Baseline to Baseline recaps: Carlos Boozer is back. Rusty, but back.

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What you missed while wondering how a woman in Spain got to own the sun

Russell Westbrook owned the Nets once it got to the third overtime in our Game of the Night.

Magic 107, Bulls 78: Finally Carlos Boozer returns and looked…well, like a guy who hasn’t played competitive basketball in two months and now has a pad on his shooting hand. Do that against a very good defensive team like the Magic and you get this result.

Boozer looked tentative — and so did Derrick Rose early. Rose has carried the Bulls to a 9-6 record coming into this game but seemed to be looking for Boozer in the first half. It made him tentative, and the Bulls offense needs to attack to be successful. When Boozer did get the rock a couple times he had the ball slip out of his hand as he adjusted to the pad on his shooting hand.

There were a couple nailed jumpers from the elbow, flashes of what will come, but in this game the Bulls were unbalanced. Can’t do that against the Magic, even if they are without JJ Redickdue to the flu and Mikael Pietrus catching the bug from him and leaving the game to throw up in the locker room.

Rockets 109, Lakers 99: Shane Battier outdueled Kobe Bryant down the stretch. Not just defensively, he was the Rockets primary scorer down the stretch. The Lakers were up six with six minutes left when Battier ran off 11 straight points to give the Rockets the lead.

Pau Gasol looked bad in this one — the Lakers finally got him the ball but his shot was off, plus he was slow to rotate on defense. He had some hamstring issues in the third quarter, a reminder why the Lakers needed to keep his minutes down. That is four losses in a row for the Lakers (this one on the second night of a road back-to-back against a team that always plays them tough). No Phil Jackson championship team has ever lost four in a row. Just putting that out there.

Clippers 90, Spurs 85: To borrow one from Chick Hearn, the Spurs couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean. The Clippers defense was fine, but the Spurs got plenty of good open looks, the kind they have knocked down all season. Not Wednesday. The Spurs shot 35.6 percent overall and missed 21 threes. Just one of those nights. Credit the Clippers for taking advantage and snapping an 18-game losing streak to San Antonio. Blake Griffin had 31.

Raptors 127, Wizards 108: John Wall returned to action and came off the bench, scoring 19 and adding 8 assists. He wasn’t the problem, the Wizards starters looking flat and Gilbert Arenas going 1 of 10 shooting were. Speaking of rookies, Raptors first round pick Ed Davis made his NBA debut and looked solid — 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting.

Hawks 112, Grizzlies 109: Not a lot of great defense in this one, the Hawks shot 53.2 percent and were 7 of 12 from three. For Memphis, Mike Conley was 10 of 13 shooting for the second night in a row and had 22 in the loss — he is playing well. Like a guy who deserved a new deal well.

Celtics 99, Trail Bazers 95: Boston shot a ridiculous 57.1 percent in this one. You win a lot of games when you shoot like that, even if it takes a late Ray Allen three to secure it. Paul Pierce had 28 on 9 of 11 shooting.

Hornets 89, Bobcats 73: This one was close until the Bobcats scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter. Not a pretty game, sloppy by both teams and at a slow pace.

Mavericks 100, Timberwolves 86: Dallas is the better team, they were up nine after one quarter and cruised from there. Not much to see here.

Nuggets 105, Bucks 94: Second straight game Carmelo Anthony didn’t stick around for the end. Last game it was the flu, this time he started arguing a non call with 2:40 left in the third, got a technical and got tossed (Melo leads the league with 7 techs now). Didn’t matter, by then the Nuggets had this one in control.

Jazz 110, Pacers 88: Second night of a road back-to-back and the Pacers looked the part. Utah was up 18 points after one quarter, grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and pretty much did whatever they wanted.

Watch Donovan Mitchell drop 43, upstage LeBron return as Cavs top Lakers

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CLEVELAND (AP) — As a kid growing up in New York, Donovan Mitchell idolized LeBron James. On Tuesday night, he upstaged him.

Mitchell scored a season-high 43 points and Jarrett Allen returned from injury to add 24, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 116-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in James’ only visit home this season.

With Anthony Davis missing the final three quarters because of illness, the Cavs improved to an NBA-leading 11-1 on their floor, their best start at home since 2015-16, when James led them to a championship.

Mitchell, who has Cleveland fans dreaming of another title run, took over in the second half and scored 29 points with the kind of performance James had routinely during his 11 seasons for the Cavs.

“You always want to spoil the homecoming,” Mitchell said with a smile.

With Cleveland leading by 12 in the fourth, Mitchell buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to finish the Lakers. After dropping the shot, the All-Star guard strutted around the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse floor nodding his head as James helplessly watched.

“He’s Mitchell,” James said. “He’s a special kid.”

Darius Garland added 21 points and 11 assists for Cleveland.

James finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds, losing for just the third time in 20 games against the Cavs.

Dennis Schroder and Russell Westbrook added 16 points apiece as Los Angeles had its four-game winning streak stopped.

Davis went out after eight minutes with flu-like symptoms. The eight-time All-Star had scored 99 points in his previous two games and had been playing as well as he has in several seasons after being plagued by injuries.

Davis didn’t attempt a field goal and scored just one point before leaving.

“It got progressively worse as the day went on,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “His temperature was 101 and some change. A-D wanted to try to play, but he felt too weak. He’s drained and dehydrated.

“That’s a huge loss, obviously, with the way he’s been playing lately.”

Without Davis clogging the middle, Allen, who missed the last five games with a bruised back, made his first 10 shots and helped the Cavs take a 57-49 halftime lead.

“Next man up,” James said when asked how he reacted to losing Davis. “That’s a tall task – literally and figuratively.”

The Cavs welcomed James back with a video tribute during an early timeout. After a montage of clips, including some from 2016, James waved to the crowd and then blew kisses to show his appreciation.

The warm scene was in contrast to what happened almost exactly 12 years ago, when he came back with the Miami Heat and was met with boos and worse on a night James has said he’ll never forget.

James said he was caught off guard by the tribute.

“It’s always love coming back here,” he said. “The memories I have here will never be forgotten.”

 

Ben Simmons targeting Friday vs. Hawks to return from calf strain

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Ben Simmons has missed the Nets’ last three games with knee pain tied to a left calf strain, and he will be out Wednesday, too, when Brooklyn takes on Charlotte.

However, he plans to return on Friday (Dec. 9) against the Hawks.

Simmons was adjusting to a new role in Brooklyn. In Philadelphia he was a point-forward with the ball in his hands playing off Joel Embiid (at least at first), but in Brooklyn the ball needed to be in the hands of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the halfcourt. Simmons is playing more small-ball five, and is asked to be aggressive and attack when he gets the ball — not shoot jumpers — and to push the rock in transition. It took a while for Simmons to settle into that space, but he seemed to in games against Philadelphia (11 points, 11 assists), Toronto (14 points, six assists) and Indiana (20 points). Then the injuries hit.

Brooklyn sits at 13-12, with a middle-of-the-pack offense and defense for the season. While there are doubts about the ceiling for this team, it has a talent level that should be better than this record, it’s just been beset by injuries, controversy causing Kyrie Irving to miss time, and a coaching change. The Nets have yet to hit their stride.

But they could have a clean injury report on Friday night, and maybe that can be the start of this team getting on a run.

Suns, Hawks reportedly show interest in Kuzma trade, Wizards see him as cornerstone

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
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Kyle Kuzma was the kind of quality, two-way role player the Lakers needed around LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win the 2020 NBA title (the type of player the Lakers wish they had now).

In Washington, his role has been elevated — he’s a 20-point-a-game scorer (20.6 points per game this season, to be precise) who is a key part of generating offense, not just playing off the stars of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. As he told Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“As soon as I got traded, I was ready to be more,” Kuzma told The Athletic.

It’s been enough to draw the interest of a couple of teams looking for a trade, Charania adds. The Wizards are not necessarily interested in moving on, however.

Several teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns, have expressed trade interest in Kuzma, according to league sources. By the same token, the Wizards have shown interest in Hawks forward John Collins, and the sides seriously discussed a potential deal last offseason, league sources added…

However, the Wizards’ front office, led by general manager Tommy Sheppard, has made clear that it views Kuzma as a cornerstone moving forward as the franchise has seen him thrive since the mega-trade in the 2021 offseason. The Westbrook trade provided future flexibility and assets for the Wizards, who have been known to be aggressive and active in research across the league.

Kuzma has a $13 million player option for next season that he will unquestionably opt out of, making him a free agent in search of a healthy raise (north of $20 million a year, although expect something more in the ballpark of the four-year, $104 million Jalen Brunson contract). If the Wizards are willing to pay they likely can keep him (they have his Bird rights). But if Washington isn’t sure it wants to pay market value, or if management sees a shifting path for future seasons, it should consider trading Kuzma at the deadline.

If he becomes available, far more teams than the Hawks and Suns would be interested, quality two-way forwards are in demand around the league. Kuzma would have some leverage over where he gets sent because he can leave as a free agent (teams would offer up less if they believed Kuzma would only be a rental for this season).

Magic send Jonathan Isaac to G-League for practice, rehabilitation

2022-2023 Orlando Magic Media Day
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There was a time when it was thought Jonathan Isaac might be the Magic’s next big star.

However, he has not stepped on an NBA court since he was in the bubble (Feb. 8, 2020), then he tore his ACL in August of that year (which came on the heels of missing much of that season with an injury to the same knee). Last March he had a setback and another procedure, and at this point he has missed two full seasons plus the start of this one.

Isaac is still working toward recovery and the Magic have assigned him to the Lakeland Magic of the G-League to get in some practice.

Because NBA teams barely practice during the season — the schedule of games nearly every other day plus travel and recovery doesn’t permit more than film sessions and walk-throughs — these kinds of baseball-style minor league rehab assignments are more and more common.

The story from the Magic’s official website notes this will be the first time Isaac will play 5-on-5 with other players during his rehab, which is a significant step forward.

There is no timeline for his return, but the Magic have him under contract this season for $17.4 million and two more fully guaranteed years at the same price. There is no reason for the franchise to walk away, even if some around the league question if his knees will ever let him back on an NBA court again.

The Magic have found their next star in Paolo Banchero and have built a promising young core, something Isaac — an elite defender before his injuries — should fit in well with. If he can get healthy and back on the court.