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.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.

Tampering is common in the NBA, but proving it is very difficult

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Want proof there is tampering in the NBA: Free agency starts on July 1 at midnight Eastern every year, and every year a number of new contracts for players with new teams are announced at 12:01 a.m. There is no way that a complicated NBA contract — even one where the two sides are both interested and will agree quickly on the price — is negotiated faster than it takes to get an In-N-Out Burger (or Five Guys burger, if you prefer the inferior).

Those deals are announced that fast because everything’s already been agreed to through back channels. Same with meetings when a major (or even mediocre) free agent starts talking to teams on July 1. Yet, the NBA rarely investigates, and even more rarely punishes a team for tampering. Why? Because it’s very difficult to prove.

The Lakers are being investigated for tampering with Paul George while he was under contract to the Indiana Pacers, an investigation reportedly started at the request of Pacers’ owner Herb Simon. Teams are not allowed to recruit or entice players under contract. The Lakers have denied any wrongdoing. Lakers president Magic Johnson went on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and, with a wink, joked about what he’d tell George if they met this summer, and that ticked Simon off. The Pacers had to trade George, and because everyone around the league knows he more likely than not is a Laker next summer (long before Magic went on TV), his trade value was diminished. The Pacers got back Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him the day before free agency opened (although there may have been better offers on the table, and the choice and timing were odd). The Pacers think if there is an agreement in place between the Lakers and George that would have driven down the trade market (because he was a one-year rental, that market was already depressed).

Good luck proving tampering. Unless Magic did something stupid like text George directly, it will be almost impossible to prove.

NBA agents and front offices know how to avoid tampering using “back channels” — not unlike how governments who are public enemies still communicate. Someone, a couple of people removed from the agent/GM, can talk with someone a couple of people removed from the other side and set something up that gets brought back and agreed to. Or, an agent can have one of his other players do some of the work for him — players recruit each other all the time on social media (and off it), and the league doesn’t see that as tampering, unless specifically ordered by a GM/owner. James Harden recruited Chris PaulDraymond Green and other Warriors recruited Kevin Durant, and the league shrugged, but GM Bob Myers could not have done that (or directed the players to do that… again, good luck proving it if you think he did).

There are a few reasons it will be hard to prove the Lakers did anything. First, the Lakers’ GM Rob Pelinka is a former agent and knows how to work the system — he’s not getting caught. Look what another agent told Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer.

“Pelinka for sure knows how to tamper without getting caught,” one agent told me. “Pelinka will do whatever it takes to get players. Magic could easily have done something dumb and got caught for it, though.”

To prove tampering, Magic needs to have left a “paper trail,” which more accurately is a digital trail of texts or emails. But even that can get tricky. If Magic was texting with George’s agent Aaron Mintz that alone proves nothing, he also represents Julius Randle on the Lakers and D'Angelo Russell, who the Lakers traded a week before the George trade. It will take an email or text specifically talking about George for the Lakers to get in trouble, and Magic is smarter than that. Well, we think he is.

The bottom line is tampering is common and almost impossible to prove. Unless Magic screwed up, it will be unprovable here. Maybe the Pacers made their point, maybe Simon feels better, but it’s hard to see how this is going to be tampering.

Joakim Noah talks of “bounce back” year for himself, Knicks

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In a season of disappointments in New York, none was bigger than Joakim Noah.

There was plenty of scoffing around the league in the summer of 2016 when Phil Jackson signed the oft-injured, already declining Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract that was seen as one of the worst of a summer (and it was an ugly summer for contracts). He only played in 46 games, averaging 5.5 points on 49 percent shooting, plus 8.8 rebounds a game in those (and basically being averaged on offense and a step slow defensively). He missed time with a rotator cuff surgery and got a 20-game suspension for testing positive for Androgen (he has 13 of those games left and can’t play until Nov. 13).

Noah realizes how poorly last season went he told the “Truth Barrel’’ podcast, doesn’t think Jackson deserves all the blame, and said his goal is to make it up this season (hat tip The New York Post for the transcription).

“It’s tough, man, because I got a lot of love and respect for Phil,’’ Noah said. “He gave me an opportunity to play back home. Somebody I read all his books as a kid. I was just a big fan and still am. I have a lot of respect for him. It didn’t work out. That sucks. It’s something I have to live with. He believed in me, and I kind of let him down. That’s frustrating. He got a lot of blame that it was his fault. But we didn’t lose all those games because of Phil Jackson…

“I went through a lot of adversity,’’ Noah said. “You go through injuries. I lost my confidence this year. It’s about bouncing back and showing who I am through these tough times. It can really show what you’re made of.”

This is the only attitude Noah should have — look forward, get healthy, and look to right his wrongs next season.

Once he finishes his suspension, Noah likely will come off the bench behind Willy Hernangomez. (The Knicks should spend more time with Kristaps Porzingis at the five, but that’s another discussion.) Noah is going to get his chances, but nothing he has shown the past few seasons should have Knicks’ fans expecting a return to form. Noah has been an average to below-average player for a couple of seasons, he’s not moving the same way, and he’s not getting younger.

Noah can still have a positive impact on this team, he has a role to play, but it has to start with him getting back on the court.

Add Milos Teodosic to long list of stars missing EuroBasket

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The last Olympics in Rio saw a long list of NBA players sitting it out, either due to injuries, concerns about Zika virus, a serious dislike of açaí berries or just choosing to do something else with their time.

Now it looks like EuroBasket is suffering the same fate.

The latest name to come up is Milos Teodosic, who signed this summer with the Clippers, could never get healthy, and is out for Serbia. He joins a long list — Sportando put together a list of NBA players and stars who are out.

More than just one someone is missing, guys such as Ivica Zubac, Mario Hezonja, Paul Zipster, and others are out as well.

Spain, led by Pau Gasol, remain the heavy favorites to win EuroBasket 2017, with Serbia, France, and Lithuania potential contenders. There may be a lot of players missing, but there is still a lot of talent, and when guys are playing for national pride there is plenty of emotion and fire as well.