Phoenix Suns players rally around Frye and give him high fives after he put the Suns up over the Los Angeles Clippers late in the fourth quarter during their NBA basketball game in Phoenix

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Suns stay alive, Rockets don’t in playoff chase


What you missed while cracking up at the Californian’s skit from Saturday Night Live (seriously, we all talk about traffic like that)….

Heat 83, Bulls 72: It was a physical, low scoring playoff-style game — and the fact the Heat won should give them some confidence.

Suns 93, Clippers 90: Phoenix played desperate at the end — lose and they were likely toast in the playoff race, but with the win they tie the Jazz for the eighth spot in the West. Big win for them. On the other bench, this loss was a gut shot to the Clippers chances of winning the Pacific division — they are just one game back of the Lakers with three games to play, but the Lakers own the tiebreaker.

For a stretch near the end this was the Chris Paul and Steve Nash show, and the Suns closed the game out on a 10-4 run because Nash got better support. Nash was doing what he does, drawing defenders and finding the open guy and when forced to shoot he was hitting ridiculous high banks off the glass. Credit the Suns for some defense, too — Blake Griffin got 14 points in the first quarter but just two the rest of the way as Channing Frye and friends fronted the post and worked to keep the ball out of his hands. It wasn’t a smooth win for the Suns, but it was one they needed.

Hornets 105, Rockets 99 (OT): You can stick a fork in the Rockets — they are officially out of the playoff race, a game back of both the Jazz and Suns (and without either tiebreaker). In some ways this game felt like a synopsis of the season — the Rockets had nice double digit lead at points in the second then the Hornets doubled up Rockets 26 to 13 in the third. In the fourth the Rockets attacked and it was tight. Courtney Lee almost saved the Rockets playoff chances when he made a great steal and drew a foul, but when Lee only hit one of two free throws he tied the game and did not get the Rockets the lead, the result was overtime. In OT the Hornets went on a 12-1 run and it was over. Credit Carl Landry with a big night inside, 20 points and 10 boards.

Pacers 118, Bucks 109: This win cements the Pacers as the three seed in the East, and it leaves the Bucks on the outside looking in at the playoffs. This game was chippy and felt like two teams fighting for playoff spots, although Larry Sanders just lost it at one point and got tossed. David West was the best player on the floor — 21 points (on 14 shots), 13 rebounds and seven assists.

Timberwolves 91, Pistons 80: Detroit has a good young center in Greg Monroe but he was no match for Nikola Pekovic, who had 23 points and 9 boards on the night. Detroit tried in the last quarter — Will Bynum has been buried on the Pistons bench most of the season (they tried to move him at the deadline), and he didn’t play the first three quarters of this game then dropped 17 in the fourth. But with a double-double from Anthony Randolph (15 and 10) the Timberwolves cruised.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.