Durant Westbrook

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Two entertaining games and some ice cold Heat

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What you missed while thinking about the worst things people call food….

Thunder 125, Magic 124: Two teams that will make their bones in the playoffs on defense set it aside for a night, and that led to one really entertaining game. To be fair, there was a lot of hot offensive talent on the floor, too. Especially Russell Westbrook who finished with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. Dwight Howard had 39 points, 18 boards.

OKC’s big players made big plays. Jeff Green had the dagger with the beat-the-clock, off-balance three. Kevin Durant twisted that knife with a little runner a possession later (points the Thunder ended up needing as Jameer Nelson was stepping up). The Magic usually win when they shoot 14-of-28 from three.

This was fun regular season basketball. It was two teams who were able to exploit what they want. It had hot shooters and fun transition plays. As we head into the dog days of the season I would love more game like this one.

Nuggets 130, Heat 102: No LeBron James (out with a sprained ankle). And the West Coast to Denver back-to-back is the toughest in the league (second game is played at high altitude against a good team that likes to run, it is a huge advantage for the Nuggets). Even if LeBron was healthy this was going to be a tough one.

Denver controlled how this was played, it was an up-tempo, ragged game. TNT’s Kenny Smith had a great line at halftime about J.R. Smith and the Nuggets as a whole — they are comfortable in a messy room. When the game gets ragged and sloppy and lacks structure, they have guys who are at home. They thrive. Get into that game with them and you lose. That’s what the Heat did. And in that setting Smith had a game-high 28. Not a coincidence.

Shed a tear for the 72-10 dream (that was always a pipe dream anyway, but people fiercely cling to those). Don’t go reading into the back-to-back Heat losses. There could be three in a row — Chicago is up next and that will be hard whether or not James is back. These losses are meaningless everywhere but weekly power rankings.

Timberwolves 109, Wizards 97: There was a moment when you started to believe this could be the game the Wizards finally won on the road — they went on a tight little 9-0 run in the fourth and you thought maybe. But really, for 90 percent of this game the Wolves had been the better team, starting with an early 11-0 run. So the 19-1 run late that sealed the Minnesota win shouldn’t have felt like a shock to the system. But it still kind of did.

Kevin Love is grabbing rebounds in traffic, making clever little moves and shots inside, and draining contested threes with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. I’m running out of adjectives.

Wolves did this without Michael Beasley. That’s a good win for them.

Jordan releases new Russell Westbrook ad, may include a shot at Kevin Durant

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (L) and Russell Westbrook #0 look on during a press conference after the Golden State Warriors defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-101 in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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As a Jordan Brand athlete, Russell Westbrook is under the same Nike umbrella as former teammate Kevin Durant. But his latest Jordan spot, released Friday, has a very pointed tagline: “Some run, some make runways.”

Given the circumstances, it’s hard to interpret that as anything other than a reference to Durant signing with the Warriors and Westbrook signing an extension with the Thunder.

Kobe Bryant on how teams should see Warriors: “‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MAY 03:  Retired NBA Champion, CEO, Kobe Inc., Kobe Bryant speaks onstage during 2016 Milken Institute Global Conference at The Beverly Hilton on May 03, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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For two decades, Kobe Bryant saw everyone and everything as an obstacle to overcome: The Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic, Celtics, Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich, Smush Parker, a torn Achilles. It didn’t matter. Kobe’s work ethic and drive had him rising above it all.

His focus hasn’t changed now. Kobe was on the Jim Rome show, and the topic of the new-look Warriors with Kevin Durant came up, along with the “woe is me” attitude of some players (and plenty of owners and GMs).

“I would have thought less about myself if I looked at that move and said, ‘That’s unfair,'” he said. “If you’re a real competitor, you look at that and say, ‘OK, lace ’em up. Let’s go. I don’t care how many players you have over there; we’re still going to take you down.'”

Easier said than done to make that happen, but that attitude is the only one to have if you think you have a chance. You can be sure LeBron James is thinking that way and telling his Cavaliers teammates the same.

We’re going to miss Kobe.

 

Report: Dwyane Wade’s cousin killed as innocent bystander in gang shooting in Chicago

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 29:  General manager Gar Forman of the Chicago Bulls (L) listens as Dwyane Wade speaks during an introductory press conference at the Advocate Center on July 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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This news is just sickening. In a world with just too much sickening news.

According to NBC 5 in Chicago (which spoke to police), Dwyane Wade‘s first cousin Nykea Aldridge was pushing a stroller down the street when she was shot and killed as an innocent in the crossfire of a gang shooting.

The 32-year-old woman, whom family identified as Nykea Aldridge, was apparently the unintended victim of a gang shooting, police said. She was walking around 3:30 p.m. in the 6300 block of South Calumet when two males approached another male and opened fire, police said.

Wade tweeted this.

Aldridge was on her way to a local school to register her kids (they had just moved) when the shooting took place. There has been a rash of gang and gun violence in Chicago in the past year, and Dwyane’s mother Jolinda Wade had just been on a panel on ESPN’s Undefeated talking about it.

Wade is coming to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls this season.

Our thoughts are with Nykea Aldridge’s family and friends.

Bill Walton blames himself for Clippers leaving San Diego

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 13:  Member of the Boston Celtics 1986 Championship team Bill Walton is honored at halftime of the game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat at TD Garden on April 13, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. 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 Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Donald Sterling was the owner of the Clippers when they left San Diego to move to the Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1984. He’s a greedy man who lived in Los Angeles, he owned a bad Clipper team playing in a fast-aging building in San Diego, Sterling was bouncing checks to the point the NBA was ready to take the team away from him, and the selfish owner wanted the team closer to him in a situation where he could make as much money as possible. To suggest Sterling (especially in that era) made any move that was not financially related would be just wrong.

Still Bill Walton — a San Deigo native — blames himself for Clippers leaving San Diego.

He talked about it with the brilliant Arash Markazi of ESPN.

“When you fail in your hometown, that’s as bad as it gets, and I love my hometown,” said Walton, who grew up in La Mesa, 9 miles east of downtown San Diego. “I wish we had NBA basketball here, and we don’t because of me….

“It’s my greatest failure as a professional in my entire life,” Walton said. “I could not get the job done in my hometown. It is a stain and stigma on my soul that is indelible. I’ll never be able to wash that off, and I carry it with me forever.”

It was not on Walton. Not even close.

This was the Walton between the as-good-as-any-center-ever Walton that led the Trail Blazers to the title in 1977 and the Sixth Man of the Year Walton in Boston in 1985. The Clippers’ Walton was the one battling multiple foot surgeries that kept him out of most of multiple seasons in a row — something he could not control. And if you want to make judgements about how he was healthy before and after his time with the Clippers but seemed to get poor medical treatment on cheap Sterling’s team, go right ahead.

The move to LA was all about Donald Sterling. It was about his pocket book and what was convenient for him. There was a reason his team was at the bottom of the NBA for two decades (and that since he sold the team, while they have struggled to advance deep in the playoffs, they have been a more serious threat).

Bill Walton shouldn’t blame himself.