Baseline to Baseline recaps: Fear Memphis, for they are a force

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What you missed while marveling at Japanese beer technology.

Grizzlies 94, Clippers 85: Why does everyone fear the Grizzlies right now? Because they have a huge front line with skill. Because they have very good wing players. Because they have depth. Because they have won 8 of 10 and that includes victories over the Lakers, Thunder, Heat and Mavericks. Now you can add the Clippers to that list.

Memphis is playing good defense and you know what the Clippers are going to run — a whole lot of pick and roll — and the Griz were ready. Blake Griffin (19 points) and DeAndre Jordan were in foul trouble at points, while Chris Paul wasn’t finding room to operate and teammates were not helping out. On the other end, it was a huge game from Marc Gasol — 18 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. That’s one more assist than Chris Paul. Marreese Speights also had a good game for Memphis. Teams should fear the Grizzlies, they will be a very tough out come the playoffs.

Jazz 91, Spurs 84: After an 11 game win streak, somebody finally figured out how to beat the Spurs — Gregg Popovich. San Antonio’s own coach sat Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. And the Spurs still almost won — they were up 9 in the fourth quarter, before an 8-0 Jazz run made it a game again. Devin Harris came alive with 12 of  his 24 in the fourth quarter, while Paul Millsap added 9 of his 18 in the quarter. The win keeps the Jazz in the thick of the playoff race.

Lakers 93, Hornets 91: Well Andrew Bynum, you wanted to be the man on a team. With Kobe Bryant out Bynum became the focal point of the New Orleans defense. The Hornets aggressively doubled and even tripled teamed Bynum in the first half and he got frustrated, shot 2-for-7 to start. He finished 7-for-17 shooting but seemed to adapt. Gasol much more smooth in dealing with that defensive attention, much more polished, and finished with 25 points.

It took a 15-2 run late in the game for the Lakers (sparked by their defense) to get back in this and take the lead, then they held on for the win. Marco Belinelli and Carl Landry each had 20 for the Hornets.

Rockets 94, Trail Blazers 89: The Rockets went 4-0 on a tough late-season road trip and when they make the playoffs they can look back at that as when they secured it. Goran Dragic led the way with 22 points and seven assists, as he has done so often lately.

Thunder 109, Bucks 89: This game was really never in doubt, the Thunder owned it inside and out. Russell Westbrook went right at Brandon Jennings and finished with 26 points. The Thunder were able to get into the paint at will it seemed, and the Bucks only defense to that was to foul.

Orlando 119, Pistons 89: No Dwight Howard, no Hedo Turkoglu, no Chris Duhon (okay, maybe the last one doesn’t matter as much) but it didn’t slow the Magic. This one was never close as the Magic played defense like Stan Van Gundy wanted. Jason Richardson had 22, Jameer Nelson had 18 points and 9 assists. Detroit is just not very good.

Pacers 103, Raptors 98: The Pacers seemed in easy control of this one until a Linus Kleiza explosion — 18 points in the fourth quarter — sparked a 15-2 Raptors run that made a game of it late. The Pacers held on thanks to George Hill — 18 points playing the point, filling in for Darren Collison — and 18 from Danny Granger.

Nuggets 123, Warriors 89: Denver was desperate for a win to stay in the playoffs, the Warriors are rolling over. Combine that and you get a blowout. The big story was rookie Kenneth Faried, who had his best game as a pro with 27 points and 17 rebounds.

Wizards 113, Bobcats 85: Charlotte is going to have the most ping pong balls come the NBA draft lottery — and they deserve it. In a battle of the two worst teams in the league (they have been at the bottom of my power rankings for weeks) the Wizards crushed the Bobcats. The Wizards traded Nick Young in part to give more room for Jordan Crawford and he is responding, with 20 points in this one.

Suns 114, Timberwolves 90: Phoenix tore up the Minnesota “defense” (we had to put that in quotes after this performance) and the Suns shot 57 percent on the night. Rookie Markieff Morris had 21 points off of the bench. Kevin Love finished with 25 points and 13 rebounds, but it was kind of moot, the Suns ran away with this one.

Report: Thunder have planned Blake Griffin pursuit for months

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The Clippers sound confident about re-signing Blake Griffin in the wake Chris Paul going to the Rockets.

But L.A. will have competition for the star forward – from the Nuggets, Celtics (depending how their primary plan goes), Heat and Griffin’s home-state Thunder.

Royce Young of ESPN:

It’s a shame for the Thunder they backed off their plan to sign Griffin last summer, signing Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo to contract extensions, only to resume it a few months later.

Letting Adams and Oladipo hit unrestricted free agency would have given Oklahoma City an additional $22,514,699 in cap flexibility while maintaining Adams’ and Oladipo’s Bird Rights. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to offer Griffin a max salary, but dumping Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and either Doug McDermott or Domantas Sabonis would’ve projected to get the Thunder there. In that scenario, Oklahoma City could have also exceeded the cap to re-sign Adams and Oladipo after inking Griffin.

Alas, the Thunder are now limited to dumping contributors that make the team appealing to someone like Griffin in the first place or executing a sign-and-trade. But a sign-and-trade gets complicated. Adams’ salary alone isn’t enough to return Griffin on a max, and it’s not even clear the Clippers – with DeAndre Jordan – would want Adams (though losing Griffin could initiate an even greater rebuild that includes trading Jordan). And again, the Clippers reportedly want to keep Griffin rather than go this route.

This was all foreseeable, though some surprising factors worsened the consequences of the extensions for Oklahoma City.

Griffin seemed more certain last summer to stay in L.A. The 2017-18 salary cap appeared on track to be higher. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement won’t raise cap holds for first-round picks until next year. So, Adams’ deal projects to save the Thunder just $6,425,000 over the next four years relative to a max offer sheet – a paltry sum in the face of the potential cap flexibility lost this year by extending him instead of waiting to re-sign him.

The Thunder making moves earlier than necessary and salary-cap developments turning those plans especially imprudent – where have I heard this one before?

Report: Gordon Hayward will meet first with Heat in free agency, then Jazz, then Celtics

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Gordon Hayward is arguably the biggest available prize in free agency, and his dance card for the first couple of days in July is filling up.

Miami and Pat Riley will bat lead off in a series of meetings, reports ESPN.

Gordon Hayward will take his first free-agent meeting with the Miami Heat on Saturday, a source told ESPN’s Jorge Sedano. Hayward will then be traveling Sunday to meet Utah on Monday, with Boston coming after that…

Sources previously told ESPN the Jazz regard the Heat as no less a threat to lure Hayward away than the Celtics, whose interest in the former Butler star has been anticipated for some time, largely thanks to the presence of Hayward’s college coach, Brad Stevens, on Boston’s bench.

For the record, there are rumors it’s Miami Saturday, Boston Sunday, Utah Monday, then he will take some time to make a decision. I’m not sure the order matters that much.

Hayward is an All-Star level player at a position of need for a lot of teams out on the wing. He averaged 21.9 points per game last season, shot 39.8 percent from three, can put the ball on the floor and be a playmaker for himself and others, plus can defend everything from stretch fours to point guards (he’s not a lock-down defender, but he is good). Hayward is the kind of versatile player teams need to compete in a modern NBA. He’s an elite wing player who is about to get paid like one.

The question is by whom? Around the league teams are convinced it will be one of those three, but which one depends on who you talk to. The Jazz seem confident they can retain him, where others seem confident he’s got one foot out the door. Only Hayward truly knows, and he’s wise to not speak on it and take the meetings. (If he takes his time deciding that could impact the chase for Blake Griffin, Miami and Boston reportedly have interest if they don’t land Gordon, but that can’t be Gordon’s concern. He has to do what’s right for him in his own time.)

Doc Rivers says Chris Paul left to be with James Harden not because of Clipper players

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Chris Paul essentially forcing a trade to the Houston Rockets was an earthquake that shook the Los Angeles Clippers and destroyed them as any kind of contender. (How much of a contender they really were is up for debate, they did win 50+ games five of the past six years, but a combination of injuries, mediocre chemistry and toughness questions never let them get past the second round.)

Then came the aftershocks — or spin. First, there was the report that Paul had it with Doc Rivers because he and the team felt Austin Rivers gets favorable treatment. That was followed by the Clippers spin saying they never formally offered Paul a five-year max deal because they were concerned about paying a 37-year-old CP3 more than $40 million.

Now Doc Rivers entered the fray, defending his players saying Paul left he wanted to play with James Harden, via Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times (below is his comments from a series of Tweets combined).

“At the end of the day, when you lose a CP, it’s a big loss. I thank him for the years he was here. He left because he wanted to be with James Harden. Let’s not get that twisted. I wish him well. I have no problem with that. Do I disagree? Yeah, I think he would have been better served here. But that’s not for me. That’s CP to decide and he decided against that. We’ve heard all the stories about Blake and DJ and Austin. I can’t comment just on Austin because it’s just not right. We’ve heard he left because of all three today. He left because of DJ, he left because of Blake and now he left because of Austin. We know he didn’t leave because of that. There is a lot of speculation on why he left. The one thing I know is he didn’t leave because of any of those three guys. He left because he felt like he would have a better chance to win somewhere else.”

Doc is right. And wrong. Almost all spin is like a myth — there’s some truth in it, then everything around that gets blown up to put that truth in the light that best suits one side. All of the aftershocks in the wake of Paul’s exit from L.A. have some truth, what any one person believes to be “the truth” speaks more to their viewpoint.

Did Paul leave the Clippers because he wanted to play with Harden and saw that as his best chance to a ring? Absolutely. After six years of playoff frustration, it was clear what the Clippers were not: A team getting to the Finals past the Warriors. These Rockets have a better chance of that and CP3 is a very competitive person.

Were Paul, and many of his teammates, frustrated with what they saw as favoritism toward Austin Rivers? I can tell you that is also unequivocally true. Any reporter that has been around this team at all in recent years has heard that from a variety of sources, myself included.

Were the Clippers worried about the fifth year of CP3s deal? Of course they were, any sane executive would be. Now, if Paul had demanded a five-year max to stay with the Clippers I also have no doubt they would have given it to him, they just would have done it knowing the last year or so of that deal was an anchor. Teams do that all the time.

Life is rarely something black and white, it’s always shades of gray. Major decisions — like changing where you work and live — are not based on just one factor, but a variety of them. Did the chance to win weigh more on Paul than money or frustration with Doc Rivers? Only Paul can answer what the ratios were, but winning probably was the biggest factor. That doesn’t make the other factors less true.

It also doesn’t change the fact Doc Rivers and the Clippers have some hard choices — and some recruiting of Blake Griffin to do — coming up this summer.

Ex-financial adviser gets 4 years in federal prison for defrauding Tim Duncan

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) An ex-financial adviser to retired San Antonio Spurs player Tim Duncan has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for defrauding the former NBA star of millions of dollars.

Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Charles Banks of Atlanta was sentenced during a court hearing Wednesday in San Antonio.

A judge also ordered Banks to pay $7.5 million in restitution.

Banks had pleaded guilty in April to one count of wire fraud.

Investigators say Banks manipulated Duncan -who retired last year after five NBA championships with the Spurs – into guaranteeing payment of a $6 million debt related to a merchandising business.

Prosecutors say Banks failed to disclose commissions and loans he received in the deal.

Banks is set to report to federal prison as early as Aug. 28.