Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers

Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dallas makes the Clippers work for it

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while listening to an ice record

Spurs 108, Lakers 105: The Lakers went on a 13-2 run in the fourth quarter to make this game interesting down the stretch, but in the end the result was the fifth straight Los Angeles loss. Darius Soriano broke that one down for us.

Clippers 99, Mavericks 93: The Clippers had to work for this one, coming from behind in the fourth quarter at home to a Dallas team showing some fight. Good Darren Collison showed up for Dallas and that was key — 22 points on 15 shots, plus six assists. Toss in 21 Clippers turnovers and you have yourself a real chance for the Mavericks. But when they needed him in the fourth Chris Paul was making plays — steals, layups and he had 16 assists on the night. Dallas would have beaten most teams with that effort, but they struggled with the Clippers pressure defense when it mattered.

Grizzlies 94, Warriors 87: Generally if your team shoots 2-of-17 from three you don’t win. But Memphis doesn’t win with threes, they win with defense and points in the paint (a battle they won 60-34) and that was enough. Rudy Gay looked like the kind of player you’d want to trade for with 18 points and six assists. Zach Randolph looked like the best player on the floor with 19 points and 12 assists. Stephen Curry had 24.

Thunder 106, Timberwolves 84: No Kevin Love for Minny but this was close for a half, mostly because of a painfully ugly first quarter that ended 16-16. But Oklahoma City opened the third quarter on a 17-6 run and that pretty much was the ballgame. Kevin Durant had 26 points, Russell Westbrook had 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Nice, professional win for the Thunder.

Bucks 104, Bulls 96: Jim Boylan is 2-0 as a head coach. The Bulls owned the first half, going on a 22-7 run in the first quarter to lead by as many as 15. Then Brandon Jennings started draining threes and the Bucks went on a 22-7 run at the start of the third and took the lead. Jennings had four threes and 20 points in the third (35 for the game), coincidentally after Nate Robinson got into him a little bit with some trash talk before the start of the second half. Well done Nate.

One thing to watch, Monta Ellis rolled his ankle near the end of the game. Not sure how severe it is but watch out, especially if he is on your fantasy team.

Raptors 90, 76ers 72: Don’t look now but the Raptors have won 8 out of 10 and are back to playing some defense — they held the Sixers to 39.2 percent shooting. Philly is trending the other way, having now lost five in a row. As has it been during the slide, a bad third quarter (giving up 29 points on 63 percent shooting) had a lot to do with it. Amir Johnson had 19 points and 12 boards to lead the Raptors, Jose Calderon dished out 11 assists.

Celtics 87, Suns 79: The Boston bench has not been as great as hoped this season, but it’s better than the Suns’ version. The Celtics won the second quarter by 13 behind Jared Sullinger (8 points in the quarter, 12 points and 16 rebounds for the game) and Jeff Green (14 points). Then the Suns went on an early third quarter 17-0 run and took the lead back and we had a game again. It took a 13-2 run when Kevin Garnett was the only starter on the floor at the start of the fourth to seal the win.

Boston continues to show they have found their defensive footing, holding the Suns to 39 percent shooting for the game and 16.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

Jazz 112, Bobcats 102: Utah never trailed in this game. Why? Because Charlotte’s defense is awful. Well, they did keep it close for 18 minutes and they forced Utah to take jumpshots. Problem is starting midway through the second quarter the Jazz hit their jumpers — a Gordon Hayward three, a Paul Millsap a jumper and more. It was a 20-4 run and it was over then. Al Jefferson had 26 points and Millsap added 19. Nice night for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Hornets 88, Rockets 79: Second night of a back-to-back for Houston who got the win against the Lakers then acted tired late — Houston led by 10 in the third quarter but New Orleans opened the quarter on a 22-2 run and ran away for the win. Roger Mason Jr. sparked that fourth quarter with 15 points in the fourth plus he guarded James Harden and held the beard to three points in the fourth. Best player recently you’re not watching is Greivis Vasquez who had 17 points and 11 assists.

Cavaliers 99, Hawks 83: Atlanta can get in the bad habit of settling for jump shots. How do you know when they are doing that? When they have just five free throws in an entire game. On the other side Kyrie Irving was attacking — 18 points in the third quarter when the Cavaliers started to pull away and he finished with 33 on the night. Also, good to see Shaun Livingston have a nice game off the bench (eight points, five assists). For those keeping score in Atlanta, that is four straight losses for the Hawks.

Nuggets 108, Magic 105: Kenneth Faried is a pure beast — 19 points and 19 rebounds on the night. Just wanted to get that in up front. As for the game, the Magic have to be kicking themselves because they led by seven late in the fourth quarter then Denver went on a 15-5 run and grabbed the win. Ty Lawson had 19 including the three to put Denver up late. Jameer Nelson had 20 but it wasn’t enough, this is 10 straight losses for the Magic.

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.