Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: The Knicks are comeback kings

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while listening to a Trent Reznor/Carly Ray Jepson mash up

Knicks 102, Cavaliers 97: The Knicks had to really work for this win — they trailed by 22 in the second quarter and lost Carmelo Anthony for the game around the same time (he tweaked his knee and did not play the second half).

But around the time he went down the rest of the Knicks decided to bring a little more energy on defense. Meaning they decided to contest a shot. Which was a change. Then at the other end the Knicks started to move the ball on offense. And pretty soon they were climbing back with a 17-4 run in the second. Then early in the third the Knicks went on a 12-1 run and with a Steve Novak three in the third quarter they retook the lead.

Cleveland would not roll over and this was close at the end — the Knicks needed Novak and then Jason Kidd knocking down key threes. Still the Cavs got the lead down to two on some Wayne Ellington free throws. Next possession after that Amare Stoudemire — who had his best game of the season and finished with 22 points — drove the lane, missed but got his own rebound and hit the more difficult putback to make it a four-point game with 38 seconds left. Kyrie Irving, back after missing three games, quickly made it a two-point game with a layup (he finished with 22 points and 6 assists). Stoudemire tried to ice it next trip down but missed — only to have Tyson Chandler tip out the missed shot, Kidd chased it down, got fouled, hit one and it was a three point game. Then to really ice it, Chandler blocked a Irving three (could have been a foul, maybe should have been) and the Knicks get a hard fought win on the road.

Heat 97, Timberwolves 81: Miami took the lead with a 15-2 run in the first quarter and never lost it, although the game was closer than many expected most of the way.

Minnesota got the lead down the three early in the fourth quarter, which was until Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade took over — each had nine points in the final period. J.J. Barea tried to put a stop to Allen, but that didn’t work — he got ejected instead for knocking Allen to the ground. Wade had maybe his best game this season with 32 points plus 10 assists, and the Heat got the comfortable win. Derrick Williams led the Timberwolves with 25, and Minnesota put up a good fight considering they are only dressing nine.

Bucks 109, Jazz 108 (OT): For much of the game it was Monta Ellis doing the damage, he finished with 34 points. When it wasn’t him it was Brandon Jennings, who had 20 points and 17 assists. But in overtime it was J.J. Redick scoring 8 points in those five minutes to spark the Bucks win.

The Jazz felt Gordon Hayward should have gone to the line at the end of regulation on what the refs called a fair Larry Sanders block but certainly plenty of contact. But alas, no such lock for the Jazz. If Utah plans on holding off the charging Lakers, these are the kind of close games they need to win.

Nuggets 104, Hawks 88: Atlanta was saddled with the toughest back-to-back in the league — one night in Los Angeles followed by the next night at altitude in Denver. It looked like it, the Hawks went flat in the fourth quarter, turned the ball over seven times, and the Nuggets pulled away to win their 11th straight game at home. Corey Brewer had 22 points, Ty Lawson added 18 points and eight assists. Nuggets fans even got a couple monster putback dunks from JaVale McGee to entertain them.

Warriors 125, Raptors 118: Toronto led this by 7 entering the fourth quarter, but went ice cold for the quarter, shooting just 27.6 percent. On the other side Golden State had Stephen Curry, who had 15 points in the quarter (26 for the game, plus 12 assists) and that was enough. Curry had help: Klay Thompson had 10 of his 22 in the fourth quarter, and David Lee ha 29 points and 11 rebounds on the night. Rudy Gay returned the lineup and had 26 points but on 22 shots, and Andrea Bargnani had 26 points as well (18 shots, and he was 5-of-7 from three). They combined for 6 in the final quarter.

More good news for Warriors fans, Andrew Bogut returned and after missing 6 games and had 4 points and 8 rebounds.

Trail Blazers 122, Bobcats 105: The Blazers shot 59.8 percent as a team and had seven players in double figures as they cruised to a win over the sad and struggling Bobcats. Portland was 12-of-24 from three, the Bobcats 1-of-10. LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots to lead Portland. It was the kind of game where Portland’s Nicolas Batum threw a pass off the backboard to Meyers Leonard for a dunk — the Blazers are not usually a showtime team, but they could be in this one.

Magic 105, Hornets 102: Orlando went on a late 15-3 to earn this win. Part of that was their key players were at their best in the second half — Arron Afflalo had 17 of his 26 points after halftime, while Jameer Nelson scored all of his 15 points after the break. The Magic also got key plays like a three from Al Herrington, Mo Harkless throwing down a putback and more. It’s a good win because for the Magic any win is a good one. The Hornets are supposed to be a better defensive team than they showed.

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.

Report: Nerlens Noel switches agents in hopes of max deal with Mavericks

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Is Nerlens Noel worthy of a max contract? Not on your life.

But will he get it? That remains to be seen after reports that Noel recently fired his agent and will make the switch to Dan Fagen.

According to NBC 5 in Dallas, Noel has done just that and will be seeking a huge deal from Mark Cuban’s organization.

From NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs:

No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.

Even with the increase in the cap, and with big contracts flying around for young talent, Noel has done nothing to prove himself worthy of an offer like that for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, his advanced numbers from his third season in the NBA looked much better, and that was great news as young big men often take time to develop.

Yet the body of work for Noel is simply not there. Fifty games of good play over a 200 game career does not, or should not, earn you a max contract.

Then again, this could simply be Noel preying on Cuban’s need to rebuild.

With Dennis Smith Jr. at the helm, an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and the team that could soon be irrelevant in a increasingly tough Western Conference, Noel stands as a future franchise piece if he does indeed fulfill his potential.

The question now is, especially after how this summer has gone, do you pay upfront for potential talent to an extent that seems unreasonable to a fault?

I would still doubt that Noel ends up with that max contract, but some positioning here could earn him a few extra bucks.

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for potential tampering with Paul George

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Paul George is not a member of the the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet.

The California native has one year to go on his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded there by the Indiana Pacers. Rumors have been swirling for months about whether George would stay in Indiana, a new city, or if he would bolt for his hometown in LA after the upcoming season comes to a close.

Even more rumors have said that the Lakers have felt confident enough that they are going to get George in the summer of 2018 that they weren’t grabbing him wasn’t considered so urgent that it was a matter of life or death.

Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the Pacers have filed tampering charges against the Lakers, and that the league has hired an independent law firm to conduct the investigation.

From the NBA’s press release:

At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting all the investigation is ongoing.

The rumor first broke this weekend when Peter Vecsey published it on his Patreon.

Magic Johnson has spoken publicly about George, explicitly stating that he knows he is not supposed to tamper with players. However, on an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Johnson did say that he would give a wink to George if you happen to see him.

Via Jimmy Kimmel:

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school. You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

“We gonna say hi because we know each other. You just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’

Punishment from tampering charges are rare in the NBA but are not unheard of. In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings were fined for name dropping Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

According to ESPN, Johnson is at the center of the investigation for tampering with George. If evidence is found, the punishment could be significant for LA, and could include future restrictions when it comes time to acquire George.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.

If the league office’s probe can prove the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.

It’s still unclear at this point if anything is going to come out of this investigation, but it certainly does seem as though Los Angeles is confident that they are going to be able to sign George next summer.