Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Our game recaps from Friday, or The Night of the Living Overtime…

Mavericks 111, Hawks 103 (OT): We’ve already talked about The Play.

Personally, I give this win to Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. For the fourth quarter, down 15 with 8 minutes to go, he broke out the zone defense, and the Hawks turned into the UCLA Bruins. This year’s UCLA Bruins. They seemed confused and couldn’t hit the outside shot. It got the Mavericks into overtime on the road, where they picked up the win. Brenden Haywood continues to just do the things Eric Dampier never could, and was a team best +14 on the night. Triple double from Kidd — 19 points, 16 rebounds, 17 assists.

Cavaliers 126, Raptors 118 (OT): You want to know why Chris Bosh might leave Toronto? LeBron James is in town, your team has taken the best team in the NBA this season to overtime, and people in the crowd start leaving before the extra period starts. Why? The hockey game is starting. Toronto has some great fans, but the Raptors and basketball will always be second best in that town.

As for the game, you don’t really expect defense from the Raptors, and tonight the Cavs decided to play along. That made it fun to watch, if you’re not a purist. With the game on the line, LeBron just drove to the rim for layups right through what the Raptors call “defense.” But in overtime the Cavs got their focus back, held Toronto to 1 of 8 and get the win. Good fight from Toronto, playing without Bosh. Cleveland gets the win on the road on the second night of a back-to-back. You never question those.

Knicks 118, Wizards 116 (OT): Andray Blatche is the mad baller since the trade — 26 points and 18 boards tonight (ignore those 8 turnovers). Wasn’t enough this time because it was the Al Harrington show — 37 points including draining 5 of 8 three pointers. David Lee with the game winner in OT.

Bulls 115, Trail Blazers 111 (OT): The Blazers plan was not to let Derrick Rose beat them, early on their defensive strategy seemed to be collapse five guys on Rose and leave everybody else open. Everyone else nailed shots from the midrange and the Bulls put up 31 in the first. So Portland got more active in creating turnovers, jumping passing lanes. and that worked. The Bulls started coughing it up and the Blazers have the athletes to turn that into easy baskets. So the hot shooting vs. turnovers continued all game until overtime, when the Bulls stopped turning the ball over and won. And by the way, despite the best laid plans of the Blazers, Rose scored 33 on 15 of 25 from the floor. He is back.

Bobcats 93, Grizzlies 89: The Bobcats are 1-0 in the Michael Jordan era.

We had a Stephen Jackson sighting — 32 points and 11 boards. He was the best player on the floor. The other thing of note is that Tyrus Thomas had 13 points off the bench on 6 of 7, and he posterized Zach Randolph. He’s played pretty well the last few games.

Hornets 100, Magic 93: Not wanting to be outdone by the Hawks giving away a 14 point lead and losing, the Magic blew and 18 point cushion. Take that, Atlanta! David West found the David West from three years ago and dropped 40, while Orlando just went ice cold down the stretch.

Thunder 109, Timberwolves 92: Kevin Durant is back to scoring 25 points a game, and Oklahoma City is back to blowing out lesser teams. The Thunder get inside all night, scoring 60 in the paint. A blowout, so we didn’t dwell on this one.

Rockets 109, Spurs 104: Kevin Martin has found a home. He had 33 on 24 shots – and he was rusty. He got to the line 14 times, hit all 14, a good sign. But he and Aaron Brooks might have something. You add Yao Ming to that next year and Houston is suddenly very, very good. Brooks had 31, Luis Scola had 33. Want to know about the Spurs? When was the last time they let three guys go off for 30+ points and beat them? Or had three starters go scoreless? On the same night? The decline is happening before our eyes.

Lakers 99, 76ers 90: How can a game that had that many ally-oops and dunks be that boring? It was a workmanlike, middle-of-a-long-season win for the Lakers, on a night when all anybody wanted to talk about was the big game with Denver on Sunday.

Nuggets 107, Pistons 102: Read the entry above and insert the word “Nuggets” for “Lakers.”

Kings 103, Jazz 99: Tyreke Evans is more of a man than you. More of a man than me. More of a man than that annoying guy in the Old Spice commercials. He was man enough to take over the end of this game and get the Kings an win over a hot Jazz team. He is your rookie of the year, bow down and worship at his feet.

Suns 125, Clippers 112: Chris Kaman went off… on the ref. He got slapped in the face early in the third quarter, no call, and complained to the ref, got T’d up, then kept going. And going. And that will get you a second technical every time. Coach Kim Hughes said he told Kaman he let the team down after the game. Actually it was the Clippers defense that let them down — Suns shot 57% on the night, 47% from three. Sure, the Suns offense is very good, but if you let Robin Lopez score 30, you’re not trying all that hard on defense.

Suns remain hot — 6-1 this month — but nobody is talking about them as a team to fear in the first round of the playoffs.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

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Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

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LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.