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.

DeMarre Carroll: I fit better with Nets than ball-stopping Raptors

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DeMarre Carroll – after being traded from Toronto to Brooklyn – said some Raptors players didn’t trust their teammates. That’s the type of lightening-rod statement that often creates more controversy and/or comes across more harshly than the speaker intended. So, representative of his true feelings or not, he usually tries to walk it back.

Not Carroll, who mostly doubled down.

Carroll, via Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Carroll, who will make $30 million over the next two seasons, admitted he wasn’t fit for Toronto’s isolation-heavy offense, that he is a role player at his best when his team moves the ball.

“Yeah, that’s definitely fair to say. I had my share of iso already, so team-ball is my forte,” said Carroll, who said it was effective with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. “You got two great All-Stars, two great players. That’s how they play. They were playing that way before I came, and they’re going to be playing that way long after I leave. They’re not changing that for me.”

“I give credit to Masai: He helped me find a team,’’ Carroll said. “Me coming from a system in Atlanta where the team is about moving the ball, we felt like it wasn’t a fit. I’m not an iso player by any means. I’m definitely a role player and for me to be the best role player I need to be on a team that shares the ball.

Carroll did emphasize more this time that an isolation system is more effective with Lowry and DeRozan. Some might even argue that system is more necessary considering the talent disparity between Toronto’s stars and their teammates – like Carroll. Carroll’s scoring prowess is more similar to the other Nets, which makes great ball movement more effective. If Lowry’s and DeRozan’s teammates were equally as good as those two, Lowry and DeRozan might pass more.

It’s a tough equilibrium to strike, and the Raptors probably haven’t yet. After multiple playoff disappointments, they’re trying for a a “culture reset” that includes more passing. It’s a big shift for a team and stars with such established identities.

Count Carroll among those doubting they’ll truly change their approach.

New Knicks GM Scott Perry: I haven’t met with James Dolan yet

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Knicks fans clamored for years for owner James Dolan to stop meddling. Dolan finally listened, handing the keys to the franchise to Phil Jackson then stepping away – another big error by the error-prone owner.

Then, Knicks fans clamored for Dolan to fire Jackson. Eventually – and far later than ideal – Dolan got Jackson out of town.

With Steve Mills succeeding Jackson as team president, what is Dolan’s involvement now? New general manager Scott Perry – rather awkwardly – shed light on the situation during an interview with ESPN’s Jemele Hill and Michael Smith.

Via Reed Wallach of Nets Daily:

  • Hill: “It’s still early, but what have your interactions with James Dolan been like?”
  • Perry: “I have not met with him yet, but I’m looking forward to that.”
  • Smith: “You have not met with him since you took the job, you mean?”
  • Perry: “Yes.”
  • Smith: “Gotcha. But obviously you met with him before you took the job?”
  • Perry: “No, I’ve dealt very closely with Steve Mills throughout the process.”
  • Smith: “Oh, it’s really just been Steve?”
  • Perry: “It’s just been – yes. Yes, it has.”

This isn’t necessarily problematic. Did you met with your boss’s boss during the interview process or shortly after being hired? For some jobs, I have. For others, I haven’t.

Though Perry carries the lofty general-manager title, Mills still runs the front office and reports directly to Dolan. I am curious how often Mills interacts with Dolan, though at least Mills is now getting advised from below with Perry.

The last time Mills was left to his own devices, he signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million deal.

Kings finally waive rights to 44-year-old European player they drafted in 1995

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Back in 1995 — while you were listening to Coolio rap “Gangster’s Paradise,” watching the O.J. Simpson trial, and using your cell phone to actually make calls — Sacramento Kings GM Geoff Petrie used a late second round pick on Dejan Bodiroga.

The Serbian point forward — who played for the Serbian national team with Vlade Divac — never came over to the NBA, despite multiple efforts by the Kings, and is still considered one of the better European players never to test the NBA waters. He was a Spanish and Greek league MVP and won multiple titles in European leagues.

Friday, the Kings finally renounced his draft rights.

He’s just 44 and hasn’t played professionally since 2007, are they sure he still couldn’t contribute? (Insert your own Jose Calderon joke here.)

Kings fans on Twitter were awesome.

 

Report: Kyrie Irving considered requesting a trade after Cavaliers’ championship season

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Kyrie Irving reportedly made his desire to leave the Cavaliers known during his first few years in Cleveland. Then, LeBron James returned and that talk quieted – for a while. This offseason, Irving renewed his trade request, reportedly before the draft then again to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert last week.

But this has apparently been percolating throughout Irving’s time in Cleveland – even at the Cavaliers’ peak.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

When Irving signed his deal, he expected to be the franchise player for the foreseeable future. But about two weeks later, James arrived from Miami. The sudden change of situation rocked Irving, and he has vacillated at times over the past three years about working as a secondary star to James and the original plan of having his own team.

He discussed the challenge during last month’s NBA Finals.

“Having just a tremendously great player like that come to your team, and you see yourself being one of those great players eventually, and then he ends up joining it, and then now you have to almost take a step back and observe,” Irving said. “Finding that balance is one of the toughest things to do because you have so much belief and confidence in yourself. … Selfishly, I always wanted to just show everyone in the whole entire world exactly who I was every single time.”

With this in mind, Irving considered requesting a trade after the Cavs’ championship last year but decided against it, sources said.

Irving is catching a lot of heat for wanting to ditch LeBron and the consensus second-best team in the NBA. Imagine if Irving requested a trade immediately after a title!

This is yet another example of winning curing all ills. Irving clearly sees playing a supporting role as suboptimal, but he was willing to do it when Cleveland was winning a championship. Now that the Cavs title chances have slipped (hello, Kevin Durant-boosted Warriors) – even just to second-best in the entire league – Irving has prioritized his exit.

We’ll see how this affects Irving’s image. That’s important for such a prominent endorser. But it’s safe to say a trade request last summer would have gone over far worse with the public.