Baseline to Baseline recaps: Cleveland played better against the Heat. That counts for something.

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What you missed while wondering if snails can glow in the dark

Amar’e Stoudemire being .02 late and the Celtics winning in MSG is our game of the night.

Heat 101, Cavaliers 95: It was the first meeting with the Heat that seemed to throw Cleveland into a funk. This game against the Heat seemed to break them out of it as it was their best performance in weeks. It was close but Dwyane Wade went off for 17 in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers countered with… well, the guy they used to counter with is playing next to Wade. The Heat remain hot — 10 in a row now — and they get the Knicks on Friday.

Lakers 109, Pacers 94: This was a blowout early, the Lakers played one of their more complete games and that overwhelmed a Pacers team where the rotations are apparently done by lottery. By the way, Lakers fans are all over the “2-0 with Bynum” thing but until the Heat on Christmas the only teams on the schedule are teams the Lakers should beat easily (well, maybe not the Bucks, who are figuring things out).

Bulls 110, Raptors 93: If Joakim Noah was going to have one game to play before his thumb surgery, tearing apart the sad interior defense of the Raptors is the perfect choice. He got a double-double in 26 minutes with one hand. This was a laugher.

Sixers 105, Clippers 91: This was close for a half, then the Clippers shot 32 percent in the third quarter and 29 percent in the fourth. It was a combination of poor Clipper play by their young guards Bledsoe and Gordon and some improving Sixers defense.

Hornets 94, Kings 91: This one has to hurt the Kings more than most (and they have plenty of experience losing this season) — Sacramento had a 23 point lead after a 9-2 run to open the third quarter. But Marcus Thornton sparked the comeback, which was fueled by 10 second half Kings turnovers. Paul Westphal is giving DeMarcus Cousins some key minutes and he looked better but was part of the turnover problem.

Thunder 117, Rockets 105: The Thunder were knocking down everything, shooting 57.7 percent overall and hitting 7 of 11 from three. Plus they hit 28 of 29 free throws (they remain on pace to set a record high team free throw percentage for a single season). The Rockets played well, particularly Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, but they couldn’t keep pace.

Grizzlies 113, Bobcats 80: We have an O.J. Mayo sighting — he hit 10 of 15 (3 of 6 from beyond the arc) off the bench to score 24. That kind of bench production makes the Grizzlies hard to beat.

Spurs 92, Bucks 90: Manu Ginobili. The man is cold blooded. The Spurs led by as much as 18 but the Bucks battled back in all the way to being tied, then Manu happened at the buzzer. The Spurs had the last possession and ran pure isolation for Manu, he drove left, got to the elbow, traveled and hit a step back two as the red light went on. Cold hearted. (Side note, Tim Duncan with seven blocks in this one.)

Suns 128, Timberwolves 122: Blistering fast pace in this one — 104 possessions. That made it entertaining if a bit sloppy at times. Steve Nash finished with 19 assists — when he is setting up people for easy buckets you can’t beat the Suns.

Mavericks 103, Trail Blazers 98: Dirk Nowitzki can just be amazing — he had 12 in the fourth and took over the game late as the Blazers fought back. He shut the door. Just amazing to watch. However, Lamarcus Aldridge put up 35 on the Mavericks and once again exposed their interior defense. A bad trend for Mavs fans.

Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suspended two games for DUI

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This is the standard penalty for coaches and players hit with a DUI. I don’t think the penalty is stiff enough in general for a serious issue, but this is the precedent that has been set.

Detroit Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been suspended two games by the NBA for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan,” the NBA announced. He will miss the first two games of next season.

This will not stop Caldwell-Pope from getting PAID this summer.

A quality wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, he plays a position of need for a lot of teams and he is a restricted free agent. Other teams with cap space — Brooklyn and Sacramento come to mind — could step in and give him a max or near max offer. Then Stan Van Gundy needs to decide if he is going to match. He may not have much of a choice, if he wants to keep Andre Drummond and build an inside-out team around him, he needs Caldwell-Pope, and the Pistons don’t have the cap space to replace him.

One way or another, Caldwell-Pope is in line for a massive pay raise. This suspension will not slow teams, it just takes a little money out of his pocket.

 

Lonzo Ball tops Rookie of the Year early betting odds

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If you are betting right now on next year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award, you are a die-hard fan of your team and their new addition. Or, you have a problem and need to seek help. Maybe both.

Either way, the people at the gambling site Bovada have posted the early betting odds for the ROY award for next season.

Lonzo Ball (Lakers) 5/2
Ben Simmons (76ers) 3/1
Markelle Fultz (76ers) 5/1
De”Aaron Fox (Kings) 7/1
Josh Jackson (Suns) 9/1
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) 9/1
Jonathan Isaac (Magic) 16/1
Malik Monk (Hornets) 16/1
Dennis Smith (Mavericks) 16/1
John Collins (Hawks) 20/1
Justin Jackson (Trail Blazers) 22/1
Lauri Markkanen (Bulls) 22/1

Yes, Ben Simmons is in the mix.

The two bets I like here, if I were a gambling man, are Jackson in Phoenix and Dennis Smith in Dallas. I doubt Smith wins it, but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the draft Smith will start for them next year, which means he gets opportunities and can rack up assists feeding Dirk Nowitzki at the elbow for a year.

Jackson is going to be unleashed in an up-tempo Suns offense where he will be the defender they need on the wing, play with high energy, and get buckets in transition. Winning ROY is as much about fit and opportunity as talent, and Jackson has landed in a good spot.

Paul George-Gordon Hayward-Celtics rumor doesn’t add up

AP Photo/George Frey
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Paul George reportedly wants to play with Gordon Hayward. George is also reportedly willing to join his desired team (universally accepted to be the Lakers) by means that don’t guarantee the highest salary.

Could the Celtics – who are pursuing Hayward in free agency – leverage those conditions into getting George?

Adam Kauffman of 98.5 The Sports Hub:

I don’t what George would do, but it’d be a MAJOR financial disadvantage to go this route.

There a couple ways it could happen – George getting extended-and-trade or George getting traded then signing an extension six months later. The latter would allow George to earn more than the former, but even if he pledged to sign an extension, would the Celtics trade for him knowing he’d have six months to change his mind if he doesn’t like Boston as much as anticipated?

There’s a bigger issue, anyway. Both extension routes would leave George earning far less than simply letting his contract expire then signing a new deal, either with his incumbent team or a new one.

Here’s a representation of how much George could earn by:

  • Letting his contract expire and re-signing (green)
  • Letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere (purple)
  • Getting traded and signing an extension six months later (gray)
  • Signing an extend-and-trade (yellow)

image

Expire & re-sign Expire & leave Trade, extend later Extend-and-trade
2018-19 $30.6 million $30.6 million $23,410,750 $23,410,750
2019-20 $33.0 million $32.1 million $25,283,610 $24,581,287
2020-21 $35.5 million $33.7 million $27,156,470 $25,751,825
2021-22 $37.9 million $35.2 million $29,029,330
2022-23 $40.4 million
Total $177.5 million $131.6 million $104,880,158 $73,743,861

Firm numbers are used when it’s just a calculation based on George’s current contract. When necessary to project the 2018-19 salary cap, I rounded.

The Celtics could theoretically renegotiate-and-extend, but that would require cap room that almost certainly wouldn’t exist after signing Hayward.

Simply, it’s next to impossible to see this happening. It’d be too costly to George.

Dwyane Wade on why he exercised his player option: ’24 million reasons’

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Dwyane Wade said he wanted to see the Bulls’ direction – winning now with Jimmy Butler or rebuilding? – before deciding on his $23.8 million player option for next season.

While Chicago was actively shopping Butler (before eventually trading him to the Timberwolves), Wade opted in, anyway.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

This is most real answer answer you’ll ever see. Props to Wade for his directness.

This also speaks to the unlikelihood of him accepting a buyout, no matter how poorly he fits with the rebuilding Bulls now – though maybe he’d accept a small pay cut to choose another team.