New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire dunks during their NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland

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.

Paul Pierce says he’ll retire after season

Paul Pierce
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Clippers forward Paul Pierce has ended the maybe/probably/maybe/probably/maybe saga of whether he’ll play next year.

Pierce in The Players Tribune:

This is it, my final season.

It’s time to move on from the game of basketball.

Just like any difficult decision, I think you’ve got to be at peace with yourself. I’m at peace with retiring, but I’ve got one more ride left. One more season. One more opportunity.

Pierce has had an incredible career, one that will surely vault him into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

He started in Boston, where he was the Celtics’ go-to player and his most reliable sidekick was Antoine Walker – and then Pierce didn’t have even Walker. Seemingly destined to be forgotten as a good player on a mediocre team, Pierce received a legacy boost when Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived. The Celtics won the 2008 title, and Pierce earned Finals MVP.

After a few more years of Pierce proving he could excel individually and help a team contend, he went to Brooklyn, where the Nets gave him a late-career spark by using him at power forward. He added a stop in Washington, where he made a few clutch shots for the Wizards. Now, he ends his career reunited with Doc Rivers in Los Angeles.

Pierce doesn’t need to add more to his all-time résumé – and he probably won’t. Only Dirk Nowitzki has played more games among active players than Pierce, who turns 39 in a few weeks. The mileage shows. Pierce has declined considerably, and he’s likely in store for a minor role this season.

But on limited minutes, maybe he can still provide a spark on occasion. The Clippers have at least a fighting chance of making Pierce part of another meaningful playoff run.

After that, would he go back to the Celtics on a ceremonial contract to retire? That’s what Rivers wants. Before it reaches that point, there will be plenty of pomp for Pierce, who just set himself up for a grand retirement tour.

 

Timberwolves confirm that Nikola Pekovic out for entire season

Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14), of Montenegro, yawns during NBA basketball media day in Minneapolis, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
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Timberwolves’ owner Glen Taylor said this exact thing last week, which is a pretty good sign that it’s going to happen. Taylor writes the checks.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have confirmed that Nikola Pekovic — who played 12 games last season due to foot injuries — is out for the coming season.

Taylor mentioned buying out Pekovic, but that seems unlikely. Pekovic is owed $23.7 million over the next two seasons, and I’d be hard-pressed to think of a reason he would take a penny less. The more likely outcome is the Timberwolves waive him and then come January (one year after his last game) apply to the league to have his salary excluded. (This would require a doctor approved by both the league and players’ union say that he is physically unable to play in the NBA ever again. If the doctor said that Pekovic would still get paid, but the money would not count against the salary cap for the Timberwolves).

No Pekovic and no Kevin Garnett, but it doesn’t impact the Timberwolves as training camp opens. Minnesota has Karl-Anthony Towns, Gorgui Dieng, Cole Aldrich and Jordan Hill up front, plus developing young players Nemanja Bjelica and Adreian Payne. Garnett and Pekovic were not going to play much anyway.

Dwyane Wade ready for his Chicago challenge

Chicago Bulls player Dwyane Wade speaks during a news conference Friday, July 29, 2016, in Chicago. Wade who played at Miami Heat for 13 years, joined his hometown team for a two-year contract worth about $47 million. (AP Photo/Tae-Gyun Kim)
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MIAMI (AP) — It’s not like Dwyane Wade has never dealt with change before.

He played for three head coaches in 13 seasons with the Miami Heat, helped orchestrate one of the most scrutinized free-agent hauls in NBA history when LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to play alongside him, and had 112 teammates along the way.

So going into a new locker room doesn’t figure to overwhelm him.

Wade’s first official day of work with an NBA team other than Miami comes on Monday, when he goes to media day on the eve of his first training camp with the Chicago Bulls – the team he grew up rooting for, a club he has faced off against 64 times as an opponent and now the franchise he’ll be asked to help lead.

“It’s going to be difficult, 100 percent. I’m fine with it, though,” Wade said in an interview with The Associated Press. “For me, it goes back to the whole challenge thing. It’s not like I haven’t done this before. At the end of the day we’re all wearing the same jersey right now and we have to come together, just like any team. And that’s going to be tough.”

Wade left Miami this summer in a move that shocked the Heat. He took a two-year deal worth about $47 million from the Bulls, who came in offering a bit more than what the Heat were able to promise. He leaves Miami has one of two players who were on all three Heat championship teams – Udonis Haslem is the other – and as the franchise leader in points by an enormous margin.

But now he changes addresses, changes colors and in many ways is starting over. So are the Heat, who won’t have him and will go into the season without Bosh – still sidelined by the blood-clot problem that ended each of his last two seasons, an issue that now seems to be putting any plans he has for a return to the court in major jeopardy.

Wade said he still wants the very best for Bosh. He’ll just have to send those wishes from afar now, while he gets ready to embrace his own challenge of meshing with Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and the rest of the Bulls.

“When I don’t have anything else left to prove, then I don’t need to play the game of basketball,” Wade said. “I want to prove I’m out of my comfort zone. I’m in a totally different environment, a totally different system. This is a challenge for me, at this stage of my career. Leave it up to me to put myself in a challenge and not just fade to black in the comfortableness of Miami.”

Wade turns 35 in January, and answered plenty of questions about his supposed durability issues last year. He played in 74 games for Miami, got lighter and leaner to take pressure off his knees and hamstrings, averaged 19 points a game and was an All-Star for the 12th consecutive season.

He’s not the Wade who led the league in scoring in 2009, or was NBA Finals MVP in 2006.

He does, however, think he’s smarter than ever.

“There’s no risk for me,” Wade said. “It’s basketball. It’s just a sport, man. And I’m pretty good at it. I know the game and I’ve put in so much work in this sport, everything right now is just the cherry on top of the whipped cream.”

Nerlens Noel calls Sixers crowded center situation “silly,” adds it “doesn’t make sense”

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Jahlil Okafor #8 and Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers play in the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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He’s right. And Philadelphia management knows it.

At the center position, the Sixers have the athletic and defensive minded Nerlens Noel, the offensive-minded Jahlil Okafor, and the untested player who may be the best of the group in Joel Embiid. Elton Brand is on the roster as well.

That’s a lot of talented young players and not enough minutes to go around. Nerlens Noel called the situation out as “silly” speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey. At least he didn’t go so far as to request a trade.

“I think it’s just silly . . . this situation that we are in now with three starting centers,” Noel said on the eve of the Sixers’ media day. “With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to get something done this summer…

“I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it’s just not going to work to anybody’s advantage having that on the same team. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated….

“Don’t get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court,” Noel said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn’t make any sense.”

The Sixers wouldn’t officially comment, but this summer they did try to get something done — Okafor and Noel were on the trade block. The problem is all the offers that came in were low ball. GM Bryan Colangelo has said he didn’t want to go into the season with this situation at center, but he also wasn’t going to give away one of these three for pennies on the dollar. Colangelo wanted a fair deal.
We saw last season that Okafor and Noel can’t play together, and now the Sixers need to see which ones of these three can play well with No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, who will be a point-forward much of the time.
Expect a deal to get done to move one of the three centers — and it very well could be Noel, he drew the most interest from other teams. It could happen during training camp, or maybe closer to the trade deadline. Maybe this stretches into next season.
But the Sixers know this doesn’t make sense, they just haven’t been able to remedy the situation. Yet.