Miami Heat's LeBron James is guarded by Chicago Bulls' John Lucas and Luol Deng during their NBA basketball game in Chicago

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bulls beat Heat even without that Rose guy

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What you missed while waiting for Dwight Howard to change his mind again….

Bulls 106, Heat 102: This just shows the different mentalities of these two teams. No Derrick Rose, no Richard Hamilton and yet the Bulls just brought it with fantastic energy. They defended, guys like John Lucas III (24 points) and Jimmy Butler step in in their roles and the Bulls lead the whole way. Joakim Noah was everywhere.

Miami got good games from LeBron James (35 points on 25 shots) and Dwyane Wade (36 points on 26 shots) but after that nothing. They had two bench points for the entire first half. Chris Bosh had 12 points on 15 shots. Nobody else showed passion or brought it.

I’m not going to take much out of this game and apply it to the future Eastern Conference Finals between these two teams. But it does show a difference of mentality toward the regular season.

Knicks 121, Trail Blazers 79: I don’t want to rain on the Knicks parade, but this game really had nothing to do with Mike Woodson replacing Mike D’Antoni and everything to do with the Trail Blazers being this bad. They may have been the worst team in the NBA over the past two weeks, and they were on the second night of a back-to-back with trade rumors hanging over them. It was ugly. J.R. Smith had 23 to lead the Knicks.

We’ll be able to judge the Knicks better after some time for Woodson to put his stamp on this team. Just remember, when he coached the Hawks his offense was nicknamed “iso Joe” for how often they ran Joe Johnson isolations. Carmelo Anthony has to love that.

Spurs 122, Magic 111: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. San Antonio put up 63 points in the second half — Tony Parker had 16 in the fourth quarter alone — and the Spurs come from behind to win. Second night of a back-to-back for Orlando, and they may have been distracted by something.

Lakers 107, Hornets 101 (OT): Two overtime games in two nights — Kobe Bryant has played more than 100 minutes in them. But that didn’t slow him in the overtime when he had seven points then and 33 on the night. Andrew Bynum had 25 points, 18 boards. Gritty effort by the Hornets.

Pacers 111, Sixers 94: Philadelphia is a good defensive team. They were not this night. Indy shot 56.6 percent as a team and hit 7 of 17 from three (41.2 percent). Danny Granger led the way with 20 points on 13 shots.

Nets 98, Raptors 94: Do you really think anybody in the Nets organization is celebrating this win right now?

Bucks 115, Cavaliers 105: The Bucks had 38 assists on 46 baskets, they really had great ball movement and had six players in double figures scoring. We’ll see how that goes when Monta Ellis is in the lineup. The Bucks remain tied for eighth in the East with the Knicks but this win puts the two up on the Cavaliers, who are 10th.

Rockets 107, Bobcats 87: Houston led the whole way and this game went pretty much to form. Wonder what these rosters will look like 24 hours from now.

Pistons 124, Kings 112: In a game between two teams capable of mental nights off, the Pistons seemed more engaged. At least their stars did. Rodney Stuckey had 35 points, Greg Monroe had 32, 11 in the fourth quarter.

Clippers 96, Hawks 81: Atlanta did a pretty good job defensively of taking the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands and slowing Blake Griffin (at least for a half). Dare someone else to beat you. Like Mo Williams, who had 25 points. The Hawks on offense never seem to really go at the mismatches they have, they just take what they can get.

Celtics, 105 Warriors 103: Someone needs to explain to the Warriors about how to tank to improve your lottery odds — they played with great energy all night. Boston played up-tempo on the second night of a back-to-back and won. They got 24 from Kevin Garnett, who had 12 in the fourth quarter.

Suns 119, Jazz 111: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed this report: Utah put a 20-3 stretch together early that had them ahead by 13 points two minutes into the second quarter. The Suns then dropped a 34-13 run from the second quarter into the third, pushing Phoenix’s lead to eight.

Phoenix held a lead of seven heading into the fourth, and Utah came back to tie it at 91 before the Suns’ starting unit was able to regain control.

The Suns were able to shoot 56.4 percent from the field for the game, including a combined 9-of-16 from three-point range from Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Steve Nash was ridiculously efficient, finishing with 12 points on just four shots, while dishing out 16 assists. Marcin Gortat bounced back from his dismal effort against Minnesota with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting.

The Suns weren’t pleased with their defense, but were happy to get the win. They’re now tied with Utah in the standings with a record of 20-22, still three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race that’s currently shared by Houston and Dallas.

 

Spurs sign 2013 first-rounder Livio Jean-Charles

Cecilio Santibanez
AP Photo/Eric Gay
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With the 76ers signing Dario Saric, that left just five players drafted in the first round before this year who are still active but haven’t played in the NBA:

  • Nikola Milutinov (No. 26 by Spurs in 2015)
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic (No. 27 by Suns in 2014)
  • Livio Jean-Charles (No. 28 in 2013 by Spurs)
  • Petteri Koponen (No. 30 in 2007 by 76ers)
  • Fran Vazquez (No. 11 in 2005 by Magic)

San Antonio trimmed the list by one.

Spurs release:

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have signed forward Livio Jean-Charles.

Because Jean-Charles was drafted more than three years ago, he’s not bound by the rookie scale. San Antonio could have signed him to a scale or standard contract.

The Spurs could use more length and athleticism on the frontline behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, and Jean-Charles fit the bill when drafted. But he tore his ACL and missed the following season. It’s less clear the 22-year-old is still on track to help.

 

Count on Dewayne Dedmon as a far safer bet to provide San Antonio with that dimension. If Jean-Charles helps, that’d just be a bonus.

DeMarcus Cousins: All-NBA voting ‘absurd,’ ‘joke,’ ‘popularity contest’

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings and DeAndre Jordan #6 of the Los Angeles Clippers battle for rebounding position at Staples Center on February 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 conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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DeMarcus Cousins was the only All-NBA player on a lottery team this year.

The Kings center made the second team behind DeAndre Jordan.

Credit voters for seeing past Sacramento’s dismal record and recognizing Cousins’ individual excellence. He has only so much power, and it would’ve been unfair to disqualify him due to his subpar teammates and coaching.

Cousins’ voting breakdown:

  • First team: 32
  • Second team: 28
  • Third team: 33
  • Not on ballot: 33

I wouldn’t have picked Cousins for an All-NBA team, but this struck me as voters being open-minded about an unconventional candidate — one from a losing team.

Cousins sees it differently.

Cousins, via Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

“I don’t even know what an expert is any more,” Cousins told The Vertical about the all-NBA votes. “I mean, I had some guys, didn’t even vote for me, and that’s absurd. It’s a joke. It really is. It’s a popularity contest. It’s the guys who like them, it’s the guys they like, the guys they get to see on a nightly basis. I still don’t feel I get the respect I deserve. But I’m going to keep grinding. I’m going to stick with it.”

I wouldn’t have voted for Cousins. I put Draymond Green, Jordan and Al Horford at center for the PBT Awards. So, I obviously didn’t find omitting Cousins absurd.

Likewise, I wouldn’t have found including Cousins absurd. He wasn’t far behind in a deep crop of center candidates that also included Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, Hassan Whiteside and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Though Cousins posted monster numbers — 26.9 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.4 blocks per game — he contributed to the toxic environment that derailed Sacramento’s season. That counts, too. So does Cousins missing 17 games.

But before we get too far down the rabbit hole of sober analysis, remember this: Cousins, for better or worse, always has a huge chip on his shoulder. Of course he thinks he was slighted.

In fact, many voters find that stubbornness endearing. That’s why a popularity contest didn’t keep Cousins off some All-NBA ballots.

His season, while very impressive, just wasn’t overwhelmingly dominant enough to demand inclusion on every single ballot.

DeMar DeRozan didn’t meet with Lakers because he wanted “legacy of my own in Toronto”

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  DeMar DeRozan #9 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team stands on the court during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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DeMar DeRozan was going to be one of the Lakers’ free agent targets last summer — an All-Star wing who could come home to Los Angeles and slide right into Kobe Bryant‘s now vacant spot in the rotation. But like the Lakers’ other top targets — Kevin Durant, Hassam Whiteside, etc. — the Lakers didn’t even get a meeting.

Durant’s reasoning was expected: “I really respect their team. I just thought they were a couple years away from where I wanted to be.”

DeRozan went another path — he loves Toronto and wants to carve out a legacy there, as he told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily recently:

“When you have an opportunity to go home, that’s something that certainly would cross your mind. But it wasn’t anything,” DeRozan told Southern California News Group. “After I finish playing, I’m pretty sure I’ll live in L.A. But I just wanted to do something special and leave a legacy of my own in Toronto.”

DeRozan is big on loyalty — he has the word tattooed on his hands. If he says he’s in for something, he’s all the way in. And he is in for Toronto — he and Kyle Lowry have built what that team has become. The Lowry/DeRozan backcourt fueled the Raptors to the best season in franchise history last campaign — 56 wins and reaching the Eastern Conference finals. Nobody who knew DeRozan thought he would walk away from that, not even for the chance to play for the team he grew up idolizing.

The Daily News story does a fantastic job of showing DeRozan is still loyal to Los Angeles, too — he is a regular at the Drew League to this day. He loves L.A.

But that’s different from leaving an impressive Raptors team for the Lakers.

DeMarcus Cousins looks to make most of chance with US basketball team

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 22:  Roberto Santiago Acuna #35 of Argentina knocks the ball away from DeMarcus Cousins #12 of the United States during a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at T-Mobile Arena on July 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United States won 111-74.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins considers the thought, and one of the NBA’s most recognizable scowls quickly turns into a bright smile.

Without saying a word, it’s clear he agrees: For the first time under Mike Krzyzewski, the U.S. Olympic basketball team has a genuine offensive weapon in the middle.

The Americans might even have the best center in the world.

Cousins had 14 points and 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes of the Americans’ exhibition opener, a 111-74 victory over Argentina. The Sacramento Kings star can score inside and out, and gives the U.S. a dimension it hasn’t had while winning the last two gold medals.

“DeMarcus is going to be a force in Rio,” teammate Klay Thompson said.

The center spot has almost been an afterthought on recent U.S. teams, who much preferred playing small to pounding the ball inside. Then again, none had a “bulldog” like Cousins, as Kevin Durant called him.

“There’s been a lot of great bigs come through this program, so I’m blessed to be in this situation,” Cousins said. “I’m honored to be in this situation. I’m not really in it to say who’s the best at what position, I’m just here to help the team win. So we’ve got one goal in mind, which is the gold, and that’s only thing I’m focused on right now.”

Along with that gold, Cousins could bring back something else from the Olympics.

His NBA career has been six seasons of bad teams and bad moods, the constant losing in Sacramento and the chaos in the organization often overshadowing his play. He doesn’t hide his unhappiness, and many times if he’s not shouting, it’s only because he’s sulking.

The 6-foot-11 center out of Kentucky averaged a career-high 26.9 points last season, fourth in the NBA, and was fifth in the league with 11.5 rebounds per game. But the Kings missed the playoffs again, as they have every season since taking Cousins with the No. 5 pick in the 2010 draft, and his bickering with coach George Karl generated more headlines than anything he or the Kings did on the court.

Now he’ll spend a month around a team that does nothing but win, and maybe that mentality will rub off on him.

“It can only help him,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said.

“I think all the players who play for us are better people for it. They become better players. As a result, they get absorbed in the culture and that culture they bring back to their respective teams, and ultimately they benefit.”

Colangelo wasn’t certain about Cousins as a young player, saying in 2012 that he needed to be “more mature as a person, as a player” and had “a lot of growing up to do.”

He now believes they have a great relationship that’s developed over time.

As has Cousins’ role with the U.S. program. He backed up Anthony Davis in the 2014 Basketball World Cup, but with Davis recovering from injuries, Cousins has a good chance to step into the starting role.

The Americans started Dwight Howard at center in 2008 and Tyson Chandler in 2012. Both are former NBA defensive players of the year, but neither possesses Cousins’ offensive repertoire.

“DeMarcus is a different player,” said U.S. veteran Carmelo Anthony, who then focused not only on what Cousins brings, but what he can bring home.

“He’s a big who can shoot, he’s a big who can post, he’s tough, he’s a hell of a rebounder,” Anthony said. “But the most exciting thing I like about having DeMarcus out here now is he gets a chance to see how everybody else is working. Work ethic. To see him jumping into lines, to see him asking can somebody work with him, staying after, coming in before, that work ethic is something that it spills over to everybody else. When you see your peers working that hard, it makes you want to be a part of that.”

Cousins doesn’t like comparing the U.S. experience to his pro one, but praises the way the Americans do little things that get forgotten in the NBA. He came to camp in great shape and seems committed to being a good teammate, whether he starts or backs up the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan.

“He’s totally invested in what we’re doing,” Krzyzewski said.

Next up for Cousins and the Americans is their second exhibition game on Sunday against China in Los Angeles.

When it’s over, Durant and Thompson will return to an NBA team with title hopes. Cousins’ future might be the usual losing and trade rumors, so he’ll miss being around a winning team.

But maybe he can help build one.

“When you leave winning situations, it’s always going to be hard. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy winning?” Cousins said. “But I’m also always ready to get back. I’m ready to share my experience with my teammates … get the season kicked off on the right foot.”

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