Baseline to Baseline, final night of the regular season

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What happened Wednesday while you were crying over the end of League Pass…


Magic 125 Sixers 111: The Sixers did their part, showing up to let the fans in Orlando have something to cheer against. Marreesse Speights needs to learn to play better defense, but he can score. 23 points for the young 22 year old, and if the Sixers are going to rebuild with a new coach, he’s got to be part of the plan. 
Howard did what Howard does, and dominated. The Magic followed suit. SVG commented post game that they’ve drilled bad teams in the second half of the season. 
No more gimmes. But the Magic look ready. 
Heat 94, Nets 86 (2OT): Best thing about this game?
It’s over. 
Let us never speak of it again. 
Bucks 106 Celtics 95: A gimme game, a no-point game, a useless game. And you’re still left asking “The Bucks put up 106 on the Celtics without Bogut? Wow.” And that says a lot about Milwaukee’s balance and about how many C’s missed this game. Perkins didn’t play, which meant…
The Dan Gadzuric show! Gadzey scored 14 and added 9 boards. If the Hawks were scouting this game, they wanted to focus in on Ilyasova, who played fantastic, and could be a matchup issue if his range is working. 
Bulls 98 Bobcats 89: The ‘Cats can zone out with the best of ’em, and the Bulls can plug in with the same. 
Joakim Noah looked healthy, folks. Really healthy. Best play of the night was Noah in transition, running point on the break (you read that right), picking up his dribble, leaving his feet, and dishing to a driving Gibson for the and-one lay-in. It was Deron Williams-esque. 
After Tyson Chandler went down, Bobcats couldn’t be bothered. The Cats were just happy to not have their season ending for once. Good for you, ‘Cats. Good on you, Bulls. 
Wizards 98 Pacers 97: Cedric Jackson, a D-Leaguer, hit the game winning shot with 1:31 to play for the Wizards in a meaningless comeback win for the Wizards over the Pacers. 
And that pretty much tells you about their seasons. 
No one, not even the Nets, is happier this season is over than the Wizards. 
Mavs 96 Spurs 89: The Spurs hung here. The Mavericks played their starters but were obviously tuned out, and once they got the lead, they just cultivated it enough to hang on. But the San Antonio bench showed a lot, even if both schemes were vanilla since they meet in four days for Game 1. 
DeJuan Blair had 27 and 23. Knees or no knees, those are some huge numbers. And he actually frustrated Dirk Nowitzki a bit. Something to keep an eye on. 

Thunder 114 Grizzles 105: Grizzlies checked out once Marc Gasol went out for the season a few weeks ago. And that should be noted because for as good as Z-Bo has been, Gasol is the heart of this squad. 
Meanwhile, the Thunder were tuning up sharp. Good ball rotations, good movement, good speed, good everything. They had the answers and they had the stroke. 
Rudy Gay is still as one-sided as he was at the beginning of last season .
Pistons 103 Wolves 98: Corey Brewer was brilliant, but Charlie Villanueva came through huge in the fourth. He forced the issue and created tons of baseline space. When that happened, the Wolves lost control. And they’re not a team that can get it back. 
Darko Milicic, the franchise savior, had six rebounds. 
Hornets 123 Rockets 115: The Rockets just ran out of steam. Much like their season. 
The Hornets looked good, and forced a lot of penetration. David West was lost in the failures of the Hornets this season, but he’s been tremendous in the second half of the season, and his 35 tonight was the type of dominance that the Hornets can win with next year. 

Suns 100 Jazz 86: Be afraid of this Suns team. The threes are there, sure. Nash, yeah. Amar’e, for sure. But there was defense out there tonight. Stifling, interrupting, bothering, frustrating defense. Don’t sleep on that. 
The Jazz without Carlos Boozer are frighteningly toothless, and couldn’t counter anything for the Suns defensively. 
Warriors 122 Blazers 116: Don Nelson dressed 8 players. Then three got hurt. Then one fouled out. The refs made him play an injured guy, before eventually letting him play the fouled out guy (Devean George) in exchange for a technical. 
And that’s the Dubs. 
Portland heads to postseason play with a dark cloud over them and Stephen Curry blasting them into pieces can’t make them feel any better.

Raptors 131, Knicks 113: Not a lot of defense in this one. And by not a lot we mean none. Made it fairly entertaining to watch. The difference here was simply that Toronto played like a team that wanted it and New York played like a team that wanted its season to end. They get their wish.

Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83: You could make really good team out of the guys who did not suit up for this one: LeBron James, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Shaquille O’Neal, Mike Bibby.

Without LeBron to create shots, the Cavaliers shooting percentage plummeted, particularly the 1 for 14 from three part. It was the kind of game where Jeff Teague takes over, he had 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Jeff Teague. It was that kind of game.

Clippers 107, Lakers 91: How seriously did the Lakers take this one?  Early in the third quarter, the Lakers had Adam Morrison trying to hang with Travis Outlaw. He can’t, by the way. But you probably already guessed that.

Steve Blake had the triple-double in this one — 23 points, 10 boards, and 11 assists. The Lakers bad defensive habits helped out, at one point Derek Fisher left Blake at the three-point arc to run down to the post and help Pau Gasol (covering DeAndre Jordan). Kick out and a buried three. Kept happening in variations all game long. But credit the Clippers for taking advantage.

Now, where is the lottery party again?

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan finally buried the hatchet

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Deron Williams or Chris Paul? That was the conversation in the NBA just a decade ago, a conversation that now seems practically ridiculous. I never personally thought it was very close between the two, being an adamant Paul supporter. Now, CP3 is with the Houston Rockets and Williams is out of the league, despite Paul being just 200 days younger than the former Utah Jazz star (but having played more games).

Williams was part of a two-man attack, along with Carlos Boozer, that helped fuel the Jazz during the first decade of this century as they churned through the Western Conference. But Williams played just five-and-a-half seasons in Salt Lake City, traded after a blow-up with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Things were unsteady between the two during the 2010-11 season, and Sloan famously decided to retire after a game in February of 2011 in which the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls. During halftime of that game, there was a disagreement between Sloan and Williams that apparently pushed the legendary head coach to his tipping point.

Sloan retired and Williams was traded on February 23rd.

Now, it appears that the two have at least made amends. In a story of appearing on UtahJazz.com, Williams recently went to Sloan’s house to talk about the divide between the two and what happened some seven years ago.

Via UtahJazz.com:

“He doesn’t forget a lot of things, instances where I pissed him off, things I did to upset him,” Williams said. “He definitely told me about that—and rightfully so. He was great about some other things. It was kind of typical Coach Sloan, really. If you know him, he’s never been one to shy away from telling you the truth and how he feels.”

“Eventually, I think Jerry came around,” [Jazz CEO Greg] Miller said. “He never really said, ‘Let’s put it behind us’ or anything, but maybe in Sloan speak he did.”

“Two strong men said what they needed to say, shook hands and are now moving forward,” [Jazz president Steve] Starks said.

Sloan, 76, is living with Parkinson’s and reportedly not in the best of health. It’s good to hear that Williams was remorseful about how he acted, and that the two great sportsmen were able to come together and at least see each other’s point of view as a sort of armistice.

Masai Ujiri on Kawhi Leonard: ‘He is happy. There is no maintenance with him’

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No doubt there are big expectations for the Toronto Raptors this year after trading franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Ever an enigma (and coming off of one of the worst-managed exits from a team in recent memory) Leonard has fans in Ontario biting their nails about whether he will return healthy this season, and happy for the next.

According to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Leonard is giving them every indication that he is ready to go heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ujiri said that Leonard is happy.

Via Sportsnet:

“He is happy. From what everybody has told me he is healthy. He spends a lot of time with our coaches,” said Ujiri. “He went to L.A. to meet our guys out there. He will be here shortly.”

“He is just quiet … that’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There’s nothing. It’s remarkable … His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie … once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

We have heard rumors that Leonard has purchased a home in Toronto instead of merely renting. We’ve also seen photos of Leonard happy and working out with players like Kobe Bryant, nearly even smiling. And Ujiri is doing his part here, trying to ease any sentiment around Leonard.

The PR machine is in sixth gear in Toronto, but you can’t really blame them. It’s the first good public relations move we’ve seen from Leonard’s enclave in more than a year, and it helps bolster the team if things go south.

Do I believe anything that is reported about Leonard anymore? No. Not after last season. Unfortunately, the issue with Leonard remains the fact that we will have to simply sit to wait and see what he chooses to do next year.

Raptors fans, who are dedicated and passionate, should be hoping that they finally make a Finals run this year. Just in case.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.