turned the ball over six times in five frames. Do that and have Amar’e kick the tough-inside Nuggets defense around all over in the second half and you’ve got yourself a signature win in front of your favorite prospective trade target. Winner.

Sixers 88 Hornets 70: I just wanted to share with you the fact that the Hornets had 23 points in the first half. They have the best point guard in the league and they had 23 points at half. That’s pretty much why they lost.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson, and the Rockets have reached out to him. C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.