Baseline to Baseline recaps: Mikhail Prokhorov seems to know what the Nets needed

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What you missed while watching the longest shot you will see this year….

Nets 93, Grizzlies 88: The Nets won because of their tremendous bench play? Yes. The Nets bench outscored the Grizzlies bench 56-12 and it was guys like Kris Humphries off the bench that sparked a rally from 13 down in the third quarter to get the Nets the win. New Jersey is now 4-1 since Mikhail Prokhorov called off the Carmelo Anthony trade talks.

Magic 111, Pacers 96: Roy Hibbert had a great first month of the season and has fallen apart since. Dwight Howard is a rough guy to get right against. Hibbert had 4 points, 2 boards, and was -22 in less than 15 minutes. Howard had 19 points and was a +20.

Sixers 107, Raptors 94: Marreese Speights was a beast with 17 second quarter points to keep the Sixers in it early, then they pulled away in the third quarter behind strong play from Andre Iguodala. The Sixers dominated the glass against the soft interior of the Raptors and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds — meaning the Sixers go a second chance on 41.5 percent of their missed shots.

Nuggets 109, Pistons 100: You would think if one franchise had the institutional memory to know you don’t leave Chauncey Billups open late in a tight game it would be Detroit. How many games did he win for the Pistons that way? He cost them one in this one.

Billups hit four three pointers in the final three minutes and that sealed the Nuggets wins. Will Bynum took over late for the Pistons and had 17 fourth quarter points, but he was trading twos for threes with Billups late and that didn’t cut it.

Spurs 112, Jazz 105: The Jazz just get no defensive presence in the paint from their big men and that is hurting them badly lately. Tony Parker was getting into the lane early (10 first quarter points) and throughout the game other Spurs got shots inside without much resistance.

I still say Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game. Charles Barkley thinks it’s Derrick Rose. But if you want to make a case for Deron Williams, I listen and nod a lot. I hate to argue against him.

Thunder 118, Timberwolves 117 (OT): Let us marvel at Kevin Durant, he of the 47 points and taking over late. He of the beautiful step-back shot that was the game winner. He of the 18 rebounds. He deserves our awe.

The Wolves had their chances. Corey Brewer missed a tying free throw in overtime but it was tipped out top and Luke Ridnour ended up with the ball and five seconds left  — and he acted like there was 0.5 left. Rather than settle down enough to get a good shot he rushed it, Russell Westbrook contested and made him double clutch and he missed badly. The Wolves had other chances. But in the end it was too much Durant.

Bucks 98, Hawks 90: The Bucks owned the fourth quarter. Haven’t typed a sentence like that in a while. But there you go, they won the quarter 34-15 and the game with it. It was the Bucks bench that did it — Earl Boykins was creating shots for everyone and had 9 fourth quarter points, as did Carlos Delfino. Former D-Leaguer Garrett Temple added six in the fourth quarter and played well. When things got tight what did the Hawks do? Stop moving the ball and rely on a lot of Josh Smith jumpers. You can guess how that went.

Rockets 96, Clippers 83: Chuck Hayes did as good a defensive job on Blake Griffin as anyone has all season long. Hayes is strong enough to take away the muscle moves of Griffin where he just overpowers players and that turned Griffins’ usual 3 footers into 7 footers, and the result was a lot of misses. A lot of teams have tried to be physical with Griffin but it usually just leads to a lot of fouls. Hayes matched him and it was the key to the win.

Bobcats 114, Suns 107: This was a two point game with four minutes to go, and then Boris Diaw made a couple plays. He hit the 18-foot jumper, he drove the lane and created the open look for Gerald Henderson (who had a couple nice shots late). Meanwhile Channing Frye made a couple bad fouls late (and they were both fouls, sorry Frye). Suddenly the Bobcats were in total control late.

D.J. Augustin is like a new player under Paul Silas, and it changes who the Bobcats are. In a good way.

Hornets 112, Warriors 103: Chris Paul had 17 dimes and his setting people up is part of the reason New Orleans shot 62.2 percent. Teams don’t really lose when they shoot 62.2 percent.

After Kyrie Irving trade, here are five biggest threats to Warriors

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Let’s be honest: The blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics likely means the NBA Finals goes five games instead of four.

The Golden State Warriors can be that good. They won 67 games last season with the NBA’s top offense and second-ranked defense, now they have been in the system for a year as a unit, know each other better, and made some good offseason additions. The Warriors will be better. And they still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are the clear favorites to repeat as NBA champions.

But life rarely follows the script. So who are the biggest threats to the Warriors? Here are the top five.

1) The Houston Rockets. Houston won 55 games last season with the NBA’s second-ranked offense and a style of play that can hang with the Warriors — then they added Chris Paul to the mix. Plus GM Daryl Morey added quality veteran wing defenders such as P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, guys picked up in part to match up with the Warriors firepower. On paper, Houston is the NBA’s second best team and the one best poised to challenge the Warriors. It’s fair to wonder if Chris Paul and James Harden can share the backcourt and the ball — and if they can find a tempo that works for them — but coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried. It’s also fair to question if this team can be good enough defensively, even though they added good defenders. Still, the Rockets are a threat and a contender.

2) The Cleveland Cavaliers. The reason they are here is not the trade, it’s LeBron James. He remains the best player on the planet (although Durant is close). But the trade helps. In terms of pure offensive production, Isaiah Thomas matched or even bested Irving last season, IT is an All-NBA player for a reason. Also, the Cavaliers pick up the kind of “3&D” wing they have desperately needed in Jae Crowder. And if another player they really want/need comes available, they have assets in Ante Zizic and that Brooklyn first round pick to get him. Cleveland gets this spot because they are the clear favorite to win the East again, and if they are back in the Finals they have a shot despite an aging roster. The Cavs have beaten the Warriors in the Finals before.

3) The Boston Celtics. Admittedly, there is a bit of a drop off after those first two. I see Boston as more of a threat in two seasons (2018-19) and beyond, but after this trade they have quality players at key positions — Irving at the point, Gordon Hayward on the wing, and Al Horford in the paint. Boston also has one of the best coaches in the league in Brad Stevens, who will put Irving in better situations (so long as Irving buys in and doesn’t just force isolation action, as he did at times in Cleveland). What Boston needs is guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to develop, and Marcus Smart to step up, to become real contenders. They also need to show they can defend, they traded away some of their best defenders this summer. That and a stronger defensive presence in the paint. All that said, Boston has a legitimate shot to beat Cleveland and come out of the East, and if they reach the Finals, then the Celtics at least have a puncher’s chance against the Warriors.

4) The San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs won 55 games last season, had the best defense in the NBA, and with Kawhi Leonard they have their own superstar. The Spurs are going to execute and make plays. They will miss the depth that Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons brought, but they added the scoring punch of Rudy Gay off the bench. What we know is the Spurs will not beat themselves, that they will be in the hunt, and we should know by now not to sleep on them.

5) The Oklahoma City Thunder. I think this is a dark horse contender. What we know is that the Thunder should be a top five defensive team — they were 10th in the NBA last season, they brought back their core guys (Andre Roberson and Steven Adams are key here), and they added an excellent wing defender to the mix in Paul George. The Thunder will get stops. If George and Russell Westbrook can figure out how to play well together on the offensive end — last season the Thunder were middle of the pack offensively with the Westbrook show — and get in the top 10, they become a team that could surprise some people.

Thon Maker, all 7’1″ of him, sat in economy class to get flight going

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If you are six-foot or taller, economy class on a modern airline feels cramped. But at least the airlines make up for it with a delicious full meal a bag of peanuts and a free movie.

Can you imagine a 7’1″ guy in economy?

The Bucks’ Thon Maker did it on a recent United flight and the passenger next to him Paul Kuzma posted about it on Facebook (hat tip to onmilwaukee.com).

Well, a missed #United flight found me on a rebooked one. After ending up in an upgraded Economy Plus (yay!) middle seat (not so yay!), volunteers were asked one by one, row by row, if one would relocate to the last row of the plane, middle seat….

My heart leapt again when I came to the last row and BOTH the middle AND aisle seats were open! I stowed my gear in the middle seat area but sat in the aisle seat, hoping.

Alas, it was too good to be true! Moments later, a 7’1″ tall young man who could not even stand completely straight in the aisle of the plane made his way our direction. My heart sunk, not for me, but for him! I saw him emerge from an Economy Plus window seat!

I told him I was so sorry, knowing this would be uncomfortable for him. He nonchalantly said it was worth it to get this delayed flight going. He had practice to attend in the morning and had a 2+ hour drive to get where he was headed after landing….

I had to ask how in the world he ended up in the last row. He also had missed a flight and was rebooked on this one. He was assigned his original FIRST CLASS seat. He had settled in there when a flight attendant told him the person who had paid for that seat on THIS flight had shown up, albeit very late. They had to move him to Economy Plus.

Once there for a while, his story mirrors mine. Requests were being made for someone to move to the last row and no one was volunteering. So he volunteered, wanting the flight to begin.

He couldn’t even fit his knees into the Economy seat! Every time the snack cart came by or someone had to use the restroom, he had to get up and move out of their way.

The entire flight, there was not a hint of resentment in his voice. He was even happy to allow me a picture with him and an autograph. Class act, Thon!

Somewhere a cranky old NBA player is saying “we always used to have to fly commercial…” and sorry old man, but that doesn’t make it easy or right. There’s a reason NBA teams moved away from that (and it wasn’t to save money).

Good on Maker for being willing to sacrifice when plenty of other normal-sized people couldn’t be bothered.

And if the name Kuzma is familiar, the author says his is the second cousin once removed of the Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma.

PBT Podcast: Breaking down the Kyrie Irving trade

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Is LeBron James more likely to stay in Cleveland now?

Are the Boston Celtics contenders? Are they better set up for the future?

There are a lot more questions that come out of the surprise Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets pick. It’s a deal that is a big win for Cleveland, they got more than they should have expected in return. However, this is in no way a bad deal for the Celtics.

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest PBT Podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

Report: Clippers reach deal with Michael Winger to be new GM

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We knew this was coming, now it’s about to be official.

Former Oklahoma City Thunder assistant GM Michael Winger is about to take over as the general manager of the Los Angeles Clippers. They offered him the job last week, now the sides have agreed to terms, and he will sign a deal soon, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Oklahoma City Thunder executive Michael Winger has reached an agreement in principle to become the general manager of the LA Clippers, league sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Doc Rivers is no longer the guy with the hammer in Los Angeles, he will just be coaching the Clippers (and still getting $10 million a year paychecks, in case you think he’ll just walk away). The power structure now has Lawrence Frank at the top as the President of Basketball Operations, with Winger doing to work under him. The Clippers are expected to hire Trent Redden, one of David Griffin’s former right hand men in Cleveland, to work under Winger as an assistant GM. The Clippers also are expected to hire another assistant GM soon.

Frank, Winger and crew take over a team in transition. Chris Paul is gone, but the Clippers locked up Blake Griffin on a max deal this summer, they got a good veteran point guard in Patrick Beverley from Houston, and they signed Danilo Gallinari. They picked up some good young players in the CP3 trade such as Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker (who they now need to develop). The Clippers should be in the mix for one of the final three playoff slots in the West next season, but that doesn’t answer the bigger picture questions. Are the Clippers a team rebuilding for the future on the fly? Are they looking to stay good and relevant until they can get their new building in Inglewood constructed? Are they a year or two away from a total rebuild?

Steve Ballmer ultimately gets to make that call. It will be up to Winger to execute it.