Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nuggets, Warriors win thrillers

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while being thankful you don’t live next door to the guy with 478 birds

Clippers 92, Spurs 87: The temptation is to say it’s too early to say the Clippers are legit contenders. And it is, but they have now beaten the Heat, Spurs, Lakers and Grizzlies.  If they keep defending like this they are contenders. Chris Paul and friends won again Monday and D.J. Foster broke it down for us.

Nuggets 97, Grizzlies 92: Here’s the two stats you need to know out of this game — Denver grabbed the offensive rebound on 50 percent of their missed shots on the night; The Grizzlies turned the ball over on 18.8 percent of their possessions.

Here’s why it mattered: With one minute left in the game Memphis led 92-91 but here is what happened on the final possessions. First Marc Gasol picks up an offensive foul trying to back down and draw a foul on Danilo Gallinari (that’s a turnover). On the other end Denver’s Ty Lawson drives the lane, draws the defense, dishes to Andre Miller who misses a reverse layup, but JaVale McGee gets the offensive rebound for Denver and puts it in (Denver by one on an offensive rebound).

Memphis gets the ball back and is going for the win with a Rudy Gay isolation, but Andre Iguodala cuts him off and shuts him down, and Gay in trying to pass out of it turns the ball over. At the other end Lawson drives again, this time he kicks out to Gallinari at the arc and he drains the three. Denver by 4. Memphis has 12 seconds but they need a quick bucket, instead after a timeout Jerryd Bayless turns it over. Ballgame (save for the meaningless free throws). Turnovers and offensive rebounds killed the Grizzlies. That and Denver ending the game on 8-0 run.

Warriors 105, Mavericks 101 (OT): This game was another thriller. It got to overtime because with the game on the line tied in the final seconds of regulation the Dallas play call was a Vince Carter isolation from the top of the key. Apparently Rick Carlisle thought it was 2001, back when that was a good call.

The Mavs paid a price for that thanks to Stephen Curry, who scored the final eight points of regulation for Golden State, then had six more in overtime. Curry also had 9 assists on the night, the last of those to David Lee with 32 seconds left in overtime to give the Warriors the lead for good.

Bobcats 102, Bucks 98: Charlotte started the fourth quarter 0-for-9 shooting and this looked over, but they followed it 16-4 run and we had a game down the stretch. Charlotte took the lead with 1:38 left when Kemba Walker drove drew the foul and calmly sank two free throws. The Bucks had their chances the answer but couldn’t. First Monta Ellis (31 points on the night) drove the lane but missed the little floater. Walker gave the Bucks new life by missing an ugly leaner. Next time down Ellis comes off a Samuel Dalembert pick and had both defenders go with him and try to trap, so Ellis passes back to a wide open Dalembert who then proceeds to miss a wide-open 15 footer (there was a reason they doubled Ellis and left Dalembert open).

Still the Bucks got one more shot, when Ellis got a wide open look at the three to take the lead with :08 seconds left. That came because the Bobcats’ Byron Mullens didn’t show out on the pick and roll, Jeffery Taylor went under it, and that left Ellis wide open. Sessions hits a couple free throws and it’s all over but the shouting. Sessions had 23 on the night.

Hawks 81, Magic 73: This was a close game for a half but after a 17-2 third quarter run by Atlanta it was pretty much over. The Hawks win despite shooting 38.2 percent as a team. Atlanta could get away with that because just one Orlando player scored in double digits (Glen Davis with 11). Al Horford had 15 to lead Atlanta.

Pacers 96, Wizards 89: Somebody had to win this one. The Pacers had a 20-point lead in the third quarter then gave all but four of it back by the start of the fourth quarter because, well, they’re this year’s Pacers. They go through scoring droughts, but they still defend (Washington shot 35.2 percent for the game and averaged just 92 points per 100 possessions). They also had David West, who had 30 points including three big buckets down the stretch that kept the Pacers ahead.

Jazz 102, Rockets 91: The Jazz took control with a 13-0 run to start the second quarter and never looked back at a shorthanded Rockets team. James Harden tried to play through the flu but didn’t come out for the second half. Not that it would have mattered, the Jazz are just a different, more comfortable team at home — their ball movement is better, they had 30 assists on their 37 made baskets. Al Jefferson led Utah with 14 points and 16 boards.

Kobe Bryant tells Shaq he was planning to leave Lakers for Bulls (VIDEO)

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Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal got their three championships together as members of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two stars were part of the three-peat team that won in 2000, 2001, and 2002. But the story that perhaps overshadows those accomplishments in the modern era is the story of Kobe vs. Shaq, and the long-standing beef that was between the players even after they split in 2004.

The back-and-forth between the two is part of the fabric not just of the Lakers, but of pop culture as it surrounds basketball. The Shaq/Kobe beef even has it’s own Wikipedia page that’s longer and more well-sourced than most of the papers I wrote in college. It’s impressive.

Meanwhile, Kobe and Shaq sat down in a long special that aired on Saturday as All-Star Weekend ramped up that revealed quite a bit about their time together and their relationship. One of the more interesting anecdotes was Kobe telling Shaq that he was planning on leaving the Lakers for the Chicago Bulls in 2004. That plan was quashed when the team sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat in July.

Via Twitter:

That would have been a major shift for LA and for Chicago. The Bulls drafted both Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon that year, and traded for Luol Deng. The team improved by 24 wins the following season, and adding Bryant may have altered that trajectory and of course sent shockwave of consequential changes through the league. Heck, Scottie Pippen retired that October, but perhaps he would have stayed for one more year with Kobe?

The rest of the interview was interesting, and there were lots of tidbits of information that had people talking. Bryant and O’Neal rehashed their fights, Shaq’s infamous rap dissing Kobe, and mooning Sacramento Kings fans after beating them in the 2002 playoffs.

The biggest takeaway from the interview was how the one-upsmanship between Shaq and Kobe, although subtle, still remains.

As context, Bryant has done a fair bit of career revisionism as he tries to alter his public image now that he’s not a player. He’s painted himself as a “storyteller” and has tried to make his single-mindedness appear praiseworthy rather than destructive. It’s mostly so he can sell shoes well into his 50s à la Michael Jordan.

In the sit down between the two Lakers greats, Shaq did some legacy revision of his own. He played off his continuous egging of Bryant over their careers as simple media manipulation, calling himself a master marketer. It really was a thing to see something that hilariously disingenuous, especially as much of the conversation between the two — including many admissions on each side — were about times they made each other sincerely angry.

The two finished the interview by taking photos next to some championship trophies (Kobe with more, of course) and exchanging laughs and hugs.

You can watch the full interview in the video above.

JJ Redick appears to use racial slur toward Chinese fans

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Chinese New Year was February 16, and now we’ve rolled over to the Year of the Dog. The NBA has a huge presence internationally in China, and so its video partner across the Pacific put together a compilation video of NBA players wishing people a happy new year.

The only problem? In one cut of the video that has been making the rounds on social media, Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick appears to use a racial slur aimed at those of Chinese descent.

The instance is absent from the official video, but a reaction-style YouTube video captured a different edit of the Year of the Dog video with Redick still in it. Redick appears to say, “I just wanted to wish all the NBA c—k fans in China a very happy Chinese New Year.”

Redick responded on Twitter, saying he was simply tongue-tied.

It’s difficult to judge intention from a distance, but the result is certainly disappointing. Even with Redick’s apology, it seems possible he’s contacted by the league office as part of a disciplinary inquiry.

Adam Silver says change to 1-16 playoff format has gotten “serious consideration”

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LOS ANGELES — Going into this season, continuing off the recent past went the Western Conference has been deeper in talent than the East., there was a lot of discussion among fans and media about switching to a 1-16 playoff format that ignores the current conference system.

The league has always balked at that — there is tradition, the conferences play an unbalanced schedule so it’s not a fair matchup now, and travel is an issue — but things have gotten more serious, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said during All-Star weekend.

“That is something that’s gotten serious attention, not just recently, but over the last few years at the league office,” Silver said in an address to the media. “I think, as I’ve said in the past, the obstacle is travel, and it’s not tradition in my mind, at least. It’s that as we’ve added an extra week to the regular season, as we’ve tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs, that we are concerned about teams crisscrossing the country in the first round, for example. We are just concerned about the overall travel that we would have in the top 16 teams.

“Having said that, you also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in The Finals, and obviously, if it’s the top team in the East and top team in the West, I’m not saying this is the case this year, but you could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the Conference Finals or somewhere else.

“So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”

There is no vote scheduled, no change on the immediate horizon.

The idea of teams playing a more balanced regular season schedule, then having the best 16 teams in the playoffs, is appealing. This season, the Finals should be the Warriors and Rockets, a matchup of the two best teams. Instead, it will be the Western Conference Finals.

Fixing it is not simple. If travel is the concern — having something like the Golden State and Philadelphia in a 2-2-1-1-1 series that drags out in the first or second rounds (if the playoffs started today we would get Boston vs. Portland) — there is no easy answer, short of a Star Trek teleporter. Faster travel across the nation is not on the immediate horizon.

As Silver said, the only real answer would be to build the potential for more time into the schedule. However, the NBA is already starting in mid-October and running through June, how much longer are they really willing to go?

The obvious answer is reducing the number of games, but we know that’s not happening. Don’t expect much of a change here.

Adam Silver: Discussions about one-and-done rule ongoing, change not likely soon

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LOS ANGELES — Nobody likes the one-and-done rule. Not the NBA owners, not universities, not players, not anyone.

It’s also not likely to change soon.

The NBA and players’ union are discussing the issue — along with NCAA representatives — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. But the sides are not near a deal to make changes, whatever they are.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest…” Silver said in his annual address to the media during All-Star weekend. “So we’ve had some meetings with the Players Association where we’ve shared data on success rates of young players coming into the league. We’ve talked a lot about youth development in terms of whether we should be getting involved in some of these young players even earlier than when they come into college.

“And from a league standpoint, on one hand, we think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play an elite level before they come into the NBA.

“On the other hand, I think the question for the league is, in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger? Are we better off bringing them into the league when they’re 18 using our G League as it was designed to be as a Development League and getting them minutes on the court there?”

Right now an NCAA commission, headed by Stanford President and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that is looking into this issue and is expected to make recommendations this spring that the league will look at, Silver said.

He added that another consideration is jobs for veteran players — if the NBA went back to a rule that allowed the drafting of 18-year-olds, it could squeeze some veterans out of the league to create roster spots.

While the NBA appears headed eventually toward some version of the “baseball rule” — players can be drafted out of high school but if they go to college they need to stay two or three years at least — don’t expect changes soon.

“So we’re not by any means rushing through this,” Silver said. “I think this is a case where, actually, outside of the cycle of collective bargaining, we can spend more time on it with the Players Association, talking to the individual players, talking to the executive board and really trying to understand the pros and cons of potentially moving the age limit.”