Baseline to Baseline recaps: Night of the living upsets


What you missed while watching Oregon and Wisconsin score another touchdown….

Hawks 100, Heat 92: Miami was zoned out again. The Hawks went to a zone defense a lot starting in the second quarter and it stalled out the Heat, who shot just 37 percent in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Tracy McGrady alone had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the fourth after apparently finding the Fountain of Youth in Florida (Ponce de León is jealous). Atlanta won the fourth quarter by 12 and with it the game.

The Hawks looked like a veteran team who had been through the wars and were not rattled by the Heat’s pressure game. The Hawks, a team known in past years for a stagnant offense, moved well off the ball and created shots, but were patient about it. That and knocking down the open looks slowed the Heat — the game had only 91 possessions, 11 fewer than the Heat averaged in their five wins.

Miami is going to see a lot of zone until they start blowing it up. Sebastain Pruitti of Grantland tweeted the numbers — Miami has 37 points on 50 possessions against the zone this season and are shooting just 38.1 percent against it. They are destroying man defense but struggling against the zone, and word is getting around the league.

Heat fans looking for a positive highlight, there is Dwyane Wade’s block on Vladimir Radmanovic.

Mavericks 100, Thunder 87: The biggest key for Dallas is that Dirk Nowitzki, who has looked like he has been shaking the rust off so far this season, returned  to his old self on the way to 26 points. Then Vince Carter looked good as the hub of the offense, which felt strange. The Thunder looked flat, particularly the bench play, and they got killed on the glass. One game does not a turnaround make, but this is a good start for Dallas.

Raptors 90, Knicks 85: With Amare Stoudemire out, this was the Carmelo Anthony shoot-a-thon and he put up 35 points but needed 31 shots to get there. Neither offense was very efficient, but the Knicks shot just 35 percent for the game (Toney Douglas had 22 points but needed 19 shots). Toronto is working a lot harder on defense for new coach Dwane Casey but they had not seen the results until this game. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan each had 21 points on just 13 shots. Jose Calderon had a dozen assists. The Raptors are not going to win a lot of games but they are playing teams tough and are improving. Casey deserves a lot of credit for that.

Timberwolves 106, Spurs 96: You’ve heard about Manu Ginobili breaking his hand, but that was not a determining factor in this contest — Minnesota was in control before Manu left. Minnesota was just on fire shooting much of the night — they were 11-19 on long two pointers (16 feet to the arc, the worst shot in basketball) with Wesley Johnson going 4-of-4, and they hit 12-of-21 from three. You’re going to win when those shots fall, it’s just not going to happen consistently.

Pistons 89, Magic 78: This is a schedule makers win — Orlando was playing their fourth game in five nights and just looked tired. It was a slow, slow game (82 possessions) which added to the feeling of everything dragging. The big key here was the Pistons attacked the rim and got to the free throw line 12 more times (11 more points on the night), thanks in large part to Rodney Stuckey who got 10 of his 14 points at the stripe. Ben Gordon had 26 points and he had his shot going from distance to balance everything out.

Suns 102, Warriors 91: Finally the Suns had an efficient game on offense (110.9 points per 100 possessions). Still not playing at the fast pace we hope from the Suns, but at least they were efficient. Steve Nash had 20 points and 9 assists, rookie Markieff Morris added a sweet 16. The Warriors were without David Lee but that was not the issue.

Celtics 100, Wizards 92: Wizards coach Flip Saunders figured out how not to watch this one — he got ejected 1:46 into the game. Washington was in this until a 12-2 run in the fourth gave Boston a lead it would not relinquish, thanks in part to Ray Allen’s 11 points in the quarter (he hit six three-pointers on his way to 27 points for the game). Paul Pierce looked like himself again and had 18. New Boston fan favorite Greg Stiemsma started for the injured Jermaine O’Neal (hamstring) on Monday, and had 13 points on and seven rebounds with a couple of blocks. John Wall did this.

Pacers, 108, Nets 94: Think balance. The Pacers had five players in double figures and they can do that just about every night, which makes them hard to defend. The Pacers had good ball movement and the result was 52.6 percent shooting as a team, a level of efficiency the Nets could not match.

Jazz 94, Hornets 90: Jarrett Jack had a big game for New Orleans with an efficient 27 points, but the key here was getting to the line not just settling for jumpers — Utah took 17 more shots at the rim and had 22 more free throw attempts. Ballgame.

Nuggets 91, Bucks 86: Third night of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back for Denver and yet they seemed the energetic team trying to push the pace, while the Bucks looked like they were coached by Scott Skiles. Al Harrington carried the Nuggets down the stretch — pulling Andrew Bogut away from the rim on offense and then defending him well at the other end — and finished with 17. Note to Brandon Jennings: on your contested long three attempt to tie the game with 10 seconds left, Carlos Delfino was wide open. Just sayin’.

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.