Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Force was not with the Suns on Star Wars night

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What you missed while watching the story of Oedipus acted out by vegetables and voiced by Billy Dee Williams….

The Celtics holding on for a win over Miami and a Magic win over the Lakers were the games of the night. We threw is a bonus Wizards win over the Cavs story at no extra charge.

Kings 113, Suns 108: It was Star Wars night in Phoenix, but the home team played like they fell into a huge trash compactor and had to battle a dianoga.

DeMarcus Cousins is sitting back in Sacramento after being sent to his room for a time out by the team, and the Kings still pull down 18 offensive rebounds? Carl Landry had 6 of those because he’s a stud. Kings win on the second night of a back-to-back without their best frontline guy, that’s a quality win.

Trail Blazers 105, Pistons 100: LaMarcus Aldridge had a beast of a second half in this game (23 points) when he figured out he could beat the far less athletic Piston bigs down the floor and, if he didn’t score in transition, get crazy good deep position. But thanks to an 11-1 fourth quarter Pistons run this was close through the end and Detroit was up two with 1:47 left but the Blazers kept getting fouled and went 10-of-10 from the line inside the final two minutes.

Raptors 98, Clippers 93: The Clippers just lost to the Cavaliers and Raptors back-to-back.

Think the Clippers don’t miss Eric Gordon? Randy Foye was 2-for-14 shooting. But nobody was terribly impressive shooting the ball in this one for either team (Toronto was 2-for-13 from three). Toronto got 18 second half points from Andrea Bargnani — a lot of them in the third quarter when Blake Griffin could not handle him on the perimeter. Raptors rookie Ed Davis had a solid 13 points and 14 rebounds.

Grizzlies 116, Nuggets 108: Carmelo Anthony handled himself well on the way to his 28 points. The Grizzlies has a good second half, but real difference in this game was that the Grizzlies pounded the ball inside and drew fouls. The Griz had 11 more points from the free throw line, and Darrell Arthur may have been the best, getting to the line 10 times plus hitting from the midrange as well on his way to 27 points. Denver got good play from its bench — Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith in particular — in the first half but it was against the Nuggets bench that the Grizzlies took control.

Denver beat Dallas two nights ago, can’t beat Memphis tonight. Wildly inconsistently team, which is what you get when your defense is hard to trust.

Warriors 100, Thunder 94: Until the Thunder can start to defend they are not a threat in the West. Until they can keep the undersized Golden State Warriors from grabbing 20 offensive rebounds they are not contenders. Great night from David Lee with 23 and 19.

Anthony Davis opens All-Star game wearing DeMarcus Cousins’ jersey

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LOS ANGELES – Anthony Davis often relies on his Pelicans teammates to set him up.

Tonight, he gave a nod to one of them.

Davis started the All-Star game wearing DeMarcus Cousins‘ No. 0 jersey. Cousins and Davis were both voted starters then drafted by LeBron James, but Cousins can’t play due to injury.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

Very cool gesture by Davis. He’s an excellent teammate.

No, Joel Embiid didn’t cheat during the NBA Skills Challenge

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The Internet got itself all in a huff on Saturday as they watched the 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend Skills Challenge. In particular, the matchup between Chicago Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen and Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid stirred up a bit of controversy.

Specifically, folks accused Embiid of cheating.

During the passing section of the obstacle course, Embiid didn’t actually make any of his passes into the ring. He then proceeded on the next section and was neck-and-neck with Markkanen as they tried to finish out the head-to-head competition. Markkanen won, but that didn’t stop folks from saying the 76ers All-Star had circumvented the rules.

We now know that’s not true.

According to the rules (provided on the NBA media site, page 47 of the 2018 NBA All-Star Media Guide) Embiid was allowed to move onto the next section even though he hadn’t completed any of his passes. A player only has to exhaust the rack, not complete a pass. It appears rules sort of assume that if a player stands there trying to complete a pass three times they’ll fall so far behind they won’t be able to catch up.

Re-watching the video, it appears Embiid knew this rule to the game and figured if he didn’t make the first one he would quickly try to blast the next two passes off the rack so he could then move onto the next section.

Embiid even took to Twitter to head off accusations that he had cheated.

Via Twitter:

Trust. The. Process.

Rumor: Jeff Hornacek shoved Joakim Noah during confrontation

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The saga between the New York Knicks and Joakim Noah has been ongoing for sometime, with the latest story being that there was some kind of verbal altercation between the former All-Star big man and head coach Jeff Hornacek.

Noah has not played for the team since Jan. 23, and he is now separated from the Knicks as they try to find a solution to shed him from their roster.

We now have a better idea of what kind of urgency New York has to make that move.

A report from the New York Daily News has given us more information about the confrontation between Noah and Hornacek. The latest addition to the story is that it was not just words between the Knicks coach and Noah, and that Hornacek actually pushed Noah first during the confrontation.

The two then had to be separated.

Via NYDN:

Noah was banished from the Knicks after an altercation with coach Jeff Hornacek during a practice last month. The disagreement stemmed from Noah’s lack of playing time, and it turned physical the day after he logged only five minutes against the Warriors.

While no punches were thrown, the Daily News learned that Hornacek was the first to shove Noah before they had to be separated.

In our last update on this story, Dan outlined how that could be made possible. No team is going to trade for Noah at this juncture in his career, so the only real option for New York is to waive him.

Here’s how that looks, according to our own Dan Feldman:

If the Knicks waive Noah without a buyout, they’d have two options after paying out the rest of his $17,765,000 salary this season:

Pay Noah $18,530,000 next season and $19,295,000 the following season
Pay Noah $7,565,000 each of the following five years via the stretch provision

It just keeps getting weirder and weirder during a lost season in the Big Apple.

Kobe Bryant tells Shaq he was planning to leave Lakers for Bulls (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal got their three championships together as members of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two stars were part of the three-peat team that won in 2000, 2001, and 2002. But the story that perhaps overshadows those accomplishments in the modern era is the story of Kobe vs. Shaq, and the long-standing beef that was between the players even after they split in 2004.

The back-and-forth between the two is part of the fabric not just of the Lakers, but of pop culture as it surrounds basketball. The Shaq/Kobe beef even has it’s own Wikipedia page that’s longer and more well-sourced than most of the papers I wrote in college. It’s impressive.

Meanwhile, Kobe and Shaq sat down in a long special that aired on Saturday as All-Star Weekend ramped up that revealed quite a bit about their time together and their relationship. One of the more interesting anecdotes was Kobe telling Shaq that he was planning on leaving the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls in 2004. That plan was quashed when the team sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat in July.

Via Twitter:

That would have been a major shift for LA and for Chicago. The Bulls drafted both Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon that year, and traded for Luol Deng. The team improved by 24 wins the following season, and adding Bryant may have altered that trajectory and of course sent shockwave of consequential changes through the league. Heck, Scottie Pippen retired that October, but perhaps he would have stayed for one more year with Kobe?

The rest of the interview was interesting, and there were lots of tidbits of information that had people talking. Bryant and O’Neal rehashed their fights, Shaq’s infamous rap dissing Kobe, and mooning Sacramento Kings fans after beating them in the 2002 playoffs.

The biggest takeaway from the interview was how the one-upsmanship between Shaq and Kobe, although subtle, still remains.

As context, Bryant has done a fair bit of career revisionism as he tries to alter his public image now that he’s not a player. He’s painted himself as a “storyteller” and has tried to make his single-mindedness appear praiseworthy rather than destructive. It’s mostly so he can sell shoes well into his 50s à la Michael Jordan.

In the sit down between the two Lakers greats, Shaq did some legacy revision of his own. He played off his continuous egging of Bryant over their careers as simple media manipulation, calling himself a master marketer. It really was a thing to see something that hilariously disingenuous, especially as much of the conversation between the two — including many admissions on each side — were about times they made each other sincerely angry.

The two finished the interview by taking photos next to some championship trophies (Kobe with more, of course) and exchanging laughs and hugs.

You can watch the full interview in the video above.