Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Cavaliers almost won one. Almost.

1 Comment

What you missed while thinking about every move Nicolas Cage ever made

Pacers 117, Cavaliers 112: And we are at 22 losses in a row — but it was so, so close. This game was tied at 110-110 with just over a minute left. First the Pacers’ Darren Collison knocked down a three pointer. After a timeout Christian Eyenga — who I like more and more every game — hit difficult jumper to cut that lead to one.

Then the Cavs got a stop and hand a chance. Anthony Parker drove into the paint and put up the little runner, which ran around the rim and out. A few seconds later Danny Granger was fouled, knocked down two and it was 115-112 Pacers. Ramon Session drove the lane for Cleveland, drew defenders, dropped the ball of to J.J. Hickson, who fumbled it out of bounds, and with it went the Cavs chances.

It’s only been two games, but the Pacers are running again under interim head coach Frank Vogel — 99 possessions in this one.

Sixers 106, Nets 92: Some guys just have another guy’s number. Jrue Holiday just beats Devin Harris. I have no idea why but Harris cannot keep Holiday in front of him and while Holiday only scored 11 (he has averaged 19.5 against the Nets) he also had 11 assists and 10 rebounds. He had the triple double and set up the win.

Hawks 100, Raptors 87: Atlanta shot 55.3 percent overall and hit 10 of 24 from three, with Joe Johnson dropping 37. Of course, if there is one thing the Hawks know how to do it is look good against bad teams. The Raptors have lost 13 in a row and if it wasn’t for the Cavs we’d be talking about how awful they are.

Bobcats 97, Pistons 87: The Pistons started with Tracy McGrady on Stephen Jackson, but T-Mac doesn’t have the body to keep up with him anymore. So they went to Austin Daye, not exactly the best defender ever. Or even close to that. As you might imagine, Jackson got it going. The Pistons finally put Tayshaun Prince on him but now Jackson is feeling it. He drops 39 on the Pistons and that ‘s about it.

Mavericks 113, Knicks 97: The best bench player in the league the last week has been J.J. Barea, and he dropped 22 on the Knicks in this one. That’s six wins in a row for a Mavs team getting hot again.

Grizzlies 102, Timberwolves 84: They are talking playoffs in Memphis (in between bites of barbecue) and with this win the Grizzlies are now just half a game back of Portland for the last spot in the West. The Grizzlies starting five completely outplayed the starters for the Wolves and an 18-4 third quarter run put this one away for Memphis. Kevin Love kept his double-double streak alive with 10 and 10. So barely.

Thunder 104, Hornets 93: Kevin Durant is good. How good was he in this one? Try 43 points on 19 shots good. That first month of the season really seemed to quell his MVP campaign (everyone was high on him before the season) but he has 40 in three of the Thunder’s last four and if he keeps it up (and the Thunder keep winning) the campaign could revive.

Rockets 97, Jazz 96: Kevin Martin got the old-fashioned three — hitting a lob layup in traffic while being fouled by Al Jefferson — to give the Rockets the win. The real credit for the play goes to Shane Battier, who threw the pass to Martin with the kind of accuracy Aaron Rodgers can only hope to have this Sunday evening.

Nuggets 109, Trail Blazers 90: The West Coast to Denver back-to-back is the most brutal in the NBA. This one was one of those games — this was a close game until the final couple minutes of the third quarter, when Denver went on a 7-0 run against a weary Portland team and started to pull away.

Bulls 106, Clippers 88: The Clippers actually played pretty well against a stingy Bulls defense in the first half, but they couldn’t get a stop for 48 minutes and that was the difference. The Bulls were getting points inside so the Clippers went to a 2-1-2 zone that the Bulls shot over the top of, hitting 12-26 three pointers. Blake Griffin did his dunk thing but he had 25 in the first half and just 7 in the second as the Bulls did a good job frustrating him, bringing extra bodies to clog the lane. Kurt Thomas’ crazy eyes made an appearance as well.

Suns 92, Bucks 77: The Bucks shot 31.1 percent. Against the Suns defense, ranked 29th in the league in defensive efficiency. That’s just bad.

Report: Mikhail Prokhorov ‘warmed’ to selling controlling stake of Nets

Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mikhail Prokhorov bought 80% of the Nets in 2010. A couple years ago, he tried to sell his stake, but decided to keep it. Then, he bought 100% of the franchise and its arena. After last season, he said he was selling 49% of the team.

Now?

Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, while focused on selling a minority stake in the franchise, has warmed recently to the possibility of offering a controlling slice of the team, sources close to the situation said.

The change of heart comes after the initial reaction to the minority stake sale was weak — and with interest in the Houston Rockets sale heating up, one source said.

The Rockets’ sale could shake out potential Nets buyers, and Prokhorov selling a controlling stake could also help. It’d cost more money than the 49% he’s offering now, but people with the money to buy an NBA team tend to value control.

This might be a good time to sell for Prokhorov, who lost a ton of money as the team paid major luxury tax for an all-in championship pursuit that flopped spectacularly. The NBA’s popularity is rising, and the league is reaping huge revenue from its national-TV contracts.

However, he shouldn’t assume the Rockets’ sale price will predict the Nets’. Buyers might prefer a good team with James Harden and Chris Paul to a bad one short on young talent after years of mismanagement. At least Brooklyn’s payroll is now tolerably low.

The big loser here: Leslie Alexander, who’s trying to sell the Rockets. The supply of NBA teams now available might have just doubled, and unless there’s no overlap in demand for those franchises, that can only drive down Alexander’s eventual sale price.

Report: Clippers paid $3.2 million – second-most ever – for draft pick (Jawun Evans)

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
2 Comments

The Warriors set a record by paying $3.5 million for a draft pick, buying the Bulls’ No. 38 pick and using it on Jordan Bell this year.

That eclipsed the $3 million spent by each the Thunder in 2010 (to the Hawks for the No. 31 pick, Tibor Pleiss) and Nets in 2016 (to move up 13 spots for Isaiah Whiteside).

So did the Clippers’ purchase of the No. 39 pick (Jawun Evans) from the 76ers this year.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

The Clippers also paid the Bucks $2 million for the No. 48 pick (Sindarius Thornwell).

I rated Evans a low first-rounder due to his speed and drive-and-kick game, so getting him in the second round is good value. I’m not as keen on Thornwell, who’s already 22 and built so much of his success at South Carolina on being more physical than younger opponents.

But the more swings the Clippers take on young players, the more likely they are to find long-term contributors. More power to owner Steve Ballmer for greenlighting this expenditure.

Importantly, as players acquired through the draft, Evans and Thornwell will count for the luxury tax at their actual salaries. Players signed otherwise, even if their actual salaries are lower, count at at least the two-years-experience minimum.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can spend $5.1 million in cash this season. That amount will increase (or decrease) in proportion with the salary cap in coming years. So, expect the previous record for draft-pick purchase price – $3 million – to fall again and again.

There’s just more leeway now for the NBA’s haves to separate themselves from the have-nots.

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
3 Comments

Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.

Reports: Heat pessimistic about/uninterested in trading for Kyrie Irving

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
3 Comments

Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade from the Cavaliers, reportedly listed the Heat among his preferred destinations. Though Irving – without a no-trade clause and locked up for two more years – holds only minimal sway, teams would logically offer more for him if they believe he’d re-sign.

Will Miami trade for Irving?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

And while the possibility certainly cannot be ruled out, the Heat does not have considerable optimism about being able to strike a deal, multiple league sources said.

One Eastern Conference official who spoke to the Heat said Miami considers itself something of a long shot.

Tim Reynolds, the reputable Associated Press Heat and NBA writer, said on Steve Shapiro’s Sports Xtra on WSVN-7 that he does not believe Miami is interested in acquiring Irving.

Like the Kings, though to a far lesser extent, the Heat might not be interested because they know they stand no little of landing Irving.

Goran Dragic would almost certainly have to go to Cleveland in a deal, supplanted by Irving in Miami. Dragic would upgrade the Cavs at point guard over Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, but at 31, Dragic would also significantly shorten Cleveland’s window.

The Heat would have to send much more. It’s just not clear what.

The Cavaliers, with Tristan Thompson, might not have much interest in centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. Justise Winslow‘s weak 3-point shooting makes him a tough fit with LeBron James, and Winslow’s shoulder injury last season damages his stock anywhere. Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson are helpful contributors, but Johnson’s salary skyrockets north of $19 million each of the following two seasons, and Richardson will hit free agency (and get a raise) after this season. James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk – who all signed this summer – can’t be traded until Dec. 15. (I’m not sure which prospect is funnier, Waiters returning to Cleveland or playing with Irving in Miami.) The Heat also owe the Suns two future first-round picks – one top-seven protected in 2018 and unprotected in 2019, the other unprotected in 2021.

It’s difficult, maybe impossible, for Miami to assemble a suitable trade package given those constraints.

At least the Heat would keep open the possibility of LeBron returning if they don’t trade for Irving.