Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs hold home court, Cleveland gets company on the bottom

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What you missed watching one wild bike race from Chile

Spurs 97, Hawks 90: Huge win for the Spurs because along with the Lakers loss this basically sews up home court for the Spurs in the West. As for why they won what was at times a sloppy game, they attacked inside and controlled the boards, as we have come to expect from San Antonio. They got to the line more, the grabbed more offensive rebounds. Josh Smith was out and he might have helped the Hawks. By the way, Joe Johnson plays terrible defense.

Cavaliers 99, Bobcats 89: And so much for Charlotte’s slim playoff hopes. Cleveland raced out to a double-digit lead from the start and was up 16 in the first quarter after shooting 59 percent while the Bobcats shot 29 percent. Charlotte continued to shoot terribly all night, hence the final score. A good third quarter almost made it interesting but a 12-2 Cavs run early in the fourth basically ended the drama.

Cleveland and Minnesota are now tied in the loss column this season for the worst record in the league with 61 losses. The Wolves have a half game lead because they have one more win.

Nets 107, Timberwolves 106: If Deron Williams has 21 assists and wins the game on a step-back jumper, but nobody sees it because the game is not televised, did it happen? (This game was not televised by either YES or Fox Sports, so we saw none of it.)

Magic 78, Bucks 72: This was the horror flick “Night of the Living Dead offenses). The winning team shot 38.8 percent. Orlando took control of this one early — their stout defense against the Bucks anemic offense meant 14 first quarter points for Milwaukee. The other key was Dwight Howard owned Andrew Bogut — Howard had 18 points and 17 rebounds, Bogut had 2 points and 6 boards.

Wizards 107, Pistons 105: Watch out, the Wizards have a three-game winning streak. It was close to the end but the difference was John Wall, who scored 16 of his 26 in the fourth quarter including the game-winning fast break dunk (thanks to some bad defense from the Pistons — nobody stays back to defend with 15 seconds on the clock?).

Celtics 99, 76ers 82: This may be a first round preview but the Sixers are a banged up squad (no Lou Williams, Elton Brand’s hand, Iggy) so don’t read too much into this. It was very close for a half then the Celtic defense clamped down and the Sixers shot 25 percent in the third and 32 percent in the fourth. If Jeff Green would play like that every game — especially on defense — he’s be a fan favorite. But consistency is the issue.

Knicks 131, Raptors 118: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. The tempo was up (97 possessions) but the real key was the Knicks hit 15-of-27 threes, while the Raptors took just 7.

Bulls 97, Suns 94: This looked like a Bulls blowout, they were up 22 early in the third. But the Suns fought back and had a chance, down 3 with the ball and 13 seconds left. The Suns ran a Steve Nash/Channing Frye pick-and-pop, but Derrick Rose did a good job switching to take Frye out. Nash couldn’t find room for a three over Joakim Noah and had to drive with 6 seconds left. But at that point the two was going to be meaningless.

Clippers 82, Grizzlies 81: This was an ugly affair, with the Clippers winning while shooting a weak 41 percent. Memphis led by as many as 13 in the third but a 10-0 run early in the fourth made it a game for the Clippers and Mo Williams took over late with 9 points in the final six minutes.

Kings 104, Rockets 101: This pretty much sunk the Rockets playoff chances — Memphis lost but the Rockets make up no ground. The Grizzlies magic number to eliminate the Rockets is 2 (combination of Rocket losses and Memphis wins). Six Kings in double figures, and they remain a team playing pretty well of late.

Thunder 101, Nuggets 94: This potential first round playoff matchup was close until Oklahoma City went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter fueled by Serge Ibaka’s defending the rim and taking away easy layups. Denver struggled to stop Kevin Durant, who finished with 32 points on 21 shots. This is going to be an entertaining playoff series.

Warriors 108, Trail Blazers 87: Portland is not a good three point shooting team and when they start settling for the outside shot (or you can force them to take it) you’ve got them. They settled and missed (3-for-21 from three). Long rebounds and a lot of early turnovers got the Warriors running early, and it just snowballed. Monta Ellis had 30 points, Stephen Curry dropped another 28 with 8 dimes and David Lee had 29 points and 20 boards.

Jazz 86, Lakers 85: This was an ugly game where the Lakers clearly didn’t care until the end and that didn’t clear up the sloppy from both sides. Gordon Hayward can play in this league (Kobe after the game compared him to Jeff Hornacek, which is overstating Hayward’s shooting but you get the idea) and he had the game winning drive, drew the foul and hit the free throw.

This is three sloppy games in a row for the Lakers, so we can call it a trend.

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.

Report: Nerlens Noel switches agents in hopes of max deal with Mavericks

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Is Nerlens Noel worthy of a max contract? Not on your life.

But will he get it? That remains to be seen after reports that Noel recently switched agents from Andy Miller to Dan Fagen.

According to NBC 5 in Dallas, Noel has done just that and will be seeking a huge deal from Mark Cuban’s organization.

From NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs:

No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.

Even with the increase in the cap, and with big contracts flying around for young talent, Noel has done nothing to prove himself worthy of an offer like that for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, his advanced numbers from his third season in the NBA looked much better, and that was great news as young big men often take time to develop.

Yet the body of work for Noel is simply not there. Fifty games of good play over a 200 game career does not, or should not, earn you a max contract.

Then again, this could simply be Noel preying on Cuban’s need to rebuild.

With Dennis Smith Jr. at the helm, an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and the team that could soon be irrelevant in a increasingly tough Western Conference, Noel stands as a future franchise piece if he does indeed fulfill his potential.

The question now is, especially after how this summer has gone, do you pay upfront for potential talent to an extent that seems unreasonable to a fault?

I would still doubt that Noel ends up with that max contract, but some positioning here could earn him a few extra bucks.

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for potential tampering with Paul George

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Paul George is not a member of the the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet.

The California native has one year to go on his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded there by the Indiana Pacers. Rumors have been swirling for months about whether George would stay in Indiana, a new city, or if he would bolt for his hometown in LA after the upcoming season comes to a close.

Even more rumors have said that the Lakers have felt confident enough that they are going to get George in the summer of 2018 that they weren’t grabbing him wasn’t considered so urgent that it was a matter of life or death.

Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the Pacers have filed tampering charges against the Lakers, and that the league has hired an independent law firm to conduct the investigation.

From the NBA’s press release:

At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting all the investigation is ongoing.

The rumor first broke this weekend when Peter Vecsey published it on his Patreon.

Magic Johnson has spoken publicly about George, explicitly stating that he knows he is not supposed to tamper with players. However, on an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Johnson did say that he would give a wink to George if you happen to see him.

Via Jimmy Kimmel:

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school. You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

“We gonna say hi because we know each other. You just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’

Punishment from tampering charges are rare in the NBA but are not unheard of. In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings were fined for name dropping Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

According to ESPN, Johnson is at the center of the investigation for tampering with George. If evidence is found, the punishment could be significant for LA, and could include future restrictions when it comes time to acquire George.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.

If the league office’s probe can prove the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.

It’s still unclear at this point if anything is going to come out of this investigation, but it certainly does seem as though Los Angeles is confident that they are going to be able to sign George next summer.