Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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Perkins_game.jpgWhat happened Wednesday, while you were celebrating your new Ghostbusters prints

Celtics 104 Bobcats 80: Or, “How The Celtics Got Their Groove Back.” The Bobcats hung for a half, giving the Celtics all they could handle. Then the Celtics broke it open and never looked back. 35 points total for the Cats in the second half. Pierce came back, 9-13 shooting, 27 points, and that along with Marquis Daniels putting in 2 turnovers in 30 minutes, that’s enough if the Bobcats’ offense reverts back to primordial ooze (or earlier in the season).

Tyrus Thomas had 15 and 10 with 2 blocked shots, but the Bobcats were forced into nothing but jumpers. That won’t get it done.

Cavaliers 111, Nets 92: The Cavaliers just toyed with the Nets, like Itchy does with Scratchy. Except not as entertaining after a while. LeBron had eight assists in the first quarter, including a jumping bounce pass to Anderson Varejao off the high pick-and-roll. The Nets kinda, sorta stayed close, but only because the Cavs were toying with them, not trying to finish them. If you watched all of this one you are a better man than I. Five straight wins for the Cavs.

Knicks 128 Pistons 104: Not that Ben Wallace is the sole defensive impact on the Pistons, but with Wallace out with a knee injury, the Pistons did give up double digits to six of the eight Knicks that played.

Tracy McGrady had another flashback game, reminding us that he can be an impact guy. He shot 50% from the floor, and had 7 rebounds and 8 assists. It’s got to be frustrating for McGrady of all people, to know what he’s capable of, but not be able to do it consistently. Then again, if Austin Daye is getting time on him, who knows what can happen?

Bucks 100 Wizards 87: Please notice Ersan Ilyasova. I’m begging you. Great offensive range, good on the boards, excellent length, good lateral movement, can contain the pick and roll, can work from the high post, and just an overall blood getter. 19 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and 1 turnover in 32 minutes. That’s good Sova.

Blatche had another good game, but as is the formula against good defensive squads, the team with less talent suffered. The Wizards’ help defense actually wasn’t bad, it’s just that the Bucks didn’t turn it over at all, and they forced 21 .  They created fast breaks, they created confusion, and they got buckets. They are currently the team you don’t want on your schedule.

Hawks 112, 76ers 93: Did you really think this was going to turn out any other way?

Magic 117, Warriors 90: Best shot in this one happened before the game even started — during warm ups Dwight Howard hit a left-handed 30 footer while sitting down in the front row next to general manager Otis Smith. Golden State hung around for 18 minutes, until Vince Carter and the rest of the Magic got serious. Orlando tightened up their defense, took away the transition shots (and threes). Not that this game was ever, ever in doubt. Favorite play of the night came in the third quarter, when Howard made the steal then led the break himself (and got the assist).
 
Grizzlies 104 Hornets 100: Sloppy, ugly game. Fun, but nasty. Both teams turned it over, both teams had defensive lapses (especially the Hornets in the early 2nd). In the end, Zach Randolph hit a ridiculous bank three pointer with the shot clock expiring to secure it.

The only thing more unlikely than Z-Bo’s three falling was Mike Conley having a night to hang his contract on, with 27 points, 5 steals, and 7 assists. Sure, he clanged two free throws late to give the Hornets a shot at stealing a win at home, but his other drives and floaters were what helped get them there.

O.J. Mayo has lost his jumper completely, and I’m afraid Marcus Thornton may have stolen it.

Mavericks 112: Wolves 109: Corey Brewer is legit. He’s having a coming out season for a forgotten team, but he’s the next of the Florida crew to prove he can ball. MEanwhile, Jason Kidd took a night off, Dirk Nowitzki had a bad night by his standards.

And the Mavs won. When you win games against plucky teams having an on night with things not going your way? That’s a good sign.

Kings 84 Houston 81: The teams shot a combined .710 from the field. Combined. As in, if you add their shooting percentages together. This is bad. As a very gracious and eloquent commenter points out, they shot .350 from the floor if you calculate their combined percentage. This is an abomination.Carl Landry had a good game. Let’s all pretend this never happened, lest we use it as the boogeymen in stories for our kids to scare them straight.

Nuggets 119 Thunder 90: The dreaded road SEGABABA (SEcond GAme of a BAck to BAck) for the Thunder, and once the Nuggets foun their rhythm, this was chalk. When Birdman Anderson is hitting jumpers? It’s not your night.

The Nuggs can sure defend and score. After they’ve had their backsides handed to them by two Western Conference contenders and as long as they’re at home against a team on a SEGABABA (second game of a back-to-back). Fine win for the Nuggets, not a huge loss for the Thunder, they were due one of these. Just your regular schedule-based beatdown.

Suns 127, Clippers 101: It’s the old “chicken or the egg” debate: Is it that the Suns offense is that good or the Clippers defense just that bad? The correct answer is “C” — both.

Trail Blazers, 102, Pacers 79: This game is like a teaching tool for the four factors that decide the outcome of a game. Rule number one is the team that shoots better wins, but in this case Portland shot 43.2 percent and Indiana 43.4 percent. Nearly identical. So on to the other factors, like the fact Portland had 30 free throws on the night to Indiana’s 11; Portland had 12 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s five; Portland had 9 turnovers to Indiana’s 18. It was everything but the shooting that made this a blowout.

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: “The recruiting process is really going alright… I’m trying”

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LeBron James went out of his way to say he was not recruiting guys on his free-agent heavy All-Star Team.

Bradley Beal had no such hesitation, he tried to recruit guys, as he told Chase Huges of NBC Sports Washington.

“The recruiting process is really going alright. It’s going alright. I’m trying,” Beal said. “This is new for me. I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for.”

Beal was too smart to name names — that would have brought a fine from the league — but he said some guys asked if he was happy where he was, while other guys he talked to about the possibilities in Washington.

The problem is while the Wizards will have some cap space after trading Otto Porter and Markieff Morris (and assuming they don’t pick up the option on Jabari Parker) they would still not have the max cap space needed to land the elite free agents at the All-Star Game (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, etc.). Even the second-tier All-Star free agents such as Khris Middleton will get max offers. Same with players who just missed the game, such as Tobias Harris.

The Wizards will have room to make moves for good rotation players, but with John Wall‘s supermax extension kicking in at $38 million next season flexibility is limited. If Washington can move Ian Mahinmi‘s contract without taking money back they would have max room, but: 1) to do that they would likely have to send out a first-round pick; 2) It’s still not an assurance any player worthy of a max will come to the Wizards.

Predicting what Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld will do next summer is a fool’s errand, but Beal is doing his part to try and bring more talent into Washington.

Kevin Garnett says 2000 Olympic team had $1 million bounty to dunk on Yao Ming

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Team USA earned a Gold Medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, led by Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, and Alonzo Mourning. Lithuania made the Americans work that year, losing by just nine in pool play then by two points in the semi-finals.

That’s not what anyone remembers from those Olympics, they remember Vince Carter doing this to 7-footer Fredric Weiss of France.

Recently Garnett sat down with Dwyane Wade for an interview (which airs on NBA TV today) and he told a fantastic story about that dunk. (Hat tip to Yahoo Sports)

Everything just paused. First of all, people didn’t know, we had a bounty out on Yao Ming. The whole USA team had a bet. We had a million dollar bet on who was going to be the first person to dunk on Yao Ming. None of us did. We all tried to dunk on Yao, but he would block it or we would miss. So, the first thing I thought of when I saw Vince dunk over Frederic was oh s***, you won the million dollars. But then I realized it obviously wasn’t Yao. I pushed Vince, and if you look at the clip, he almost punches me in the face by accident. But my first thought was, oh s***, you won, you got the million.

KG has the best stories.

MSG denies rumor James Dolan looking to sell Knicks

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Rumors that James Dolan is considering selling the Knicks — which elicits a “Hallelujah” chorus from Knicks fans — have been cropping up for a couple of years now. There were rumors he wanted to spin off the Knicks and Rangers into their own company to be sold. That’s just one, there are others — he confirmed he got a feeler $5 billion, but never a firm offer, for the Knicks — and each time he has shot them down.

This is no different.

On his latest Podcast, the Ringer’s Bill Simmons said he had heard that Dolan wanted to focus more on concerts/in-game experiences in Madison Square Garden and that the Knicks were “available.”

The Madison Square Garden Company released this statement (hat tip New York Daily News).

“The story is 100% false. There has been nothing. No discussions. No plans to have discussions – nothing.”

That’s pretty unequivocal.

While Dolan may entertain the idea on some level of selling the Knicks, until he takes concrete steps to do so — not rumors, but actual, documented moves — I’m not buying it. He’s sitting on a gold mine that keeps going up in value, despite how he manages it, so why sell now? Knicks fans that buy this rumor will likely end up like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

 

 

 

Adam Silver: Multi-year rebuilding not a winning strategy

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CHARLOTEE – Former 76ers president Sam Hinkie undertook one of the most ambitious tanking campaigns in NBA history. Over a four-year stretch, Philadelphia went 19-63, 18-64, 10-72 and 28-54.

That incensed many around the league.

The NBA pursued and eventually enacted lottery reform. Despite his denials, many believed NBA commissioner Adam Silver pressured the 76ers to oust Hinkie. In many ways, the league is still shook by Philadelphia’s bold strategy to lose so long.

“I personally don’t think it’s a winning strategy over the long term to engage in multiple years of rebuilding,” Silver said Saturday. “…There’s a mindset that, if you’re going to be bad, you might as well be really bad. I believe, personally, that’s corrosive for those organizations, putting aside my personal view of what the impact it has on the league overall.”

Except it is a winning strategy.

The 76ers are proving that.

They’re 37-21 and led by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, two players drafted with high picks earned through tanking. Philadelphia traded for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris using assets stockpiled through tanking. The 76ers signed J.J. Redick to a high salary because they had a low payroll, the byproduct of a assembling a roster of young, cost-controlled players acquired through tanking.

Few teams have ever planned and executed a multi-year tank. Most tanking teams entered the season planning to win then pivoted once that went sideways. Some teams decide to tank for a full season. But deciding in advance to tank even two straight years? It’s rare.

The SuperSonics/Thunder probably did it their last year in Seattle and first in Oklahoma City. With Kevin Durant already on board, that netted them Russell Westbrook, James Harden and a decade of strong teams. Of course, that situation is complicated by the franchise leaving one market and getting a grace period in its new location.

Few teams have the resolve to set out to tank that long, let alone the four years the 76ers committed to the cause. Most teams that go young still add a veteran or two in hopes of winning sooner than expected.

Even Chicago, which knowingly took a step back last season by trading Butler talked big about that being a one-year ordeal. Chicago’s struggles this season were unintended, at least initially. The Bulls have obviously shifted gears, but that was only after failing to win early.

Chicago isn’t alone in major losing this season. Four teams – Suns (11-48), Knicks (11-47), Cavaliers (12-46) and Bulls (14-44) – are on pace to win fewer than 20 games. The last time so many teams won fewer than a quarter of their games was 1998, when a six teams – Nuggets (11-71), Raptors (16-66), Clippers (17-65), Grizzlies (19-63), Warriors (19-63) and Mavericks (20-62) – performed so poorly.

Does that mean the NBA’s lottery reform is failing?

“I’m certainly not here to say we solved the problem,” Silver said. “I will say, though, that while you point out those four teams, we have many more competitive teams this year than we’ve had any time in the recent past of teams that are competing hard, competing for spots in the playoffs, and great competition on the floor. So I think we’ve made progress.”

Silver raises a good point. Judging the shape of the league by only the bottom four teams is far too simplistic. There are a historic number of teams in the playoff mix. Maybe that’s because of lottery reform, which offers better chances of a top-four pick to teams that barely miss the postseason.

Here’s how each team’s win percentage in each conference compares to teams in the same place in the standings in prior 15-team conferences. The 2018-19 teams are show by their logo. Prior teams are marked with a dot. Columns are sorted by place within a conference, 1-15.

Eastern Conference

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Western Conference

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The 10th- through 14th-place teams in the Western Conference are historically good for their place in the conference. That matters.

But the sixth- through 11th-place teams in the Eastern Conference being in a tight race is because the top teams in that group are historically bad for their place in the conference. That matters, too.

There’s no simple way to judge this.

The glut of terrible teams this season is somewhat surprising because the draft projects to feature only one elite prospect – Zion Williamson. The new lottery rules give the bottom three teams each an equal chance (14%) of the No. 1 pick. The advantage of finishing with the worst vs. second-worst vs. third-worst is getting slotted higher in the draft if multiple of those teams get their numbers pulled in the lottery.

Maybe it’s just that four teams happened to be quite bad, and all four are committed to avoiding the fourth-worst record and just a 12.5% chance of the No. 1 pick.

Though tanking has undeniably worked for some teams, it’s probably bad for the NBA. So many games are uncompetitive. Fans lose interest.

But as long as high draft picks remain so valuable and tied to having a worse record, teams will tank.

“You understand now why there’s relegation, in European soccer, for example, because you pay an enormous price if you’re not competitive,” Silver said. “I think, again, for the league and for our teams, there’s that ongoing challenge of whether we can come up with yet a better system.”