San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs lose and we have a DeAndre Jordan sighting

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while you were watching the first episode of the new season of Top Chef and thinking you could make an omelet….

Jazz 95, Lakers 86: Well, that was about as ugly as the Lakers have looked this season. Utah’s front line owned the Lakers, our own Darius Soranio broke it down.

Nuggets 93, Rockets 87: The Nuggets looked more like the Nuggets team a lot of us thought would give the better teams in the West trouble. D.J. Foster broke this down as our Game of the Night.

Clippers 106, Spurs 84: If DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin came out and played like this every night, we’d all be thinking the Clippers could be contenders. Jordan had 20 points on 10-of-12 shooting, 11 rebounds and was aggressive rolling to the basket like we almost never see from him, while Griffin added 22 points (on 16 shots) and 10 rebounds. The Clippers hit their first seven shots of the second half to pull away and never look back in this one.

The Clippers didn’t play with this kind of defensive energy against the Cavaliers or Warriors in recent games, they floated through those. This time they came out with a real focus to stop the other team. We’ll see if they can find that consistently. San Antonio falls to 4-1, after the game they just called it an off night for them. Which is also true, no Spur hit more than 4 shots from the field, but the Clips deserve some credit for causing part of it as well.

Celtics 98, Wizards 94 (OT): Boston didn’t look impressive but they got the win and that’s what counts. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead but never led by more, they shot 36 percent in the first half and let the depleted Wizards hang around. They got away with it.

Boston had a chance to end this on the last play of regulation, but rather than running a play we got to see a Rondo isolation three with no imagination whatsoever, and he missed it. In overtime Brandon Bass scored 5 to get Boston the win. Kevin Garnett had 20 points and 13 boards. Bradley Beal had 16 in his best game as a Wizard.

Suns 117, Bobcats 110: This ended up being one of the more entertaining games of the night, a game was tied 85-85 late before Phoenix pulled away. Mind you it was not one of the best played games — it lacked little things like defense, but it was fun. Shannon Brown had 24 points — 18 in the fourth quarter — and was a perfect 6-of-6 from beyond the arc to lead the Suns to the win. He got help from Michael Beasley who had his best game as a Sun with 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists. Marcin Gortat had seven blocks. Byron Mullens had 24 to lead the Bobcats.

Hawks 89, Pacers 86: Welcome to the game of wild second half swings. Atlanta had been in the lead until an 18-0 run by the Pacers not only gave them a lead but a comfortable 14 point lead midway through the fourth quarter. Then Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver took over and Atlanta had an 18-0 run of its own to get the win.

Roy Hibbert continues to struggle this season — 9 points on 4-11 shooting and 7 boards. They need more from him with Danny Granger out.

Heat 103, Nets 77: Brooklyn is not a good defensive team. Miami is. That is what this game really was about.

Miami hadn’t shown a lot of defense yet this season but they held the Nets to 37 percent shooting overall and 3-of-21 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile the Nets could not figure out how to matchup with the Heat (they missed Gerald Wallace who was out injured). Brook Lopez was chasing Chris Bosh around and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade beat their men off the dribble and found nobody between them and the rim. The Heat were moving the ball crisply and it seems every shot they took was an open one. Wade had 22 points, LeBron 20 points (on 12 shots) and 12 rebounds. Rashard Lewis added 13 off the bench.

Grizzlies 108, Bucks 90: Memphis started the second quarter with a 9-0 run to take a comfortable lead and never looked back, cruising to a win on the road. Zach Randolph was a force with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Marreese Speights added 18 points and 11 boards off the bench. Everyone was pitching in for Memphis — Milwaukee made a run to get the lead down to 7 in the third quarter and Quincy Pondexter first then Wayne Ellington knocked down key threes and that was all she wrote.

Sixers 77, Hornets 62: No Anthony Davis, no Eric Gordon and no Austin Rivers meant no points — New Orleans scored a record franchise low as they shot just 33.8 percent and had 24 turnovers. The first half of this game was sloppy and ugly, but Philly opened the second half on a 10-0 run, took care of the rock and defended. Jrue Holiday had 14 points and 12 assists.

Mavericks 109, Raptors 104: Dirk who? Dallas is off to a fast 4-1 start with another win, this one earned without Elton Brand (wife having a baby), Shawn Marion (left knee), Rodrigue Beaubois (left ankle) and Dirk Nowitizki (knee surgery). Still Dallas was in control from the start, up double digits most of the night and got 22 from Chris Kaman and O.J. Mayo. Andrea Bargnani led Toronto with 25 points.

Kings 105, Pistons 103: Well, someone had to win this one. The Kings picked up their second straight win at home over a Pistons team that is winless and playing worse than pretty much anyone in the NBA. Sacramento took charge in the second quarter and never really looked back, DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the way. Greg Monroe had a triple-double in a loosing effort — 21 points, 12 boards and 11 assists.

Warriors 106, Cavaliers 96: No Anderson Varejao and no Tyler Zeller for Cleveland due to injuries meant it was the David Lee show for Golden State as he racked up 22 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Warriors to victory. The Warriors took control with a 17-4 run late in the third quarter, a run fueled by Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry (he finished with 19 points).

Timberwolves 90, Magic 75: This was a thrashing — Orlando needed a late 14-2 run to get the finals score as close as it was. To be fair, they got the lead down to five in the third quarter but Minny responded with a 28-6 run fueled by Greg Stiemsma scoring 10 of his 12 on the night, and that was it. Luke Ridnour led the Timberwolves with 19 points. Orlando shot just 35 percent for the game.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: Keeping George Karl right move ‘for now’

Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl reacts in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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The Kings reportedly planned to fire George Karl in the coming days.

Then, Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac met with Karl and changed course.

So, Karl must feel secure, right?

Divac on The Grant Napear Show, as transcribed by Sactown Royalty:

“For now.”

Oh boy.

If there’s a power struggle between Karl and DeMarcus Cousinsand there’s evidence of one – why would Cousins (or any players against Karl) let up now? Perhaps, Divac is more committed to Karl than that sounds, but by saying “for now” he opens the door to more campaigning for Karl’s ouster.

This is the worst vote of confidence I’ve ever seen.

As it has for months, Karl’s firing still feels inevitable before his contract expires.

Report: Hawks having ‘serious internal discussions’ about trading Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver

New York Knicks small forward Metta World Peace (51) shoots after drawing a foul as Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (26), center Al Horford (15), and point guard Jeff Teague stand near during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
AP Photo/John Minchillo
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In the seven years between 2008 and 2014, 10 teams  made the playoffs at least five times:

  1. Spurs
  2. Hawks
  3. Celtics
  4. Bulls
  5. Mavericks
  6. Nuggets
  7. Lakers
  8. Heat
  9. Thunder
  10. Magic

Atlanta – which joins San Antonio as the only ones to reach the postseason all seven years – is the only team on the list not to reach even the conference finals in that span.

The Hawks: Often good, never great.

Until last year.

Atlanta won a franchise-record 60 games and reached the conference finals for the first time. (Its last comparable playoff advancement came in 1970, when it reached the division finals, before the league split into conferences.) The Hawks had four All-Stars: Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver – all of whom returned for this season.

But Atlanta has fallen back into the heap of good, not great, teams in the East. The Hawks are 30-24 and fifth in the conference, 1.5 games from both third and seventh.

Where do they go from here?

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The Atlanta Hawks are engaged in serious internal discussions ahead of the Feb. 18 trade deadline about the future direction of their team and their core players, including three All-Stars from their historic 2014-15 team: Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver.

Sources close to the organization emphasize that if the Hawks become active in the next week, it will not be to “blow it up,” but rather an attempt to exchange their existing players for commensurate, if younger, talent.

Those sources also said head coach/president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer isn’t inclined to dismantle a team less than nine months removed from a conference finals appearance.

So, Atlanta wants to trade it players for equally talented replacements who are younger (and, therefore, probably cheaper)? Good luck with that.

It’s instructive that the Hawks are thinking about a shakeup, and this article contains plenty of detail worth exploring. But it seems unlikely their line of thinking actually leads to a major move.

The most pressing concern is Horford, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Already linked to the Pistons, he will likely draw multiple max offers – projected to be worth more than $145 million over five years from the Hawks and $108 million over four years from other teams.

Arnovitz and Windhorst:

Sources say that while ownership has pledged to both spend and to entrust the Hawks’ basketball minds to make basketball decisions, that figure, along with the overall tab — which would be one of the richest contracts in the NBA — has the Hawks’ brass a bit skittish.

It’s reasonable to be concerned. Horford turns 30 this summer, and while he also has a high basketball IQ, athleticism influences his on-court excellence. This is a tricky time to have a star up for a big contract.

The Hawks could face a question many teams in this position must answer: Would you rather “overpay” him or not have him at all?

I’d lean toward biting the bullet and paying Horford. The cap is skyrocketing, and with many players locked into old-money contracts, teams will have plenty to spend on free agents the next couple years. Horford, a borderline All-Star annually, is a huge part of Atlanta’s success. It’d be too difficult to replace him.

Plus, teams too often overthink committing big money to single player based on financial hesitation (though it has been less of a problem lately). The Hawks will probably spend a similar overall amount the next five years, anyway. Who cares whether Horford receives a huge share of that expenditure or it’s split equally among multiple lesser players based on overal spending? You can put just five players on the court. Generally, I’d rather sink more assets into fewer players.

But it all depends what the Hawks do with the rest of their roster. If they trade Korver and/or Teague to take a short-term step back, Horford could leave. Losing Horford for nothing is the worst-case scenario.

Atlanta’s best bet for getting a significant return in a Horford trade is working with him and his agent to find a team where he’d want to re-sign. The NBA prohibits any under-the-table agreements, but they happen. If Horford pledges to re-sign with a team, it will – justifiably – offer the Hawks more in a trade.

Short of that, I doubt they’ll get enough to justify dealing him. It’s just not worth it for other teams to offer Atlanta much now when they can try signing him outright in the summer.

A Teague trade seems most likely, because the Hawks already have his younger replacement on the roster – Dennis Schröder, who has made his desire to become a starting point guard well known.

Arnovitz and Windhorst:

Sources say the Indiana Pacers have made inquiries and have dangled guard George Hill as a possible swap. The Magic are also potential suitors for Teague, sources confirmed.

I’m not sure what Hill – who’s older than Teague – accomplishes for Atlanta. Both players make $8 million this year and next. Hill is a better defender and capable of playing shooting guard, but neither fact trumps the age difference. The Pacers would have to offer more.

Teague would improve the Magic’s backcourt shooting, which they desperately need. More importantly, this could signal Orlando isn’t completely sold on Elfrid Payton as its point guard of the future.

The Knicks are also reportedly interested in Teague, but they’re linked to any available point guard – and lack assets to get one now.

Finally, there’s Korver, who’s sneakily old – 35 next month. With him shooting nearly a career-low 38.3% on 3-pointers – great for almost everyone else – this seems like a bad time to trade him. But if a team wants help winning right now and values Korver highly, the Hawks should listen.

The downside of dealing Korver for younger players and/or draft picks is sending a signal that causes Horford to leave in free agency. So, if the Hawks trade Korver, they should consider trading Horford. And if they deal Horford, why not get more of the roster on the same timeline and also trade Teague?

One of the Hawks’ best on-court attributes is their cohesion, and building their roster is similarly related. If one domino falls, others could follow. The more Atlanta disrupts this roster, the more additional moves could make sense.

But given Budenholzer’s attitude and the team’s newfound connection with fans – especially important with a new owner – my guess is the Hawks try to keep their core in tact.

Good, not great, isn’t so bad.

NBA to teams: No Hack-a-Shaq on inbounds passer

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NEW YORK (AP) — NBA teams need to keep Hack-a-Shaq on the court, not the sideline.

The league sent a memo to teams and referees Tuesday clarifying that intentionally fouling a player inbounding the ball will be a delay of game violation – and possibly a technical foul.

The memo, sent from league executives Kiki Vandeweghe and Mike Bantom and obtained by The Associated Press, comes in response to questions after San Antonio’s Danny Green fouled Houston’s Clint Capela as Capela was attempting to inbound the ball in a Jan. 28 game.

Citing a specific rule in the rulebook, the memo says that if a defender crosses the sideline before the ball has been thrown, a delay of game will be assessed. If it comes in the last 2 minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, a technical foul will be called.

A technical will also be called if referees determine there was “unsportsmanlike contact” on the inbounder, and officials could also rule it a flagrant foul.

Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol breaks foot, out indefinitely

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Just when the Grizzlies are making a move – they’re fifth the West despite dropping two straight games in overtime after winning 9-of-10 – they lose their best player, Marc Gasol.

Grizzlies release:

The Memphis Grizzlies released today the following statement on behalf of Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace regarding Marc Gasol:

“This morning at Campbell Clinic, Marc underwent a thorough evaluation by team physicians. During the course of this evaluation, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed a fracture in his right foot.

“Marc is a cornerstone of our franchise, and we are focused on getting him healthy. Marc will be out indefinitely and a further update will be provided after the All-Star Break.”

Gasol (7-1, 255) is averaging 16.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.35 blocks in 34.4 minutes in 52 games (all starts) this season.

Not only is Gasol the Grizzlies’ best player, he also plays their thinnest position.

Backup center Brandan Wright is injured, and Memphis has played parts of the season without a third center. The Grizzlies have been so desperate, they’ve signed Ryan Hollins multiple times – and that was with Gasol healthy.

Now, Memphis is in dire straights.

Here’s how the Grizzlies’ ratings change when Gasol is on the court to off:

  • Offensive: 102.8 to 99.5
  • Defensive: 102.9 to 103.3
  • Net: -0.1 to -3.8

And that undersells his impact. Gasol is the only Memphis player to start every game this season, so he has played with a variety of teammates – not just the team’s other top players. The Grizzlies’ dozen most-used lineups all include Gasol.

In other words, Gasol’s positive boost has also come with floormates who are typically backups. He’s not just along for the ride as his best teammates do the heavy lifting.

This injury obviously hurt Gasol, but it will also put several Memphis players in uncomfortable positions. The team’s next eight most-used players have all played a majority of their minutes with Gasol:

Gasol is an active and communicative defender and a good passer and screener. He’s easy to play with.

That’s a luxury his teammates will lose for a while.

Randolph will likely play more center and could even return to the starting lineup. He’s a nice individual defender, but needing him move quickly through rotations as the last line of defense is asking a lot. At least his low-post offense could work a little better with increased spacing if Memphis starts three wings between Conley and Randolph.

Another silver lining: This injury occurred before the trade deadline.

The Grizzlies could consider selling, but they owe the Nuggets a protected first-round pick. It’s protected top-five and 15-30 this year, top-five in 2017 and 2018 and unprotected in 2019. Memphis surely doesn’t want to convey the pick this year, which would guarantee a lottery selection. The ideal outcome is making the playoffs, guaranteeing the Grizzlies keep the pick this year, then remaining good next season and conveying a pick in the 20s.

It’s also unlikely they’d fall from they playoffs, though hardly impossible. They have a 4.5-game cushion over the ninth-place Trail Blazers

Plus, with Mike Conley entering unrestricted free agency this summer, Memphis surely doesn’t want to end the season with a poor taste in his mouth. It’ll be that much harder to secure a decent playoff seed and avoid the Warriors or Spurs – or even Thunder – in the first round. Heck, there’s no guarantee the Grizzlies have Gasol for the postseason.

Making a small trade for a serviceable probably makes most sense. Memphis will still rely on Gasol, once he gets healthy, for quite a while. He’s in the first season of a five-year max contract.

But the Grizzlies sure could use a little help as they enter this very difficult stretch.