Nicolas Batum, Roger Mason Jr.

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Hornets comeback runs into Lillard

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while buying an ugly Christmas sweater

Lakers 111, 76ers 98: Two wins in a row for the Lakers, both on the road — in this sad season for them so far that counts as something to celebrate. For Philly, more of the up and down we have seen from them this season. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke it all down.

Trail Blazers 95, Hornets, 94: New Orleans got itself in trouble with turnovers — 11 in the first half that led to Portland jumping out to a big lead, one that reached 16 in the third quarter. J.J. Hickson helped push that lead with 11 of his 24 points coming in the third. But the Hornets made a run behind Ryan Anderson, who was a blistering 7-of-10 from three on his way to 26 points. Greivis Vasquez pitched in an impressive 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

The Hornets made it all the way back to tie the game at 92-92 on an Austin Rivers three with 42 seconds left in the game. Then Damian Lillard dropped a three and it was all over.

Nuggets 122, Kings, 97: Sometimes after a road trip teams will get home and just relax and that leads to a blowout. Maybe that’s what happened here. Or maybe the Nuggets are just a lot better than the Kings. Denver went on a 14-0 first quarter run to take control of this game and never looked back from there, this game never felt in doubt. Denver shot 54 percent on the night, Sacramento 34 percent. Active and aggressive JaVale McGee showed up and was active throwing down dunks all game, finishing with 19 points. Danilo Gallinari added 18 points, 10 in the first quarter.

Raptors 103, Rockets 96: The 1 ET start seemed to catch the Rockets napping as Houston started the game 1-7 shooting with three turnovers, and the quick lead was up to 12 in the first quarter. Then the Rockets woke up, went on a 17-4 and led before the end of the first quarter. We had a close game the rest of the way. Toronto got 17 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds from Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan had 19 and Ed Davis looked good (as did Alan Anderson). Buut for Raptors fans the thing that should make you optimistic is the Raptors defended well for a full game. Houston shot just 41 percent. The Raptors were a solid defensive team last season that has looked nothing like that this season, but this felt different, maybe a corner was turned.

James Harden had 28 but this is seven straight road losses for the Rockets.

Report: Kings also ready to trade Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo, Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings guard Darren Collison, foreground, is hugged by teammate DeMarcus Cousins in the closing moments of the Kings 109-106 overtime win over the Golden State Warriors in an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. At right is Kings guard Arron Afflalo. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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A driving force behind the Kings trading DeMarcus Cousins: Sacramento keeps its first-round pick in the loaded 2017 draft only if it lands in the top 10 (though the 76ers hold swap rights). Otherwise, the Kings’ pick conveys to the Bulls.

Sacramento, only a half game better than the NBA’s 10th-worst team, figures to drop into the keep-pick zone without Cousins, the team’s best player.

But the Kings can intensify a fall through the standings by trading supporting players like Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Ben McLemore.

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Kings excised Cousins, and there are strong indications they are not done dealing, either. Sacramento is determined to restock the franchise with assets, and will be targeting rookie-deal players and draft picks in the coming days, sources told The Vertical. Free agents-to-be Ben McLemore and Darren Collison are available, sources said, as is Arron Afflalo, a solid bench scorer with a manageable contract.

Collison is the Kings’ starting point guard, and he’d be solid for a team seeking a rental. He’s making $5,229,454 in the final year of his contract. Trading a starter would certainly help Sacramento keep its pick in the top 10.

Afflalo ($1.5 million of $12.5 million guaranteed next year) and McLemore (who can be made a restricted free agent next summer) are producing far less. It’s less likely other teams covet them. At least keeping these two guards probably won’t lift the Kings too high in the standings.

Paul Pierce uses two phones at dunk contest, says props shouldn’t be allowed

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Paul Pierce — NBA veteran and emoji enthusiast — used not one but two smartphones to record the action during Saturday night’s underwhelming dunk contest. Why was Pierce doing this? Perhaps he wanted to have an extra copy of it because he doesn’t trust “the cloud”. Or maybe he’s doing some work as a social media manager on the sly. You know, getting a jump on that retirement thing.

Or maybe this is just something that Pierce really likes to do:

Whatever he’s doing, I’m not sure if he looks like a boss or like a goober doing it. I feel this accurately sums up Paul Pierce’s aesthetic.

Meanwhile, after Glenn Robinson III won the 2017 NBA Dunk Contest, Pierce had some thoughts that he expressed via Twitter.

Pierce may have a point. Jeremy Evans dunking over a painting of himself in 2013 immediately felt pretty ridiculous. But eliminating props entirely? I’m not so sure about that. How would they sell Kias then?

DeMarcus Cousins projects to miss out on at least $29.87 million due to trade

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings speaks with the media during media availability for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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DeMarcus Cousins was all smiles the moment he appeared to find out about his trade, or at least trade rumors of going, from the Kings to the Pelicans.

But once he examines the deal closer, he might not like every aspect.

Cousins stands to miss out on a lot of money — about $30 million or more — due to this trade.

Because he made All-NBA teams the last two seasons, he was eligible to sign a designated-veteran-player contract extension this summer. As a matter of fact, he reportedly planned to do just that with Sacramento reportedly planning to offer it. That extension projected to be worth $209,090,000 over five years ($41,818,000 annually).

But, once officially dealt, Cousins will no longer be eligible for that super-max extension. It’s reserved for players still with their original team or who changed teams only via trade during their first four years.

This is Cousins’ seventh season, dropping his max starting salary in 2018 from 35% of the salary cap as a designated veteran player to 30%. That projects to be $179,220,000 over five years ($35,844,000 annually) if he re-signs.

It’d be even less if he leaves New Orleans, a projected $132,870,000 over four years ($33,217,500 annually).

Notice how small that difference is now between his incumbent team and other suitors. By rule, the Pelicans won’t hold nearly the same advantage in keeping him as the Kings would have. In other words, New Orleans faces greater risk of Cousins walking.

And there’s no guarantee Cousins gets the max. You saw how little the Pelicans traded for him. That speaks to his value around the league.

Just over a month ago, Cousins appeared content to take $209 million or so and stay in Sacramento. Now, his financial future is far more uncertain. But this much we know: His max possible salary on his next contract just got lowered.

Is this the moment DeMarcus Cousins found out he was traded? (video)

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings attends practice for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins was set to answer questions after the All-Star game, when a Kings public-relations official said, “All-Star questions first, please. All-Star-game questions.”

“What other questions we got?” Cousins asked, seemingly unaware of his trade to the Pelicans.

The PR person whispered in Cousins’ ear.

“Oh, really?” Cousins asked.

More whispering.

“It’s whatever,” Cousins said.

Then, asked about his All-Star experience, Cousins smiled big and said, “It was amazing, man. I enjoyed the city of New Orleans. I love it here in New Orleans.”