Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): The night the Grizzlies were thieves

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What you missed while carving your pumpkin to look like the Death Star

Hornets 99, Spurs 90: It’s really a simple game at the end of the day — just put the ball in the bucket. The Spurs struggled mightily to do that. They missed the tough shots as the clock was winding down, they missed wide-open looks, they missed from the midrange, they missed at the rim, they just missed. It was just not their night.

Well, to be clear they missed for three quarters — they shot 31.7 percent through the first three quarters and were down 18 early in the fourth. Then they shot 59 percent for the final quarter, had a 16-3 run and made a game of it at the end. They got within three and Richard Jefferson even got a good look at a three to tie, but the Spurs were 6-26 from beyond the arc for the game so that didn’t go down.

That Spurs run, by the way, came with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker on the bench.

The Spurs defense did what it does — tried to take Chris Paul out of the game and force long twos, taking away easy stuff inside. But the Hornets were hitting — they shot 53.9 percent on long twos (16 feet or more) and drained 7 of 11 from three.

Big win for the Hornets, which David West celebrated by punching Chris Paul over and over as he dribbled out the clock. In a good way. The Hornets are now 3-0 to start the season. Didn’t see that coming.

Grizzlies 109, Timberwolves 89: Memphis had 22 steals in this game. Minnesota turned the ball over on 26 percent of their possessions — when you turn it over one in four times down the court, you lose. Big.

Trail Blazers 100, Knicks 95: Early on Portland was just an efficient offense — lots of cuts off the ball, movement and attacking the mismatch on offense (and the mismatch was whomever Raymond Felton was guarding). They sprinted out to a big lead. Then they stopped doing it. Just because. The Knicks started to step up their defense, started rebounding (they had 18 offensive boards, which never should happen against the Blazers) and generally outplayed Portland for a stretch.

The Knicks would have won if Portland hadn’t reverted to form and went on a 17-3 run to close out the game and secure the win. You can thank Andre Miller for that late run and the win.

Hawks 99, Wizards 95: Washington got off to an early lead because a zone defense confused the Hawks, while Washington was hot and shot 60 percent for the first quarter. The Hawks didn’t shoot terribly well most of the game, but they battled back, then Joe Johnson took over in the fourth with 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting — because he stopped taking the long twos he was missing and started driving, hitting shorter pull ups or draining the three.

This just in: John Wall is a stud. He had 28 and was the reason Washington hung around.

Kings 107, Cavaliers 104: It’s weird to say this, but Beno Udrih is playing well so far this season. Smart, in control, had 12 points (6-9 shooting) and 11 dimes in this one. He almost looks like a guy who deserves that contract. Almost.

Fun game to watch if you don’t care about good defense, because that was missing. Really a tale of two halves, the Cavs dominated the second quarter, were up 14 at the break then the second half was just the Kings playing smarter and better.

Pacers 99, Sixers 86: Indiana started out the second half on an 18-5 run, sparked by 8 from Danny Granger, and that’s your ballgame. The Pacers were just more aggressive, they got to the line more often, got the offensive boards and just seemed to win all the hustle plays.

Bulls 101, Pistons 91: Chicago won the fourth quarter 34-9. Damn. Derrick Rose put up 39 and led the charge, looking like a stud. He has to carry that team’s offense, and it’s quite a show.

Aside that, not much to love here, just a fast-paced game (102 possessions) with a lot of missed shots from both teams.

Bucks 98, Bobcats 88: Andrew Bogut had four blocks on the night and really seemed to control the paint on defense, with the Bobcats shooting just 47.7 percent on shots near the rim. When you miss the chippies, it’s a long night.

Nuggets 107, Rockets 94: Carmelo Anthony had 24 points but needed 20 shots to get there. Al Harrington had 28 points but needed 24 shots to get there. Basically, the Nuggets were their usual, inefficient selves on offense. But, they attacked the rim and so got to the line more, they rebounded better, they were just more aggressive. Some night’s that’s enough. Houston just fouled and took bad shots rather than attack, they really don’t know who they are on offense. The fact Aaron Brooks sat a lot for foul trouble didn’t help.

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.