Danny Granger, Carmelo Anthony

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Start thinking Knicks vs. Celtics in the first round

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What you missed while avoiding the torpedo of truth….

The Miami Heat proving they can beat Boston (at least once) and the Bulls slipping past the Magic were our Games of the Day.

Knicks 110, Pacers 109: Carmelo Anthony! Hold on, we’ll get back to him in a minute.

Plenty of fans (and you can be sure television executives) were hoping to see New York vs. Miami in the first round. But Boston now looks a lot more likely for New York. Miami’s win almost assures them the two seed, making Boston the three. The Knicks win almost certainly makes them the six seed and 76ers the seven — the only way that changes is if the Knicks go 0-2 this week and the Sixers 2-0. So, don’t go betting the kids college money on that. It’s almost a lock to be New York vs. Boston, Philly vs. Miami.

Back to the contest at hand… We’ve beaten Carmelo Anthony up over the holes in his game, but few guys can create and knock down big shots like ‘Melo. He did it again, a wing pull-up jumper with one-second left over Danny Granger gave the Knicks the win in a game where they were down 9 heading into the fourth.

Thunder 120, Lakers 106: The Lakers fifth loss in a row was not about effort, but it was about execution. And it may be about playoff seedings (read the Mavs game wrap to see what we mean). The Lakers had one turnover through three quarters then nine in the fourth quarter, which helped spark a late Thunder 15-0 run to seal it. Kevin Durant had 31 on 15 shots and was attacking and getting into the lane, he and his teammates were hitting everything (55.6 percent as a team). This should give the Thunder confidence going forward, but the Lakers defense is not what it was a couple weeks back. And it’s all mental.

This game has playoff seeding implications, Keep reading….

Mavericks 115, Suns 90: This win and the Lakers loss ties the two teams with two games to play, and the Thunder are now just one game back of both of them. The Lakers have the tiebreaker over both teams, so if they win out they keep the two seed. If they lose to the Spurs Tuesday (or Kings Wednesday in what is likely the team’s last game in Sacramento) and the Mavs win out then Dallas gets the two seed. Which really means home court in the second round. Oklahoma City could pass both but would need both to win out and to get helped out with some losses.

Pistons 112, Bobcats 101: An enjoyable game for those that don’t like defense to interfere with their hoops. So you can imagine how much the coaches liked this. Detroit got 68 points from their bench, including 24 and 11 boards from Rodney Stuckey.

In a sign the Mayans were right and the world will end next year, Kwame Brown made 9-of-10 shots to score 19 points and added seven boards.

Raptors 99, Nets 92: Jordan Farmar is not Deron Williams, he went 3-of-13 from the floor and struggled to lead what was left of the Nets. Ed Davis continues to find himself at the end of his rookie season and was the best player in the paint

Grizzlies 111, Hornets 89: Memphis just physically pushed around the Hornets. Not sure you need to know much else about this one, when the Grizzlies needed to get position or grab a rebound they physically moved the Hornets off the spot and took it. Carl Landry tried but he cannot do much about it. That physicality is why some teams would like to avoid Memphis in the first round.

Kings 104, Warriors 103: Marcus Thornton can score — he put up 21 — but he was 7-of-17, which is about right. He’s put up 20 points a game since coming to the Kings but is shooting 45.2 percent. Sunday night Tyreke Evans was 3-of-13 and you would think the Kings were in trouble. But the other Kings combined to shoot 51.9 percent, so the Kings were right there at the end. And Thorton hit the big shots down the stretch (a Curry desperation three at the buzzer made it a one-point final score).

Knicks evaluating players based on triangle fit

Phil Jackson
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
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It was never clear whether Knicks president Phil Jackson was forcing/would force coach Jeff Hornacek to run the triangle offense.

It’s still not.

Jackson insisted he was fine with Hornacek deviating from the famed scheme Jackson used as a coach with the Bulls and Lakers. But now it appears the triangle is back, and Hornacek — whose Suns teams used more of an up-tempo, pick-and-roll attack — is expressing a long-term commitment to it.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Jeff Hornacek confirmed Tuesday that management is using the remaining months to evaluate who fits the system, which has been re-emphasized as more of a traditional triangle since the All-Star break. Hornacek even made it sound like they were placing players in two different hats: the triangle yays, and the triangle nays.

“As times goes on, you say can they get it? Are they getting better at it? If they’re not, you go, OK,” Hornacek said. “End of the year comes and we’re having our discussions and you say, ‘Can this guy play this offense? We’ll say either yay or nay or he’s getting it, he’s getting better. So I’m sure that’s part of evaluations this summer.”

Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report:

It’s difficult to believe Jackson’s fingerprints aren’t all over this, especially with Jackson-favorite Kurt Rambis heavily involved.

What does that mean for Hornacek, who’s in his first season with New York? He can try to appease his boss, but this doesn’t bode well for the coach’s job security.

It also doesn’t bode well for the Knicks.

Acquiring more productive players should take priority over scheme. Committing too deeply to the triangle will narrow New York’s pool of available talent.

And it’s not as if Hornacek has done a bad job with his offense. Despite Jackson building a team with just three quality offensive players* — Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Courtney Lee — the Knicks still have a middling offense.

Their defense, guided by Rambis, is lousy. That should be the bigger emphasis.

But Jackson keeps doing his own thing, no matter how little anyone else understands it.

*Derrick Rose, who scores well as a driver, doesn’t qualify due to his shaky perimeter shooting and lackluster ball distribution.

GM: Re-signing Paul Millsap is Hawks’ priority

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 27: Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks drives against Amir Johnson #90 of the Boston Celtics during the third quarter at TD Garden on February 27, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. 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. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Hawks have gone multiple directions in the last year.

Thinking long-term, they traded Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver for first-round picks and refused to offer Al Horford a full max contract.

Thinking short-term, they signed Dwight Howard and kept Paul Millsap through the trade deadline – and even added Ersan Ilyasova on an expiring contract.

What direction is Atlanta going, and where does Millsap — who was shopped earlier in the season — fit?

Hawks general manager Wes Wilcox, via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Paul Millsap is absolutely our priority this offseason, in re-signing him with the Atlanta Hawks. We’ve communicated that to Paul, his team, and we feel great about our position there. We also don’t want to hide from the fact that, yeah, we took a long, hard look at it earlier in the season, during a period of time where our team was struggling, and ultimately decided that Paul is far too valuable to us. And through that period of time and that exercise, we made that decision to absolutely keep Paul. And he is certainly our priority.

It seemed Horford was the Hawks’ priority once they kept him past last year’s trade deadline. Then, they facilitated his exit to the Celtics by not offering him his full max.

Will Atlanta pay whatever it takes to keep Millsap?

A full max contract projects to pay Millsap about $207 million over five years (about $41 million annually). He’s extremely helpful right now, and losing him would sink the Hawks in the standings. But do they really want to pay him more than $47 million in a season where he turns 37?

Perhaps it won’t take quite that much. Other teams project to be able to offer Millsap only up to about $154 million over four years (about $38 million annually). Maybe Atlanta can get him for something in between — or maybe even less than the max if other teams are leery of his age. But the Hawks are basically pot-committed.

The time for the Hawks to choose a direction was before the trade deadline, and they chose to build with Millsap. We’ll see whether they stay on that track when it comes time to pay.

Report: Jimmer Fredette, playing in China, engaging NBA teams on March return

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 22:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the New York Knicks in action against the Toronto Raptors during their game at Madison Square Garden on February 22, 2016 in New York City.  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.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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It has been six years since Jimmer Fredette entered the NBA with a cult following out of BYU. After five lackluster NBA seasons, will he get a sixth?

His play in China has generated buzz among those already inclined to support him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Errick McCollum is averaging more points per game in the Chinese Basketball Association and taking fewer shots than Fredette. Also averaging 30 points per game in China: MarShon Brooks, Jared Cunningham, Jabari Brown, Jamaal Franklin, Lester Hudson, Darius Adams and Dominique Jones.

In other words, a bunch of borderline NBA players who most likely belong outside the top league.

That includes Fredette, whose selfish style doesn’t lend itself to the smaller role he’d likely have to fill in the NBA.

It takes only one team to take a chance on Fredette, but I wouldn’t bank on immediate help or upside from the 28-year-old.

Report: Jim Buss initially promised to fix Lakers in only one year before being talked into three-year pledge

Los Angeles Lakers part-owner Jim Buss attends a news conference held to introduce the team's new draft picks, Monday, June 29, 2015, in El Segundo, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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The Lakers mercifully ended Jim Buss’ lousy tenure as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, promoting Magic Johnson to run the front office.

Maybe it could have happened sooner if his siblings just listened to him in the first place.

After the 2013-14 season, Jim pledged to re-sign if the Lakers weren’t “contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship … in three to four years.”

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Jim’s much-publicized promise to step down within three years—meaning this year—if the Lakers weren’t “in contention” was not what he originally said, according to sources close to the family.

When Jeanie asked Jim what they could do to hold him accountable, what Jim actually said first was:

“I only need one year.”

The others, knowing their brother so well, chuckled a bit and gave him a chance to amend his statement. He then made it “three years.”

The Lakers went 21-61 in 2014-15 and 17-65 in 2015-16. Jim was wholly incapable of engineering a quick turnaround.

But I understand Jeanie’s hesitancy to oust Jim. Their late father, Jerry, wanted Jim to run the front office. I’m sure Jeanie wanted Jim to have a fair shot at that opportunity.

However, she also should have realized that giving Jim three years meant setting back the franchise for far longer. The Lakers owe Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov $102 million over the next three years — a substantial burden.

Paul George joining a blossoming Lakers team in 2018 is all the buzz, but Los Angeles doesn’t project to have enough cap space to sign him outright. It’d require dropping at least one positive asset, either directly or attached to Deng and/or Mozgov in a salary-dump trade.

That’s a reasonable tradeoff to land a star like George, but if Jim weren’t chasing wins late in his tenure, the maybe the Lakers could have had George and their full complement of recent draft picks.

Again, there was no simple answer here. The Busses wanted to let Jim try, and maybe family should have come first.

But Jim was too big of a dreamer, and even with his pledge extended to three years, he was still angling to keep his job after clearly failing in his stated mission. One way or another, this was bound to become a problem.

The Lakers just took a route where they’ll still feel the problem for years, even if Jim is now ousted from the front office.