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.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.

Pelicans shut down Tyreke Evans until after All-Star break

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 06: Tyreke Evans #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans dribbles the ball during the NBA game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum on November 6, 2013 in Memphis, Tennessee.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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the Pelicans have dealt with an inordinate amount of injuries so far this season to nearly every key payer on their roster. Tyreke Evans has missed the last five games with a lingering knee issue, and the team says he’s going to sit out their final four games before the All-Star break, as a precaution to make sure he’s healthy for the second half of the season.

From the Pelicans’ official site:

“We’re probably going to hold him out until after the All-Star break,” Alvin Gentry said during pregame at Quicken Loans Arena. “That gives him a situation where he has almost two weeks where he can rehab it and hopefully get it back. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go right after the All-Star break and we’ll be able to play him for the rest of the stretch (of the schedule).”

Evans initially missed the Jan. 2 game at Dallas due to the injury, then was sidelined again Jan. 18 at Memphis. Against Houston, he only played 16 minutes before being taken out of the game, suffering from the same issue.

“I think it’s just rest,” Gentry said of what it may take for Evans to get past the injury. “It’s one of those situations with tendinitis, where you rest and it feels better. That’s better than having him play two games, then sit out one (and have his status in flux). This may help him be able to play the last part of the season, without sitting out.”

Despite being 18-31, the Pelicans are just six games out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Their resting of Evans could be read two ways—it could be gearing up to make a push for the playoffs, as much of a long shot as that may be; or it could be the first in a series of instances of shutting down or resting key players to try to position themselves for a lottery pick, effectively hitting the reset button after a season as ravaged by injuries as the one they’ve had.

Bulls say Jimmy Butler has knee strain, no timetable for return

<> during the second half at TD Garden on December 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Bulls 105-100.
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Exhale, Bulls fans. Jimmy Butler‘s left knee injury isn’t as serious as it looked. The injury, which Butler suffered just before halftime of Friday night’s Bulls loss in Denver, looked bad at the time, and Butler had to be carted off the court. But on Saturday, the Bulls announced that an MRI revealed no tear in the knee, just a strain, and he’ll go back to Chicago to get treatment.

An MRI performed today on Bulls forward Jimmy Butler’s left knee confirmed that he sustained a knee strain in the second quarter of last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets.  The timeline for his return to play will be determined by further evaluation in Chicago and his response to treatment.

Butler will not play tonight in Minnesota. Beyond that, it’s unclear. But the fact that it’s just a strain and not anything more serious indicates that he won’t be out long.

Report: NBA considering expanding rosters for greater D-League integration

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 04:  A detail of the NBA Players Association logo with the slogan " THe Players' Union FIghting for You" is seen on Theo Ratliff of the Los Angeles Lakers as Derek Fisher, President of the National Basketball Players Association, speaks at a press conference after NBA labor negotiations at The Westin Times Square on October 4, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
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The NBA Development League is in a weird place right now. It’s growing as more teams are placing importance on it and adding single-affiliate franchises, but it’s still not a true minor league. Players don’t make very much money unless they’re already signed to NBA deals, and teams have to have an open roster spot or waive someone they have currently signed to call someone up. Unless you’re sure you’re going to get called up at some point, it’s smarter for fringe players to sign overseas to make more money than go to the D-League.

The NBA is trying to do something about that. According to a new report, the league is interested in potentially expanding NBA teams’ rosters as part of the next CBA to allow for greater integration between the NBA and the D-League, and allow teams to have a couple of so-called “two-way” roster spots.

From Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com:

The NBA likes the idea of expanding rosters from the current limit of 15 to as many as 17 as part of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement with the additional spots designated for two-way contracts that will mean more money for some players and more control of select prospects for the parent clubs.

While it will be one of several major issues on the table as the league and the players’ union eventually ramp up negotiations on the new CBA that could end as soon as the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, if either side opts out by Dec. 15, the concept of a contract that would cover the minor leagues as well as the majors is a pressing topic for the hopeful D-League. And since the NBA runs the executive side of the D-League as well as most of the basketball operations for the minor-league clubs, the D-League and the NBA usually speak as one.

The proposal would mean as many as 60 new jobs for players, if rosters do increase by two and depending how many of the 30 NBA teams utilize both spots. That, in turn, would mean a deeper talent pool for the D-League as it grows from 19 teams this season to 22 in 2016-17 and possibly more in what is projected to be the first season of the new CBA. And that would mean more prospects for the NBA to develop without paying major-league salaries.

According to the report, players signed into these two-way roster spots could make as much as $100,000 to play in the D-League (player salaries currently max out around $25,000), which could incentivize players to stay home and play in the D-League rather than pursue overseas opportunities.

The plan is still early enough in the discussion stage that one of the most bottom-line elements — money — has not been settled. According to insiders, though, the thinking is to set the minor-league portion of the dual contract in the neighborhood of $100,000 a season, give or take $25,000.

That would only be for hopefuls with two-way contracts, not all D-League players with salaries that currently peak at $25,000 if they have no NBA deal. Salaries of players sent down with NBA contracts, usually rookies or second-year prospects, would not be altered. But even with a small number of players in the minors impacted, officials figure the chance to make a minimum of $100,000, while showcasing themselves in front of NBA scouts and executives most every game, while getting to be relatively close to home, will convince 60 players to accept a deal in the minors in North America rather than opt for more money overseas.

If the player with a two-way deal gets promoted, he will make the pro-rated minimum of NBA money. If he is sent back down, it will be with the cushion of $100,000 as the floor for the season, not the $25,000, $19,000 and even $13,000 (based on current numbers) others are making in the minors. There is also the possibility those tiers could increase with the next CBA as well.

Obviously, this isn’t going to happen until the next CBA is announced, if then. But it makes total sense, especially as the NBA gets closer to having true one-to-one affiliation. Right now, there are 19 D-League teams, each affiliated with an NBA team—10 as single-affiliates and nine under hybrid ownership models. Next year, the Bulls, Hornets and Nets are set to have their own D-League teams as well. It’s not hard to imagine that within the next few years, all 30 teams will have their own affiliates. And when that happens, there will need to be a mechanism in place for them to call players up and send them down that’s more in line with a true minor-league system like the one Major League Baseball employs. Even if that involves paying D-Leaguers more money and paying for two extra roster spots, it’s worth the trade-off in the long term if more top basketball talent stays in America rather than going overseas.