New York Knicks Stoudemire reacts after stuffing ball to score against Portland Trail Blazers in NBA basketball game in New York

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lots of ‘Melo, not much else for Knicks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while breaking your New Year’s resolutions already….

Nuggets 92, Clippers 78: The Clippers win streak dies at 17on a night they were just ice-cold from the floor — 38.5 percent as a team, with leading scorer Jamal Crawford shooting 2-of-11. Denver played well but it was just one of those nights for Los Angeles. We broke it all down as our game of the night.

Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 100: Carmelo Anthony showed up to play — 45 points on just 24 shots, plus seven rebounds. J.R. Smith was trying to go with him, gunning his way to 28 points. The rest of the Knicks… not so much. They were a step slow on defense and for reasons unknown it took them to the third quarter to figure out that Portland plays J.J. Hickson at center and he can’t stop a Tyson Chandler roll to the bucket.

Portland pulled away with an 11-0 run in the second and held on at the end to get the win. Portland took at advantage of a sloppy Knicks defense to shoot 50.6 percent on the night. Nicolas Batum had 26, LaMarcus Aldridge had 18, J.J. Hickson 19.

And Amar’e Stoudemire was back. Not shockingly he looked rusty. He started 0-4 shooting and is a little ways away from being his old self. Lineups with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler together were +2 in five minutes of action. That is not indicative of much, just something to watch going forward.

Sixers 103, Lakers 99: And the Lakers fall below .500 again because they couldn’t defend. That sound familiar? It’s been like that all season and the return of Steve Nash and the better play of late didn’t change the Lakers narrative — this looked and felt like a lot of Lakers games this year.

Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner did the damage — both would shake loose of their perimeter defender pretty easily and get a good look then knock down the shot. This wasn’t some brilliant Doug Collins scheme, this was those two exploiting the Lakers defenders in isolation sets all night. Holiday had 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting plus had 10 assists. Turner had 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, plus had 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol was 2-of-12 and Dwight Howard 1-of-7 shooting. Kobe Bryant was back to being a gunner who scored 36, Metta World Peace had 13 points and needed 17 shots to get them. As a team the Lakers were 3-of-22 from three point range.

Hawks 95, Hornets 86: This was the fourth game in five nights on the road for the Hawks, the kind of game where a lot of teams just roll over. Credit Atlanta, they found the energy for an 11-2 third quarter run to pull away for the win. That run featured a Kyle Kover three but the guy driving it was Josh Smith, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Al Horford pitched in 20 points on the night. Ryan Anderson had 23 for the Hornets. Eric Gordon looked like a guy who just came off knee surgery and is rusty and not in game shape yet — which he is — and was 5-of-17 shooting in 24 minutes.

Dallas 103, Wizards 94: The Wizards controlled the first half of this game and led by as many as 14 at one point, and it looked like Dallas could lose their seventh in a row. But Darren Collison sparked a 22-6 third quarter run for the Mavericks that gave them the lead and Dallas never looked back. Vince Carter led Dallas with 23 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki looked better, shooting 5-of-7 from the field as he plays himself back into shape. If Wizards fans are looking for a bright spot, Bradley Beal had a career-high 22 points.

Pistons 103, Kings 97: Detroit was in control of this game from the second quarter on until a 20-5 run by Sacramento in the fourth — fueled by Jimmer Fredette who had 13 in the quarter — made it close down the stretch. It was Austin Daye who knocked down the game-clinching three for Detroit. Greg Monroe had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who now have a three-game winning streak. Brandon Knight added 20. For the Kings DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 14 rebounds, but Sacramento fell to 1-13 on the road this season.

Lakers GM Kupchak tries to brush off Jim Buss’ timeline discussion

Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak speaks to reporters at team headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., Friday, April 15, 2016. With Kobe Bryant's $25 million salary, ravenous shot selection and dominant personality gone from the basketball team after 20 years, Kupchak says he will meet with head coach Byron Scott and owner Jim Buss in a few days to discuss their options for the Lakers, which finished with the NBA's second-worst record at 17-65 in Bryant's farewell season. (AP Photo/Greg Beacham)
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Consider this a little preview: On Thursday the ProBasketballTalk podcast returns, opening with a discussion of the Lakers and the Pacific division with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. We talk about the young core — D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, etc. — and how Luke Walton fits with them. How this is a team that if handled properly could develop into something of quality in a couple of years as these players come along. Patience is key.

But then we got to what Medina called the “elephant in the room”: Jim Buss’ timeline for returning to contending. He’s the head of basketball operations and vowed to at least make the second round of the playoffs at least by this season. Which is not happening. Will Buss be patient? Is he grounded in today’s NBA reality? Will the woman with the hammer, Jeanie Buss, hold him to that timeline? Does she have the backing of the other Buss children to push him out? (Reportedly she does.) It has Shakespearian drama potential.

Laker GM Mitch Kupchak was asked about that Tuesday and wanted no part of the question. Via Medina at the Daily News.

“I’m not in a position to debate the stuff you talked about,” Kupchak said on Tuesday at UC Santa Barbara. “I’m not sure what was said with certainty. From my point of view, we’ve created a team that has a lot of young talent that can grow into really good NBA players that can leave an imprint on this league. I think we’ve surrounded them with older veterans to help us win games. I’m excited about our coaching staff….

“Wins and losses, I couldn’t pick a number,” Kupchak said. “I could guess. But I would not guess in front of you. That’s not something I would do. That’s something I would stare at for the rest of the year.”

The Lakers should win more than the 17 of last year, maybe climb into the upper 20s, with 30 wins being the goal. That would signify a good season. But what matters is development, and if the Lakers are better at the end of the season, if their young players are on the right track, then that is success for this season.

Everyone around the Lakers understands that.

But is that enough to save Jim Buss’ job? That’s a different question.

New challenges face Portland guard CJ McCollum in Year four

Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum poses for a photograph during NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) CJ McCollum became a starter for the Trail Blazers last season, broke out as the NBA’s Most Improved Player then signed a big contract over the summer.

Driving him all along the way was third-year pressure.

“Because I knew that was a make-or-break year for me. I know that going into year three I hadn’t played particularly well. I’d had flashes, but I just didn’t sustain a level of consistency for a season.

“In our league you get three years, you get traded, you get put in a box and they say `This is what you are,”‘ McCollum said when the team convened this week for training camp.

The 25-year-old guard became a star in the Blazers’ backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team’s starters left in the offseason.

With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Blazers were considered a team that was rebuilding.

But they surpassed expectations, finishing 44-38 and earning the fifth seed in the Western Conference and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

At one point last season, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle referred to Lillard and McCollum as “a younger version of those Golden State guys.”

McCollum averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists during the regular season. He had 197 3-pointers, fourth most for the Blazers in one season. He scored in double figures in 79 games.

He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season and the dramatic turnaround earned him the Most Improved Player award.

That improvement was the most since Tony Campbell from an average of 6.2 points to 23.2 points with Minnesota between the ’88-89 and `89-90 seasons.

McCollum averaged 20.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in the postseason last season.

But at times he was nervous that he was just an injury away from seeing all the hard work fizzle away.

“It was nerve-wracking for me because if you get hurt so many times you fear it. You’re like, `Oh, this could be it,”‘ he said. “So for me to get through a season healthy and to play well, it was comforting.”

McCollum, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft out of Lehigh, missed the first 34 games of his rookie season with a foot injury.

The next season he was a reserve, but he started to turn heads down the stretch and into the playoffs after starter Wesley Matthews was knocked out with a ruptured Achilles. His postseason included a 33-point game against Memphis.

This summer the Blazers solidified their backcourt for years to come by signing McCollum to a four-year contract worth $106 million. It will keep him in Portland through the 2020-21 season.

While McCollum says he feels “less pressure” this season, he’s still looking to grow. The Blazers signed free agent Evan Turner in the offseason to help shore up the Blazers’ depth at guard.

“As a younger player you just play and react,” McCollum said. “As an older player you start to get more experience and you start to `think’ the game. I think once I put those two things together I can be a special player.”

Report: With new building set to open, Sacramento pushes to host 2020 All-Star Game

The Sacramento Kings released the NBA basketball team's new logo, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The new logo has a reshaped crown and new typeface meant to convey a modern look. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In just a few weeks, the new arena that kept the Kings in Sacramento is set to open. It’s a well-designed basketball-first facility that both the fans and players should love.

Now the Kings want to show that building off to everybody and host a future All-Star Game, reports James Ham of CSNCalifornia.com.

It’s not uncommon for a team with a new building to get to host the All-Star Game. The 2017 game is in New Orleans, 2018 is in Los Angeles, 2019 will go to Charlotte if the “bathroom bill” is repealed (or strongly modified). That makes 2020 the next one up.

The Kings new building is in downtown Sacramento, in a growing area close to the California state capital. The only question is whether that area has enough hotel rooms and nearby convention space to handle the massive influx of people that come to an All-Star Game. The league office has this mapped out, it knows how many hotel rooms it needs in close proximity to the arena, for example. If Sacramento can meet all those qualifications, it could well land the February showdown.

Sixers players have dinner with Will Smith

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Actor Will Smith attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Ali. Men in Black. I am Legend. Fresh Prince. Suicide Squad. Independence Day. Plus more than a few movies he’d like us to forget (hello Hancock).

Will Smith is all that — and part owner of the Philadephia 76ers.

As training camp opened, Smith took his team out to dinner, according to the Sixers official site.

Jahlil Okafor and his teammates weren’t told that the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning entertainer from West Philadelphia would be dining with them.

“It was great, it was a lot of fun,” said Okafor, who participated in Tuesday’s practice, despite sustaining a minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago. “Will Smith is my favorite celebrity, my favorite actor. It was great to hear him speak.”

Smith shared stories and passed along advice to a crowd consisting mostly of early to mid 20-year olds who grew up on his movies and albums.

“I think the main thing he said is the company you have around you,” Joel Embiid said. “He was trying to explain the people you have around you affect the type of person you are. He was just trying to tell us to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

It’s a good lesson for the Sixers in what could be a season of lessons coming for the Philadephia. This team is going to be better than it was a year ago, but don’t confuse that with good. They may get there someday, but there are a lot of hard lessons to learn between now and then.

But it’s a lot more fun to get some of those lessons from Will Smith.