Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs, Knicks remain undefeated

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while you were finding out where Superman’s home planet Krypton actually was….

Spurs 101, Pacers 79: Don’t look now, but the Spurs are defending again this year. Which is how they crushed the Pacers. We broke it down.

Knicks 110, 76ers 88: Second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home but it felt a lot like the first game. The Knicks are still defending well and the 76ers are still willing to take bad shots in the face of it. Carmelo Anthony had a few more minutes where he wanted to go to isolation, but he had 21 points on 16 shots and was again playing defense. Raymond Felton destroyed Kwame Brown on the pick and roll on his way to 16 points.

And Rasheed Wallace had 10. When ‘Sheed is hitting shots like the one below you know it is his night.

Heat 124, Suns 99: This one felt over pretty quickly — Miami was up by 14 less than 10 minutes into the game, moving the ball and getting good looks on offense that the Suns couldn’t stop. Miami hit 15-of-26 from three, and when they do that they are basically unbeatable. Michael Beasley tried to fire up the Suns offense and score the only way he knows how — attacking with his athleticism. But that’s not going to work against the Heat. It doesn’t work most nights in the NBA period, but especially not against the Heat. Beasley went 3-for -13 on the night.

Credit the Suns for fighting to keep it in the teens for a while, but this was never in doubt. LeBron had 25 points and 11 boards, Dwyane Wade had 23, Ray Allen had 15 because the Suns stopped closing out on him on corner threes. Not smart. Shannon Brown had 18, Luis Scola had 15.

Timberwolves 107, Nets 96: The Nets had a 22-point lead in the third quarter and gave it all back — that happens when you shoot 4-of-22 to close out the game — in a painful loss at home. Alexey Shved had all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback along with Dante Cunningham, who finished with 11 points, 11 boards and was +18 on the night.

Brooklyn still had a chance late, this one was 96-96 with less than four minutes to go. But in those final minutes, Shved was the guy making plays, attacking off the pick-and-roll and getting a floater in the lane and setting up Nikola Pekovic for a bucket in the paint. Then a skip pass from J.J. Barea to Chase Budinger for a three had the Timberwolves up 7 with: 38 seconds left and it was over. Brooklyn did not execute a team offense at all, they went to too much isolation late and Minnesota could defend it.

Grizzlies 103, Jazz 94: Utah looked like the better side early with Memphis struggling to score and Gordon Hayward racking up 11 points in the first quarter. But the Jazz never pulled away and Memphis came storming back. Mike Conley was key with a dozen second half points and disruptive defense that kept Mo Williams off balance. Marc Gasol had 22 points, Zach Randolph 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Mavericks 114, Trail Blazers 91: For three quarters Portland fought and scrapped to stay with a Mavericks team that was hot shooting from the time the doors opened — Dallas put up 31 points in the first quarter. Wesley Mathews and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 20 for Portland. But Dallas got even hotter in the fourth and hit 78 percent of their shots in the final 12 minutes to pull away. O.J. Mayo had 32 on the night and was hot from the start (12 in the first quarter) then it was rookie Jae Crowder with 9 in the fourth quarter to help seal it.

Cavaliers 108, Clippers 101: Cleveland’s three best players just flat out were better than anyone the Clippers had to stop them. Kyrie Irving came out on fire and had 16 first quarter points mostly matched up on Chris Paul. Then Irving had the dagger three late (when the Clips had it at a three-point game) because Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan both laid back and let him take the shot uncontested. Dion Waiters had 28 points, hit 7-of-11 threes (including a couple from north Orange County) and just abused Willie Green. And Anderson Varejao had 15 points, 15 boards and made life hard for Blake Griffin (who still got 20 points on 14 shots). How a team with a front line of Griffin and Jordan gets abused on the boards nightly is beyond me.

Kings 94, Warriors 92: The Kings took control of this game in the third quarter, going up by 16 behind a strong quarter from DeMarcus Cousins (11 of his 23 came in the third). The Kings were still up 11 with just more than 4 minutes left but the Warriors came storming back and had their chances late — Klay Thompson missed a 17-footer and Stephen Curry back ironed a 30-footer for the win as time expired. The Kings get a win at home but their execution isn’t striking fear in anyone’s hearts.

Best part of this game was Keith Smart having to run out and get a black tarp off the court that had been covering an advertisement on the scoreboard but fell off midgame.

Another report Andrew Wiggins about to sign max deal in Minnesota

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Is Andrew Wiggins a max player?

If by that you mean “does Andrew Wiggins deserve to be a max player?” then it’s a controversial question around the league. He averaged 23.6 points per game last season, shot 35.7 percent from three, played solid defense, and is just 22 years old. But he’s not a great playmaker, not consistent, and on a team with Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler is the third best player. Is that a guy who gets max money?

However, if by max player you mean “he will make max money” then yes, Wiggins is about to be a max player. We have written before that a max deal was all but done, and Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo sports is the latest to confirm this is about to go down.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins is progressing toward a five-year, $148 million maximum contract extension and is hopeful to sign soon, sources told The Vertical.

The Timberwolves prioritized extending Wiggins this offseason, and both sides are hopeful of completing the contract shortly, league sources told The Vertical…. Wiggins’ previous agent, Bill Duffy, negotiated a maximum contract with the Timberwolves this summer before the sides parted ways.

It’s a max contract, so there is no salary negotiating, and the delay is just likely tied to the changing of agents. That said, it will get done.

Wiggins is going to face some new challenges this year. He’ll be teamed with Jimmy Butler, the two have similar games but Butler is basically better at most things. Towns is going to (and should) get more touches. Can Wiggins make the adjustments and accept his role now? If so, he may well be worth that max money.

Warriors’ Mike Brown says Steve Kerr communicates as well as Popovich

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Mike Brown has been around the league and back as a coach. He was an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, went on to be the head coach of the Cavaliers (taking them to the 2007 NBA Finals) and the Los Angeles Lakers, and now is the lead assistant under Steve Kerr with the Golden State Warriors. He’s seen a lot, and watched a lot of different styles of coaching.

Kerr played for Popovich in San Antonio, so you’d expect the Warriors coach picked up some tricks from the master. But what is most similar about them is how they communicate, Brown told Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“[Steve’s] communication skills are on par with one of the greatest communicators of all time in Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Their style is a little bit different. But it’s just as effective, just as powerful and garners just as much as Pop does from some of the greatest players of all time because of the way he communicates. One of the attributes that I observed on a daily basis was how even keeled he was. He never got too excited, nor did he ever get too down, no matter if things were good or things were bad in front of him. Our guys, especially the veteran group we have, really feed off of that. They know if Steve was a believer in them and he was calm, cool and collected, that they would be the same and just focus on trying to do their jobs at the highest level. For me, that was one of the biggest things I wanted to concentrate on.”

For a coach at the NBA level, it’s in large part about the culture and having a feel for the team. Is it a young team that needs more discipline? A veteran team that needs more rest? Being able to communicate what is needed in a way that the players listen to and respect can be a hard line to walk. In the case of the Warriors, with a lot of driven players in their prime, it’s partially about keeping the game fun. The NBA is a business, players need to be professional and held accountable, but at the end of the day it’s still a game and there should be joy in playing it. The Warriors players and coaches use that word a lot, “joy.” It’s a priority for them, and it shows on the court (and in the locker room).

Part of Kerr’s job is making sure the joy is there, and to make sure he is clear in his communication about what work needs to be done along with it. His cerebral, level-headed style works for these players. Which is just another reason the Warriors will be racking up more rings in the coming years.

Bulls’ John Paxson: Dwyane Wade buyout must be “advantageous” for team

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When Bulls’ training camp opens next week, it looks like Dwyane Wade will be there — and it will be awkward.

Wade wants to be bought out and doesn’t want to be there. The Bulls want to move on from the Wade/Jimmy Butler year. But of course, it comes down to money — Wade is owed $23.5 million and wants as much of that as he can get and still get out the door, the Bulls want to save money paying a guy who will not play for them.

Bulls’ VP of basketball operations John Paxson was on  “The Mully and Hanley” show on WSCR-670 AM Thursday and said there has been some early dialogue between the sides, and the Bulls are open to buying Wade out, but made it clear he’s going to have to give up plenty of cash to make it “advantageous” for the team. Here’s part of what Paxson said, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

“Some dialogue is going on,” Paxson said on The Score. “We understand where (Wade) is at this time of his career. We’re more than willing to work with him. But as I said when we had the press conference to introduce the new players after the draft, we have to always do what’s in our best interest. So there has to be something that is mutually agreed upon. It can’t be something the player wins because that’s what he wants.

“We want to work with Dwyane because we respect him very much. If he doesn’t want to be here, then we want to do (the buyout). But again, the bottom line is always — and it has to be — that we have to do what’s in our best interest.”

The two sides will come to a number and Wade will get bought out, the only questions are when and for how much? Will it happen during training camp or will the season have started? The All-Star break? It’s just a matter of settling on a number, but Wade is not going to be eager to give up that cash knowing he’s not got another payday like that coming.

When the buyout does happen,  a number of teams — the Cavaliers, Heat, and Lakers are known, there will be others — will be waiting and interested.

 

Pacers’ Lance Stephenson will get his chance, but coming off the bench

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Indiana is Myles Turner‘s team now. Gone from last season are Paul George, Monta Ellis, Jeff Teague, Aaron Brooks and more. More than just Turner, everyone on the Pacers’ roster is going to get a chance to shine.

That includes Lance Stephenson.

But he will do that coming off the bench, coach Nate McMillan told the Pacers’ website.

Coach Nate McMillan said he has a starting lineup in mind heading into training camp, but wouldn’t reveal it. He did acknowledge, however, that Lance Stephenson likely will start the season as the sixth man…

“I hope he can establish (that role),” McMillan said. “A sixth man is like a starter, and he can be a guy who can do a lot of things with that second group with his ability to handle the ball, score the ball. He’s an unselfish player.”

Stephenson was only with the Pacers for a few games at the end of last season, but he was their second best player in the postseason brought an energy and toughness the team lacked. He hit threes (62 percent for the Pacers), played hard, and looked more like the guy Indiana had years ago than the guy who has bounced around the league since. But that was a very small sample size, it’s something else to do this over the course of a season.

Indiana is rebuilding but they did not bottom out and tank, they brought in guys who can handle the ball such as Victor Oladipo (the George trade), Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Stephenson is going to have to accept and find a role behind and with those guys. But he’s going to get a chance, and he has played his best ball in a Pacers’ uniform.