Baseline to Baseline, your game recaps

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What happened while you were partying/rioting about health care reform…

Hawks 119 Spurs 114: This was a classic. Two teams that had answers for every big shot the other one hit.

Al Horford was considered a strange All-Star pick but he looked like it in this game. Monster plays down the stretch including a massive block on Ginobili and several key putbacks. The guy has a sense for big games and is a magnet for the basketball.

The Spurs can’t feel too badly about this one, though. Duncan was back to doing his thing, including a shot off the glass that I’m fairly certain was in direct violation of physics.

But when Ginobili scores 38 and Duncan scores 29 and your team loses, that’s probably not a good thing either.

Rockets 116 Knicks 112: So much for revenge of the T-Mac. In shocking news, dynamic small guards (Kevin Martin) can slice up a D’Antoni defense (Knicks) like swiss cheese.

But if you’re looking for a revenge story? How about Jordan Hill, who put in big minutes down the stretch for the Rockets to help them get a win after being buried in New York for the first four months of the year. Hill’s the perfect type of player for the Rockets and another facet of the steal Morey pulled off.

If Aaron Brooks was just a little more efficient he’d be in discussion as a top NBA point guard.

Pacers 121 Thunder 101: Didn’t see this coming. The Thunder looked like a bunch of 21 year-olds who had to wake up earlier than usual on a Sunday morning to play basketball in Indiana. They also looked like they sucked.

The Pacers, on the other hand, played like this was their superbowl. Earl Watson nailed a pull-up 35 foot three. I haven’t seen a shot like that since… ten minutes earlier when I saw about five of those attempts in one of the NCAA games (none connected). Roy Hibbert has become a legit player, it’ll be tense seeing if he turns into a top-level center.

Kings 102 Clippers 89: It’s March! College kids are living out the brief highlights of their entire existence, flowers are blooming, and the Clippers are completely mailing in their games. Time marches on.

Cavs 104 Pistons 79: You convince yourself that Detroit still has some muscle, until games like this. The Cavs manhandled them inside. Leon Powe had 16 points and 7 rebounds. That’s a bad sign. The Cavs’ offense wasn’t even that good in this game. They just completely shut down every angle, attempt, and set the Pistons tried to deploy.

Ben Gordon’s season from hell continues.

Lakers 99, Wizards 92: Kobe outscored the Wizards 20-15 in the second quarter, and that pretty much decided this one. Even by his own standards it was a good night for Kobe. When his long jumper is falling — he was four of seven from three-point land and hit some long twos for good measure — he is impossible to guard. Of course, the Lakers, up 28 early in the third, get bored and the Wizards closed hard to make this one seem closer than it was, but it was never in doubt. That’s 11 losses in a row for Washington.

Suns 93, Trail Blazers 87: You would have thought this would have been one of the more entertaining games of the day. Man, would you have been wrong. The Blazers did what they wanted, slowing the pace way down (90%), barely turning the ball over (4 times) and holding the Suns to 38 percent shooting. But they shot just 36 percent themselves, and that was not enough. Nor was it fun to watch.

Report: Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. talking contract extension

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When the Cavaliers made the trade deadline deal with the Lakers last February, they got Larry Nance Jr. (the son of a Cavs legend) and Jordan Clarkson (surrendering Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a 2018 1st round draft pick that became Moritz Wagner).

Nance is the one the Cavaliers seem intent on keeping, and they may extend him, reports Tom Withers of the Associated Press.

This seems like a good fit for both sides, if they can find a number that works. The Cavaliers are committed to not bottoming out right now — which is why Kevin Love got a new massive contract — and Nance fits with that.

This is not going to be a max contract, but Nance has made it clear he likes playing in Cleveland and wants to stay. After he came over last season he averaged 8.9 points on 55 percent shooting, 7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers could go up with LeBron James no longer in the picture.

LeBron James on earning Lakers’ fans loyalty: ‘I signed a four-year deal’

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Living in Los Angeles, with most of my friends Lakers’ fans, I can tell you that the majority of the city is excited and on board with the LeBron James era. They get that he’s right, the Lakers are not yet on the Warriors’ level, but they like the idea of the game’s best player with the Lakers’ young core, and the potential of that with another star player in the next 10 months or so. They are excited.

Most Lakers fans that is. There is a segment, best described as the “Kobe Bryant could walk on water” crowd, who are not sold on LeBron as a Laker. Who see him somehow as a threat to their Kobe worship. They question LeBron as a “real Laker” and his loyalty.

That took all of two days of training camp to come up, and for LeBron to shoot it down. Via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.

LeBron nailed this. He has signed on and trusted Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka more than he had anyone since Pat Riley — LeBron never signed long-term deals in Cleveland and trusted Dan Gilbert. He trusts Magic and Jeanie Buss. That is huge.

LeBron’s Laker era is ultimately going to be judged by winning a title, because all Lakers’ eras are judged that way. Kobe would talk about nothing else. LeBron understands that reality. But the era of being able to buy an NBA title is gone — the Lakers have free agency advantages few other franchises do (thanks to the location and the brand) but that is not enough. The biggest question for the Lakers is not can they land another star before next season, but rather can the core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and the rest be the guys that stand with LeBron? If at the end of games this season it is LeBron sharing the court with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley, the Lakers have much bigger problems than who is the next star they sign.

LeBron is all in. He can help cement his legacy with a title in Lakers’ Forum Blue and Gold, but he knows he needs help. And he’s willing to wait for them to get it. At age 33, what else can you ask of the man?

Kevin Durant says he is taking free agency ‘year by year’

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Talk to sources around the league about the Warriors and they think Kevin Durant — not Klay Thompson, who is also a free agent next summer, or Draymond Green in the summer of 2020 — will be the first to leave the team. It may not be this summer, especially if they three-peat, but he was last in and will be first out.

Durant, for his part, is not playing the speculation game.

When asked about it, Durant was vague, reports the USA Today’s Erik Garcia Gundersen.

“Just one of those things where you’re confident in your skills and taking it year by year. And keeping my options open was the best thing for me. I could have easily signed a long-term deal but I just wanted to take it season by season and see where it takes me. And I think this year is going to be a fun, exciting year for us all. I’m looking forward to just focusing on that and we’ll see what happens after the year.”

Golden State owner Joseph Lacob admitted he would have given Durant whatever deal he and his agents wanted. They chose the short-term option, keeping a lot of doors open.

The conventional wisdom around the league is that this summer Durant will opt-out this summer then sign a five-year contract. Probably with the Warriors, but the door is open, and there are a lot of teams with max salary slots. Maybe Durant is ready to have his own team again and move on. Maybe he is happy where he is.

Durant doesn’t know the answer to that question, yet. Nobody does. But that has other teams ready to pounce, just in case one of the world’s top two players decides it’s time to move on.

What if the Timberwolves don’t trade Jimmy Butler?

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I expect the Timberwolves to trade Jimmy Butler soon. Most people expect the Timberwolves to trade Jimmy Butler soon.

But they’ve thrown enough uncertainty into the process that nothing should be taken for granted. Tom Thibodeau said he expects Butler to report to training camp if not traded within a week, and as of yesterday, the president-coach was reportedly still trying to convince Butler to stay in Minnesota.

What happens if the Timberwolves don’t trade Butler and he refuses to report?

If he withholds playing services for 30 days after training camp begins, he won’t accrue a year of service and can’t become a free agent next offseason. He couldn’t sign with another professional basketball team unless Minnesota agreed.

That 30-day clock seemingly isn’t ticking, as Butler is excused while recovering from offseason hand surgery. But if the Timberwolves want to get serious about keeping Butler, they could press the issue.

But Butler would have options, too. He could – a la Mo Williams with the Cavaliers – undergo surgery and claim he’s not healthy enough to report. Players, especially ones as damaged as Butler, often have medical issues to clean up. That could mean embellishing the effect of the hand surgery or undergoing a new surgery altogether. An elective surgery could legitimately sideline Butler. Claiming Butler is actually healthy enough to report when he says he isn’t could get quite messy if the team objects.

Again, I don’t expect it to get that far. I doubt the Timberwolves, particularly owner Glen Taylor, desire to hold Butler hostage like that. Even if they do, Butler could just report and play. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and leave then.

But these are the extreme options on the table if this situation devolves further.