Jeff Green, Al Jefferson

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Celtics bench gets them a win

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while thinking at least one drug dealer really cares….

Grizzlies 107, Thunder 97: We told you last week in the power rankings Memphis was for real. Believe us now? Brett Pollakoff broke down this game for us.

Clippers 107, Heat 100: Speaking of teams that are for real, meet the Los Angeles Clippers. They are getting much better play out of D’Andre Jordan and they are defending. Brett Pollakoff also broke this game down, too.

Celtics 98, Jazz 93: Boston’s bench was the key in this one. First, we have had a Jeff Green sighting (just ask Al Jefferson) and he had 16 points. Bigger still was Leandro Barbosa — Rajon Rondo left the game in third quarter with a sprained ankle but Barbosa was part of a Celtics team that made a key 14-2 run where they took control of the game. Boston’s bench accounted for 47 of their points. Paul Pierce added 23, Paul Millsap had 20 points and 12 boards.

Pistons 94, Sixers 76: Pistons win! The Pistons win! They are celebrating the Pistons first win of the season on the streets of Detroit. And if you are a Philadelphia fan you may want to ask — how did you just lose to the Pistons at home? Handily.

They lost because they shot 29.8 percent — they couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean (thanks Chick Hearn). They lost because they got outworked on the boards. They lost because they played like they didn’t care. Detroit played with the desperation of a team that needed a win — Greg Monroe had 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Kyle Singler added 16 points.

Bucks 99, Pacers 85: Wow, the Pacers are playing some bad ball right now. This was a 30-point beat down where Tyler Hansbrough and Sam Young made it look like a 14-point loss with a solid fourth quarter. The Bucks made a push at the start — they were up 7-0 and never trailed after that — and played pretty well the rest of the way. They got 16 points each from Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. But mostly, the Bucks just had to stay out of the way of the self-destruction.

Rockets 100, Hornets 96: In the first half James Harden was slashing to the rim at will, with Al-Farouq Aminu trying but unable to stay in front of him. Harden had 19 points in the first half (30 for the game) and when he re-entered in the second quarter it sparked a 17-4 run that capped a 39 point quarter for the Rockets and they were in total control. Credit New Orleans for chipping away at it and making a game of it — the Rockets didn’t pressure Greivis Vasquez and he put up 24 points, Ryan Anderson added 20 points and 12 rebounds. New Orleans got all the way back within 2 points in the final two minutes, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Bulls 112, Suns 106 (OT): The Suns keep digging themselves holes then trying to climb themselves out — this time it was 18 points. They almost did climb out against the Bulls — they forced overtime. But a10-2 Bulls run in overtime and Chicago gets a win in the first game of its dreaded annual circus trip. Carlos Boozer scored 28 points and added 14 rebounds, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah each had 21 points. Luis Scola had 24 for the Suns while Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown were each 4-of-15 shooting on the night.

Bobcats 89, Timberwolves 87: The Charlotte Bobcats are on a three-game winning streak. If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would be the seven seed in the East. Let that marinate for a minute. Charlotte was really in control of this game the entire second half, until a late 16-2 run by the Timberwolves (fueled by some bad Bobcats plays, such as Reggie Williams calling time out when they were out of them) tied it up — and set the stage for Kemba Walkers’ heroics. He had 22 on the night and the game winner. Ramon Sessions came off the bench and added 18 for Charlotte. Andrei Kirilenko led the Wolves with a game-high 26.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 101: Dallas was in control of this one, up 22 in the second half, but Washington opened the fourth quarter on an 18-3 run sparked by Kevin Seraphin. And it was a game. It was within three in the final minute when a Seraphin steal led to a Jannero Pargo open look three to tie it — and he missed. Next possession for Dallas O.J. Mayo fouled, hit the free throws (he had 25 points on the night) and that sealed the game. Chris Kaman had 23 for Dallas, Jordan Crawford 21 for Washington.

Hawks 92, Warriors 88: With Al Horford out and Josh Smith mired in an ugly slump (6-of-16 shooting in this one), the boards belonged to the Warriors in this one and it was key late. Up 3 inside of :30 in the game Stephen Curry missed a three but Harrison Barnes got the offensive board, was fouled, hit is free throws and iced the game. Barnes had his best night as a pro with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Korver scored all of his 14 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting. Ivan Johnson added 15 for the Hawks. David Lee had 18 points and 10 boards for Golden State.

Shaq’s list before leaving Magic for Lakers also included Knicks, Pistons, Heat, Hawks

1 Nov 1996:  Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O''Neal moves down the court during a game against the Phoenix Suns at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  The Lakers won the game, 96-82.    Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
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Shaquille O’Neal said he regretted leaving the Magic for the Lakers as a free agent in 1996.

So, why did he bolt Orlando?

It was an intriguing high-stakes saga, and agent Joel Corry — who helped represent O’Neal at the time — retells it with behind-the-scenes detail at CBSSports.com.

One part I found particularly interesting was the rest of Shaq’s list besides the Lakers:

The idea was this: Identify the teams that could get to at least $9 million under the cap without gutting the roster in order to offer a seven-year, $100 million contract voidable after three years, when Shaq would have Bird rights with these teams and could thus opt out to take advantage of his presumably increasing value. Also, if he left Orlando, his preference was to go to a big market. There weren’t many teams that fit all these requirements. This is the list we came up with:

  • NEW YORK KNICKS: This was a longshot from the start, as it was contingent on New York being able to trade Patrick Ewing. The Knicks also went after Jordan, who promptly re-signed with the Bulls on a one-year, $30 million deal. The market was there. But moving Ewing was never really an option. And when they signed free agent Allan Houston for $56 million over seven years, the cap situation just became unworkable. Nothing ever really materialized.
  • DETROIT PISTONS: Detroit was attractive because of 1995 NBA co-Rookie of the Year Grant Hill, who had already earned All-NBA honors in his brief pro career. Allan Houston was also starting to emerge, and the thought of putting Shaq with a scorer like Hill and a shooter like Houston was attractive. But when Houston made his move to New York, this pie-in-the-sky scenario went with him. Plus, frankly, the Pistons never really showed much interest in making a deal for Shaq happen. Detroit was out.
  • MIAMI HEAT: The Heat had the most roster flexibility and potentially the best cap situation of the bunch, but renouncing the rights to Mourning, who was also a free agent, to wipe out his cap hold of 150% of his 1995-96 salary was going to be a necessity. Mourning became a central barometer for all of our negotiations. Mourning had gone No. 2 in the 1992 draft, right behind O’Neal, and their careers had been linked ever since.People casually put them in the same conversation as big men, but Mourning wasn’t the player Shaq was. When Miami signed Mourning to the aforementioned seven-year, $105 million deal, not only did it end any chance of O’Neal going to the Heat, it also served as an easy benchmark contract for Shaq’s personal market.

    No way was O’Neal going to get a penny less than Mourning, and in fact, Armato was adamant that O’Neal get substantially more than Mourning for he did not see them as anything close to the same class of player.

  • ATLANTA HAWKS: While Atlanta wasn’t on our initial list, the Hawks quickly became a viable option when I, along with a colleague, took a call from current Los Angeles Dodgers CEO and President Stan Kasten about the Hawks’ interest in Shaq. Kasten, who was president of both the Hawks and Atlanta Braves at that time, indicated that the merger between Hawks owner Ted Turner’s broadcasting companies (CNN, etc.) and Time Warner would be able to generate significant ancillary income for Shaq.On the basketball side, he viewed Shaq as the missing piece to a championship in Atlanta and was comfortable offering him a seven-year deal averaging somewhere between $10 and $15 million per year. He was not, however, interested in breaking up much of his team to do so.

    This is kind of crazy to look back on, but in 1996, Kasten considered Mookie Blaylock and Christian Laettner to be the Hawks’ foundational players. They weren’t going anywhere. Two other players from a group consisting of Stacey Augmon, Alan Henderson, Grant Long and free agent Steve Smith also needed to be retained.

    This was the snag. After running all the numbers, Smith, an All-Star caliber player, was probably the odd man out, and we didn’t like the idea of losing Smith. Eventually, Atlanta, which had become a legitimate contingency option, fell completely out of consideration when it signed Dikembe Mutombo to a five-year, $50 million deal.

I suggest reading Corry’s account in full.

Suns GM: Phoenix will likely preserve most of $13 million cap space into season

Ryan McDonough
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The Suns have more than $13 million in cap space remaining.

Don’t count on them spending it anytime soon.

Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough, via Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:

“I’d be surprised if we spent a lot of that cap space now or over the summertime,” Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough said. “More likely, we’ll preserve most, if not all of it, and go into the season and look at either in-season signings or probably more likely in-season trades that are lopsided where we take back more money than we send out. There are a decent amount of advantages to operating as an under-the-cap team in terms of player aggregation and trades and things like that.”

There’s certainly a logic to maintaining cap space for in-season deals. But the value is far less this year, when multiple teams will have room due to the skyrocketing salary cap. If they have their eyes on getting positive assets in salary dumps, the Suns will have to compete with other teams — and settle for weaker positive assets.

That still might be the right course if Phoenix doesn’t like any remaining free agents. (This removes one possible destination for Maurice Harkless, whose standoff with the Trail Blazers appears more likely to drag on.)

The Suns have 15 players — the regular-season roster limit — though John Jenkins and Alan Williams have unguaranteed deals. Phoenix could sign another low-priced player or two to compete in training camp, but that’s small potatoes. The Suns appear set to hoard their cap space.

The catch: This is also what cheap teams say. They hide their frugality by saying they’re maximizing flexibility. It’s impossible to tell the difference at this stage. So, keep an eye on Phoenix’s in-season moves.

Brandon Ingram far from soft, but going to have to get stronger to do what he wants in NBA

Los Angeles Lakers' Brandon Ingram shoots against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
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When you see Brandon Ingram in person, you can’t help but have your first thought be “man, is he skinny.”

When he starts to play then you see why he went No. 2 in last June’s draft to the Lakers — he has a smooth, fluid game, can shoot the three, good IQ,  he even ran the offense at points, and looked like a modern NBA four who can do a lot of damage down the line in the league.

Once he gets stronger. Teams at the NBA Summer League tried to cover him often with shorter but physically stronger players — the Sixers’ Jerami Grant, for example — and Ingram struggled with that. It will only get worse once real NBA games start.

Just don’t confuse his physical strength with being soft, scouts and coaches of other teams told Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s a difference between being soft and being weak. He’s just weak right now. He’s not soft, by any stretch of the imagination,” a Western Conference head coach said of Ingram. “The kid is skilled. He’s got a good basketball IQ. He’s going to be more than fine. I think the Lakers got themselves a big-time player who is going to be around a long time.”

“I saw a good-looking prospect,” an Eastern Conference scout said of Ingram. “There were some games where he excelled, and there were some games where he struggled. But overall . . . he’s a matchup nightmare.”…

“Every time somebody got physical with him or leaned on him, he just wilted. He just kind of folded. And he was kind of like that the rest of the summer league,” a Western Conference assistant coach said of Ingram. “It’s going to be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NBA. The summer league is not the league.”

It’s going to take Ingram a season or two to put his imprint on the NBA. He’s got to get stronger, and like every rookie he’s got to see how his game and skill set fits in the league. What can he do, what should he stay away from.

What you had to like if you’re a Laker fan is how hard he continued to play, how he got better as Summer League went on. Then he stayed in Las Vegas as was part of the USA Basketball select team, where he was pushed around by the Olympians and challenged by the other guys just starting in the NBA. It’s a great learning experience. Both those situations were also chances to bond with Laker star D'Angelo Russell, both on and off the court.

There’s a lot to like with Ingram. Now someone get that kid a protein shake.

 

Report: Some in Chris Bosh camp suspicious of Heat’s intentions

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 25:  Chris Bosh #1 of the Miami Heat watches on from the bench against the Charlotte Hornets during game four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 25, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Pat Riley said he’s open to Chris Bosh playing this season.

Not everyone is convinced of the Heat president’s authenticity.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald:

Some in the Bosh camp remain angry and suspicious of the Heat’s intentions, wondering if Miami was motivated by clearing cap space. A Heat source insists this is not the case, that Miami wants him to play if doctors are comfortable with it.

An NBA-employed friend says Bosh very much wants to play and believes he should be cleared. If the Heat fights him on this, it wouldn’t be surprising if Bosh takes this issue to the players union

one issue that has been discussed is whether Bosh should come off blood thinners or continue taking them, according to a person briefed on the matter.

If Bosh comes off the medication this summer, there’s no reason why he couldn’t play.

But even if he stays on the thinners, Bosh has tried to convince the Heat to allow him to play while taking a new medication that would be out of his system in 8 to 12 hours, or by game-time, thus lessening or eliminating the inherent risks of playing a contact sport while on thinners.

It’s hard to believe the Heat have nefarious intentions — not just because they reportedly expect Bosh to play next season, but because a salary-cap workaround would likely fail.

If Bosh goes a year without playing (last game:Feb. 9), Miami waives him and a doctor approved by the NBA and players union says Bosh’s condition is career-ending, the Heat could exclude Bosh’s salary from team salary. He’d still get paid. He just wouldn’t count toward the cap.

So, the $75,868,170 Bosh is owed the next three years is protected. It’s just a matter of whether Miami frees cap space.

But even the Heat sitting Bosh for a year and convincing a union-approved doctor of Bosh’s inability to safely play wouldn’t be enough.

If Bosh plays 25 games for another team after an injury exclusion, his salary would be put back on Miami’s books. That might allow the Heat temporary cap room to sign someone, but with Bosh’s salary applied, their luxury-tax bill would be prohibitively enormous.

So, we’re probably back to the previous questions:

Can Bosh safely play while on blood thinners? Probably not, though there might not be total agreement on that.

Does Bosh need to continue taking blood thinners? That’s a much more complicated question. Hence, the lack of a resolution to this issue.