Baseline to Baseline recaps: Even when sloppy Knicks get win

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while thanking Buddha this guy is not on your team….

Spurs 84, Lakers 82: The Bernie Bickerstaff era in Los Angeles came to an end with a missed Pau Gasol three and a loss. Bickerstaff had a .667 winning percentage as the Lakers coach. Darius Soriano broke the game down for us.

Knicks 99, Magic 89: Say it was because the Knicks didn’t take their opponent very seriously. Or say it is because the Magic are just scrappy. Probably a little of both. Bhis game was close for more than three quarters, which is not what the Knicks or their fans expected.  It took an 18-4 fourth-quarter run to pull away and seasl this for New York, and the Knicks remain the NBA’s lone undefeated team.

Carmelo Antony had 25 points, 16 of them in the first half when he was covered by Arron Afflalo and took the smaller Magic wing to the post. While Afflalo is a good defender, he could not slow ‘Melo on the block. This was close game because ‘Melo and his Knicks teammates took the night off from focused, consistent defense. The Knicks got a big boost from J.R. Smith who had 21 points on 14 shots and had the hottest hand on the floor.

It’s a win, Knicks. Savor it. But play like that this weekend against the Spurs or Grizzlies and they will throttle you.

Bobcats 92, Wizards 76: The Charlotte Bobcats are a .500 team. Read that again and think about it. They are 3-3 on the young season. Last season they won 7 games total. This is impressive. So was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 15 points and looked like the best player on the court early.

Why did the Bobcats win? Washington shot 29.8 percent on night, which dragged down their percentage to a league worst average (39.5) on the season. The Bobcats can try to take some defensive credit for that, but a lot of it was just Washington being bad. Bradley Beal led the bad shooting parade with 1-of-11 from the floor. Meanwhile Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and Kemba Walker added 17 as the Charlotte backcourt owned this game.

Raptors 74, Pacers 72: Ugly wins count just the same, but make no mistake this was ugly like Phyllis Diller’s corpse — Toronto hit just 6-of-33 (18.2 percent), committed seven turnovers, and scored just 28 points in the second half and they still won the game. The only thing that wasn’t ugly was Jose Calderon with a triple-double — 13 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Trail Blazers 103, Kings 96: This game was basically even for the first 29 minutes, then Portland woke up with a 24-4 run and that was pretty much all she wrote. Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard was the best player on the court, finishing with 22 points on 10 shots (he was 5-of-6 from three) plus 9 assists. He was key during the Blazers run. If you want one other key, Portland was 14-of-27 from three, the Kings 1-of-11.

Nets 114, Cavaliers 101: This was a game of monster individual performances. Cleveland got 35 points and 18 rebounds from Anderson Varejao and 34 points and 10 assists from Kyrie Irving. Both were just amazing and run the pick-and-roll beautifully together. Brooklyn got 26 points and 10 assists from Deron Williams, plus 25 points from Joe Johnson — those two have not figured out how to play well off each other yet, but they had great individual nights.

As for the game, Brooklyn opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run to take control of the contest, they were up 22 at the half and that’s pretty much the story. The only thing left to watch was the individual players — Cleveland got nothing beyond Varejao and Irving.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?

Lou Williams trolls Jimmy Butler for resting during All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler was in Los Angeles and enjoying his well-earned All-Star slot on Team Stephen.

Well, except for the actual playing basketball part. Butler did not set foot on the court during the All-Star Game at his own request.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

Lou Williams, the Clippers’ guard who likely would have been near the front of the line for an open All-Star roster spot in the West (likely second in the queue behind Chris Paul), but instead took part in the Saturday Skills Competition then had Sunday off, trolled Butler for it on Twitter.

This seems more good natured than genuinely bitter.

Williams will roll with it, but his point’s a valid one — if you’re an All-Star, at least play a little and give the people what they want. Get out there for five minutes or whatever. LaMarcus Aldridge only played four minutes, no big deal.

If you’re not going to use the roster spot, give it up to someone who will.

Report: Raptors won’t sign Vince Carter if he gets bought out

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Of returning to the Raptors, Vince Carter said, “It’ll happen one day.” It sounds as if the Kings would buy him out if he wants.

Will he end the season with Toronto?

Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050:

After speaking with a few team sources, I can confirm that they’ve had internal dialogue and debate about the idea of bringing Vince Carter back. It’s something that they wanted to do over the summer. That’s why they made him an offer, something that I’ve reported in the past. And it’s also something that they’d be open to in the future, perhaps next year in some capacity. But they’ve decided now is not the right time. And I think the consensus seems to be there’s so much going on right now, and they want this season to be about this team, their accomplishments and their playoff push and not the sideshow that I think would come with a Vince Carter return.

The Raptors (41-16) are on pace for their best record ever. They’re excelling offensively and defensively. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are spearheading a more dynamic offense that spurs hope for more playoff success.

Toronto is probably correct to save the Carter reunion for another year – though it depends who else is available. That 15th roster spot could be useful. If Carter is the best player who’d sign, the Raptors should sign him and deal with the hoopla.

But it’s not clear whom they could get or whether they could even get Carter. He hasn’t sounded like someone who’d forgo guaranteed salary to play for the minimum.