Chauncey Billups

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Carmelo Anthony was better but the Knicks were not

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What you missed while thinking the Big East was overrated…

Bucks 100, Knicks 95: Just when you thought things really could not get uglier for the Knick, we bring you the start to Sunday’s game. New York was dismal in the first quarter putting up just 9 points and shooting just 16 percent — the Bucks defense is good but that was about the Knicks.

The Knicks poor play meant the Bucks were up 23 early. Then the Knicks put up 32 in the second quarter (Chauncey Billups put up 13 in the quarter) and only trailed 47-41 at the half. By the middle of the third we had a game. Down the stretch the Bucks executed and got some nice buckets — Carlos Delfino on a kick-out three from John Salmons (Delfino had 30 points), Brandon Jennings with a drive into the defender then step-back elbow jumper. The Bucks executed better than the Knicks in the clutch. For a team with all that firepower New York makes some odd decisions under pressure. Carmelo Anthony was not the problem (23 points on 14 shots), but the Knicks as a whole had issues.

With this loss, the Knicks drop to seventh in the East, the Sixers have passed them.

Wizards 98, Nets 92: The Nets jumped out early with 35 first quarter points on 61.5 percent shooting and looked like they would run away with this one up 17 at one point. But they are the Nets. Washington started the second half on a 19-4 run fueled by good defense (the Nets had 12 points in the quarter) plus offense from Jordan Crawford (9 in the quarter and 21 for the game) and JaVale McGee.

But in crunch time John Wall took over. He had two pretty little free throw line jumpers and it was his play (and 26 points) that won this game.

Hawks 104, Pistons 96: Not much of a defensive showing in this one as both teams shot over 50 percent (and both finished with very good offensive efficiency numbers). But the Hawks have just a little more offensive firepower and balance — six players finished in double digits. So the Hawks get the win, but it’s not one to write home about.

Suns 108, Clippers 99: We’ve already discussed Blake Griffin fouling out on a charge call as he threw down a ridiculous dunk over Marcin Gortat. Thing is, that didn’t really matter as far as the game went. This felt like last year’s Suns team — they bench went on a 17-6 run to start the fourth quarter, open things up and pull away. Good games from both Steve Nash (23 points, 13 assists) and Channing Frye (19 points, 5 threes).

Kings 127, Timberwolves 95: Kevin Love got hurt, DeMarcus Cousins got tossed for pushing. It wasn’t a good game for big men. It was a good game for the rest of the Kings as everybody got to contribute. Maybe the most interesting one was Donte Green coming in to start the fourth quarter and had 13 points to spark a 17-0 run that turned this into a route in the third (then the Kings out scored them 42-20 in the first.

With the win, Sacramento moves out of last place in the West. Minnesota moves in.

Rockets 110, Jazz 108: This is a big win for the Rockets, moving them into 9th in the Western Conference (ahead of Phoenix and Utah), ready to pounce if Memphis or Portland or any playoff team that stumbles. Some amazing individual performances: Houston’s Kyle Lowry had his first ever triple double (28 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) while Utah’s Paul Millsap had 35 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks — not bad for a guy in his first game back from knee tendinitis.

Raptors 95, Thunder 93: It was a very sloppy game from the Thunder, yet they have so much more talent than Toronto they were still in it. Kevin Durant was 6-of-21 shooting, Russell Westbrook was slightly better at 7-of-19. OKC coach Scott Brooks tried everything, from going small to probably a war dance in the locker room. He got his comeback the Thunder were even up three late. But among the list of things Kendrick Perkins does not do well is hit free throws. So his miss of two late that could have sealed it left the door open and Amir Johnson hit a game-winning hook for the Raptors.

Mavericks 101, Warriors 73: Dallas got out fast to an 8 point lead after one, but the Warriors hung around throughout this one. Well, until the fourth quarter. That’s when a 21-2 Mavericks run made it a total blowout. Not much to see here, but Peja Stojakovic had 17.

Lakers 84, Trail Blazers 80: It’s good to have Kobe Bryant on your team. After a pretty sloppy game up to the final five minutes (5 of 15 shooting) Kobe just took over, with 8 points and an assist, which included a steal and a dunk off Andre Miller and a pretty baseline fadeaway over Brandon Roy. Not a real pretty game for the Lakers but the 14-3 run sealed it.

The Lakers will take any win without Andrew Bynum, this one just happens to give them the Pacific Division title. Again.

Byron Scott: Kobe Bryant “at peace” with decision to retire after season

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LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant was never going to go quietly into that good night. He would rage, rage against the dying of the light — and torn Achilles, knee ligaments, shoulders, and everything else holding him back.

But now, the end is near, and Kobe will face the final curtain at the end of this season. And he is at peace with it, if you ask his coach.

“It was so matter of fact, and he was so at peace with (the decision),” Lakers’ coach Byron Scott said of when Kobe told him this season would be it. “After I thought about it, I felt better about that. It wasn’t like he was agonizing over it or anything, it was like ‘I’m announcing I’m retiring’ and just kind of went on from there.”

Bryant told Scott before anyone else in the Lakers’ organization, and told him sometime Saturday (when the Lakers played and lost in Portland).

“I said, ‘what?’ He just told me at a very awkward time; we started laughing about it,” Scott said. “He said ‘you looked like you were saying ‘what they hell are you talking about’ but it just caught me off guard.”

It’s been an ugly season for Kobe, his body can no longer do what he expects of it — he can’t get the separation, the lift needed for his shoots. He was shooting 31.1 percent on the season going into Sunday’s game against Indiana, and he started 1-of-11 from the floor Sunday night. Yet he kept gunning.

“I gave up hoping he would change his approach 15, 18 years ago,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said. “He is what he is. And I’m thankful for it.”

Kupchak added hoped this decision would ease the pressure on Bryant.

“I would hope that he has more fun, and appears less frustrated, and also gets more appreciation,” Kupchak said. “He’ll get it at home, but on the road too, because people will have to recognize this is his last year and they are watching one of the all-time greats.”

Kobe got plenty of appreciation from Lakers’ fans on Sunday night with a massive ovation when he was introduced. Kobe had wanted to avoid a Derek Jeter style farewell tour, but with that announcement and the Lakers playing 13-of-17 on the road in December you can bet there will be some of that.

“One of the best ever to play the game,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said pregame. “I don’t know if there’s any one moment, just throughout the course of his career you didn’t want him to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line, period. Because you knew he was going to beat you.”

No doubt Kobe goes down as one of the game’s all-time greats — five-time NBA champion, MVP, two Finals MVP’s, 17 All-Star Games, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — but what Scott ultimately wants is Bryant to leave the game on his terms.

“What I want from Kobe is basically his last game to be able to walk off the court, wave to the fans, and be able to go into the locker room standing up,” Scott said.


Here is Kobe Bryant’s letter given to every fan at Lakers’ game Sunday

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

LOS ANGELES — In a classy move — and one done in a very Kobe Bryant tone — every fan coming into Staples Center Sunday night to see the Lakers take on the Pacers received a letter from No. 24.

Inside a sealed black envelope, on quality, embossed paper, was this letter from Bryant (photo below):

When we first met I was just a kid.

Some of you took me in. Some of you didn’t.

But all of you helped e become the player and man in front of you today.

You gave me confidence to put my anger to good use.

Your doubt gave me determination to prove you wrong.

You witnessed my fears morph into strength.

Your rejection taught me courage.

Whether you view me as a hero or a villain, please know I poured every emotion, every bit of passion and my entire self into being a Laker.

What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.

I knew that each minute of each game I wore purple and gold.

I honor it as I play today and for the rest of this season.

My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade.

Thank you for this incredible journey.

It speaks to Kobe’s mindset over the years that he talked about the fuel from the rejection of Lakers’ fans motivating him. As a Los Angeles native (and former Laker blogger), let me tell you there was precious little rejection of Kobe from this fan base. There were questions and doubters early on, but even when Shaquille O’Neal was seen as the driving force of the team Kobe was beloved in Los Angeles. Something that continued through his trial in Colorado — Lakers fans have almost always had his back.

But Kobe finds fuel everywhere. Which is why he is a future Hall of Famer.


Jahlil Okafor tweets apology for recent off-court behavior

Jahlil Okafor

The off-court incidents have been piling up for Jahlil Okafor over the past month: first, an incident captured on video that showed Okafor getting into a fight with a heckler early Thanksgiving morning; then, a report that Okafor had a gun pulled on him in a previous incident; and finally, this morning’s report that the Sixers’ No. 3 overall pick in this June’s draft had been pulled over in recent weeks for driving 108 miles per hour in Philadelphia. Together, they aren’t a good look for the rookie.

On Sunday afternoon, Okafor apologized for his recent behavior in a series of tweets:

The recent incidents involving Okafor are surprising—going into the draft, he never had any red flags for maturity or off-the-court issues. He’s certainly saying the right things after the fact, and he’s only 19, so hopefully this is nothing more than a small rough patch where he’s made some bad decisions, and not an indicator of things to come.

Kobe Bryant announces this is his final season


LOS ANGELES — It has seemed like this has been coming for a while. Kobe Bryant has been frustrated; he hasn’t been able to produce like he expects — his play has been hard to watch — and the Lakers are a train wreck. All that surrounded him was talk of his play and speculation about the future he didn’t want.

Kobe made it official Sunday via the Players’ Tribune — this is his final season. He did it via a letter called “Dear Basketball.”

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

It’s not coincidental this was announced a couple days before the Lakers travel to Kobe’s hometown of Philadelphia to face the Sixers. Also remember Kobe is an investor in The Players’ Tribune.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver quickly released this statement:

“With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game.  Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game.

“I join Kobe’s millions of fans around the world in congratulating him on an outstanding NBA career and thank him for so many thrilling memories.”

Kobe will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats. Few can come close to his resume: Five NBA titles, two NBA Finals MVPs, 15 time All-NBA teams, one MVP, 17 times an All-Star (and the All-Star Game MVP four times). And we could go on and on.

Good on Kobe for doing this now. After 55,000 NBA minutes his body has quit on him, and where his mind is still willing the flesh is clearly weak right now. He has not been able to adapt his game to the changing realities of what he can do.

Kobe has said he doesn’t want a “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour” but that will be the feel from here on out. Expect some special recognition at the All-Star Game in Toronto.

Ad we’ll all be watching for those flashes of vintage Bryant we have hoped to see more of this season.