Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Spurs remain kings of end game execution

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Carmelo Anthony’s debut as a Knick was our game of the night.

Spurs 109, Thunder 105: Fantastic effort by the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, but it’s the little things in these games. Like Gary Neal stepping back to take a three in transition that was a bad decision but he knocked it down. Or Jeff Green shooting (and airballing) a contested three with 5 seconds left in the game and the chance to tie when the play wasn’t designed for him. The Spurs still are executing better in the clutch than anyone in the West.

Sixers 117, Wizards 94: Philly outscored Washington by 31 in the second and third quarters combined. It was a balanced Sixers attack with seven guys in double figures and nobody scoring more than 20 (Jrue Holiday). Rashard Lewis was terrible, he missed both of the shots he took and had 1 point in 12 minutes.

Pacers 102, Pistons 101: Fun finish to this one. Austin Daye put the Pistons up one with 11 seconds to go when he drove left and hit a 15-footer along the baseline over Danny Granger. Then Granger countered trying to work the right side but finding nothing. Brandon Rush had set up at the three point line on the weak side as an outlet but he dove to the basket, his man lost him but Granger found him and Rush had a dunk to give the Pacers the lead with five seconds left. That was enough time for Rodney Stuckey to get the ball out top, drive hard right, get into the lane, pull up and… try to pass. There were Pistons under the basket but they had turned their back to get the rebound because you shoot in that situation. Stuckey didn’t, he tried to pass. Ball out of bounds, Pacers win.

Rockets 124, Cavaliers 119: Down the stretch of a close game the athleticism inside of Chase Budinger was too much for Cleveland. Budinger dropped 30 and had key buckets late. It’s just one of the challenges for the Cavs, they do not have the athletes to hang with guys like Budinger

Raptors 118, Bulls 113: The Bulls had an off defensive night as a team. Toronto has some guys who can score the rock — they shot 58 percent as a team and DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani each had 24 — but the Bulls defense was bad. On a key late possession where the Bulls needed a stop the Raptors went right at Carlos Boozer with Amir Johnson and Johnson abused him to seal the game (Johnson was 8-of-8 on the night). When the games get serious in the playoffs you’re going to see teams go at him.

Kings 111, Magic 105: The Sacramento Kings out executed the Magic down the stretch. That is the same Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back that got thumped by the Heat Tuesday. The Kings shot 11-of-17 in the fourth quarter and were often getting open looks. They got some bounces, they got some calls, but those things often go to the aggressor. The Magic in the fourth quarter shot 4-of-16 at one point. There are some issues in Orlando. Potentially big issues.

Grizzlies 104, Timberwolves 95: The Grizzlies defense held the Timberwolves to 37 percent shooting on the night and that was the ball game. This one was just not a thing of beauty to watch.

Mavericks 118, Jazz 95: With everything that happened in Utah Wednesday, how did you expect this to turn out?

Suns 105, Hawks 97: A shorthanded Hawks team after the trade got to see first hand how a good point guard can control the game. No, we’re not talking Jeff Teague, either.

Hornets 97, Clipper 88: The Clippers had 23 turnovers, which was 22.8 percent of their possessions. You cannot give Chris Paul extra chances like that, you will pay. CP3 had 19 points, 10 assists.

Lakers 106, Trail Blazers 101 (OT): This is a good win for the Lakers — the Rose Garden is this team’s house of horrors for the. And Portland was up by 8 with four minutes to go. Ron Artest was key for the Lakers with 24 points and he had maybe is best game of the season… actually, no maybe about it. Kobe Bryant took over in overtime. Of course he did.

The time Chauncey Billups tried to trick teams into believing he’d be a bad teammate

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In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.

So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?

But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.

So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:

Wojnarowski now:

I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.

He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”

The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.

This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.

Rumor: Magic expected to fire Frank Vogel

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Magic president Jeff Weltman inherited an expensive and bad roster, limiting his options to shape it.

He also inherited coach Frank Vogel, and maybe there’s something Weltman will do about that.

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

Orlando’s ongoing malaise, especially after the promise of an unexpected 8-4 start, make it a widely held assumption in coaching circles that Vogel will be dismissed after the franchise’s sixth successive season out of the playoffs.

Perhaps, these people in coaching circles are doing nothing more than connecting dots. Many coaches with poor records – only the Suns and Nets have been worse during Vogel’s two-year tenure – inherited by a new front office get fired.

Or it could be something more concrete, like Orlando putting out feelers for potential replacements. That possibility gives juice to this report.

Vogel has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Will ownership pay to oust Vogel? That seems likely. The alternative is paying Weltman to sit on his hands.

This would be a tough break for Vogel, who coached well with the Pacers. The Magic’s roster is just so lacking. Vogel hasn’t impressed in Orlando, but his opportunity to do so has been narrow.

At least it’d be more understandable if he got fired by a losing team. Last time, he got fired by a winning team.

Rumor: Bucks, Jabari Parker could part after season

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Jabari Parker is a confounding fit on the Bucks now and in the future.

Could he and Milwaukee part ways this summer, when he’ll be a restricted free agent?

Gery Woelfel on 105.7 The Fan:

At this very moment, I’d say the odds are slim to none it’s going to happen … that he’ll be on this team next year.

I just don’t see a good fit there. I didn’t bring this up, and I’ve been meaning to do so, but I haven’t. He came very, very close to being traded at the deadline. And I think that spoke volumes of they think of Jabari Parker and whether he’s a part of their future plans.

Bucks executive Alex Lasry denied it:

So did general manager Jon Horst. Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Horst made it clear both on the radio and in a separate interview with the Journal Sentinel on Wednesday that the Bucks never had any intention of trading Parker

Teams often discuss trading players then deny it to avoid offending the player. Whether or not they nearly traded Parker, the Bucks would probably respond now similarly.

As far as Parker’s future in Milwaukee, it’s unclear where the well-connected Woelfel’s reporting ends and his analysis begins. There’s a huge difference between trading Parker for value and letting him walk for nothing. Just because the Bucks came close to trading Parker wouldn’t mean they won’t re-sign him.

Shedding Parker would not open cap space without additional moves. It would probably allow Milwaukee to use the full mid-level exception and stay beneath the luxury-tax line. But that’s unlikely to land a player who combines Parker’s age and talent.

Because Parker will be a restricted free agent, the Bucks hold the cards. If he’s upset about trade talks or anything else, he can’t unilaterally leave.

Milwaukee must determine how much to pay Parker and how to utilize him with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Those are hard questions. But the Bucks throwing up their hands and letting Parker walk in free agency isn’t the answer.

Tony Parker: My quad injury 100 times worse than Kawhi Leonard’s

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Tony Parker reportedly led a players-only meeting in which Spurs implored Kawhi Leonard to return.

Leonard injured his quad last season, has played just nine games this season and remains sidelined. The Spurs have reportedly cleared him, but he got second opinions and is waiting for his medical team to clear him.

Parker injured his quad last May then returned in November – and said at the time Leonard would return in 2-3 weeks.

Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News:

It’s not hard to read between these lines.

Though some Spurs reportedly told Leonard to return only once he feels ready, Parker is clearly applying pressure. It’s not working, but he’s apparently not stopping.

These comments don’t befit a healthy organization, which is just so stunning for the Spurs, whose excellent culture has been exalted for year.

Maybe Parker will get his wish, and a shamed-into-playing Leonard will lead San Antonio deep into the playoffs. But it seems more likely these quotes will just increase tension.