Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bosh looks good in Heat victory

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What you missed while thinking a new study proves your children are brilliant….

Heat 91, Magic 81: Everybody talks about the big man the Heat could use. We often underestimate Chris Bosh — he had 23 points on 13 shots. Dwyane Wade owned the fourth quarter with 14 of his 31 coming then, when the Heat went on a 14-4 run to take control. The Heat, who have been hit and miss of late, remind us that when they are focused they are very good.

Orlando shot 9-25 from three, a respectable 36 percent. That’s good enough for most teams, but when the Heat focused their defense on shutting down Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 boards still) the Magic have to make them pay. They didn’t. Hard to see how they could four games out of seven when it matters.

Jazz 103, Lakers 99: Kobe Bryant shot 3-20 and the Lakers had 24 turnovers — they were lucky to be that close. Utah got some expected big games — Paul Millsap with 24 points — but some unexpected ones such as Enes Kanter with 17 points on 7 shots and Alec Burks who had 13 of his 17 in the fourth quarter and was fantastic down the stretch. The Jazz play hard — you don’t or have a bad night and they will beat you.

Note to the Lakers: When Andrew Bynum is 12-of-14 for 33 points feed him the ball earlier more often. The guy got deep position against an undersized Jazz lineup all night. Give him the rock. You could have won this game that way.

Thunder 111, Trail Blazers 95: Everybody looks good against the Blazers lately, and likely will after Portland’s trade deadline moves, but there was fantastic execution from Oklahoma City in this one. We’ll see if they can build on it. Russell Westbrook had 28, Kevin Durant 26 and for Portland Jamal Crawford had 23.

Grizzlies 97, Wizards 92: The key to this game is the Grizzlies perimeter defenders are aggressive at trying to create turnovers, while the Wizards are very good at turning the ball over. Credit Washington for hanging close — John Wall had 25 — but you just had the feeling this was Memphis’ game. Rudy Gay had 27, good to see Zach Randolph with 13 as he works his way back.

Atlanta 103, Cavaliers 87: The Cavaliers had no way to defend Joe Johnson — he’s too big and strong for their two guard defenders, too quick for guys the right size. He was hot early finished with 28 points on 16 shots and the Hawks controlled this one from the first quarter on.

Clippers 87, Pistons 83 (OT): These teams had to go into OT to get the score into the 80s. So, not the most entertaining game ever. But in the clutch, where the Clippers have been inconsistent, Chris Paul took charge and that’s a good sign. Also in key moments, Pistons center Greg Monroe went right at Blake Griffin and they had to take Griffin out of the game for a stretch. Monroe finished with 23 points on 11 shots.

Suns 99, Rockets 86: Phoenix is just half a game back of the Rockets for the last playoff spot in the West. More on this game tomorrow, but the Suns got a monster 25 points from Michael Redd off the bench.

Kings 115, Timberwolves 99: Minnesota was turning the ball over (21 times) and it just seemed their communication was off. Credit the Kings for taking advantage of it. Marcus Thornton had 24 to lead the Kings, Kevin Love 21 for the Wolves.

 

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

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One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

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Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.