Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Bobcats and Knicks have the same record

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What you missed while watching West Virginia score more first half points than 15 the NBA teams playing last night (seriously)….

Bobcats 118, Knicks 110: Boris Diaw outplayed Amare Stoudemire. Gerald Henderson took it to Landry Fields at every turn. The Charlotte Bobcats outworked a Knicks team that has a lot of talent but looks rudderless on offense and still doesn’t play much defense (Charlotte shot 55 percent as a team and basically did whatever it wanted on offense).

Frankly I mocked the Baron Davis signing — and I’m still not president of his fan club  — but the Knicks need him. New York needs a point guard in the worst way. Iman Shumpert returned from injury with 18 points, but he is not the answer right now. Despite the chants of MSG faithful.

Diaw had 27 points on 15 shots and Henderson had 24 on 13 shots. When the Knicks tried to make a charge in the fourth — behind Carmelo Anthony’s 20 fourth-quarter points — it was Henderson who knocked down the key threes to keep the game out of reach for NYC. The Knicks closeouts on jump shooters are lazy and it killed them in this game. Their lack of defense in general killed them.

Just for the record, both Charlotte and New York are now 2-4.

Nuggets 110, Kings 83: No Nene and it didn’t matter for Denver as they hit 60.5 percent of their shots and had a balanced attack (Al Harrington’s 15 points led the Nuggets). Looking for a bright spot, Kings fans? That would be DeMarcus Cousins with a game-high 26 for Sacramento.

This game gave us the play of the night.

Bulls 99, Pistons, 83: Richard Hamilton was back in the lineup, back in Detroit, and he ended up being key to this game. Not really the 14 points he had (which were nice) but how he set up the offense early. The Pistons know Rip and they were not going to let him catch-and-shoot coming off picks, they overplayed him. So he had four early assists hitting the open man inside. From there, the Bulls offense flowed. Carlos Boozer led the way with 19.

Raptors 92, Cavaliers 77: Andrea Bargnani had one of those mirage games where he looks like the kind of guy you could build a franchise around, as he knocked down everything on his way to 31 points. It won’t last, we all know it, but on these nights he looks special. Also out of the ordinary, DeMar DeRozan with five threes. Cleveland was on the second game of a back-to-back and they just looked tired, shooting 29.6 percent for the game. Kyrie Irving got smacked around by the reality of the NBA — it’s hard to do this every night.

Magic 103, Wizards 85: Orlando raced out to a 12-0 lead in this one and, well, what else do you really need to know? Dwight Howard had 28 points, 20 rebounds, Ryan Anderson had 23 points and 15 rebounds. The Wizards are bad.

Celtics 89, Nets 70: Boston has an amazing ability to play down to the level of its opponents. New Jersey led at the half 35-34 in a game they were playing without Deron Williams, Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez. Paul Pierce had 11 points in the third quarter (24 for the game) and the Celtics pulled away in the final 24. Brandon Bass had 15 points, 13 rebounds.

Heat 118, Pacers 83: The 4-1 Pacers get their first test against an elite team and… ugh. Miami was up 62-39 at the half, and LeBron James already had 14 of the 33 he would get before he rolled his ankle. This was the Cleveland-era LeBron that did it all and carried his team. Chris Bosh finished the game with 22. Indiana shot just 34.8 percent for the night, and we’ll find in the coming days if that is the pattern against the elite teams or if this was just an off night.

76ers 101, Hornets 93: This game was close through three quarters, then it became the Jrue Holiday show. He had 14 in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers finish the five-game road trip they had to open the season at 3-2. Not bad, not bad at all. Evan Turner had 21 and may be finding his groove. New Orleans has got to find a way to close out games, they just seem to fold late.

Grizzlies 90, Timberwolves 86: Memphis is now 2-0 without Zach Randolph, and that is huge for a team trying to trying to stay in position to make the playoffs. They can thank Tony Allen, who had 20 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting (including four threes) to spark the offense. Kevin Love had 27 and 14, because that is what he does. Ricky Rubio also did his thing.

Spurs 101, Warriors 95: This is the kind of game the Spurs need to win with Manu Ginobili out if they intend to make the playoffs. Golden State had the lead in the fourth until a 15-2 run sparked by Tim Duncan and the bench play of T.J. Ford and Danny Green. Oh, and Monta Ellis who had 38. The Warriors had their chances, but Kwame Brown missed four late free throws.

Mavericks 98, Suns 89: Phoenix focused their defense to take the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki’s hands — he had 20 points anyway — but it was his early passing to set up teammates when the double came that was key. The Mavericks ball movement was fantastic. So was their rebounding — 18 offensive rebound was key here. Lamar Odom had his first good game as a Maverick with 15 points. Marcin Gortat had 22 for the Suns.

Clippers 117, Rockets 89: The Clippers caught the Rockets on the second game of a back-to-back, got Chauncey Billups back and all of it together was too much for Houston. The Clippers pulled away early and never looked back. Blake Griffin had 22, Chris Paul 20 and most of the fourth quarter was garbage time.

Bulls’ John Paxson: Dwyane Wade buyout must be “advantageous” for team

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When Bulls’ training camp opens next week, it looks like Dwyane Wade will be there — and it will be awkward.

Wade wants to be bought out and doesn’t want to be there. The Bulls want to move on from the Wade/Jimmy Butler year. But of course, it comes down to money — Wade is owed $23.5 million and wants as much of that as he can get and still get out the door, the Bulls want to save money paying a guy who will not play for them.

Bulls’ VP of basketball operations John Paxson was on  “The Mully and Hanley” show on WSCR-670 AM Thursday and said there has been some early dialogue between the sides, and the Bulls are open to buying Wade out, but made it clear he’s going to have to give up plenty of cash to make it “advantageous” for the team. Here’s part of what Paxson said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

“Some dialogue is going on,” Paxson said on The Score. “We understand where (Wade) is at this time of his career. We’re more than willing to work with him. But as I said when we had the press conference to introduce the new players after the draft, we have to always do what’s in our best interest. So there has to be something that is mutually agreed upon. It can’t be something the player wins because that’s what he wants.

“We want to work with Dwyane because we respect him very much. If he doesn’t want to be here, then we want to do (the buyout). But again, the bottom line is always — and it has to be — that we have to do what’s in our best interest.”

The two sides will come to a number and Wade will get bought out, the only questions are when and for how much? Will it happen during training camp or will the season have started? The All-Star break? It’s just a matter of settling on a number, but Wade is not going to be eager to give up that cash knowing he’s not got another payday like that coming.

When the buyout does happen,  a number of teams — the Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers are known, there will be others — will be waiting and interested.

 

Pacers’ Lance Stephenson will get his chance, but coming off the bench

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Indiana is Myles Turner‘s team now. Gone from last season are Paul George, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks and more. More than just Turner, everyone on the Pacers’ roster is going to get a chance to shine.

That includes Lance Stephenson.

But he will do that coming off the bench, coach Nate McMillan told the Pacers’ website.

Coach Nate McMillan said he has a starting lineup in mind heading into training camp, but wouldn’t reveal it. He did acknowledge, however, that Lance Stephenson likely will start the season as the sixth man…

“I hope he can establish (that role),” McMillan said. “A sixth man is like a starter, and he can be a guy who can do a lot of things with that second group with his ability to handle the ball, score the ball. He’s an unselfish player.”

Stephenson was only with the Pacers for a few games at the end of last season, but he was their second best player in the postseason brought an energy and toughness the team lacked. He hit threes (62 percent for the Pacers), played hard, and looked more like the guy Indiana had years ago than the guy who has bounced around the league since. But that was a very small sample size, it’s something else to do this over the course of a season.

Indiana is rebuilding but they did not bottom out and tank, they brought in guys who can handle the ball such as Victor Oladipo (the George trade), Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Stephenson is going to have to accept and find a role behind and with those guys. But he’s going to get a chance, and he has played his best ball in a Pacers’ uniform.

Suns’ center Alex Len expected to sign qualifying offer, head to camp

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In the free-spending summer of 2016, Bismack Biyambo got a $72 million contract. Timofey Mozgov got $64 million.

Those kinds of contracts — and there were plenty more of them — had a lot of NBA big men (and players in general) heading into this summer thinking they were going to get PAID. Instead, teams learned the lessons from their drunken spending binge and the market got tight. Especially for centers.

Which leads us to the news Suns big man Alex Len is going to bet on himself and sign his qualifying offer before coming to camp, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Barring an unforeseen change of events, Phoenix Suns center Alex Len is planning to sign the team’s $4.2 million qualifying offer before training camp, clearing the way to become an unrestricted free agent in 2018, league sources told ESPN….

Phoenix wants to study’s Len’s progress in the 2017-18 season before committing to a long-term, lucrative contract extension to him. Len has started 80 games over the past two seasons, including 34 in 2016-17 when he averaged eight points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game.

Phoenix wants to leave its options open. Len is mobile, can protect the rim, and has some skills that would help him fit in a modern NBA style offense — he could play with Devin Booker and Josh Jackson — plus last season he improved his shooting around the rim and in the paint. However, he’s not consistent on either end of the court. He shows his potential in flashes, but the Suns need to see more.

Len will now be an unrestricted free agent next summer — he is playing for his next payday. If that can’t motivate him, nothing will.

Report: Lottery reform will really help teams in middle of lottery

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Tanking in the NBA is a problem more of perception than reality — Adam Silver and the league office doesn’t like that there are portions of team’s fan bases rooting for their team to lose. It doesn’t like that tanking is openly discussed on radio shows and online. Combine that with the resting of star players on the road, and in nationally televised games, and the league sees sports talk radio talking points as real problems for the league’s image.

Spreading out the NBA’s schedule is done, and with that the resting of players’ in those high-profile games will decrease (of course, if teams want to sit LeBron James or Stephen Curry or Kawhi Leonard in a nationally televised game, they will just say he has a sore back/ankle/shoulder that needs rest).

Lottery reform looks like it will pass as well, even though it’s putting a band-aid on a broken leg. The league’s new rules will decrease and flatten out the odds at the top of the lottery, and it will reward the teams more in the middle, according to a new report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

 The worst three teams’ odds would now have an equal chance at the No. 1 overall pick: 14 percent. Presently, the teams with the three worst records have descending chances of 25 percent, 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent. Also, the worst record can drop as far as No. 5 in the new lottery proposal, down from No. 4….

Teams in the Nos. 7-10 range will have a stronger chance to move up into the top three picks, ESPN has learned, with No. 7’s chances improving from 15 percent to 23, No. 8 from 10 percent to 19 percent, No. 9 from six percent to 15 percent and No. 10 from four percent to 10 percent.

He adds that the odds for the three teams at the top of the lottery — picks 11, 12, and 13 — increase only a couple of percentage points, which the league believes means teams will not try to tank their way out of the playoffs and into the lottery. There is extra money in terms of ticket sales and revenue — at least $5 million for a couple home games — for teams that get into the postseason, and that money can matter to teams.

That said, teams are still going to tank for picks. The league seems to be chasing the ghost of Sam Hinkie with this proposal, trying to make it less likely teams go on a multiple year deep dive, but that was never really a problem anyway — few owners would have the stomach for that, and the one that did (Joshua Harris in Philly) eventually bowed to the pressure from the league and others and canned Hinkie as GM. No GM is trying to put his job at risk with a rebuilding plan.

Tanking will continue because teams need one of the game’s franchise changing stars — of which there are maybe 10 in the league at any one given time — to compete at the highest levels, and for 24 or so markets the only way to get that player is via the draft. What’s more, land that player and thanks to the CBA, teams control that player for four years at a very affordable salary, then thanks to extensions/restricted free agency the team can keep that player for another four or five years. They have this great talent locked in for at least eight or nine years (for example, Kevin Durant spent nine years in Seattle/Oklahoma City before moving on, same with LeBron the first time he left Cleveland, and that list goes on). Now with the “designated player” designation — call it the Kevin Durant rule — teams are more likely to keep that star for another four or five years beyond that.

If you really want to end tanking, make rookie contracts two years then they become unrestricted free agents. Now the motivation to tank for a pick goes away, but of course, small and mid-market teams would rightfully complain about that because then they will have a very hard time keeping talent around.

Bottom line, if you have a truly elite player you win more basketball games, and for most teams the only way to get that player is the draft — so tanking will continue. It’s a smart strategy to rebuild.

The new lottery odds will pass, and they are not a bad thing, but it is far more about perception than reality. And you can be sure there will be unintended consequences.