Baseline to Baseline (your game recaps): Friday night is for nail biters, apparently

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What you missed installing your all-in-one toilet paper roll holder and iPod Dock

There are more notes from the Hornets 96-93 win over the Heat here.

Celtics 110, Bulls 105 (OT): I could have sworn I saw Ray Allen dunk in the overtime. I must be hallucinating. Give the Bulls credit, down 16 in the third quarter on the second night of a back-to-back, a lot of teams would have just packed it in. The Bulls fought back, even got the lead. But when it mattered most the Celtics did what winners do and found a way.

Pistons 97, Bobcats 90: Rodney Stuckey sat and Tracy McGrady started — if I were a betting man I would have run out and put money on the Bobcats. And this is why I’m not a betting man. First win for the Pistons, who did not shoot the ball well — 42.7 percent to the Bobcats 55.2. Most nights, that means a lot. But the Pistons got to the line 16 more times and had 5 fewer turnovers and that was the difference.

Bucks 94, Pacers 90: Not a terribly impressive night for anyone shooting, the Pacers were just worse, hitting just 26.7 percent beyond 10 feet. The Bucks were without Andrew Bogut (migraine), but they outscored the Pacers by 10 in the final quarter to get a win. They’ll take it.

Knicks 112, Wizards 91: The Knicks had another very good offensive game, including shooting 41 percent from three for the game. Every Knick looked pretty good… except Anthony Randolph (1-7 shooting). Gilbert Arenas had 18 off the bench and was 4-8 from three. He’ll be starting soon.

Cavaliers 123, Sixers 116: The Sixers were a solid defensive team through their first few games but the Cavaliers crushed that for a night. Not a lot of defense from either side in this one, which made it entertaining if not good basketball. Anderson Varejao is 10-for-10 from the floor in this one.

Magic 105, Nets 90: The Nets shot poorly, especially from deep the last couple games, then they came out in this in this one and could not miss. They knocked down 45.5 percent fr0m three on the night and were up five at the break because of their shooting. Then Jameer Nelson got the Magic back into it, winning the third by 16 and never looking back.

Dwight Howard owned Brook Lopez on the night, Lopez had 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting.

Hawks 113, Timberwolves 103: The Hawks remain undefeated but know this — they have had the softest schedule in the NBA so far this season.

Lakers 108, Raptors 103: The Lakers were up and cruising in the first half when Toronto went to a zone defense. Then the Lakers reacted like it was the Western Conference finals all over again and started just passing the ball around the perimeter then jacking up the jumper. From there on in it was close. The Lakers defense still isn’t good, but Toronto’s is worse. And the Lakers can score the rock. The Raptors had 19 offensive rebounds against that long Lakers front line.

Nuggets 111, Clippers 104: Rare efficient night for Carmelo Anthony, 30 points on 14-of-20 shooting, and when he’s efficient that is a tough team to beat. The Clippers look better with Eric Bledsoe and Eric Gordon in the backcourt than they do with Baron Davis

Suns 123, Grizzlies 118 (2OT): Oh Memphis. One point lead and Gay gets fouled with 0.4 seconds left, so hit the first, miss the second and you win. Gay misses the first and hits the second, so time out Suns. Damn. Still, two point lead with 0.4 seconds left, the only way you can lose is a lob to the rim (unless Derek Fisher is in the building). Then Darrell Arthur slips trying to get back as Jason Richardson cuts to the rim, and the Suns get the lob and bucket and the tie to force overtime. Then double overtime (because Mike Conley missed a free throw).

Then in double overtime the Grizzlies starters — now all having played over 40 minutes — started to show that fatigue. Tough way to lose, watching Jason Richardson score 5 points in 1.1 seconds.

Warriors 85, Jazz 78: The Warriors beat the Jazz because they crashed the boards — 21 offensive rebounds — and played good defense. Basically, they beat the Jazz at their own game. Curry looked pretty good in his return and for the first time in three games he played without rolling his ankle.

Zion Williamson’s sprained knee became bad day for Nike

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When presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson went to the ground, his knee twisting, early in Duke’s game against North Carolina Wednesday night, the basketball world collectively gasped.

Former President Barack Obama was there and quickly recognized the problem:

It did, unquestionably. The  6-foot-7, 284 pound Williamson was wearing the  PG 2.5 PEs (the Paul George signature line of Nikes), and when he made a hard cut the shoe gave out and Williamson went to the ground in a heap. The television cameras closed in on the busted Nike.

That’s not good press.

Fortunately, Williams suffered only a mild, Grade 1 knee sprain, and is day-to-day.

Nike released a statement to multiple media outlets that said, “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

Nike stock dropped one percent on Thursday, although that level of fluctuation is not serious.

Bottom line, if this remains an isolated incident, Nike’s reputation — and position as the dominant force in basketball shoes — is not in danger. Fans and players will forgive one random incident. Have it happen again to a high-profile player and… Nike doesn’t want to find out.

 

Marcus Smart on today’s NBA: “Everything’s become real cute… Everybody’s scared to get hit”

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“I think it’s wonderful what we’re seeing in the league right now, some of the rules changes we’ve made in the last few years that really focus on skill-based playing. I’d like to think that young people around the world are able to look at this game and say, I can be as great as my desire to dedicate myself to this game, especially when it comes to shooting and ball handling. I get it, you can’t dream about being seven feet tall, but you can dream about having ball-handling skills like Steph Curry.”

That was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver All-Star weekend in Charlotte, and television ratings and overall interest in the league back him up — NBA ratings have been largely rising for years, both on the local and national level. Fans seem to gravitate towards fast-paced, entertaining teams and games.

But not everybody loves it. Charles Barkley can lead the “get off my lawn crowd.” However, there is a role for throwback players in the game. Guys who would have thrived in the 1990s, or the 1960s. Boston’s Marcus Smart is one of those guys — he told Mirin Fader of Bleacher Report he wishes there was more physicality in the league.

“Back in the ’60s, ’70s, my mindset and the way I play would be perfect. They play like that every game,” Smart says…

“That’s just what it is! Exactly!” he says, a smile breaking through. “I think we kind of lost that in today’s game. Everything’s become real cute. Everybody’s scared to go to the rim. Everybody’s scared to get hit. Everybody’s scared to touch.

“I thrive on the contact. Contact is in my nature.”

The NBA has always had to strike a balance between physicality and allowing skill to flourish. Right now the pendulum has swung well over to the skill side, and some fans romantically recall 1990s basketball when the pendulum was on the other side. They think of Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson and remember the era fondly through the haze of time. Of course, what that time obscured were the slogs of games with scoring in the 80s and maybe 90s, they forget how hard it could be to watch Mike Fratello’s Cavaliers clutch and grab their way to a slow, tedious, and coach-controlled four quarters. The 90s were not filled with the beautiful game.

But in any era, a guy like Smart has real value because he’s a good basketball player. Plain and simple. Just one who would like to be allowed to be a little more physical.

 

76ers coach Brett Brown: Markelle Fultz didn’t mean to insult Philadelphia coaches

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After getting traded from the 76ers to the Magic, Markelle Fultz said, “It just excites me really to know that I have coaches that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear.”

I don’t know whether Fultz intended that to sound like a shot at Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. But it sounded like a shot at Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

Brown said Fultz “didn’t mean that.”He said the two have spoken back and forth.

“He’s a good kid,” he said. “He’s a good young man, and, truly, we wish him well.”

I’d prefer to hear that directly from Fultz. But I doubt he’ll do any more interviews this season until he plays again – and who knows when that will be?

Still, it can be difficult for a player to compliment his new team without sounding like he’s admonishing his old team. There was always a good chance that’s all that happened with Fultz. Brown’s explanation makes that even more likely.

Report: NBA formally submits proposal to lower draft age to 18, end one-and-done

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It’s coincidental this happened the day after Duke star and likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson sprained a knee in a much-hyped, nationally televised game. This is been in the works for a while and is now becoming realty:

The NBA formally submitted a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association (the players’ union) to lower the draft age from 19 to 18. Meaning players could be drafted to the league straight out of high school. While that will not come until likely 2022, the formal proposal starts the project, reports Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today.

The NBA has submitted to the National Basketball Players Association a formal proposal that will lower the draft-eligible age to 18 from 19, a person with knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports…

The league and union have had informal discussions about lowering the age limit, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on record saying the current 19-year-old age limit is not working for the league or college basketball.

This is the first step in formal negotiations to lower the age limit by the 2022 draft. The issue is collectively bargained between the NBA and NBPA, and both sides need to agree to any rule change.

There have been sticking points during those informal discussions between the sides. Specifically, the league wants to require that agents provide every team with full medical reports on players, and the league wants players to be forced to participate in some level of the NBA Draft Combine. As of now, agents often withhold medical info from teams they don’t want to draft their players (that doesn’t always work) and elite players often do little more than get measured at the combine. It’s a fight over information and the sides will need to find a compromise.

Silver had told reporters over the summer that the NCAA’s own report from Condoleezza Rice’s Commission On College Basketball called for an end to one-and-dones, and that has motivated him to end the practice. However, to give teams ample time to gear up scouting and get development programs in place, nothing will happen before the 2022 draft.

This has been a long time coming, the one-and-done rule is a compromise neither the NBA or colleges liked much, and it has made players resentful. What exactly the process will look like on the other side remains to be seen, but it should be better than the mess we see right now.