Kobe Bryant

Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Bobcats and Pistons both won. Seriously.

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What you missed while playing a sport where you use stun guns on your opponents

Pistons 88, Lakers 85 (OT): This is why I can’t take the Lakers seriously as a contender — because after each of their big wins this year they turned around the next game and laid an egg (beat Boston lost to the Knicks, for example). Because they are 6-13 on the road. Because they don’t take care of business like a contender.

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol combined for 50 points on 21-of-32 shooting plus had 24 rebounds (Bynum had 30 of those points and was the best player on the floor all night). So of course, those two didn’t touch the ball down the stretch of a close game. Instead the Lakers relied on Kobe Bryant and a perimeter game where they shot 3-of-22 all night. Bryant made the big shot to send the game to overtime because he was able to go right and get to his favorite spot near the elbow, but he was 8-of-26 shooting for 22 points on the night.

A play before Kobe sent it to overtime Rodney Stuckey hit a big three to give the Pistons the lead — a shot he might well have hit anyway because he was hot (he had 34 points on the night — 17 in the fourth quarter and overtime) but when Metta World Peace didn’t even try to rotate out Stuckey got to set his feet and there was no doubt that was going down. It’s those kinds of things, those kinds of nights for the Lakers that makes me question them.

Charlotte 100, Orlando 84: The Bobcats were down 20 early in the second quarter and coach Paul Silas was ejected just before the half, so this was just going to be another routine Bobcats loss, right? Wrong.

You can’t stop Corey Maggette… well, at least nobody could on Tuesday as he had 10 points during the Bobcats fourth-quarter run and finished with 29 total. Bismack Biyombo outplayed Dwight Howard for long stretches. Orlando shot just 24 percent in that fourth quarter. Magic starters not named Howard shot 30.2 percent. It was just a disastrous performance by the Magic combined with about as well as the Bobcats can play.

Dallas 95, Knicks 85: I thought if Carmelo Anthony got roasted by the New York media because of fit issues around Jeremy Lin that it would be unfair. However, if he gets roasted for this performance — 2-of-12 shooting and an inbounds play where he jaws with Shawn Marion and throws it away to the Mavs — I can see it. But he shouldn’t take all the blame, the Knicks played about 7 minutes of inspired ball all night — a 15-0 fourth quarter run that made it close. Dirk Nowitzki was the closer with 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. Jeremy Lin had 14 points on 13 shots with 7 assists but was pedestrian on the night.

Miami 100, Nets 78: Miami is very, very good. The Nets are very, very bad. Not sure there is anything else we need to say, other than the Heat avoided the upsets the Lakers and Magic could not. This was over by half, so Dwyane Wade got to rest his ankle.

Celtics 97, Rockets 92 (OT): There are no easy wins over the Rockets — they make you work for everything — but this didn’t have to go to overtime if Rajon Rondo had hit the game-sealing layup with three seconds left. But he missed, Goran Dragic knocked down the shot and this one went the extra distance. Paul Pierce — the only Celtics who attacked on offense all night — had seven of his 30 in the overtime and Boston got the win. Ray Allen had 21 on the night.

Hawks 101, Pacers 96: It is test week for the Pacers and they are 0-2 now, with losses to Chicago and Atlanta. Miami and Orlando are up next. Josh Smith led Orlando with 27 points and the guy playing on revenge after being snubbed for the All-Star team did it on a night Zaza Pachulia outplayed All-Star Roy Hibbert in the fourth quarter. In fact, the Hawks won in the fourth largely thanks to a Tracy McGrady pick-and-roll play (he had six fourth quarter assists) that set up Pachulia and Jannero Pargo (11 points in the fourth quarter). If the Pacers can’t stop that combo they are in trouble.

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.