Amir Johnson; Kevin Durant

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Heat, Thunder cruise to victory

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while thinking about NBA doppelgangers

Nuggets 112, Lakers 105: If you like fast paced games with plenty of scoring, a game not really encumbered with defense to slow all that down, than this one was for you. The Lakers defense was slightly worse than the Nuggets and that was the difference, something we broke down with our game of the night.

Thunder 104, Raptors 92: The simple takeaway from this game — Oklahoma City is a lot better than Toronto. Shocking, I know. The Raptors hung with the Thunder for the second quarter because Alan Anderson came in off the bench and went 7-of-8 shooting for 19 points in the quarter (and 27 for the game). Combine that with Amir Johnson going 4-of-4 in the quarter and you get 32 Raptors points. Needless to say, that’s not really sustainable.

Kevin Durant scoring a lot of points? That is sustainable. He finished with 22 points on 11 shots plus double-crossed DeMar DeRozan. Russell Westbrook finished with 23, Serge Ibaka had 19. The Thunder pulled away in the third quarter with a 16-2 run and never looked back. Westbrook had 12 points in the third.

Heat 99, Wizards 71: For 40 minutes, the Wizards played the Heat close. They deserve credit for that, they showed some fight. But Washington didn’t score in the final 7:07 of the game, the Heat went on a 21-0 run and the final result looks like a blowout doesn’t really reflect how most of the game was played. Ray Allen had 13 off the bench in the fourth quarter and 20 for the game. LeBron James led the Heat 24 points and seven assists. Kevin Seraphin led the Wizards with 14 points.

Grizzlies 92, Suns 81: This game wasn’t as much about the Grizzlies as it was about the Suns, and their inability to create offense. Phoenix finished with 81 points after scoring just 80 in its previous home game, a blowout loss at the hands of the Jazz.

P.J. Tucker led the team in scoring with 17 points, and Marcin Gortat crept into double digits late in the fourth quarter to finish with 12. The rotation went 10 deep, but all eight of the remaining who played couldn’t top double digits.

Phoenix shot just 39.2 percent from the field, and couldn’t get anything going against the Memphis defense.
—Brett Pollakoff

Charlotte 108, Pistons 101 (OT): Kemba Walker is just fun. He had the bucket, a floater in the lane (below) to send the game to overtime, plus had four points in the overtime to get his Bobcats their second win this week. What 18 game losing streak? Ben Gordon reminded the Pistons that he can put up points with 18.

The first half of this game was free flowing and high scoring, with the Pistons shooting better than 70 percent. It felt like Detroit would run away and hide, they were up 15, but the Bobcats closed the half on a 16-2 run and we had a game. One that Walker would finish off.

LeBron James considering return to US Olympic team under Gregg Popovich

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  LeBron James #6 of the United States celebrates after the Men's Basketball gold medal game between the United States and Spain on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) LeBron James says Gregg Popovich taking over as coach of the U.S. Olympic team will be a factor in whether he plays in the 2020 Tokyo Games.

James has won two Olympic gold medals, but he skipped last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games to get rest after leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA championship. On Saturday, James said Popovich “factors a lot” in his plans going forward with the U.S. team.

James was asked about Popovich, San Antonio’s longtime coach, before the Cavs hosted the Spurs.

James considers “Pop” the greatest coach in NBA history and called him a “great mastermind of the game of basketball.”

Popovich is replacing Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who led the U.S. team to three consecutive gold medals.

Stan Van Gundy to Reggie Jackson: “We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio”

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It was rumored this week that the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves were mulling a trade that would send Ricky Rubio to Michigan and Reggie Jackson to Minnesota. Now, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy says that isn’t happening.

Nor was it a real offer that was even on the table.

In a video posted to the Detroit Free Press, Van Gundy went off on one of his classic fireside chats — the kind that involves profanity — on how he sees the NBA as it works.

Warning: NSFW language ahead.

While the whole thing is worth watching for the Van Gundyness of it all, here’s the meat you’re looking for:

All these rumors and stuff look I mean know it’s fun for everybody and you’ve got some source somewhere and it’s also all bullshit. Im not denying that discussion — they take place all the time – -that’s a lot different than considerations. Somebody says ‘Hey would you consider Ricky Rubio for Reggie Jackson that discussion might have taken pace. And clearly we didn’t make that move. We wanted to see if they’d go [Michael] Gbinije for LeBron.

Van Gundy said he didn’t know if the specific Jackson-for-Rubio discussion even happened, saying that Pistons president Jeff Bower only brings him trades they are actively considering.

Meanwhile, Van Gundy confirmed that he did text Jackson after his agent made contact with Bower.

“This is the crazy season. We’re not trading you for Ricky Rubio,” said Van Gundy about his text to Jackson.

Report: After fining Wizards, league issues memo warning teams on bench etiquette

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Courtney Lee #5 of the New York Knicks takes a three point shot in the first quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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The NBA league office fined Washington Wizards assistant coach Sidney Lowe $5,000 — and the team an additional $15,000 — for his role in distracting a New York Knicks shooter during a game this last week.

Now, the league has issued a warning to teams: make sure you’re practicing good bench etiquette, or we’re coming for your wallets.

According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the NBA sent a memo to all 30 teams on Saturday reminding them to remain on their own bench in accordance with league rules. Obviously that means no stepping onto active basketball courts:

So what are coaches needing to confine themselves to?

Official NBA rules state simply:

The coach’s position may be on or off the bench from the substitution box line (closest to the coach’s bench) to the baseline. A coach is not permitted to cross the midcourt line and violators will be assessed an unsportsmanlike technical foul immediately. All assistants and trainers must remain on the bench. Coaches and trainers are not permitted to go to the scorer’s table, for any reason, except during a dead ball.

Like we see with preseason points of emphasis, it’s possible we see additional fines in the weeks to come. Several coaches enjoy toeing the line (literally) to see what they can get away with and how far out on the court they can stand. Tom Thibodeau immediately springs to mind.

Or, it could go the other direction. Perhaps we see more coaches sitting back, respecting their distance?

Hopefully we just don’t see any more of them trying to close out on opposing shooters.

Joel Embiid wants the center position to return to the NBA All-Star ballot

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The NBA got rid of the center position on the All-Star ballot starting in 2013, thanks in part to some positional confusion around former San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan. But just a handful of years later, Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid says it should make a comeback.

Embiid — who finished third in the Eastern Conference for forwards in All-Star fan voting — told CSN Philly that due to the plethora of talented big men in the NBA, the position should return.

Via CSN Philly:

“There’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” Embiid said. “That’s something the NBA should think about, putting the center back on the All-Star ballot.”

There has been a resurgence of talented and burgeoning centers that have entered the league and are performing at a high level. Embiid is one of them, and so too is DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Hassan Whiteside, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond, Steven Adams, and Jahlil Okafor.

Adding the center position back might be a tough sell as having it doesn’t reduce eliminations from the roster. It’s much more free-flowing now, and there’s nothing keeping great centers off the All-Star team.

It would also be a little strange if center was added back but there wasn’t a point guard spot, too. ESPN’s Zach Lowe has suggested three categories for the roster in point guard, wing, and frontcourt. That idea is as good as adding the center position, perhaps moreso to many folks in the NBA.

I don’t think adding the center position will make a comeback any time soon. Meanwhile, we’re all just waiting to see if Embiid makes the All-Star reserves.