Baseline to Baseline (last night's game recaps)

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I believe in yesterday. Which is why we’ve put together our thoughts on all the games of yesterday. All this without your troubles here to stay. Neat, huh? Quit smiling, Paul. You’re not as cute as you think you are.

Toronto 104 Philadelphia 96: Hedo Turkoglu was supposed to give the Raptors star power, but with him struggling, and out last night with injury, the Raptors are starting to discover that they have some pretty terrific depth. They may not have any firestarters off the pine, but they’ve got long, athletic defenders that can get buckets and finish plays. And that was a huge differential tonight for the raps. Well, that and the fact that Chris Bosh (23 points on 15 shots, 12 rebounds, 3 assists) was the best player on the floor. Philly got an impressive performance from Lou Williams (26 points on 13 shots) and made a huge run to tie this game repeatedly in the fourth. But the Raptors finished on an 11-0 run to say “Nighty night, Cheesesteaks.”

For as much as Bosh deserves credit for Toronto’s recovery and surge to a solid mid-seed in the East, Andrea Bargnani’s development is huge for that squad. His stat line wasn’t huge, but in the first quarter he was outright dominant, punishing the Sixers bigs and nailing a huge three down the stretch. Bargs also finished with seven boards in a game this close. With Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans who returned last night, Toronto may have a top three frontcourt in the East.

Marreese Speights played seven minutes tonight, scoring three points. I’m so glad Philadelphia understands the value of embracing its talented young players. Liberty Ballers thinks the issue is defense and rebounding, but Speights is still third on the team in rebounds per 40. His defense is spotty, but I have a hard time understanding so little time for him against an athletic club like Toronto

Miami 94 Atlanta 76: The Hawks I’ll give a pass. Last game before All-Star break, back to back after a burstfest against Memphis. Atlanta’s been solid enough that a loss to a hot Heat (forgive me) team isn’t something I”m going to complain about. Throw in Jamal Crawford out with a minor injury and this is a pretty normal loss.

The Heat? Man, I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve known all season. Blow the Rockets out and then turn around and beat Atlanta at home? Sure, sounds like their gig. Lose in humiliating fashion to a lottery team and get throttled by a Western power? Yeah, why not?

The Heat shot 51% from the field last night, and Dorell Wright and Udonis Haslem combined for 11 of 14 from the floor. Good luck. There are a lot of things about this win (and last night’s Rockets beatdown) that reek of teams coasting into the All-Star break and the Heat on a statistical anomaly wave. But Udonis Haslem is playing fantastic ball lately. He’s making smart decisions every time he has the ball and playing like an absolute bully. Between him and Jermaine O’Neal, with Dorell Wright rising from the grave, the Heat can be tough to beat inside. Of course, I fully expect for them to lay down in an epic fashion next week to someone they should beat 100 times out of 100 (probably won’t be the Nets, they’re even worse). Only 18 for Wade in the win, the Heat kept the pace down (82 possessions), and if the Hawks can’t run, they can’t fly, and if they can’t fly, they can’t win.

Milwaukee 97 New Jersey 77: This time, the crush was the late third quarter. That’s when it got away. Nets are hanging. Nets are hanging. And then, they lose it for just a moment, just a short stretch of play, and boom. Barn doors blown open by a twelve gauge, blood on the walls, and you should go ahead and call CSI. Game over, brah. Game over.

Brook Lopez took six shots tonight. Which is all I need to tell you for you to understand how good Andrew Bogut is at basketball. But if you need more, how about 22 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 blocks, ZERO turnovers, AND he shut down the best center in the Atlantic division? The defense wasn’t the culprit tonight for the Nets. Their offense closed up, suffocated, and died. You score 77 points in a slow pace game and you’re in trouble, no matter how much of a bounce back performance Devin Harris drops.

New Orleans 93 Boston 85: Two teams that were in the final four teams two years ago combined for 178 points in a fast game (97 possessions) and 45 turnovers. Ye Gods. No Chris Paul, no Ray Allen, but still.  Boston can’t excuse this one even without Jesus Shuttlesworth. They needed a boost coming into the All-Star game and failed. Again. Rajon Rondo got Rajon Rondo’d by a young, athletic point, only scoring seven points with four assists versus Darren Collison’s 25 points and nine assists. If they had lost we’d be talking about his ten turnovers, but they didn’t, so we won’t.

Glen Davis at one point tried to run a fast break and dish a behind the back pass to Edie House, who of course dribbled it off his leg. . In the long list of acceptable results of being on  a fast break in a professional basketball game, not only is that on the list, it’s serving coffee at a 7-11 to options who can’t even get on that list. Danny Ainge says to chill out on the trade talk. We’d advise chilling on chilling on the trade talk.

Orlando 107 Chicago 87: Derrick Rose got hurt early on. The Magic came ready to play. I really don’t need to tell you much more. But if you’re curious, the Magic had seven players in double figures and had their “space you out, work you out, bleed you out” thing going. The Bulls cashed this one in pretty quickly and never recovered. Without Rose the offense that makes little boys and girls cry returned, only it was compounded by a defense where no one wanted to get back in transition. Tyrus Thomas had a nice game, which I’m sure a ton of teams are going over as we speak.

If we have an award for Most Improved Player, we should have one for Worst Depreciation Player and the award would go to John Salmons. 12 points on 11 shots, and his offensive night was the bright spot of his game.

Portland 108 Phoenix 101: Fast pace, both offenses humming, lot of fun to watch. The Suns had one of those nights. The same nights they’ve been having and will have. No way to stop anyone. When two combo points who aren’t terrific scorers throw up 40 combined? You have a problem. Goran Dragic had a great first half, and then faded into nothing. Same with Robin Lopez. The Blazers passes were sharp, accurate, ahead of the Suns’ predictions. Pretty much the opposite of last night’s game. Amare with 24 in his continued trade showcase.

Lakers 96 Jazz 81: So much for the Jazz and their big bad winning streak.

No one thinks the Lakers are better without Kobe. Nor that they can win a title without Kobe. Or Bynum, for that matter. But when faced with
out those two, the Lakers ar
e in a spot where they have no choice but to effort for 48 minutes. And that’s the only time they do. When they absolutely have to. This game? It wasn’t about the Lakers’ dominant offense and “beautiful” ball movement and blah blah blah. They took a Utah team that felt pretty good about itself and bent it over a 88 points per 100 possessions pace defense that just ruined any chance Utah may have had. This was over in the first quarter. The Lakers delivered the knockout punch, then for good measure, stalked the ring and occasionally delivered a haymaker whenever the Jazz tried to peel themselves off the floor. Andre Kirilenko was the only player with a halfway decent game, and his matchup of Lamar Odom did not end well.

Odom was brilliant. Odom had that game you always think of later when you’re screaming at the screen, trying to understand how one player could have his head that far up a taco. Odom ran point in transition several times. And it didn’t just work. It worked to deadly perfection. His hockey assist numbers would have been through the roof. Throw in a Pau-Gasol-like effort from Pau Gasol, and the Jazz should have skipped on down to Dallas and saved themselves the effort.

Carlos Boozer may be miffed about missing the All-Star Game, but he had his stuff returned to sender three times tonight by a team full of really All-Star-worthy players.

Golden State 132, Los Angeles Clippers 102 It was just one of those shooting nights for Golden State. They shot 62% overall, 59% from three. Hard for the Clippers to get their new running game going taking the ball out of the basket so much. Part of it was the Clippers defense in the second night of a back-to-back, their legs did not want to run with Golden State, they did not want to close out on shooters. It snowballed, and the Warriors, coming off a losing streak, were having too much fun winning again to take their foot off the gas. New Clippers coach Kim Hughes (now 0-3) has another problem with his “let Baron Davis be the decision maker on the floor” system — that means Baron Davis is making the decisions. Which means pull up threes with 17 seconds left on the shot clock some nights. This was one of those nights.

Charlotte 93, Minnesota 92 This was not what English Premiere League fans would call a “bad result” — the Bobcats were the better team for the majority of the game. They controlled the run of play, Stephen Jackson went off for 33 (don’t go under the screen!), Charlotte deserved the win. But oh, what a hard way to lose for the Timberwolves. Up a dozen early in the fourth quarter Charlotte tried to coast and Minnesota didn’t roll over. Good on them for that. A Ramon Sessions dunk at 1:30 left gave the Timberwolves the lead, then next trip down the Bobcats tried to single cover Al Jefferson in the low block with Nazr Mohammed and that was a mistake, Wolves up three, less than a minute to play.

Next Bobcat possession, Boris Diaw tips in a Mohammed miss and the lead is one. Then came the final Bobcat possession (still down one), where Charlotte forces Diaw into a 21-footer off-the-dribble sans screen — perfect defense — and it misses. Two Wolves battle each other for the board and the ball starts to go out of bounds. Corey Brewer jumps to save it and throws it right under the basket. To Mohammed. Dunk. Bobcats win. May have been the right outcome, didn’t feel that way for Minny.

Sacramento 103, Detroit 97: Sacramento dominated the backcourt — Kevin Martin had 26 on 9 of 15 shooting (but he can’t play with Evans, right?), Beno Udrih dropped 22 on just 10 shots, and Tyreke Evans continued his Rookie of the Year tour with 13 and six dimes. Meanwhile, Rip Hamilton was 5 of 18 from the field, Rodney Stuckey 4 of 13. Detroit led after three, largely due to Tayshaun Price going off for 23 on 15 shots, but in the end it was about the backcourt. That’s back-to-back road wins for Sacramento, by the way.


 

Anthony Davis ‘excited’ to be Lakers’ No.1 offensive option, LeBron pushing him to do it

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Is Anthony Davis a No.1 offensive option on a championship team?

The Lakers made a massive bet in trading for Davis — both in good young players and picks — that he could help them win a title now and be the bridge to the future post-LeBron James. Davis was everything the Lakers hoped in the bubble and did win them banner No. 17. However, he has not stayed healthy or consistently played up to that standard.

New Lakers coach Darvin Ham is betting on Davis again and is going to run more of the offense through him this season. LeBron James reportedly backs Ham up. Can Davis stay healthy, find that form again and look like that bridge to the future? If he can’t, the Lakers have to reconsider their post-LeBron plans. That’s why there is pressure on Davis this season.

Davis is excited to prove he is ready for the role, he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. He added LeBron is pushing him to do it.

“I’m so excited that I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about this year,” Davis told Yahoo Sports this week. “I’m looking forward to a healthy year and doing what I know we can do.”…

Davis said James, 37, has been in his ear about taking over the reins of the team, while the rest of the roster would follow his lead.

The first step in Davis being that No.1 option: Staying healthy. He played 40 games last season and 36 the season before that. While some of that was due to fluke injuries, the history of Davis missing time is long.

When healthy, Davis is an unquestionably elite player — to use the bubble example, Davis was a defensive force in Orlando who knocked down midrange jumpers after facing up, averaging 27.7 points on a 66.5 true shooting percentage, plus grabbed 9.7 rebounds a game. That is the AD the Lakers need this season.

Which can be a lot of pressure, but Davis said he doesn’t feel that.

“But for me, I’m not putting any pressure on myself at all,” Davis said at media day. “I’m gonna go out there and play basketball, work hard, defend and do what the team needs to win basketball games. I’m not going to overthink and, you know, listen to what everybody else is saying and try to be this ‘whatever’ player they want me to be.”

“Whatever” the Lakers want Davis to be is the Top 10 player in the world he has shown for stretches in Los Angeles. If he can be consistent, that Davis helps the Lakers be more of a threat in the West. If Davis can’t be that guy, it could be another long season for Lakers nation.

 

Proud to be an American: 76ers’ Embiid officially becomes U.S. citizen

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Joel Embiid is an American citizen.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid said he was sworn in as a citizen two weeks ago in Philadelphia. The NBA scoring champion and Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center said his family – Embiid and his Brazilian girlfriend Anne de Paula have a young son – played a pivotal role in his decision.

“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid told The Associated Press Thursday at training camp at The Citadel. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”

Embiid, who played college basketball for one season at Kansas, also has citizenship in France. He said it is way too early to think about which country he could potentially represent in international basketball.

The 28-year-old Embiid averaged a career-best 30.6 points in 68 games last season. The 7-footer also averaged 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists in helping Philadelphia reach the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Embiid averaged 23.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in the postseason despite playing with hand and facial injuries.

Embiid had been announced as playing out of Kansas during pregame introductions at 76ers’ home games but switched around midseason last year as being introduced from Cameroon. He might try for a mouthful this season.

“We’re going to say Cameroon, American and French,” he said, laughing.

Tyler Herro says he’s better than players ‘that have gotten paid’

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven
Eric Espada/Getty Images
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RJ Barrett signed a rookie contract extension for four years, $107 million fully guaranteed that could climb to $120 million with incentives. Several others out of the 2019 draft class — Ja Morant, Zion Williamson, Darius Garland — earned max contract extensions with their team.

Tyler Herro is still waiting on his extension with the Miami Heat.

And with that baked in Herro confidence, he said he is better than some players he has seen getting paid, he told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

“I was active early in the summer,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel of the extension window that opened in July. “Then I realized it wasn’t going to get done, if it does get done, until later. So I just told my agent to call me when it’s ready. “So we haven’t really spoken much about the contract. Obviously, I tell him to call me when it’s ready. If it’s not ready, I continue to play my game and figure it out next summer…

“There’s players across the league that have gotten paid who I know I’m better than. So it’s got to be the right number,” he said, with the Heat continuing camp on makeshift courts at the [ Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas].

One reason an extension for Herro has not gotten done — and may not get done before the Oct. 18 deadline — is Herro is the Heat’s best trade asset to go after a big name. Once he signs an extension that is off the table, something Winderman and I have discussed in our weekly video/podcast on the Heat and NBA.

The other question on a Herro extension is what is the “right number?” Did the Knicks’ Barrett set the market with his extension?

Maybe Barrett is one of the players Herro “knows” he is better than, but that would not be the consensus of scouts and free agents around the league. Herro has hardware as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, he puts up numbers averaging 20.7 points a game while shooting 39.9% from 3 last season, he can do some secondary play creation and has had big playoff games. He has real value.

However, as Winderman has pointed out, Herro has started just 33 games across three years, compared to Barrett’s 197 starts. More importantly, Herro’s defensive limitations limited how Eric Spoelstra could use him in the playoffs. Then there is the matter of load carried. Barrett was the No. 1 option for the Knicks last season (with Julius Randle falling off) and even with the signing of Jalen Brunson, Barrett is option No.1 or 1B for Tom Thibodeau. Herro is down the Heat pecking order behind Bam AdebayoJimmy Butler, and maybe Kyle Lowry depending on how he bounces back from a down year. The Heat don’t need Herro the way the Knicks need Barrett right now, which is one key reason Herro is available via trade.

Would Herro take a four-year, $105 extension? Would the Heat even offer it? If Miami is hoping for a trade at the deadline, it may wait on an offer and let the market set Herro’s price as a restricted free agent next summer. For Herro, that would give him a chance to prove he is a starter and that his defense has improved — that he is worth more than the Heat had been offering.

If the Heat and Herro agree on an extension, look for it to be in a couple of weeks, pushing up against that October deadline.

 

Lonzo Ball undergoes successful knee surgery, out ‘at least a few months’

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Lonzo Ball underwent another arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Wednesday, and the doctors finally had some positive news.

They believe that they’ve “addressed the issue”, and there is “confidence” that he’ll be able to play this season. He’s still expected to miss “at least a few months”, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Charania added that both sides will monitor his progress over

After his first surgery in January, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well at all, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. During media day this week, Ball said that he couldn’t run or jump, so he couldn’t play basketball. Billy Donovan said that they had to think of Ball’s injury as potentially season-ending. So an update that says that he should play this season is considered good news at this point.

Chicago had a 22-13 record with Lonzo last season, but were just 24-23 without him. He averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks, and 3.1 triples per game in his first year with the team.

They have other defenders like Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso, but they don’t have anyone else that can both defend and facilitate the way Lonzo can. They’ll use training camp and the preseason to decide on a starting point guard between Dosunmu, Caruso, and Goran Dragic.

They’re one of the more talented teams in the East, but they may end up playing in the play-in tournament if they’re without Ball for the majority of the season.