Baseline to Baseline recaps: Tom Thibodeau is good but still learning

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What you missed while listening to Josh Groban sing the tweets of Kanye West

The Celtics and Spurs were our Game of the Night.

Nets 96, Bulls 94: Tom Thibodeau has turned the Chicago Bulls into one of the best defensive teams in the league. He has them winning despite injuries to key players. He has proved he is more than ready to be an NBA coach.

But he is still doing some things that leave you scratching your head — like benching Carlos Boozer the entire fourth quarter of a close game. Does that seem wise? Sure, Boozer had a bad night defensively. Yes, the Bulls made a run from down 13 to get back in it with Boozer on the bench. But when you need a late basket he has to be on the court, not Kurt Thomas coming in with :49 seconds left, the team down two. You can be sure the benching of Boozer is not a dead issue.

The other thing Thibodeau cannot do is make Kyle Korver a defender — the Nets went right at him on a late 8-0 run that stemmed the Bulls fourth quarter momentum. Whoever Korver was guarding would come out and set the high pick for Devin Harris, then Harris would go right at Korver. Thibodeau had to take Korver off the floor and play Ronnie Brewer.

With the game on the line it was a driving layup by Sasha Vujacic on a broken play that won it for the Nets. Vujacic was always better when he got more minutes — he needs to get in a rhythm with the game — and he is doing that in New Jersey.

One other note: This was Derrick Favors first NBA start, but he got into early foul trouble and played just nine minutes.

Sixers 109, Wizards 97: This game featured a quick, smart, awesome young point guard who lit up the arena — Jrue Holiday. Why, who did you think I was talking about? Holiday knocked down 10-of-14 shots for 26 points, plus had nine assists. And the Wizards still don’t have a road win.

Raptors 120, Cavaliers 105: How hard is Byron Scott searching for anything that works? He started recently signed Alonzo Gee. Toronto came into this game the worst three-point shooting team in the league (31.9 percent) yet they were 9 of 18 Wednesday. Welcome to the Cavs defense.

Sign of the times: As happens when you lose eight in a row, the fans were booing the Cavaliers all night. Well, until they scored 100 points and that meant a free chalupa for everyone in attendance, then the arena erupted.

Magic 97, Bucks 87: Dwight Howard dominated the play inside with 28 points and 13 rebounds. The Bucks need Andrew Bogut to win the battle inside for the team to be competitive, but that is a tall order (literally) against Howard.

Warriors 110, Hornets 103: Chris Paul was brilliant — 24 points, 13 assists and just two turnovers — but as a whole the Hornets turned the ball over 18 times. That proved to just be too many empty possessions against the hot-shooting Warriors.

Bobcats 108, Timberwolves 105 (OT): Charlotte picks up a win on a night Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson sit out. Charlotte played well when the game was close late, then Tyrus Thomas had five points and D.J. Augustin had four in the overtime.

Blazers 103, Rockets 100: Portland just has Houston’s number lately. LaMarcus Aldridge’s 10 fourth quarter points sparked a rally from 13 down to get Portland the win. Kevin Martin dropped 45 and was just ridiculous.

Hawks 110, Jazz 87: Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were able to get the shots they wanted with little resistance, which is why Johnson had 28, Crawford 26 and hey were a combined 9 of 14 from three. The Jazz have been a pretty average defensive team this season, and there are nights that really comes back to bite them.

Lakers 99, Suns 95: The Lakers are now 5-1 on the second night of back-to-backs this season. The Suns acquired Marcin Gortat to join with Robin Lopez and protect the rim on defense, but they really don’t know what to do with two big men on offense. The bigs set picks for Nash then serve no real purpose. Not a pretty win for the Lakers but a win.

Clippers 106, Nuggets 93: Neither bench did much, this was about the Clipper starters out playing he Nugget starters. DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin form a crazy athletic front line and they combined for 36 points, 38 rebounds and seven blocked shots (Jordan had six of those). Denver is such a different, inconsistent team on the road (they are 15-3 at home but on the road you get good games and ugly ones). That’s not the Carmelo Anthony saga, they just don’t play like a unit some nights.

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.

Stephon Marbury is parting ways with Beijing Ducks after three titles

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Stephon Marbury is big in China — he has his own statue and a play in his honor.

In six seasons he led the Beijing Ducks to three titles, but eventually rebuilding hits every team and it is coming to Beijing. Which means that while Marbury wants to stay in China beyond this season he is essentially a free agent. Here are the details, via shanghaiist.com (this has been confirmed by other sources).

The 40-year-old former NBA All-Star had a contract with Beijing for the next season that included an unusual clause allowing the team to decide if Marbury — known to fans as “Old Ma” — would return as a player or as an assistant coach. Marbury has said that after his playing days are over, he wants to coach in China; however, he still feels he could play for one more year.

But, after missing the playoffs this past season, Beijing is looking to rebuild and didn’t want their aging superstar clogging up a precious foreign player roster spot. The Ducks announced at a press conference on Saturday that after being unable to negotiate a deal, they were going to terminate Marbury’s contract.

Marbury put out a letter to fans on Weibo — a Chinese social media site — that Shanghaiist excerpted.

Second, we did not make the playoffs in the past season, as a player who always want to win and work hard to prepare myself for winning, it’s very hard to accept the way the season ended. Though I am 40 years already, I still work very hard to keep my body right, I can still play at a very high level, I am sure all the fans could tell from last season I’m still capable of playing. I was still able to lead the team to compete, even with an injured leg. I pulled my hamstring at the beginning of the season and I still played and put everything on the court because that’s who I am. I want to play, I love to compete, I [pursue] winning all the time, l love basketball because it’s my life, I still have a lot in the tank that [makes] me really want to play for another year. I want to dedicate this last year of my career in the best way possible on the court for the CBA, then I’ll retire and work as a coach to help the basketball here for the rest of my life.

Marbury had a 13-year NBA career (and was a two-time All-Star) but things got a little messy for him around the end of his career in the Association. Then he found a second life in China. A lot of Western players struggle to adjust to a very different culture and environment in China — not to mention a different style of basketball — so the league has a high drop out of Western players

However, Marbury has thrived. He’s found a second home.

I have to imagine a lot of teams would leap to get a draw like him on their team for a season.

Report: NBA to announce All-NBA Teams early, because of salary cap reasons

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The NBA’s Most Valuable Player award will not be announced until an awards ceremony June 26 on TNT — after the NBA draft, and after the NBA playoffs that will shape the narrative of the award even though voting will have been completed more than two months earlier. Same for Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and on down the line.

But not the All-NBA Teams, those are coming sooner — because teams want it that way.

The easiest example is the Indiana Pacers: If Paul George makes an All-NBA team they can offer him a designated veteran contract worth roughly $80 million more than any other team. However, if he doesn’t make a team the Pacers need to worry about him leaving as a free agent in 2018, and they may try to trade him. The best time for that trade might be around the draft — Indiana may be able to secure a high pick from a team near the top of the draft in a trade. However, if the Pacers didn’t know if George made an All-NBA team by the draft they wouldn’t make that move.

So the NBA is announcing early, a story broken by Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

To allow for its teams to have all the necessary information to make offseason preparations, the NBA will announce its all-NBA teams before its inaugural awards show in late June, according to league sources.

Because of the newly created Designated Player Exception, which relies on players making, among other things, one of the three all-NBA teams to qualify, decisions about whether players — such as Indiana Pacers star Paul George, for example — will be willing to remain with their current team or be open to being traded elsewhere could be based upon whether a player is voted on to one of the teams.

Smart move by the NBA. There are also bonuses and other impacts on salaries based on end of season awards that will alter the salary structure of teams heading into free agency.

Larry Bird delivers Pacers’ 2021 All-Star bid in IndyCar

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NEW YORK — Indiana wants the NBA All-Star Game and sent Larry Bird to get it – in an IndyCar

Bird drove four blocks down Fifth Avenue in his car Monday to deliver the Pacers’ bid to host the 2021 game to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, fitting his 6-foot-9 frame into a car usually driven by much shorter people.

Bird, an Indiana native and now the Pacers president, had driven an IndyCar only once, during his practice for his drive Monday.

Drawing a crowd of a couple hundred spectators, he maneuvered along the left lane, exited his yellow and blue “Larry Bird” car and called it a “little rough ride” because of his big feet and the car’s small pedals.

Silver says the Pacers, who hosted the game in 1985, would be “fantastic hosts.”

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game is in Los Angeles, and 2019 is expected to be re-awarded to Charlotte. Houston, Orlando, and a number of other cities are expected to make bids for the 2020 and 2021 games, along with Indiana.