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.

Fans to vote on “Best Dunk,” “Best Assist,” other categories handed out at NBA Awards show

zach lavine
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Fans are going to get their say at the NBA Awards Show, coming June 26 on TNT. Drake will be the host, and we to come up with an under/over on the number of players Drake gives a bro hug to during the ceremony.

That’s the night the NBA will hand out its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and every other major postseason award — except for All-NBA Team, which has to come earlier. The media have already cast their votes for these awards.

Where the fans get to come in is the fun awards, categories created just for this event:

• Dunk of the Year
• Best Style
• Block of the Year
• Assist of the Year
• Game Winner of the Year
• Top Performance of the Year

The NBA already narrowed down the list of choices for each category to three, and voting opens tonight. Just go to  www.nba.com/nbaawards and cast your ballot, or on Twitter or Facebook just post the #AwardName and First/Last Name of their winner (for example, #DunkOfTheYear  Larry Nance).

These awards should add some energy — and good highlights — to what has the potential to be a stuffy event. It’s a bunch of NBA players in suits in a ballroom in New York, this is going to feel like a branding event at times. The NBA is hoping the fans can liven it up.

Here are the categories, with the hashtags for voting:

#DunkOfTheYear
• Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance, Jr. vs. Brooklyn

• Minnesota’s Zach LaVine vs. Phoenix

• Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo vs. Atlanta

#BestStyle
• Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert
• Chicago’s Dwyane Wade
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook

#BlockOfTheYear
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Houston
• New York’s Kristaps Porzingis vs. Brooklyn
• Miami’s Hassan Whiteside vs. Toronto

#GameWinnerOfTheYear
• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving vs. Golden State
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook vs. Denver
• Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis vs. Boston

#TopPerformanceOfTheYear
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker 70-point game vs. Boston
• Houston’s James Harden nets 53-16-17 triple double vs. New York
• Golden State’s Klay Thompson scores 60 in three quarters vs. Indiana
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with most points in a triple-double, 57-13-11, vs. Orlando

#AssistOfTheYear
• Golden State’s Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
• Denver’s Nikola Jokic with no-look pass
• LA Clippers’ Chris Paul with wraparound pass

Report: USC’s Elijah Stewart intended to declare for NBA draft, forgot

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Declaring for the NBA draft is like declaring bankruptcy: You can’t just bellow it and expect it to take effect. You actually have to fill out the paperwork.

That’s why USC’s Elijah Stewart wasn’t among the 192 early entrants to the 2017 NBA draft.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Stewart:

Givony’s report will do little but embarrass Stewart. It’s unlikely Stewart would’ve been drafted, and he likely would have withdrawn to return to USC for his senior season. Perhaps, he would’ve gotten helpful feedback from the NBA before that point, but that’s minimal.

The real problem, though, isn’t Stewart’s inattentiveness, to whatever extent is exists. It’s that the NCAA won’t allow players to maintain eligibility while having an agent.

If Stewart had proper representation, there’d be no questioning whether he intended to declare for the draft. His agent would’ve handled it, one way or the other.

If the NCAA were truly about educating players, it’d allow them to have guidance from experienced professional agents. Agents don’t have to conflict with amateurism (not that amateurism is a worthy goal, anyway).

But teaching players is not the NCAA’s true goal. The NCAA prioritizes keeping its cartel in tact and money flowing to coaches and administrators.

Agents might steer players from that corrupt system entirely or at least help them leverage their immense power to gain better compensation than a wage-fixed scholarship.

This incident should spark discussion about the unseemly lengths the NCAA goes to to protect its money-makers from its revenue-generators. Instead, it’s much easier to make Stewart a punchline.

Kevin Durant gets a hoot out of meme with Draymond Green

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You’ve seen the Draymond GreenKevin Durant meme, right?

Here’s the video with my favorite caption:

In the latest episode of “Still KD,” Durant watches the meme, reads other captions and calls it “hilarious.”

Russell Westbrook: ‘Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be’

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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The Thunder want to sign Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that projects to be worth about $207 million over five years.

But does he want to sign it?

Westbrook, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

Westbrook noted that his wife is expecting their first child in May, and that’s where his focus is right now. Asked whether there’s a timetable on his decision about a potential extension, Westbrook lightheartedly jabbed back.

“No. What did I just say? Like you don’t care about my baby?” he said. “You must not. You didn’t hear that part, huh?”

Though it was painted as Westbrook showing his loyalty to the Thunder in stark contrast to the departed Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s renegotiation-and-extension last summer was also his way of receiving the highest-possible salary.

This is a different case.*

*So, it seems. It’s unclear whether the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Oklahoma City to renegotiate Westbrook’s 2017-18 salary up to the designated-veteran-player rate, but I’m presuming not.

Westbrook will have 10 years of experience when an extension would kick in. A typical advantage of a designated-veteran-player contract is allowing a player with eight or nine years experience, who’s typically limited to a starting salary of 30% of the salary cap, to receive a starting salary of 35% of the salary cap. But Westbrook will be eligible for 35% of the salary by then simply due to his years of service.

In other words, an extension signed this summer would pay Westbrook the exact same amount he could receive as a free agent in 2018.

So, would Westbrook sign that extension? It’d guarantee him a huge salary and protect him in the event of injury or decline. But Westbrook is so good, he’s extremely likely to get the max in 2018-19 no matter what. With only minimal risk, maybe he’d rather maintain flexibility.

Westbrook appeared to embrace leading the team, and he truly seems happy in Oklahoma City in a way I didn’t expect when he signed last summer. His image is so tied to loyalty to the Thunder, it’d be tough to spin an exit.

But Oklahoma City is relatively locked into a roster that will have a hard time winning multiple playoff series. Westbrook wants to win.

I don’t know whether he’ll accept an extension this summer rather than delaying a year, but if he won’t ink a deal this year, that should be a concerning indicator to the Thunder about their chances of re-signing him in 2018.