Kobe Bryant

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.

Gregg Popovich pins Spurs’ effort problems on players: ‘I don’t remember playing tonight’ (video)

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gives instructions against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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The Spurs fell behind by 18 and eventually lost to the Bulls, 95-91, last night – which begged the question:

Does San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich bear any responsibility for his team’s lack of early intensity?

Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News:

Popovich:

I don’t remember playing tonight. I didn’t play. Guys get a lot of money to be ready to play. No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work. I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. If a doctor botches operations, he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.

Like it or not, motivation is part of an NBA coach’s job.

But that’s also precisely what Popovich is doing.

His credentials dwarf any other coach’s. He can play to his own ego and absolve himself of responsibility – and players will seek to please him. His years of success have earned him the ability to motivate this way, a method no other coach could use without alienating his team.

Donatas Motiejunas signing four-year, $35 million contract with Rockets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets is helped to his feet by teammates James Harden #13 and Patrick Beverley #2 of the Houston Rockets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. 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 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Once the Rockets let Donatas Motiejunas back into free agency, this was only a matter of time.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This sounds remarkably similar to the salaries and incentives set in the original offer sheet from the Nets. But remember, the Rockets didn’t match some of those bonuses that Brooklyn would have been bound to.

So, why not hold Motiejunas to what became a four-year, $31 million offer sheet once matched? Houston got something in return – a later trigger date on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ 2017-18 salary. Originally, that decision had to be made March 1 – which would’ve meant dropping Motiejunas from the team this season to prevent his salary from counting next season. Now, the Rockets can make that call in July, after this season is complete.

The following two Julys, Houston will also have a choice on guaranteeing Motiejunas’ upcoming salary or dropping him.

Essentially, Motiejunas is signing the most lucrative Hinkie Special in NBA history. If he plays well and stays healthy, the Rockets have Motiejunas at an affordable rate. If he struggles or his back injuries flare up, they can drop him with little to no penalty.

After they backed themselves into this corner, Motiejunas and his agent, B.J. Armstrong, didn’t do so bad. Considering the similarity between this contract and the Nets’ original offer sheet, it seems Houston helped Armstrong save face after a bungled free agency (which is easier to accept when you’re adding a talented reserve to a formidable team).

But for how little is guaranteed and how much control the Rockets hold over the next four years, wouldn’t Motiejunas have been better off accepting the $4,433,683 qualifying offer?

Report: Rockets return Donatas Motiejunas to restricted free agency, working on new contract with him

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Rockets had Donatas Motiejunas in a bind.

He was beholden to them on a four-year, $31 million deal and unable to sign with other teams. Motiejunas’ choices: Report for a physical or wait in limbo.

But apparently Houston has allowed him out of that constraint.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

This means Motiejunas can’t sign with the Nets, who signed him to the original offer sheet, for one year.

I bet it also means Motiejunas and Houston have agreed to a new contract. Otherwise, why release him from the offer sheet? The Rockets would be giving up a tremendous amount of leverage out of the goodness of their hearts – unless this is just a prelude to a new deal with Houston.

John Wall pushes down Jusuf Nurkic from behind in retaliation (video)

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John Wall didn’t like how Jusuf Nurkic bumped him, so Wall shoved the Nuggets center from behind and sent him to the floor.

An overreaction to the bump? Probably. Wall got hit with a technical foul.

But I’m mostly just impressed Wall was strong enough to push over Nurkic.