Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dwight Howard makes Blake Griffin look like a rookie

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What you missed while campaigning for former Fort Wayne, Ind., mayor Harry Baals to get a building named after him

Magic 101, Clippers 85: The last time these two met the Clippers struggled with the Magic’s defense, and that continued again. The Clippers do not get out in transition, take too much time to initiate the offense and let Orlando’s stingy defense get set. The result was Dwight Howard protecting the rim and Blake Griffin scoring just 10 points of 4-of-12 shooting. Nobody got going for the Clippers. Well, except Baron Davis, he almost had a triple-double with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting. 8 rebounds, 8 assists.

It stayed close because the Magic struggled mightily in the first half hitting just 3-15 from three. What kept Orlando in it was they grabbed the 10 offensive rebounds in the first half (43.5% of their misses). In the second half, the fourth quarter in particular with a 12-0 run, they found a rhythm and pulled away scoring 59 in the second half.

Sixers 117, Hawks 83: NBA.com’s John Schuhmann was pimping the Sixers small lineups the other day (Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand and some variations of that. It worked will here and helped he Sixers pull away. Philly led by 20 points in the first quarter and was up 33-15 after one. The Hawks were without Al Horford to make Philly pay for going small, and the result was a lot of Josh Smith jumpers.

Spurs 100, Pistons 89: Welcome to the NBA, where the good teams can execute at both ends when it gets to crunch time. This was a 1 point game at the half, 5 points after three. But no team is executing better at the end of game s now than the Spurs.

Heat 117, Pacers 112: One other thing we are seeing with the Pacers in the Frank Vogel era is a much more physical style of play. They are not backing down and they actually led this by 14 in the second half and were up a few minutes into the fourth quarter. Then they went cold and seemed to feel the moment against the Heat. LeBron James kept them in it early with a complete offensive game resulting in 41 points on the night and Chris Bosh sparked a 14-3 fourth quarter run and, well, you see the result.

Bucks 92, Raptors 74: Hey, we finally found a defense that can make the Bucks offense look good!

Grizzlies 105, Thunder 101 (OT): Fourth game in five nights for Memphis, and with no Rudy Gay for this one (sprained right big toe) but the Grizzlies played hard and got some Ewing Effect. Much of it came from Tony Allen who had 27 points on 12 shots. This was a bad game from the Thunder and only the 18 offensive rebounds really kept them in it. But once again the Thunder didn’t execute in the fourth quarter.

Timberwolves 112, Rockets 108: Entertaining back and forth series of fourth quarter runs, but Minnesota had the last one, a late 11-4 run to win it. Kevin Love had 11 fourth quarter points and Wayne Ellington chipped in 10 in the final frame. That’s two nice road wins in a row for the Wolves (they beat New Orleans Monday night).

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.