Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened Sunday, while drowning your tears in maple syrup…

Lakers 95 Nuggets 89: Maybe one day in May, we’ll get to see these two teams play at full strength for a full 48. As it was, like we told you, it was a tale of two halves. The Nuggets’ first half, and the Lakers second half, save a run in the mid-2nd by Denver. The shots dried up, particularly Kenyon Martin’s.

The Nuggets have relied on Martin’s mid-range J way too much this season. It’s one of those shots that is nice to have, but that you can’t rely on. And when the Nuggets came to rely on it today, with Ron Artest smothering Anthony and no other wing offense being produced, they choked on it.

Pau Gasol had one single decisive power move that sealed the game in the midst of yet another soft-as-yogurt performance. But that one move, and up and under finish and-one, was huge.

Spurs 113 Suns 110: Like I said, the Gods hate the Suns. But lost in this other-worldly stuff were two huge factors.

One, Amar’e Stoudemire looked like it was 2007. He was dominant. The way he and Nash work in the pick and roll is sublime. He attacked the offensive glass as well, and finished with some ridiculous numbers. It’s significant because more and more the Spurs have trouble with scoring bigs. That shouldn’t be a problem in the playoffs, when they will face some combination of Stoudemire, Aldridge, Nene, Nowitzki, and Gasol.

Two, the Richard-Jefferson-off-the-bench thing is gangbusters so far. 20 points on 11 shots, 4 rebounds, 5 assists is a good day’s work. Jefferson coming off the bench makes him seem much more comfortable, and gets an aggressive lineup to start off for the Spurs. If this continues to click, it’s a major development.

Both of those guys were considered major liabilities as the deadline approached. Something to watch.

Wizards 89 Nets 85: If you were wondering where Yi Jianlian’s jock is, it’s gone, burned in the fire Andray Blatche put on the floor and then subsequently wizzed on.

Blatche abused Jianlian. From the mid-range. Off the drive. In the post. There’s been some debate out there about Andray Blatche and his place among the young, second tier power forwards in the game (I’m talking to you two). Score one for Blatche tonight.

I was really excited about a Nets winning streak, weren’t you?

Hawks 106 Bucks 102 (OT): Even with 24 combined points scored in overtime, you have to know this isn’t the defensive effort the Bucks wanted. The pace was where they wanted it, but they gave up 108.2 points per 100 possessions (estimated). That’s just not where the Bucks usually perform.

But a road SEGABABA (SEcond GAme of a BAck to BAck) will do that to you. They hung, John Salmons was brilliant once again (32 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), the Hawks just have guys who can create all over. Particularly Josh Smith (22 points on 13 shots, 15 rebounds), who was beastly.

The Hawks always push you, no matter if they’re up or down. They just keep testing you, running you, gunning you, and if you don’t have constant vigilance, they’re going to catch you.

Joe Johnson had more shots (26) than points (24), and too often he becomes the entirety of the offense for long stretches, and not very efficiently. It turns into Kobe-time without the Kobe, and I say that as a staunch Joe Johnson supporter (Arkansas represent! Or something).

Thunder 119 Raptors 99: I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun. I will not use the terrible “Thunder rolled” pun.

Okay, the Thunder got out early and cruised in this one. If you talk about offensive distribution, these two teams are built entirely differently. The Raptors are built for one guy (Bosh) to have a massive games, two to three guys to have big games, and the defense to be opportunistic.

The Thunder are built to have Durantula put in between 20 and 40 every night, but to also create even distribution. And that’s what they got tonight. Six players in double figures. Two players with double-doubles. And their defense? It’s not opportunistic, it’s relentless. It’s Soviet tanks rolling over fences and crushing houses. Holding one of the best offenses in the league to 99 points per 100 estimated possessions? That’s phenomenal.

Bosh or no Bosh, the Thunder were ready to roll tonight.

Crap.

Mavericks 108, Hornets 100: It was what everyone paid to see — a duel between Dirk Nowitzki and… Darren Collison? Yes, Darren Collison. Get used to it, you want to see him play. Kid can ball and Dallas didn’t have an answer (certainly not Kidd). Dropped 35 on 21 shots. Dirk countered him with 36. Dallas has the better rounded roster, and Brendan Haywood is a key reason because he defends the paint better than anyone they have had in there in a long tone. The Mavericks have now won seven in a row, and they won an ugly one. Credit to the Hornets for not rolling over and keeping this one close, but they do that against Dallas.

Orlando 96, Miami 80: The Heat bigs did what every team says is their goal against Orlando — they took Dwight Howard out of the game. He was Bizzaro — 7 points on 1 of 7 shooting, and as many rebounds as fouls (5). But Miami just isn’t good enough to do anything about it. Wade shot 35% as the Magic focused on him, while his teammates shot just 40% with the extra space. Martin Gortat continued to clog the paint for Orlando — get that crap out of here, D Wade — and was a game-best +23. Sure, +/- can be pretty misleading sometimes, but here it is telling the story.

Kings 97, Clippers 92: The Clippers may want to run  but the Kings have the players who can do that. And did that. Ran all over in the Clippers for the first half, but only had a four point lead to show for it. They stretched that to double digits for a while in the second, but when Tyreke Evans went a little cold at the end it got close. However, when it gets close you can count on the Clippers to be the Clippers. Chris Kaman threw the ball away, led to Evans driving for a layup. Horrific Clippers position ends with a Baron Davis 30 footer, followed by the Kings coming down and Evans driving for a layup. You’ve seen this movie on how the Clippers execute late, no need to continue. This is only the third time this season the Kings have back-to-back wins.

Injury note, Clippers power forward Craig Smith had a pretty bad sprain of the tendon on his left bicep. No work on how lon
g he is out but an MRI Monda
y to figure that out.

J.R. Smith reportedly met with Bucks Thursday to talk about contract

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After five seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith. The 34-year-old veteran wing is not part of the Cavaliers future, and by waiving him before the guarantee date they only had to pay him $4.4 million of this $15.7 million salary.

That makes Smith a free agent.

He sat down with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bucks can only offer minimum contracts at this point.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. The Bucks will likely start Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews on the wing with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo behind them. They have the roster spot to make the addition. The questions are does Smith fit, does he want the small role that’s really available, and how often will he wear a shirt around the facility?

Mark Cuban says NBA player movement reflects job market across many industries

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It’s a question that came up a lot in the wake of a wild summer where eight of the 24 players in the All-Star Game just last February ended up on new teams:

Is all this player movement good for the NBA?

It got asked everywhere from the league’s headquarters to your local bar, from sports talk radio shows to the NBA’s owners meeting in Las Vegas. There’s no easy answer to that. However, the divide seems to be somewhat generational — older fans miss the stability of knowing their stars would be there next year, young fans like the volatility and fast-changing landscape.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had an interesting perspective on all this: What you see in the NBA is what you see in almost every industry now. From Cuban’s blogmaverick.com:

Some feel that the player movement we have seen, particularly players asking to be traded or leaving teams that have the ability to pay them more money is a problem. I don’t. I think it is exactly what we should expect and it reflects what is happening in the job market across industries in our country.

No longer do college students graduate in search of a career where they expect to spend their entire adult lives working for a single company. Just the thought is crazy. I tell college graduates to look for a job where they get to learn about themselves, the business world, adulting and what they love to do and can be good at it. That their first job is just that, their first job. There will be many more…

Your best of the best will be impactful not only within the company, but via social media and other online platforms, visible as the best in their industry. It is important to give them reasons to want to stay. Great employees are effectively always free agents with the ability to move anywhere.

Why should it be any different for the NBA?

It’s interesting to hear from an owner (guys who traditionally want to control the workers). From a player’s perspective, this makes a lot of sense (and Cuban is as player-friendly an owner as the league has).

In a lot of ways, what bothers fans really applies to only the elite players, the guys with leverage, the guys who change the course of a franchise. If Paul George wants out of his contract, the reaction of Thunder management and fans would be different from if Dennis Schroder tried that kind of power move.

However, does this player movement erode the traditional fan base? Fans in Dallas/Miami/Boston/Los Angeles/everywhere want to identify with players, not just the logo across their chest. If the star players are changing teams more often how does that impact that traditional fandom? Do younger players become fans of players more: A LeBron James fan, a Stephen Curry fan, a James Harden fan, and their loyalties follow the player not the franchise? We seem to have more of that with Lebron and Curry. Cuban worked hard to make sure Dirk Nowitzki never left Dallas. (Going back there was a split between Lakers fans and Kobe fans, it’s just their interests largely always aligned.)

Which leads to the original, key question: Is all this player movement good for NBA business?

For the league and owners, the real question is will the undeniable social media buzz of the NBA offseason lead to increased ticket sales, increased viewership (or at least stopping that decline), more purchasing of League Pass packages (in whatever form), more jersey sales and all the rest of it? Can the league monetize this buzz?

Nobody has the answer to that, in part because how we as a nation (and world) consume media is changing so fast. What will the viewing landscape for the NBA’s television and streaming deals look like in 2024? 2029? Nobody knows.

Which means predicting how this player movement impacts the NBA is an unknown.

All the movement is creating a lot of buzz, which is nice, but buzz will not pay the NBA’s bills.

Damian Lillard on shot to beat Thunder: ‘That was for Seattle’

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Damian Lillard is a legend in Portland. He’s a legend in Oakland.

And now he’ll be a legend in Seattle.

The Trail Blazers star’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer wave goodbye ended the season for the Thunder, who moved to Oklahoma City from Seattle 12 years ago.

Lillard on Sports Business Radio Podcast:

What can I say? That was for Seattle.

Just when I thought Lillard’s shot and celebration were as cold as could be.

Clippers executive Jerry West: ‘I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one’

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Jerry West played 14 years for the Lakers, making the All-Star game every year and winning a championship in a Hall of Fame career. He coached the Lakers to a few playoff seasons. Then, he ran the Lakers’ front office for 18 years, winning five titles and setting the stage for several more by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Now, West works for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

West on The Dan Patrick Show:

Steve Ballmer has really put together an unbelievably terrific organization. He’s spared no expense. It’s a really fun place to be. There’s not ego-driven at all. It’s just a fun place to be, and he’s got an awful lot of basketball people over there.

He’s just a great owner and one of the nicest men I’ve ever been around in my life. I’ve never seen a person like this with his success. It’s just remarkable how even-keeled he is. If people knew how philanthropic he was. He keeps all that stuff quiet. I guess he’ll get mad at me for mentioning it. But he’s just a remarkable man himself.

People always ask me what he’s like. And I say he’s just like you and I, normal. I’ve never seen – he’s willing to spend on players. He’s willing to spend on personnel within the front office. And as I mentioned before, I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one. That’s for sure.

Maybe West is bitter at the Lakers. Maybe West is just gushing about his current boss, because that’s who pays him now.

But the wider respect held for the Clippers is evident in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George picking them without the team first getting an incumbent star. That says a lot about the organization, one that Ballmer has put his stamp on.

This also feels like a shot at the Lakers, whether or not West intended it. Many consider them to be the NBA’s golden franchise.

But their operations have had no shortage of problems lately.

The Lakers would have a stronger relative case further back, when West worked for them. However, organizations generally run better now. The league is more advanced. Maybe West is considering that.

Biases aside, his endorsement of the Clippers might be accurate.

West also worked for the Grizzlies.