Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Grizzlies and Kings with the finish of the year

Leave a comment

What you missed while purchasing the iPhone bottle opener

Kings 100, Grizzlies 98: Two struggling teams that could use a win and it came down to this:

Kings up 97-96 with 5.5 seconds left, no timeouts left for anyone. Memphis inbounds the ball from the sidelines to O.J. Mayo and runs a poorly-designed play — Mike Conley, who inbounded the ball, ran right past Mayo, basically just bringing the extra defender for the double-team right to the ball. Mayo ignored this and worked along the three-point line and eventually near the top of the key took an off-balanced, off-one-leg fall away two. And he drained it. Grizzlies by one.

Now there is 1.5 seconds left, and with no timeouts the Kings inbound to Tyreke Evans, who gets the ball near the free throw line, dribbles a couple of steps, shoots as time expires — and drains a 50 footer for the win. Arco Arena goes wild.

Best ending this season. Go ahead and make all the “it takes that kind of shot for the Kings to win a game” jokes you want, their fans deserve something like this.

Pistons 104, Celtics 92: At one point Tracy McGrady made the steal and Ben Wallace finished with the power dunk on the break. When that is happening, you know the Pistons are having a good night.

This was just a night when the Celtics played poor defense — Kevin Garnett’s early exit certainly was part of that — and Detroit just could not miss. As a team the Pistons shot 55.7 percent, plus they hit 10 of 15 from three. McGrady had 21 on 7 of 11 shooting. Charlie Villanueva got a little revenge — not that he was looking for it — hitting 4 of 6 from three on his way to 14 points.

This was a big win for Detroit. This was just one of those games for Boston.

Lakers 103, Hornets 88: Phil Jackson moved Andrew Bynum into the starting lineup as a surprise, and that moved Lamar Odom back to the bench. The result was better Laker defense at the start and much better player and ball movement from the Lakers bench players. That meant an easy win.

One night after the Lakers struggled to hit anything against the Spurs they shot 67.6 percent in the first half against the Hornets and put up 59 points (and had an 18-point lead). Los Angeles basically led the whole way. Bynum was big on offense, too, scoring 18. Odom had a game high 24 off the bench.

Heat 125, Rockets 119: The tempo was way up for this one — 99 possessions — and that led to a lot of offense for both teams. And not much transition defense. It shouldn’t be a shock this one was close because the Rockets are scrappy and play hard every night (Byron Scott should show his Cavs the films). But in the end, talent wins out and the Heat had too much of it. Joel Anthony has had some really impressive ends of games for the Heat.

Bobcats 101, Cavaliers 92: Tonight it was Stephen Jackson’s turn to look like he loves Paul Silas’ new system, dropping 38 on the Cavs. Jackson was able to drive into the lane at will — we love Captain Jack here at PBT, but if he is driving unimpeded to the rim you have problems, he is not that quick. The fact that Jackson was constantly in the paint tells you all you need to know about the Cavs effort in this one.

Hawks 103, Warriors 93: The fact the Hawks don’t defend the rim well should have played into the hands of the Warriors and their penetration, but Golden State just turned the ball over too much and settled for too many jumpers. Meanwhile the Hawks were efficient and able to do basically whatever they wanted on offense. This was the best the Hawks looked on offense in a while, with nice ball and player movement.

Wizards 104, Pacers 90: The dreaded second game of a back-to-back, fourth-game-in-five-nights game for the Pacers. Then throw in a team that wants to run like Washington and you get a Pacers team fading in the second half. Andray Blatche had 10 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Nuggets 119, Timberwolves 113: Chris Andersen had five key points in the final two minutes for Denver:  Two on a reverse layup when his man (Kevin Love) went to help on Chauncey Billips penetration and Andersen cut baseline to the basket; Two more on free throws when he drew the offensive rebounding foul on Love; Then one more when he drew another foul on Love, this time when the two were fighting for defensive rebounding position and Andersen sold a little shove with a big flop (he hit one of two from the line).

Thunder 114, Nets 93: It was an up-tempo game and you had to know the Nets could not hang with the athletes of the Thunder at that pace. The Nets fueled that pace with 15 first-half turnovers and their habit of launching up threes that led to long rebounds.

Sixers 123, Suns 110: Vince Carter returned and had 18 points on 8 of 20 shooting, and was 1 of 6 from three.

Look, we’ve been telling anyone who will listen the last few weeks that the Sixers are better than people think. If you don’t play any defense and let them dominate the boards you make it easy. That’s what happened. The Suns defense is awful and the Sixers have the people to exploit it.

Jazz 103, Clippers 95: Eric Gordon probably had the best Clipper dunk of the night, which is disappointment. As for the game, the Clippers led at half but the Jazz came out on a 16-3 run to start the second and went on to win from there.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

Getty Images
2 Comments

The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.

Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic: Mavericks tap brakes on inevitable comparisons

Getty Images
3 Comments

DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic didn’t get compared to Larry Bird when he was introduced a day after the Dallas Mavericks traded up to get the third overall pick in the NBA draft.

For president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, that’s progress based on his last experience of getting a tender-aged European in hopes of lifting the Mavericks out of the doldrums.

Twenty years later, Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in league history. Back then, the big German wasn’t remotely comparable to Larry Legend – and his rough first two years proved it.

So ask Nelson about a player the Mavericks clearly coveted heading into the draft in Doncic, and he’ll choose his words carefully regarding the 19-year-old from Slovenia. Doncic won’t turn 20 until after the All-Star break of his rookie season, which is expected to be Nowitzki’s record 21st with one franchise.

“Dirk and I had a long talk coming in,” Nelson said about the player Dallas drafted days after his 20th birthday in 1998.

“We’re obviously very excited to have (Doncic) but he’s got a very tough road ahead of him. Dirk wasn’t done any favors in his first two years. We are going to steer away from any of those comparisons. Luka is his own guy. He’s got his own challenges.”

Coach Rick Carlisle dropped a few international names in trying to describe the versatility Dallas thinks is offered by the 6-foot-7 Doncic, who won Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP honors while helping Real Madrid win the title just days before the draft.

After offering comparisons to the late Drazen Petrovic, three-time champion Toni Kukoc and longtime San Antonio star Manu Ginobili, Carlisle stopped.

“I really feel it’s important that we shouldn’t try to compare this guy to anybody,” Carlisle said Friday during an introductory news conference that included Doncic and second-round pick Jalen Brunson, who won two NCAA titles in three years at Villanova. “Let him be himself. Let his game takes its own form.”

Doncic figures to shape the future of the Mavericks in some form with Dallas coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the second of Nowitzki’s two difficult years at the start of his career.

Those 1990s-era Mavericks had 10 straight losing seasons. Combine the drafting of Doncic with last year’s ninth overall pick in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a still-young leading scorer in Harrison Barnes, and Carlisle expects the losing to stop soon, if not this coming season.

“Last night was symbolic to me that it was kind of a defining moment in this rebuild,” said Carlisle, who had just one losing season as a coach before the current Dallas slide. “We’re going propel forward with the idea that we’ve got to start winning games.”

Just as he did last year with Smith, Carlisle is declaring Doncic a starter, which means the opening night lineup will have a teenager for the second straight year. Youth partly explains a two-year record of 57-107, including the 24-58 mark last season that landed Dallas the fifth pick before the draft-night trade with Atlanta on Thursday.

Another explanation was an unusually large number of undrafted players, including a young German in Maxi Kleber who grew up watching his countryman become the 2007 MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP.

The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since taking their only title in 2011, and have missed the postseason three of the past six seasons coming off a 12-year playoff streak. Doncic might only get one chance to get Dallas back on track with Nowitzki, the 13-time All-Star who has hinted that 40 is a nice round number as a retirement age.

If this is it for Nowitzki, Nelson sees a trio in Barnes, Smith and Doncic that reminds him of Michael Finley mentoring Nowitzki and point guard Steve Nash and helping the Mavericks end a 10-year playoff drought in 2001.

“Michael Finley was our Harrison Barnes back in the day,” Nelson said. “We feel like we’ve got that here in a different form. There’s just some really cool elements to this that take me back and remind me about what it was like 20 years ago when we were watching these young guys.”

Just don’t remind Nelson about the Nowitzki-Bird comparisons.

 

Clippers’ Milos Teodosic opts into $6.3 million for next season

Associated Press
1 Comment

It was a lot of fun to watch Milos Teodosic play last season…

When he was healthy. He only played in 45 games for the Clippers last season.

Teodosic will be back in the NBA next season, as he has told the Clippers he will opt into a $6.3 million next season, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Clippers can buy him out by July 15 for $2.1 million, and that likely will happen. The Clippers are deep at the point guard spot (Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jawun Evans) and with a lottery rookie in the fold they will want to get him run.

Expect the Clippers to try to trade him in the next three weeks. He would have value to a team looking for a backup point guard — when he did play he averaged 9.5 points per game, shot 37.9 percent from three. The fans will love his passing and play. The coach will like him too… when healthy.

Report: Suns to renounce rights to Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

Associated Press
7 Comments

The Suns want to free up some cap space heading into July. They are not going big game hunting, but with $10 million to $15 million they could bring in some solid veterans to provide leadership to their young core — and win a few games along the way.

How they get there starts with not bringing back Alex Len or Elfrid Payton, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

Expect them to renounce their rights to center Alex Len and point guard Elfrid Payton, making them both free agents. Ayton’s addition has made Len expendable, and while Phoenix still needs point-guard help, Payton’s inconsistent play last season and, more importantly, his $10 million cap hold figure, likely means he’s played his last game in a Suns uniform.

This was expected. In Len’s case, he was playing on a qualifying offer and didn’t anticipate being back with the team (especially after they drafted Deandre Ayton).

The Suns acquired Payton at the trade deadline for a second-round pick (which was just by Orlando to land Jarred Vanderbilt) and it was a good flier. The Suns need a point guard to go next to Devin Booker, Payton is a former lottery pick that had shown flashes in the past, so Phoenix rolled the dice on him. It didn’t work out, and the Suns can just move on.

Both Len and Payton probably find new homes in the NBA next season. Len is 7’1″ and can use that size to protect the paint, plus he can score around the rim. Teams can use that off the bench. Payton has shown enough in flashes, and he can get buckets, that some team will grab him, just probably as a reserve.