O.J. Mayo

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Mayo sticks dagger in Thunder

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What you missed while watching Kentucky win the national title they seemed destined to win….

Memphis 94, Oklahoma City 88: Apparently the Thunder are not comfortable on top of my (and everybody’s) power rankings.

This was always a dangerous letdown game for the Thunder — they beat the Heat, Lakers and Bulls in the eight days before and had the Heat coming up again Wednesday. This was the sandwich game, the one you ignored. And you can’t look past a desperate Memphis team in need of a good win. Memphis led much of the second half but you knew the Thunder run was coming. It did and this was close at the end. That’s when O.J. Mayo hit the dagger three with 17 seconds left, then celebrated with Russell Westbrook’s “six shooters in the holster” move. Nice. Mayo finished with 22. Big win for the Grizzlies who now sit fifth in the deep West.

Rockets 99, Bulls 93: The Rockets are not giving up that final playoff spot in the West without a fight. It was a roller coaster of a game with huge swings but a third-quarter 14-1 run by the Rockets tied it then a 17-2 run that spanned the third into the fourth gave Houston the win. Goran Dragic had 21 points to lead Houston.

This is two losses in a row for Chicago, the first time this season that has happened. Richard Hamilton returned and had six early points but mostly looked rusty and had five turnovers (the Bulls had 19, which was one of their problems on the night). Deng had 24 to lead Chicago, which finally looks like it needs Derrick Rose back.

Clippers 94, Mavericks 75: We knew it would take a little while for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to really develop chemistry on the pick-and-roll. We knew that but we were still impatient. . Now we’re starting to see the fruits of that play, and the rest of the West may want to tremble a little. That play was key for the Clippers. The other guy who was hot was Randy Foye who had 28 points as the weakside outlet knocking down threes. Dallas shot just 39 percent for the game. Part of it was just an off night for Dallas but the Clippers defense deserves some credit, they were running the jump-shooting Mavs off their shots and making them put it on the floor.

Jazz 102, Trail Blazers 97: In a tight game where the Jazz fought back the Trail Blazers had a chance: Down one with 28 seconds left bringing the ball inbounds. Nicolas Batum made the pass to Raymond Felton, who was casual about catching it — Jamal Tinsley jumped in, made the steal, raced to the other end where seconds later Paul Millsap got a dunk that pretty much sealed the win. The lesson here kids — you have to give up position for possession. Or, to be more blunt, go to the ball, Raymond. Good come-from-behind win for the Jazz, who remain one game out of the playoffs in the West.

Bucks 112, Wizards 98: Washington did put up a fight, this was close until midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bucks were deeper — 15 more bench points — and they had Brandon Jennings. Ekpe Udoh also had 15 and 8, he’s been a good pick up for Milwaukee. The Bucks got a win that keeps them just two games out of the playoffs in the East.

Kings 116, Timberwolves 108: Sacramento opened the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run to get the win. Tyreke Evans had 24 points, Jimmer Fredette 19. The big story for the Timberwolves is Luke Ridnour suffered what looked like a nasty sprained ankle — this is a team already without Ricky Rubio. Tough break.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team 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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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat 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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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.