Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers

Baseline to Baseline recaps: These Pacers put up a fight, but the Heat are too good

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What you missed while watching a computer win at Jeopardy:

Heat 110, Pacers 103: You cannot let the Heat get out and run. Sure, they are good in the half court as well, but in transition they are unstoppable. The Pacers have been playing fast lately but the Heat were defending well at the start Tuesday, took the turnovers and misses and were off to the races. Dwyane Wade had 16 midway through the first quarter and by the second the Heat were up 24. This was going to be a blowout.

But thing is, these Pacers are a pretty good team. Not elite, but under Frank Vogel they will make you work for it. The Pacers picked up the physicality of their defense, started draining some key threes (including a nice pair by Paul George and Danny Granger to tie it) and it was a game again. The Pacers led in the third quarter.

But for all their effort, the Pacers had no answer for Miami’s power trio — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 90 points. The rest of the Heat had 20. Wade had 41, with 31 of those in the first half.

Bulls 106, Bobcats 94: Yes, Michael Jordan was in the house. And somehow he got pretty good seats.

One would think this should be a pretty easy win as the Bulls caught the Bobcats on the second night of a back-to-back after an emotional win. Still, the Bulls really had to really work for this one. Bulls’ fans can thank Luol Deng (24 points) for this one as he seemed to be the guy always in the right spot.

Grizzlies 102, Sixers 91: Memphis came out with a real defensive energy and they jumped out big, up 15 after one quarter. It would have been worse had Thaddeus Young not dropped 14 in the fourth quarter. It was close enough for the Sixers to fight back in the third quarter and make a game of it heading into the fourth. Then it was Mike Conley time — the Grizzlies point guard had 15 in the fourth quarter and was 3-of-4 from three. He has really impressed this season.

Thunder 126, Kings 96: No Tyreke Evans for Sacramento (resting his plantar fasciitis) and DeMarcus Cousins was coming off the bench. Without their two best players the Kings starters were no match for the Thunder. OKC was up 15 quickly and coasted to a win where the starters had ice on their knees through the fourth quarter.

Suns 102, Jazz 101: This game was tied at 89, but the Jazz played terrible pick-and-roll defense down the stretch. Steve Nash makes you pay for that. The Jazz were hitting shots, Al Jefferson had some nice plays inside. But when Nash is getting wide open threes and room to operate you are in a lot of trouble.

Warriors 102, Hornets 89: The Hornets are not playing good defense without Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza (and Chris Paul looks tired). Combine that with a Warriors team that can shoot the rock and this is what you get. Golden State shot 52.6 percent from three in this one, and they are hard to beat when they get those to fall.

Bull for Bull: Pau Gasol to replace Jimmy Butler in All-Star Game

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 6:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls prepares to shoot a free throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 6, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Jimmy Butler is out of the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto this weekend due to a strained knee. Which suck, because he earned that spot, and while the fans didn’t vote him in the coach’s did.

Butler’s teammate Pau Gasol will replace him.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gets to make the call on a replacement, and he stayed in Chicago, but he added a front court player to replace a guard. Keeping a Bulls representative might have been part of the thinking. The coaches’ votes on replacement players has been weighed in the past (Gasol may have been high on that list, coaches love him). Also, the East roster has a lot of wings and was light on bigs (Andre Drummond, Paul Millsap and Chris Bosh are the only real bigs), so this gives coach Tyronn Lue some flexibility up front.

The East leading Cleveland Cavaliers remain with just one representative, LeBron James (voted in by the fans).

Gasol is averaging 17 points, 10.9 rebounds, and a couple blocks a game, and is the only thing close to a consistent performer the Bulls have. Besides the injured Butler.

Bulls’ All-Star Jimmy Butler out 3-4 weeks with strained knee

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It was concerning when it happened — Jimmy Butler injured his knee and had to be taken off the court on a stretcher.

But then the reports came back saying the X-rays were negative, this was just a strain. Butler was going to miss some time, but the question was how much?

Turns out, 3-4 weeks — including the All-Star Game, the team announced Tuesday. From the official team press release:

Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler was re-examined by Bulls Head Team Physician Brian Cole.  Butler is expected to miss the next three to four weeks with a strained left knee. Butler has begun rehabbing his injury and he will be allowed to engage in all activities as tolerated with the primary goal of maintaining his conditioning over the ensuing weeks.

Butler is the Bulls best player, averaging 22.4 points a game and handling a lot of the shot creation for the team (along with Derrick Rose, who was out Monday injured). The Bulls offense is 1.6 points per 100 possessions better when Butler plays, plus he usually draws the other team’s best wing player as his defensive assignment.

Following an ugly loss to the Hornets Monday night, the Bulls are now 5-12 in their last 17 games. Since Joakim Noah went out for the season with an injured shoulder in particular, their defense has struggled. They still have no offensive identity.  Chicago has fallen to the seven seed in the West, just 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte and falling out of the playoffs completely. This injury is simply going to add to that slide.

The Bulls thought they were the team that could challenge Cleveland for supremacy in the East at the start of the season. Now they may need a late push just to make the playoffs.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will pick his All-Star Game replacement. In the past, he has picked the player highest in the fan voting not selected as a reserve, in this case that would be Kyrie Irving. But Silver can go any direction he chooses.

Report: George Karl to remain Kings coach following face-to-face meeting with GM

George Karl
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George Karl isn’t going anywhere as coach of the Sacramento Kings after all.

At least for now.

Marc Stein of ESPN, who had the report that the Kings decided to fire Karl during the All-Star Break — now says the two sides have sat down and hashed things out. For now.

Those first reports went too far down the line, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

First things first, the Kings are a leaky organization right now. Which is never a good sign.

This has become a power struggle in the organization — DeMarcus Cousins has said the Kings’ problems go beyond the players, and he is known not to be a fan of Karl (Rajon Rondo is the coach’s biggest supporter because Karl gives him a green light). Owner Vivek Ranadive remains too impatient, stability is needed.

But there are still big picture questions to be answered.

Ranadive, with Vlade Divac, needs to sit down and set the long-term course for this team, including style of play they want to have, then decide if Karl can be part of that future. Also, if Cousins can be part of that future. If those two can be part of the future together (I’m not sure they can).

There needs to be more meetings with the Kings, and then this summer some significant decisions must be made. But doing it now at the All-Star break isn’t going to change anything. So Karl stays.

Adam Silver remains optimistic there will be no 2017 lockout

Adam Silver
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By this coming December 15, both the NBA owners and the NBA players can opt-out of the current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. At least one side (likely the players) is expected to do so, setting up a potential lockout in the summer of 2017. The last one in 2011 lasted 161 days and forced the NBA to start its season on Christmas Day.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is optimistic it will not come to that.

The two sides are already talking about an extension of the deal, and Adam Silver talked about that on the USA Today A to Z Podcast with Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, something they detailed in a story.

Encouraging signs exist – even if there is a lockout – that regular-season games won’t be lost, as was the case in 2011. The two sides are meeting regularly, building relationships and trust. The league is dealing with new leadership on the union’s side: Michele Roberts, the NBPA executive director, has been on the job about 17 months and NBPA general counsel Gary Kohlman was hired at the start of the 2014-15 season.

“My cause for optimism is based on to me the spirit of the discussions and the directness in which we’ve been dealing with each other,” Silver said.

The two sides have done a good job keeping the negotiations private and not negotiating through the media. So far. And the number of optimists that a CBA extension can be worked out is growing around the league daily. The new faces at the negotiating table help with that, some of the old animosities are gone.

But the main reason for optimism: There is too much money on the table now for both sides to screw it up. The new television deal brings $2.6 billion to the table annually in addition to gate and other revenues. It’s putting money in the pockets of owners plus dramatically driving up their franchise values. For players, it means larger paydays — in the new system the average NBA player salary will be around $8 million annually, and the average starter will make $12 million a season (ballpark numbers, of course). Players are not going to want to miss paychecks for esoteric, or even good, reasons.

Never underestimate the corrupting power of human greed. These talks can go sideways. But there is reason to be hopeful that no lockout is coming. And that starts with the fact both sides are already talking to each other (and not the media).