Baseline to Baseline recaps: Jeremy Lin is king of New York

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What you missed while thinking that even though you didn’t love Madonna’s halftime show at the Super Bowl, it was better than the Black Eyed Peas doing Tron or whatever it was the year before….

76ers 95, Lakers 90: It was the Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams show, and it was our game of the night.

Knicks 99, Jazz 88: Jeremy Lin is not a great point guard (he turns the ball over too much, not great going to his left), but he attacks off the pick-and-roll like a pit bull, and the Knicks have been missing that. Badly. They look like a different team with a guy who can run Mike D’Antoni’s offense as it was designed.

There was no Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony pulled up injured midway through the first quarter, but the Knicks had Lin’s 28 including 13 in the fourth to seal the win. His ability to drive and draw defenders had Tyson Chandler throwing down lob passes from him, Steve Novak draining open threes and the entire Knicks offense humming. It looks like a new offense we haven’t seen this season in New York. Knicks fans are ready to name a park after Lin and put up a statue.

The Jazz looked like a tired team that had just flown across the country. Or gone out partying in New York like the city had won the Super Bow (not saying they did, saying they played like they did)l. Al Jefferson had 22 but needed 20 shots to get there. Utah looked a step slow and couldn’t catch up with the Lin momentum.

Thunder 111, Trail Blazers 107 (OT): The best game of the night, one of the most entertaining of the season.

There was controversy at the end of this one — Kevin Durant tied the game and sent it to overtime with a layup that LaMarcus Aldridge blocked but was called a goaltend. It wasn’t, he got it before it hit the glass. Look for yourself (although I think you could have called a foul here with his arm into Durant’s body):

(As a side note, this game featured two of the most homer announcing crews in the league. Both called that play with their hearts, but for the OKC crew not to admit it was a block moves them up the ladder to one of the worst homer crews in the league, right there with the Spurs.)

That controversy shouldn’t mar a fun game. Kevin Durant had 33 points (although he needed 33 shots to get there), with a lot of jumpers down the stretch that kept the Thunder in it. Russell Westbrook had 28 points and a key block on Nicolas Batum at the end of regulation. Aldridge was the best player on the floor with 39 points and 15 rebounds, OKC did not have an answer for him. The Thunder won this game because of their amazing athletes, but their end-of-game execution is not impressive and they are often left with tough shots in isolation, come the playoffs that is going to haunt them if it doesn’t improve.

Clippers 107, Magic 102 (OT): The Magic had their offense clicking in the first quarter — Dwight Howard was getting baskets at the rim (he had 13 in the quarter, 33 for the game) and Jason Richardson was knocking down a couple threes as Orlando shot 68 percent and raced out to a lead that reached 15.

But this was a game all about offense (the Magic had an offensive rating of 110 points per 100 possessions, the Clippers 115.4, both insanely high numbers) and that meant the Clippers were going to get back in it. Chris Paul dissected the Magic with dribble penetration that got him 29 points on the game (13 in the fourth quarter) and eight assists. The Clippers led by nine in the second half but it was Orlando’s turn to fight back. However, in the overtime Los Angeles secured the lead with a Caron Butler three off a Glen Davis turnover, then next trip down Paul hit a baseline step back rainbow over Howard — how anyone gets that shot off over D-12 is beyond me, let alone a PG. Clippers got a hard-fought win.

Bulls 108, Nets 87: I liked the Nets throwback uniforms. That’s about the only think Nets related I liked. Chicago’s defense suffocated New Jersey and this was a blowout from the first quarter on, Derrick Rose or not (he left with back spasms and is day-to-day). Deron Williams had 25 for New Jersey, Carlos Boozer 24 for the Bulls.

Wizards 111, Raptors 108 (OT): Washington did a good job pushing the pace early and that led to a healthy lead. John Wall had 11 of his 31 in the first quarter, Nick Young 10 of his 29. But midway through the fourth the Raptors starting hitting every three — Jarryd Bayless had four from deep in the quarter and 16 points and it was a ball game again. One headed to overtime — not a very pretty overtime as only one field goal made, everything else at the line. But the Wizards will take it.

Spurs 89, Grizzlies 84: Three Spurs stood out in this one. Tim Duncan continues to find himself, scoring 17 and playing some good defense on Marc Gasol, including having a key block. Kawhi Leonard was given the task of guarding Rudy Gay and held one of the game’s best forwards to 18 points on 9-of-26 shooting. Tony Parker is playing like an All-Star on both ends of the floor; he had 21 points, 7 assists and some good defensive plays as well.

Kings 100, Hornets 92: New Orleans was in charge of this one, up 18 just before the half and cruising behind its defense, holding the Kings to 33 percent shooting for the half, and Emeka Okafor, who had 11 points in the first quarter alone. But Kings’ rookie Isaiah Thomas sparked a comeback, playing with real energy and scoring 14 points and having 5 assists in the second half (he had 17 points total). That seemed to wake up DeMarcus Cousins, too, who was a beast and finished with 28 points and 19 rebounds.

Rockets 99, Denver 90: This was a tight game the whole way, the final score was actually the largest lead either team had all game. Houston took control in the fourth with a small lineup that had Kyle Lowry (20 points on the night plus he played great defense on Ty Lawson, winning that battle) and Goran Dragic in at the same time, along with Courtney Lee. Luis Scola’s face and game seemed fine, and he dropped 25. The difference in this game was the threes — the Rockets were 10-19, the Nuggets 3-22.

Kobe Bryant sends inspirational recovery message to Gordon Hayward

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Kobe Bryant has been there. He tore his Achilles at an age most players would have said: “that’s it, I’m out.” Not Kobe. He fought through it, came back, and was able to leave the game on his terms — and with a 60-point night.

So when Kobe sends an Instagram recovery message to Gordon Hayward, he knows of what he speaks.

Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk. When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.

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The message was vintage Kobe, all about the drive and steps to recovery. Focus on the next thing, don’t let any obstacles stop you.

Let’s just hope Hayward can take this to heart and make a full recovery.

PBT Podcast: Gordon Hayward injury, Celtics’ future, opening night news

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The buzz of the NBA’s opening night was killed just a 5:15 into the first game when Gordon Hayward went down with what could be a season-ending ankle and leg injury.

What’s next for Boston now? Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports get into that with this latest PBT Podcast.

They also discuss the opening night game between the Celtics and Cavaliers and what we can take away from it, same with the Houston Rockets upset of the Golden State Warriors. The pair also gets into the Nikola Mirotic/Bobby Portis incident in Chicago (this was recorded just before the Portis suspension came down), the LaMarcus Aldridge extension with the Spurs, and if Joel Embiid should be ticked about being on a minutes limit to start the season.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Michael Jordan scores again, this time with his Jumpman logo

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan is showing he still has the ability to score big – even though he hasn’t played in nearly 15 years.

The Hornets owner’s latest slam dunk off the court might come by way of the NBA’s new uniform contract with Nike.

Since the Jordan Brand is a Nike subsidiary and the namesake of the six-time NBA champion, the Hornets will be the only NBA team to wear the Jordan Brand “Jumpman” logo on their uniforms this season. That would appear to be a merchandising windfall.

After the switch from Adidas, the other 29 NBA teams will wear the Nike “swoosh” on their uniforms.

Charlotte’s All-Star point guard Kemba Walker loves the idea of the Hornets being unique – and knows it’s because of Jordan.

“I mean, he’s the GOAT (Greatest of All Time),” Walker said. “Everybody loves MJ. Everybody loves the way he competed and the way he carries himself.”

Especially off the court.

There isn’t a player in the league who doesn’t want to emulate the NBA’s greatest pitchman.

Though Jordan was not made available to be interviewed for this story, others praised his savvy and longevity.

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbook is a representative for the Jordan Brand, which sponsors 21 active NBA players. Westbrook is soaking up as much knowledge as he can working with Jordan.

The reigning league MVP said he’s tried to use what Jordan has done with marketing skills as a model for his own success.

“He set himself up, not just on the basketball court, but in business,” Westbrook said. “…. He set himself up tremendously – his kids, his family – by doing the right things on and off the court.”

Jordan last soared through the air in the NBA in 2003. But even now, at 54, his marketability doesn’t seem to be tapering off.

Forbes Magazine estimated last December that Jordan has made $1.7 billion since leaving the University of North Carolina in 1984 – more than any athlete ever.

The vast majority of his wealth has come from marketing, since Jordan earned $93 million during his playing career.

It’s all led to Jordan being able to call his own shots – like exclusive use of the Jumpman logo.

“Well, he does own the team,” Westbook quipped. “He gets to pick that for sure.”

Hornets forward Marvin Williams, who like Jordan played college basketball at North Carolina, said he knows the uniforms will be popular with NBA fans simply because of the “international symbol” Jumpman has become. The logo features a silhouette of Jordan leaping through the air, his legs scissored and one outstretched hand holding a basketball.

“That symbol – I have seen people have it on their clothes, their cars, tattoos,” Williams said.

Larry Miller, president of Jordan Brand, said the logo represents greatness “so it’s a natural fit to have it on the uniforms of MJ’s team.”

“Aligning his team and his brand brings everyone in the Jordan family closer together,” Miller said in an email to The Associated Press, “and it’s a win for both organizations.”

The Hornets recently opened an expanded team store at their downtown arena and are still receiving new Jumpman merchandise, but it’s not staying on the shelves very long.

Hornets executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer Pete Guelli said the team is expecting a “substantial increase” in merchandise sales.

“Being the only Jordan Brand team has a number of inherent advantages,” Guelli said. “It is also our first formal connection to our owner and allows us to explore additional extensions around that unique alignment.”

History indicates it should be a profitable connection.

“Obviously people knew who he was when he played, but when you see a 5- or 6-year-old kid walking around with Jordans on, and know who Michael Jordan is, but have never seen him play,” Williams said. “I have teammates that have never seen him play but know about everything he has done. It speaks volumes not only to what he has done as a player in his career, but it speaks a ton to what he has done post-basketball as well.”

AP Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

 

Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic out 4-6 weeks with fractured face; Bobby Portis suspended 8 games for punch

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The price to be paid from the fight at Bulls practice Tuesday came into focus Wednesday.

Nikola Mirotic, who suffered a fractured upper jaw and concussion due to a punch from Bobby Portis, will be out at least a month from his injuries, the Bulls announced.

For his part, Portis has been suspended eight games by the Bulls without pay for his actions. He will be able to practice with the team, and can return to action on Nov. 7 against Toronto.

The incident happened during the Bulls practice Monday. This much everyone agrees on: What started as a physical battle for rebounding position around the basket turned into a shoving match between Mirotic and Portis. Also, so far this isn’t unusual, shoving matches happen every once in a while on every team (in every professional sport).

Then Portis punched Mirotic and dropped him, fracturing his face. While the first reports called it a “sucker punch” — likely spin from Mirotic’s agent/camp — Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said he didn’t see it as one. Apparently, neither did Robin Lopez, via Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago.

Whether it was a sucker punch or not is moot — you can’t punch and drop a teammate. It crosses the line.

Mirotic may be the Bulls best player, and certainly will be one of their leading scorers this season. Portis has struggled to live up to his early promise and reportedly is frustrated with his role, and by extension Mirotic. That does not mean you can punch the team’s best player in the face. Rather the opposite.

Can you imagine the reaction of any other organization if their best player got punched by a teammate?

The Bulls have to make a decision on what to do with Portis, who has a $2.5 million team option for next season, then would be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019.