Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lin, ‘Melo play together well

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What you missed while stacking 2.5 feet of pancakes

Warriors 106, Suns 104: We have other details, but you really should just click this link to see Monta Ellis’ game winning shot.

Knicks 99, Hawks 82: It was just a second game with everyone healthy on the Knicks, but you could see an improved chemistry. Jeremy Lin had a rough first quarter trying to find the holes in the Hawks defense, but when the Knicks bench came in they led a 15-0 New York run, and from there the Knicks dominated the game (the Hawks made a 19-2 third quarter run, but the Knicks answered quickly with a 9-0 run of their own). Lin had 17 points and 9 assists as he found his groove and made plays. Steve Novak also had 17. Carmelo Anthony had 15 points but took 16 shots to get there. Baron Davis and J.R. Smith are showing some chemistry and that could make the Knicks second unit dangerous.

Thunder 119, Celtics 104: Boston hung tight for half of the first quarter, but a 23-3 run made this a blowout. Without Rajon Rondo (you can’t throw the ball at the ref young man) the Celtics stood no chance and gave up 72 points in the first half. Really, not sure Rondo would have mattered much. Boston did make a 15-4 run behind Ray Allen’s 9 fourth quarter points to cut the lead to six, but the Thunder answered with a 11-2 run of their own and that was the ballgame. Russell Westbrook had 31, Kevin Durant 28 for Oklahoma City. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led Boston with 23 a piece.

Lakers 96, Mavericks 91: When I think Dallas could be in trouble in the playoffs, it’s games like this that plant that seed in my mind. Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine boards, Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds. And Dallas had no real answer for it. They had Dirk Nowitzki (25 points) and Vince Carter (20) but they miss what Tyson Chandler brings in the paint. The Lakers are playing pretty well of late.

Raptors 103, Pistons 93: Fantastic game from DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 and showed tremendous energy (and following his lead, the Raptors played with great energy). Greg Monroe did drop 30 points in a losing effort.

Hornets 89, Cavaliers 84: Chris Kaman is just a little better at everything than you think he is — he is a good NBA center. Some team is going to trade for him. He had 21 points and 13 boards, and suddenly the Hornets are 4-2 in their last 6.

Timberwolves 100, Jazz 98: When you finish the sentence “The guy I want to take the game winning shot for Minnesota is…” the name Luke Ridnour doesn’t come up all that often. But he had the opening, drove the lane and put up an ugly floater that fell as the red light went on behind the backboard. It capped an 18-point comeback by Minnesota. Paul Millsap had 25 for Utah, Al Jefferson 18 including the sweet face-up jumper over Kevin Love with 7 seconds left to tie it up. J.J. Barea had 22 off the bench for Minnesota.

Pacers 102, Bobcats 88: The Pacers should wear those blue ABA throwbacks every game. Love those. They were the best part of this game.

Kings 115, Wizards 107: Kings had lost the first five games of and East Coast swing but found the energy to have a big fourth quarter — led by Isaiah Thomas who had 10 in the quarter — to get the win. Marcus Thornton also had a big fourth quarter and finished with 22 (as did Tyreke Evans). Jordan Crawford had 32 off the bench for the Wizards, John Wall had 21 (and is still fast end-to-end).

Bulls 110, Bucks 91: There was balance in Chicago — six Bulls were in double figures, led by Carlos Boozer with 20. Joakim Noah had the triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The Bucks got behind a little and played like a team thinking about having the weekend off.

Magic 108, Nets 91: Orlando dominated this game behind 20 points and 17 assists. This one was over early. The only hope for the Nets would have been to have Dwight Howard on their side… oh, yea.

Rockets 93, Sixers 87: This is now five losses in a row for the Sixers, who could use the All-Star break to right the ship. The Sixers did get a big tame out of Nikola Vucevic, the rookie led Philly with 18 points. This was a close game but down the stretch Kyle Lowry who twice got in the lane (going to his right) and finished. He had 13 and will be great at the All-Star Game… oh yea, he got snubbed. Luis Scola had 19 to lead r

Clippers 103, Nuggets 95: Was this game played on NBA 2K12? NBA Jam? Sure felt like it. Blake Griffin was in in “boom shakalaka” form. Kenneth Faried was catching half-court lobs from Andre Miller. Jordan Hamilton and DeAndre Jordan were throwing down monster slams. This was close the entire was and tied 91-91, but down the stretch the Clippers had Chris Paul (36 points) and Griffin (27) and the Nuggets (without Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Nene) didn’t have someone who could get the buckets they needed.

 

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

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Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.

Reports: Heat pessimistic about/uninterested in trading for Kyrie Irving

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade from the Cavaliers, reportedly listed the Heat among his preferred destinations. Though Irving – without a no-trade clause and locked up for two more years – holds only minimal sway, teams would logically offer more for him if they believe he’d re-sign.

Will Miami trade for Irving?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

And while the possibility certainly cannot be ruled out, the Heat does not have considerable optimism about being able to strike a deal, multiple league sources said.

One Eastern Conference official who spoke to the Heat said Miami considers itself something of a long shot.

Tim Reynolds, the reputable Associated Press Heat and NBA writer, said on Steve Shapiro’s Sports Xtra on WSVN-7 that he does not believe Miami is interested in acquiring Irving.

Like the Kings, though to a far lesser extent, the Heat might not be interested because they know they stand no little of landing Irving.

Goran Dragic would almost certainly have to go to Cleveland in a deal, supplanted by Irving in Miami. Dragic would upgrade the Cavs at point guard over Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, but at 31, Dragic would also significantly shorten Cleveland’s window.

The Heat would have to send much more. It’s just not clear what.

The Cavaliers, with Tristan Thompson, might not have much interest in centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. Justise Winslow‘s weak 3-point shooting makes him a tough fit with LeBron James, and Winslow’s shoulder injury last season damages his stock anywhere. Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson are helpful contributors, but Johnson’s salary skyrockets north of $19 million each of the following two seasons, Richardson will hit free agency (and get a raise) after this season. James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk – who all signed this summer – can’t be traded until Dec. 15. (I’m not sure which prospect is funnier, Waiters returning to Cleveland or playing with Irving in Miami.) The Heat also owe the Suns two future first-round picks – one top-seven protected in 2018 and unprotected in 2019, the other unprotected in 2021.

It’s difficult, maybe impossible, for Miami to assemble a suitable trade package given those constraints.

At least the Heat would keep open the possibility of LeBron returning if they don’t trade for Irving.

Cavaliers try to convey confidence amid their own star crisis (crises?)

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said the Pacers could have done better in their Paul George trade – a bold (though correct) public critique from someone who had to apologize for his handling of the last time he lost a star and is staring down the prospect of losing another star this summer and the original star again next summer.

What was supposed to be a press conference introducing new general manager Koby Altman today predictably turned into an examination of Kyrie Irving‘s trade request and LeBron James2018 free agency.

“This thing is not broken,” said Altman, who takes over a team that has reached three straight NBA Finals – winning the 2016 title – but now faces immense peril.

Both Gilbert and Altman kept their assessments of Irving’s trade request close to the vest, not even confirming it occurred. But even NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he assumes reports of Irving’s request are accurate.

Gilbert said he planned to call Silver, clearly part of an attempt to project stability. That was the transparent underpinning of the entire press conference, which included Gilbert saying he felt better about hiring Altman than any prior general manager. The plan went awry when Gilbert stumbled through an answer about why he’s never given a general manager a second contract and why the Cavs couldn’t lure Chauncey Billups, who turned down leading the front office and later said he knew of Irving’s discontent and labeled it “alarming.”

But Gilbert did give his assessments on the franchise’s biggest issues.

On LeBron’s future beyond this season: “We do not control all the cards we get dealt.”

On whether Irving will be in training camp: “Right now, Kyrie Irving is under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers for two or three years, depending on the last year. So, as of now, he’s one of our best players. Sure, we expect him to be in camp.”

In context, Gilbert sounded as if he was merely saying he expected every Cavalier under contract to be in training camp until their contract status changed – not that he was predicting Irving wouldn’t be traded this offseason.

All reports are that the Cavs are proceeding as if they’ll trade Irving, though Gilbert also brought Kobe Bryant’s infamous 2007 trade request. Kobe and the Lakers reconciled, and he won two more titles in Los Angeles.

“I’m not saying that that happens here,” Gilbert said. “But the possibilities of what will happen are wide.”

The Cavs at least left the door open publicly for Irving returning. Altman downplayed any animosity between the team’s stars, echoing LeBron’s tweets. But Irving’s issues with LeBron appear to be deeper and different than face-to-face resentment, and this summer’s saga hasn’t necessarily helped.

Altman called LeBron “deeply committed to this team and deeply committed to this city” and Irving a “core piece of who we are and what we do.”

Yet, the new general manager wanted to expand discussion beyond those two.

“It’s interesting,” Altman said. “We’ve had an active offseason that I wish some of you would talk more about, in terms of what we’ve done.”

The offseason LeBron reportedly deemed frustrating?

Altman gets a pass for David Griffin’s departure, which clearly rankled LeBron. But Cleveland’s signings – Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Jose Calderon, Cedi Osman – leave plenty to be desired, especially as the Warriors load up. A championship looks even further from Cleveland.

With the goal so high and future so turbulent, Gilbert and Altman faced an uphill battle in projecting stability today. Luckily for them, this isn’t the true measure of success.

But things that matter far more – navigating Irving’s trade request, re-signing LeBron – might not be much easier.

Watch the top 60 clutch shots from last NBA season

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It’s that time of the year when there is no basketball, so we fill the time with idle Kyrie Irving speculation and video highlights of last season.

Along those lines, above you can out the top 60 clutch shots from last season, as determined by the folks at NBA.com.

The great thing about the clutch shot list is the ball is in the hands of stars at the ends of games, so there is plenty of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and more. Personally, I would have switch No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, but it’s all fun to relive.