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.

Steve Kerr to Trump: “Isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President?”

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There was much discussion this week about whether the Golden State Warriors would accept a potential invitation to visit the White House. However, when asked about a visit, Stephen Curry said that he would vote no. That prompted Donald Trump to preemptively rescind an invitation.

Then the weekend came, along with the backlash against Trump.

Trump rescinded the invitation for the Warriors in a speech in which he also called NFL players silently protesting police brutality, “sons of bitches”.

The Warriors organization responded to Trump’s comments, as did some players.

Now, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr has written about his own feelings on the matter on SI.com.

In an impassioned article, Kerr said that it was not possible for the team to visit the White House and have a typical visit. Kerr, whose father was the President of the American University of Beruit, said that he had met with several presidents in the past even if his personal views had differed. However, Kerr said he felt that Trump’s comments were “childish” and that he felt the real estate magnate was unable to absorb criticism — something former Trump supporter Mark Cuban agreed recently echoed.

Via SI:

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet President Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. I didn’t agree with all of them, but it was easy to set politics aside because each possessed an inherent respect for the office, as well as the humility that comes with being a public servant in an incredible position of power, representing 300 million people. And that’s the problem now. In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President? And the way to do that is through compassion and dignity and being above the fray. Not causing the fray.

..

Instead, we get Trump’s comments over the weekend about NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the anthem. Those just crushed me. Crushed me. Just think about what those players are protesting. They’re protesting excessive police violence and racial inequality. Those are really good things to fight against. And they’re doing it in a nonviolent way. Which is everything that Martin Luther King preached, right? A lot of American military members will tell you that the right to free speech is exactly what they fight for. And it’s just really, really upsetting that the leader of our country is calling for these players to be ‘fired.’

Remember, the president works for us, not vice versa. We elected him. He doesn’t just work for his constituents and his base. He works for every citizen. Once you take that office, you have to do what’s best for the entire country. Sure, you’re going to have policies that align with your party, but that’s not the point. Respectfully, Mr. Trump, the point is this: You’re the president. You represent all of us. Don’t divide us.

The comments from Kerr are also especially timely given that on Sunday many NFL teams and players either locked arms, knelt, or stayed inside the locker room in a display of solidarity. Unfortunately, given that this mass showing comes following Trump’s comments, many have mistakenly come to understand the meaning of kneeling itself to be some kind of protest against Trump.

However, whether it be Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem or LeBron James and company wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts, the message has always been against police brutality and racial inequity — not against the nation, flag, or military, or Trump as many have incorrectly equated it to mean.

That Kerr has come out and explicitly stated that fact in his reaction — as the coach of the current NBA champions and perhaps the most popular team in the league right now — is an important thing.

CJ McCollum on Carmelo, Kanter trade: “Stay woke, it’s a business”

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The most insane NBA offseason in recent memory got weirder this week when Carmelo Anthony was traded from the New York Knicks to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a first round draft pick.

The trade has made many of us wonder just what the on the court play will look like in Oklahoma City this season with a high usage set of players in Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and now Carmelo.

Meanwhile, Kanter had made comments earlier in the week about expressing his appreciation for the fans in Oklahoma City. Having been traded just a few days later, that apparently didn’t sit right for some people. Or at the very least, it appeared to be a teaching moment.

Via Twitter:

There’s no doubt about this fact, and it is hard to try to refute McCollum here. This is the nature of the league and there is no such thing as complete loyalty — at least in the sense of how most people understand it interpersonally — between employers and their employees in the NBA.

Teams are going to trade players to make sure they can win the most games and maximize their profits. Likewise, players should take the biggest contract they can get if they feel that is in their best interest.

In any case, we are all excited to see what kind of shenanigans happen in Oklahoma City next year.

Paul George on Thunder: “This feels like a championship team”

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They have an MVP, top-five NBA player. They have another All-NBA player who is a strong wing defender. They now have an aging all-star who still can get buckets with the best of them. There is a strong collection of role players who can help form a solid defense.

On paper, there’s a lot to like with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Paul George realizes that, as he said to Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This feels like a championship team,” George told USA TODAY Sports. “I’m in a good place. I know Russ (Westbrook) is in a good place. Melo is motivated more than ever…You put us three together, who all have something to prove still, (and) we’re going to be a special team. We have a young group, a lot of talent here, an unbelievable coach (in Billy Donovan), (and) as you see, a front office that’s willing to do whatever it takes to improve the team. It just has all the makeups to be a great organization and a chance to put championships together.”

Championships? Plural? That implies the team would stay together, and sorry Thunder fans, but that is far from a sure thing. First, financially there is no realistic way Oklahoma City can afford to sign Russell Westbrook and Paul George max deals (which they both will get) and keep Anthony if he opts into the final year of his contract for just shy of $28 million.

OKC is a small market team that simply would lose a lot of money to keep the band together, and this ownership group traded James Harden out of fear of a massive luxury tax bill. (They will pay a tax bill of about $24 million for this season if the roster stays as is.)

Also, George’s camp made it very clear during the run-up to his trade he plans to test free agency and has a strong lean to the Lakers next season. He may be more likely to stay in OKC now after the trade, but how much more?

However, George is right, this team does look like a roster that could contend for a title most years — and maybe be in the mix this year. We will put aside the Warriors challenge for a moment (they are still the clear favorites if they stay healthy) and get to the big question for the Thunder:

Will their big three learn to sacrifice, learn to mesh, learn to play together as a team as a championship team does fast enough? The 2008 Celtics did, but that team of veterans has been the exception. It took LeBron’s Miami Heat two seasons to learn how to win, and the same when he came back to Cleveland. OKC doesn’t have two seasons, they have to do it fast. It’s possible, but not easy.

George is right, this is an excellent Oklahoma City team. The Thunder are now right in the middle of that second tier in the West with Houston (another team that has to learn to mesh and sacrifice) and the Spurs. That’s a great place to be.

Is it a place George wants to stay? That question will hang over the Thunder all season.

 

Mark Cuban: Trump has “got to be able to take the blowback” from comments

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President Donald Trump used the bully pulpit of his office to, well, bully — he fired shots at the NFL over its concussion protocols and players kneeling during the national anthem. Then he rescinded his invite to the White House to the Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would vote not to go.

Sports stars fired back. LeBron James called Trump a bum, Chris Paul asked if he didn’t have better things to worry about, and the Warriors said as a team they would use their time in Washington this season to “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.” Even supporters of the President, such as Patriots owner Robert Craft, rebuked the president for his comments.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told NBC News in an exclusive interview for Meet the Press Trump has to be a big enough man to handle people standing up to him.

“If the president’s going to say something condemning a person, an industry, a sport, then he’s got to be able to take the blowback that’s going to come back,” Cuban told NBC News in an exclusive interview for “Meet the Press.”

“So LeBron [James] and Steph and any athlete, any owner, it’s an open door now, and so they have every right for the same reasons to be able to say whatever’s on their mind,” he said. “Now we’ll be able to see if he can take it.”

Unlike previous presidents of both parties, Trump is not good at letting criticism of him and his administration roll off his back to stay focused on his agenda. It’s more personal with him, and that is something Warriors coach Steve Kerr said is a problem for him, and the nation.

Bottom line, NBA players are not going to back off — their base isn’t going to push back against them for their comments. Most are going to nod their heads in agreement. The NBA fan demographic is not the NFL’s. This storyline is far from over.