Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia

Baseline to Baseline recaps: There are days the Magic look good

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What you missed while realizing your Valentine’s Day could have gone worse….

Knicks 100, Kings 85: The perfect storm that is Jeremy Lin continues, and it is our game of the night.

Hawks 101, Suns 99: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed a report.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t give you a little Steve Nash video highlight from this one.

Magic 103, Sixers 87: This game followed the old axiom “you can’t win a game in the first quarter but you can lose it.” Orlando raced out to a 23-6 lead and never trailed. The Sixers tried, they made some rallies — like when they made push to cut it to nine inside of four minutes. But back-to-back threes by Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson pushed the lead to 15 and all but sealed it. Anderson finished with a game high 27, Dwight Howard had 17. Lou Williams led Philly with 21.

This game was a far cry from the meeting a couple weeks ago where the 76ers held the Magic to 69 points total.

Pistons 98, Celtics 88: Detroit owned the fourth quarter holding Boston to 28 percent shooting and just 16 points. Which is pretty much the opposite of what we all expected. But there was no Kevin Garnett (Boston’s defense scrambles around without him) and Paul Pierce seemed a ghost in the offense. Rajon Rondo tried to make up for it with a career best 32 points plus 15 dimes. Wasn’t enough when nobody else knocked down shots. Rodney Stuckey led Detroit with 25. Good win for the Pistons.

Spurs 113, Raptors 106: It was the Tony Parker show. He had 34 points — 14 in the fourth quarter to hold off the Raptors — and he dished out 14 assists. Parker was in attack mode and got most of those in the paint. Parker and Tiago Splitter (13 points) make a good pick-and-roll combo, he rolls hard to the rim. Manu Ginobili is showing flashes of his old self as he finds his footing. Neither team played the kind of defense we expected out of them. DeMar DeRozan dropped 29 for Toronto, two on this play.

Cavaliers 98, Pacers 87: Kyrie Irving was back from his concussion and looked fantastic on his way to 22. He helped spark the Cavaliers racing out to a quick double digit lead (32 first quarter points). But this was as much about a terrible Pacers performance, their fifth straight loss. Irving destroyed the Pacers defense on the pick-and-roll. The Pacers offense looked lost. They missed Danny Granger, but t more than that.

Grizzlies 105, Nets 100: Rudy Gay has been playing his best ball of the season since he got snubbed (or at least believes he got snubbed) for the All-Star Game, and he dropped 25 on the Nets. Marreese Speights has had a couple good games in a row now, scoring 20 with 18 boards in this one. Memphis is now 8-1 in games against teams below .500 — beating the teams you are supposed to matters. Deron Williams had 26 for New Jersey. Also, Memphis, stop with the Tams uniforms, please.

Rockets 96, Thunder 95: Oklahoma City’s end of game execution is just unimpressive. They had three chances at a game-winning shot in the final 24 seconds and it was isolation without ball movement, ending with contested jumpers from Kevin Durant. He missed, and Russell Westbrook missed a tip in. They rely on their amazing athleticism, but I just want to see guys get better looks by design.

That said, the Rockets may have won this in the first quarter when they built a 19 point lead. Kevin Martin had 12 of his 32 in the first quarter, but the biggest two may have come on the game tying and winning free throws when he drew a foul in the fourth. For a guy who went scoreless the night before it was a huge turnaround. The Rockets made the big plays late when they had to. Durant finished with 33.

Timberwolves 102, Bobcats 90: Charlotte hung around well into the third quarter, so they can claim a moral victory if they want. In reality it is 16 straight losses, they are historically bad. Minnesota pulled away in the fourth, which is when Nicola Pekovic scored 9 of his 21, he’s been fantastic of late. Kevin Love had 30 points and 18 rebounds.

Hornets 92, Bucks 89: Milwaukee got booed by their own home crowd as they were down double digits to a 5-win team. The Bucks are not defending like a Scott Skiles team and Marco Belinelli took advantage to score 22 points including shooting 6-of-7 from three. The Bucks have lost three straight and looked bad doing it.

Mavericks 102, Nuggets 84: Dallas won this was with suffocating defense — Denver shot 36 percent for the game and scored only 39 points in the first half. Denver, on the other hand, played poor defense all night and Dallas used balance (six players in double figures) to put up big numbers. This was a blowout early and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle got to rest his starters during the fourth.

Trail Blazers 93, Warriors 91: Portland finally won a close game — and did it with a late 10-3 run. The Blazers did it without LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle sprain) and against a Warriors team that had won three in a row. Gerald Wallace took control for Portland and finished with 24 points. Still, Golden State had a chance at the end on a final play — Nate Robinson got into the lane and falling down got the ball to Brandon Rush for a game-winning look at a corner three, but it didn’t fall. Robinson and Rush in the clutch? Yes. Warriors coach Mark Jackson liked how his bench had played and rode the hot hand (which was smart, Robinson was hot had more points in the fourth quarter than Ellis did all game). David Lee was the exception as he had 29 for the Warriors.

Clippers 102, Wizards 84: The score looks like a blowout but this was close until the fourth quarter. Los Angeles looked flat early (just getting home after a six-game road trip) and John Wall’s speed seemed to make the Clippers look like they were moving in slow motion. But Wall couldn’t finish (4-of-13 shooting). He did dish out a dozen assists and JaVale McGee started out hot (he finished with 18). But like a good team should, the Clippers found a way in the fourth, when Randy Foye had 10 in the quarter. Blake Griffin had 23 on the night (and some monster dunks), Caron Butler had 21.

 

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.

Kevin Durant says Nike didn’t influence his free-agency decision

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors poses for NBA team photographer Noah Graham during the Golden State Warriors Media Day at the Warriors Practice Facility on September 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Many different factors went into Kevin Durant‘s decision this summer to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors — basketball fit, location, his friendships with Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, and more. But one thing he wants to make sure you know didn’t influence him is Nike. Durant told reporters this week that the shoe company, which he endorses, didn’t steer him one way or another in free agency, and they didn’t even know his plans beforehand.

It’s a little hard to believe that Nike had zero advance knowledge of Durant’s plans — if not a hard answer, at least a strong indication of which way he was leaning. Durant was one of the most popular players in the league in Oklahoma City, so Nike would have been fine either way. But his presence in Golden State, a much bigger market and the dominant story in the NBA this season, will only help them. It doesn’t hurt, either, that they now have one of their biggest athletes in the same market as Stephen Curry, who had been taking advantage of all the attention on the Warriors to raise Under Armour’s profile. Now, Nike can get some of that spotlight back in the Bay Area.

Barnes, Bogut highlight latest round of changes for Mavs

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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DALLAS (AP) Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut are in, Chandler Parsons and Zaza Pachulia are out and Dallas coach Rick Carlisle has a retooled roster for the sixth consecutive time since winning a championship.

“Well, we love it,” Carlisle said at media day this week as someone chuckled. “What’s more exciting than getting seven new guys? New blood. It’s fresh every year.

“Really, that wasn’t meant to be a joke,” he added. “If you view it as a negative, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to be a negative. I don’t look at it that way.”

The Mavericks have made the playoffs all but one season since the constant turnover started after owner Mark Cuban chose salary cap flexibility over keeping a few key players when a new labor agreement was reached six months after his team won the title in 2011.

But Dallas still hasn’t won a postseason series since beating Miami in six games in those NBA Finals.

Repeated efforts to land big names in free agency failed, which this year led to the additions of Barnes and Bogut from 2015 champion Golden State after the Warriors lured Kevin Durant from Oklahoma City and had to unload both starters to make cap room for the four-time NBA scoring champion.

Barnes headlines the group of newcomers because he’ll be a top option on offense after signing a four-year, $94 million max contract. Over his four seasons with the Warriors, he was always a role player behind Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

“It’s going to be bigger expectations and I’m going to have a larger role on this team,” Barnes said. “I feel like we have a lot of pieces this year, either coming back off injury, guys who are motivated, have a lot to prove. So hopefully we can all come together and do something special.”

There’s actually some stability in the starting five because point guard Deron Williams is back for a second season with his hometown team.

Nowitzki, going into his 19th season at age 38, says Williams was the best player on the team at times last season, and the Mavericks missed him in their five-game loss to Oklahoma City. He was limited by a sports hernia injury that required offseason surgery.

Parsons signed a max deal with Memphis, and Pachulia went to the Warriors after the trade that landed Dallas the 7-footer Bogut, who should be a much stronger shot-blocking presence than his predecessor.

The changes fit the formula of at least two new starters each season going back to the title year.

“There are similarities to other years,” Carlisle said. “The ability to add Bogut and Barnes was huge for us. We caught some good luck on that.”

The other notable newcomer is Curry’s younger brother, Seth Curry, who is on his fifth team in his fourth season but finally had a more prominent role last season in Sacramento. Former Baylor standout Quincy Acy is in Dallas after bouncing around his first four years.

The Mavericks are deep at guard with holders J.J. Barea and Devin Harris behind Williams and Wes Matthews, in his second season as the shooting guard and now more than a year removed from tearing an Achilles tendon his final season in Portland.

Also returning are athletic young forwards Justin Anderson and Dwight Powell along with 7-2 Tunisian center Salah Mejri, a surprising shot-blocking presence last season as a 30-year-old rookie.

“They’re definitely athletes and we should be able to have a great defensive lineup once I’m out,” said Nowitzki, poking fun at his defensive skills. “I think we have a (backup) lineup out there that could be really, really good, and obviously youth and athleticism is a big part.”

Barnes wanted to be a part of it even though the Mavericks appear further from championship contention than other Western Conference teams.

“I think when you look at what this franchise has done year in, year out, stable on their ship,” Barnes said. “And be able to learn from a guy named Dirk who’s done it year in, year out. He’s pretty much built this place through his work ethic.”

And now Nowitzki is getting used to another new collection of teammates.

Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler

Jazz’s Dante Exum says his knee is completely healed from 2015 ACL tear

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 17:  Dante Exum #11 of the Utah Jazz drives to the lane during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on December 17, 2014 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. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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After a promising rookie season, Dante Exum missed all of 2015-16 rehabbing a torn left ACL he suffered during an exhibition game with the Australian national team in summer 2015. As the Jazz kick off training camp, Exum says he’s fully recovered after his year off and he’s ready to go.

Via Jody Gennessy of the Deseret News:

“I was just excited to get back out there,” Exum said after the first of two practices Tuesday. “I was feeling good. … I was just ready to come out there, talk when I can and run between every drill.”

Both his attitude and his body were at 100 percent as he returned from a yearlong rehab that followed his September 2015 surgery on his left knee that had been injured in a friendly international game with the Australian team.

With the Jazz’s trade for George Hill over the summer, Exum won’t have to be the starting point guard, which will take some pressure off of him to get back to full strength right away. A torn ACL is something that usually takes time to return from, and having guard depth to ease his workload will help with the transition. If the Jazz get good production out of Exum, it will be a bonus for what looks to be one of the most exciting young teams in the Western Conference.