Courtney Lee, Paul George

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Rockets playoff hopes take punch to gut

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What you missed while reading the book “Cooking with Poo”….

Thunder 92, Bulls 78: The Oklahoma City Thunder have rolled over everybody lately (that’s going to be good for them in the power rankings Monday) and their athleticism overwhelmed the Chicago in our game of the day.

Celtics 91, Heat 72: Does Boston have one more title run in them? Are the Heat bored or are their flaws being exposed? Not sure the answers to that are black-and-white, but we had a lot of questions after our other game of the day.

Pacers 104, Rockets 102 (OT): This loss is a punch to the gut of a Rockets team trying to hold on to the last playoff spot in the West — GM Daryl Morey tweeted it was the most painful loss of the season for him. The Rockets were up 10 in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on and the end of the game itself was fun to watch with the teams trading jumpers. Danny Granger was on fire with 32 points including 6-of-8 from three.

Lakers 120, Warriors 112: This was an old-fashioned shootout right down to the two teams trading threes in the final minutes. It was entertaining. The Lakers got the win but they can’t walk away from this one feeling particularly good — like the Hornets they let a team they should throttle hang around and make it close late. This was a one-point game with seven minutes left until the Lakers went on a 9-0 run. On the bright side for the Lakers, they had efficient Kobe Bryant back and he dropped 40. That will get them some wins until they figure out how to play defense again. The Lakers also got a good performance out of Troy Murphy (not sure you want to depend on that nightly, Lakers fans). This is five straight losses for Golden State as they continue a quest to pick up more ping-pong balls.

Nuggets 104, Magic 101: No Dwight Howard for the Magic, who sat out with back spasms, and so this turned into the battle of the point guards — Ty Lawson had 25 and Jameer Nelson had 27. The big key for Orlando was that even without Howard they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds (Glen Davis had 9), but it was not enough as the Nuggets balanced attack was back.

Trail Blazers 119, Timberwolves 106: LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love went at it, toe-to-toe — and at one point literally chest-to-chest. We’ll give the win to Aldridge because he had 26 points and 8 rebounds — and because his team won in large part due to his 10 points in the final frame. (Love had 26 points, nine rebounds). He got a boost from Raymond Felton who had 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

Raptors 99, Wizards 92: Toronto got 18 points from Andrea Bargnani and better bench play which together. Washington has the excuse that Nene and Trevor Booker were out again. But really, this game was about ping-pong balls.

Suns 92, Hornets 75: If the Suns are going to make the playoffs they need to win these games. Phoenix took control of this one with an 18-4 run in the third and never looked back. Steve Nash had just 4 points but dropped 14 dimes. Jared Dudley had 21 for Phoenix; Marco Belinelli and Jason Smith each had 14 for New Orleans.

Stan Van Gundy to Reggie Jackson: “We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio”

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It was rumored this week that the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves were mulling a trade that would send Ricky Rubio to Michigan and Reggie Jackson to Minnesota. Now, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy says that isn’t happening.

Nor was it a real offer that was even on the table.

In a video posted to the Detroit Free Press, Van Gundy went off on one of his classic fireside chats — the kind that involves profanity — on how he sees the NBA as it works.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

While the whole thing is worth watching for the Van Gundyness of it all, here’s the meat you’re looking for:

All these rumors and stuff look I mean know it’s fun for everybody and you’ve got some source somewhere and it’s also all bullshit. Im not denying that discussion — they take place all the time – -that’s a lot different than considerations. Somebody says ‘Hey would you consider Ricky Rubio for Reggie Jackson that discussion might have taken pace. And clearly we didn’t make that move. We wanted to see if they’d go [Michael] Gbinije for LeBron.

Van Gundy said he didn’t know if the specific Jackson-for-Rubio discussion even happened, saying that Pistons president Jeff Bower only brings him trades they are actively considering.

Meanwhile, Van Gundy confirmed that he did text Jackson after his agent made contact with Bower.

“This is the crazy season. We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio,” said Van Gundy about his text to Jackson.

Report: After fining Wizards, league issues memo warning teams on bench etiquette

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Courtney Lee #5 of the New York Knicks takes a three point shot in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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The NBA league office fined Washington Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe $5,000 — and the team an additional $15,000 — for his role in distracting a New York Knicks shooter during a game this last week.

Now, the league has issued a warning to teams: make sure you’re practicing good bench etiquette, or we’re coming for your wallets.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams on Saturday reminding them to remain on their own bench in accordance with league rules. Obviously that means no stepping onto active basketball courts:

So what are coaches needing to confine themselves to?

Official NBA rules state simply:

The coach’s position may be on or off the bench from the substitution box line (closest to the coach’s bench) to the baseline. A coach is not permitted to cross the midcourt line and violators will be assessed an unsportsmanlike technical foul immediately. All assistants and trainers must remain on the bench. Coaches and trainers are not permitted to go to the scorer’s table, for any reason, except during a dead ball.

Like we see with preseason points of emphasis, it’s possible we see additional fines in the weeks to come. Several coaches enjoy toeing the line (literally) to see what they can get away with and how far out on the court they can stand. Tom Thibodeau immediately springs to mind.

Or, it could go the other direction. Perhaps we see more coaches sitting back, respecting their distance?

Hopefully we just don’t see any more of them trying to close out on opposing shooters.

Joel Embiid wants the center position to return to the NBA All-Star ballot

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The NBA got rid of the center position on the All-Star ballot starting in 2013, thanks in part to some positional confusion around former San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan. But just a handful of years later, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid says it should make a comeback.

Embiid — who finished third in the Eastern Conference for forwards in All-Star fan voting — told CSN Philly that due to the plethora of talented big men in the NBA, the position should return.

Via CSN Philly:

“There’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” Embiid said. “That’s something the NBA should think about, putting the center back on the All-Star ballot.”

There has been a resurgence of talented and burgeoning centers that have entered the league and are performing at a high level. Embiid is one of them, and so too is DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Hassan Whiteside, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Steven Adams, and Jahlil Okafor.

Adding the center position back might be a tough sell as having it doesn’t reduce eliminations from the roster. It’s much more free-flowing now, and there’s nothing keeping great centers off the All-Star team.

It would also be a little strange if center was added back but there wasn’t a point guard spot, too. ESPN’s Zach Lowe has suggested three categories for the roster in point guard, wing, and frontcourt. That idea is as good as adding the center position, perhaps moreso to many folks in the NBA.

I don’t think adding the center position will make a comeback any time soon. Meanwhile, we’re all just waiting to see if Embiid makes the All-Star reserves.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies for reverse alley-oop jam (VIDEO)

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Is Aaron Gordon a three or a four?

That’s a debate for another day. What we all know he can do is leap out of the building, and he showed off how that can be useful during a game Friday night — Jabari Parker actually defends this fairly well, Gordon can just go over the top of him and get it. With that, we get a highlight.

The Magic upset the Bucks 112-96, behind 20 from a resurgent Elfrid Payton. Parker had 25 for the Bucks.