Baseline to Baseline recaps: Melo? We don’t need no stinkin’ ‘Melo?

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What you missed while you were getting arrested fighting over Girl Scout cookies

The Lakers beatdown of the Hawks was our game of the night.

Nuggets 120, Grizzlies 107: That, my friends, is what passion can do.

The Melodrama had this team playing like the walking dead for a month. There was no passion — except from Carmelo Anthony trying to fill up the stat sheet — as this team just meandered through games.

‘Melo is gone and the Nugget team that took the floor cared again (all nine of them). They showed real pride again. The rebounding, the screen setting — all the hustle categories Denver dominated. My god, they defended, holding the Grizzlies to 35 percent shooting in the second quarter when the Nuggets pulled away. J.R. Smith was 6-of-11 from three and finished with 26 points and 8 boards, Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo each had 21 points. Nene was a beast inside (until he fouled out).

Memphis had been playing well but they played the wrong team on the wrong night. Denver needed this one and they went out and got it. On one other note, the Grizzlies seemed to be showcasing O.J. Mayo for potential suitors, and he looked pretty good scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Bobcats 114, Raptors 101: The All-Star break did not change the Raptors —were not playing any defense, giving up 33 points in the first quarter. The Bobcats got to the line 42 times and Toronto helped out with 15 turnovers. Charlotte (not exactly an offensive juggernaut) finished at a 120 points per 100 possessions pace.

Pacers 113, Wizards 96: Indiana’s bench won this one for them — the Pacers were down five and playing sloppy (six first quarter turnovers) when coach Frank Vogel put in five new guys for the second quarter and that sparked an instant 10-1 run and things just took off from there. The Pacers led by 27 at one point and cruised through the fourth quarter.

Rockets 108, Pistons 100: This was a one-point game with four minutes to go, but the Pistons had no answer for Patrick Patterson inside. You read that right, Patrick Patterson. He had 8 points in the final five minutes (20 points overall) by running the floor as a big in transition and cutting without the ball. Then the Pistons do things in crunch time like leave Brad Miller wide open from 16 feet (the one thing Brad Miller has always done well is knock that shot down). Meanwhile the Pistons could not execute — bad decisions by Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon, plus misses by Austin Daye.

Heat 117, Kings 97: Miami came out with a bit of fire, Sacramento came out without Tyreke Evans. It was 35-16 after one quarter. Then it got more boring. Credit the Heat for being efficient, but we stopped watching the slaughter early on.

Thunder 111, Clippers 88: It was 47-44 Thunder with four minutes left in the second quarter when Blake Griffin had to go to the bench with his third foul. He was replaced by Brian Cook, and that is never good. The Thunder went on an instant 15-0 run and it was 62-46 at half. That was the ballgame, the Clippers never climbed out of that hole.

Bucks, 94 Timberwolves 88: There was some sloppy execution down the stretch of a tight game. Brandon Jennings pushed on a break when there was nothing there and got blocked. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute ended up with the ball where he had to create off the dribble (that was a turnover). Darko Milicic with a missed 5 footer. Carlos Delfino airballing a corner three. Luke Ridnour taking a contested corner three with Andrew Bogut doing the closout.

Brandon Jennings got to the line and hit 5-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes, and those were the only points by either team. Bucks win. But it wasn’t pretty.

Celtics 115, Warriors 93: Oracle Arena is Boston’s own little house of horrors, they had not won there since 2003. The Celtics played no defense in the first half, giving up 30 points each of the first two quarters. They gave up 33 the entire second half. When the Warriors made a fourth quarter run to try and get back in it Doc Rivers sent the starters back in and squashed it with an 18-2 run. This was actually a good win for Boston. Rondo had 19 points, 15 boards and was in charge of this game.

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s reported reaction to Knicks’ $71 million offer: ‘Man, that’s crazy’

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Knicks acting (now long-term) front-office leader Steve Mills signing Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million offer sheet shocked some within the Knicks.

It also apparently shocked someone who wasn’t (yet) with New York – Hardaway himself.

Pablo Torre on ESPN:

I was talking to somebody who would know about the Tim Hardaway Jr. scenario. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s first words after signing that contract: “Man, that’s crazy.”

In the likely event Hardaway doesn’t live up to this massive contract, he’ll get blamed – and the scorn will be hotter in New York.* That’s not fair, as Hardaway was just taking the money offered to him. He wasn’t getting anywhere near that much anywhere else. But it is reality.

*It’s a lesson Kyrie Irving, who could land anywhere, could stand to remember as he reportedly hopes for the Knicks to trade for him.

As hilarious as Hardaway’s response was, it doesn’t top Tyler Johnson for my favorite reaction to a loaded offer sheet.

Report: As Kyrie Irving rumors swirl, Timberwolves still negotiating extension with Andrew Wiggins

AP Photo/Jim Mone
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The Timberwolves were working on a contract extension for Andrew Wiggins.

Then, Kyrie Irving‘s trade request became public. He reportedly listed Minnesota among his preferred destinations. Jimmy Butler (a friend of Irving’s) and Karl-Anthony Towns have petitioned Timberwolves management to add Irving, and the team is exploring a deal. Wiggins fits perfectly what Cleveland is said to be seeking.

So, where do extension talks stand now?

Darren Wolfson of

The Timberwolves could simultaneously be exploring multiple paths. They might want to trade for Irving, even if it means including Wiggins. They might want an extension lined up with Wiggins in case they don’t. They’re not committed to either direction until they finalize something.

They’re not even committed to keeping Wiggins if they extend him.

It’d complicate an Irving trade, to be sure. Wiggins outgoing salary would still count as his actual salary ($7,574,323), but his incoming salary to Cleveland would count as the average annual salary of the entire deal – the final season of his rookie-scale contract and the extension years both included.

But there’s no time period after signing Wiggins to a rookie-scale extension where the Timberwolves would be prohibited from trading him. He could also sign an extension with the Cavs anytime between a trade and Oct. 16. Minnesota might be assessing Wiggins’ extension demands on behalf of Cleveland, which would surely be interested in extending him in accordance with a trade.

If the Timberwolves actually sign Wiggins to an extension, that’d send a big signal they don’t plan to trade him for Irving – but even that wouldn’t be a deal-breaker. Until a deal becomes official or more concrete word leaks of Minnesota’s plan, I wouldn’t assume a Wiggins-for-Irving deal is off the table.

Report: Kyrie Irving ‘very badly’ wants trade to Knicks

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Kyrie Irving, who grew up in New Jersey, listed the Knicks among his preferred destinations in a trade.

Is New York his top choice?

Pablo Torre on ESPN:

I got a phone call, and the voice on the other end of that phone call is a trustworthy person. And he was saying to me that Kyrie Irving very badly wants to be a New York Knick. Kyrie Irving wants to come home.

Irving is less valuable than Kristaps Porzingis and more valuable than Carmelo Anthony, and the Knicks can’t easily bridge either gap. They reportedly won’t trade Porzingis for Irving, a wise move. Anthony – who possesses a no-trade clause – is reportedly set on the Rockets. An Irving trade would almost certainly have to be centered around one of those two players.

Maybe Cleveland can work its way into a multi-team trade with Anthony going to Houston, but it’s unclear where the assets the Cavs are seeking would come from.

When Irving requested a trade, he should have known he’d lose control of the process. Locked up for two more years and without a no-trade clause, Irving has minimal sway. His relationship with the Cavaliers looks increasingly unworkable, but they could deal him anywhere.

That said, I can see why he’d want to go to New York – big market in his home area, a team he could take over. Even as Porzingis grows in stature, he’s not a ball-dominant player who’d step on Irving’s toes.

But this just feels like a Stephon Marbury redux. From owner James Dolan down, the Knicks are poorly run, and their stars – beloved when welcomed – usually leave with their reputations damaged.

By the way, what happened to the Spurs being Irving’s top choice? In a situation like this, sometimes people close to the player have differing preferences and leak accordingly. That could have just been someone near Irving pushing for his or her choice for the guard – and this could be, too.

If players thought this year’s free agent market was tight, next summer could be “nuclear winter”

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Plenty of agents spent this summer trying to explain to their clients that the summer of 2017 was not the summer of 2016 (one I know of even was thanking media members in Las Vegas who wrote about how tight the free agent market had gotten so he could show his clients). Players saw the ridiculous contracts of 2016 — Timofey Mozgov got four-years, $64 million; Bismack Biyombo got four years, almost $70 million; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, players deep into rosters were overpaid — and thought this summer it would be their turn.

Except it wasn’t. In 2016 the salary cap spiked from $70 million to $94 million and that meant 27 teams entered free agency under the cap (and the teams over it spent big to re-sign their own), and $5 billion in contracts were handed out. This summer, 14 teams were under the $99 million cap and about $3 billion was handed out — and once the stars such as James Harden got paid big, the market dried up and players got less than expected. Four-time All-Star and elite defender Paul Millsap would have been a clear max a year ago, he could “only” get three years (at age 31) at $4 million less than his max. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would have been a lock max in 2016, he signed a one-year deal with the Lakers for $18 million this summer. And further down the list guys like Rajon Rondo are signing team-friendly deals.

And next summer is going to be a far tighter market. As Tim MacMahon and Bobby Marks of ESPN point out, the free agent class of 2018 is going to pay for the excess of 2016.

The early projections for 2018-19: nine teams with cap space, and potentially 10 teams paying luxury tax.

“The real story is the nuclear winter for free agents coming next year,” one team executive with authority to make personnel decisions told ESPN. “Teams planned the last two summers for the cap to be much higher. The fact that it went way down from the projections crushed teams.”

Another general manager put it this way to ESPN:

“What I see all the time is players not understanding why, ‘This player got this, but I get that?’ They want it to make sense and it just doesn’t make sense. I think you’ll see a lot of agents get fired.

“The top guys will always feed first and then the year of the cap spike, there was a lot left for everybody else to feed. Next year, the top players will still get theirs, and then there will be not much left.”

NBA teams are not going to negotiate deals off the mistakes of 2016, they see that as the outlier to be ignored.

The Summer of 2018 is loaded with top free agents who are going to get max contract offers from their own teams and those with enough cap space to try and poach them — LeBron James, Kevin Durant (he will re-sign with Warriors), Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins, plus restricted guys who could see max deals such as Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. There’s even a second tier of guys who will be maxed out or close to it — Andrew Wiggins (extension eligible right now), DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, and others.

But that next tier down? How much will teams pay for Robert Covington? Aaron Gordon? Clint Capela? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Danny Green? And for guys counting on the one-year deals they signed this summer to boost their stock — we can use Derrick Rose as an example — even if they play well they may not see the money they expect.

The league and owners had wanted to smooth in the salary cap spike of 2016, raising it fair amount over three or five years to avoid the spending spree, but the players’ union rejected that idea. For the free agents in the summer of 2016 that worked out well. For the ones in the 2018… not so much.