New Orleans Hornets' Jack puts his head in his hands after being called for a foul during their NBA basketball game in New Orleans

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Vintage Tim Duncan sighting

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What you missed while getting that nail you didn’t know you shot into your head removed…

Celtics 87, Magic 56: Don’t go overboard with any “the Celtics are back” hype yet, but they got a quality win in our game of the night.

Spurs 104, Hornets 102: New Orleans loses a lot of games but they don’t get blown out of a lot — which feels pretty hollow after Tim Duncan sinks a game winner to give you loss number eight in a row.

This was a close game pretty much the whole way, which says a lot about how hard the Hornets played — unfortunately for them they ran into vintage Duncan and Tony Parker. Duncan sat out Saturday’s Spurs game and looked rested on his way to 28 points including the game winning shot, a running hook across the lane. Tony Parker had 20 points and 17 assists. Jarrett Jack had 26 for the Hornets, Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry had 18 each.

And by the way, Tiago Splitter is playing a lot better. Well, except on the play below (Emeka Okafor looked like he had saved the game here).

Sixers 103, Wizards 83: This statistic sums up these two teams and their place in the standings perfectly — Andre Iguodala had nine assists in the first half, the entire Wizards team had nine assists in the first half. This game went pretty much exactly like you would have expected. Jrue Holiday and Elton Brand each had 17 for the 76ers.

Rockets 107, Timberwolves 92: Houston came from behind with a 19-1 run when they went with a small lineup — Kyle Lowry, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Paterson, Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee. Kevin McHale rode with what worked in the fourth quarter, keeping his bigs on the bench against a team with Kevin Love, and the Rockets got an impressive win. Lowry had a triple-double (16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) and Kevin Martin dropped 31. Kevin Love had 39 points and 12 boards.

Bulls 110, Nets 95: The backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton combined for 44 points… and that’s about it. This game was basically over after the Bulls 10-0 run midway through the first. The only thing that can make it better? Brian Scalbrine highlights.

Hawks 97, Bucks 92: Joe Johnson owned the fourth quarter with 14 points in the period. Well, except for the game winning three, which was a Josh Smith corner three that had Hawks fans saying “no, no, no… yes!” This was close all the way 48-48 at the half, but the Bucks first unit struggled so at the end you saw a lot of the Bucks second unit. Joe Johnson finished with 28 points and the Hawks are now 9-0 when he scores at least 21.

Mavericks 93, Suns 87: Shawn Marion has such an awkward release, when he lines up to take the three your gut says “let him shoot it.” The Suns thought that and he was 4-of-6 from three and seemed fired up for his old team as he dropped 29 on them to spark the Dallas win. Ian Mahinmi had 17 points and grabbed 9 boards. Dallas also played good defense on Steve Nash (who still had 12 assists) and the entire Suns team.

Thunder 99, Pistons 79: I could describe this game to you, but it was pretty much what you expect when one of the best teams in the league takes on one of the worst. The game was not as close as the score would indicate. And yes, I know the score says blowout. But there were some good highlights.

Trail Blazers 101, Kings 89: Sacramento did a good job focusing their efforts on stopping LaMarcus Aldridge (13 points on 14 shots). But that’s only part of the attack — Portland creators on the perimeter owned the Kings on drives and shots. Jamal Crawford had 26 points (including 12 in the second quarter when the Blazers took control), Gerald Wallace added 20. After that Crawford-led second quarter run this game was over, the Kings made a little late run to make the score respectable.

Grizzlies 91, Warriors 90: Golden State had a 20 point lead one minute into the fourth quarter, then it all came apart — nine turnovers in the quarter leading to 16 fast break points for Memphis. The Grizzlies played like the experienced team that knows how to execute under pressure, while the Warriors go deer-in-headlights late in games. Rudy Gay had 23 on the night, but Tony Allen and Mike Conley each had 9 in the fourth to key the comeback. Golden State tried to lean on Monta Ellis who had 9 in the fourth but also four turnovers.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. 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 Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.

Watch Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant make every shot they take for 75 seconds

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) poses for photos during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Here’s the thing that should make teams nervous — this doesn’t even include the best shooter in the game today. Stephen Curry was on the other end of the court working on something else.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson exchanged shots at the Golden State Warriors practice and didn’t miss one for more than a minute, closer to 75 seconds. No, they were not being guarded, and this was just some light shooting at the end of practice. Still.

From Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s going to take at least until Thanksgiving and maybe closer to Christmas for the Warriors to figure out how to play together, what the rotations will look like, and just become comfortable with what is largely a new team. But once they do, the firepower on this squad is insane.