Baseline to Baseline recaps: Mikhail Prokhorov seems to know what the Nets needed

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What you missed while watching the longest shot you will see this year….

Nets 93, Grizzlies 88: The Nets won because of their tremendous bench play? Yes. The Nets bench outscored the Grizzlies bench 56-12 and it was guys like Kris Humphries off the bench that sparked a rally from 13 down in the third quarter to get the Nets the win. New Jersey is now 4-1 since Mikhail Prokhorov called off the Carmelo Anthony trade talks.

Magic 111, Pacers 96: Roy Hibbert had a great first month of the season and has fallen apart since. Dwight Howard is a rough guy to get right against. Hibbert had 4 points, 2 boards, and was -22 in less than 15 minutes. Howard had 19 points and was a +20.

Sixers 107, Raptors 94: Marreese Speights was a beast with 17 second quarter points to keep the Sixers in it early, then they pulled away in the third quarter behind strong play from Andre Iguodala. The Sixers dominated the glass against the soft interior of the Raptors and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds — meaning the Sixers go a second chance on 41.5 percent of their missed shots.

Nuggets 109, Pistons 100: You would think if one franchise had the institutional memory to know you don’t leave Chauncey Billups open late in a tight game it would be Detroit. How many games did he win for the Pistons that way? He cost them one in this one.

Billups hit four three pointers in the final three minutes and that sealed the Nuggets wins. Will Bynum took over late for the Pistons and had 17 fourth quarter points, but he was trading twos for threes with Billups late and that didn’t cut it.

Spurs 112, Jazz 105: The Jazz just get no defensive presence in the paint from their big men and that is hurting them badly lately. Tony Parker was getting into the lane early (10 first quarter points) and throughout the game other Spurs got shots inside without much resistance.

I still say Chris Paul is the best point guard in the game. Charles Barkley thinks it’s Derrick Rose. But if you want to make a case for Deron Williams, I listen and nod a lot. I hate to argue against him.

Thunder 118, Timberwolves 117 (OT): Let us marvel at Kevin Durant, he of the 47 points and taking over late. He of the beautiful step-back shot that was the game winner. He of the 18 rebounds. He deserves our awe.

The Wolves had their chances. Corey Brewer missed a tying free throw in overtime but it was tipped out top and Luke Ridnour ended up with the ball and five seconds left  — and he acted like there was 0.5 left. Rather than settle down enough to get a good shot he rushed it, Russell Westbrook contested and made him double clutch and he missed badly. The Wolves had other chances. But in the end it was too much Durant.

Bucks 98, Hawks 90: The Bucks owned the fourth quarter. Haven’t typed a sentence like that in a while. But there you go, they won the quarter 34-15 and the game with it. It was the Bucks bench that did it — Earl Boykins was creating shots for everyone and had 9 fourth quarter points, as did Carlos Delfino. Former D-Leaguer Garrett Temple added six in the fourth quarter and played well. When things got tight what did the Hawks do? Stop moving the ball and rely on a lot of Josh Smith jumpers. You can guess how that went.

Rockets 96, Clippers 83: Chuck Hayes did as good a defensive job on Blake Griffin as anyone has all season long. Hayes is strong enough to take away the muscle moves of Griffin where he just overpowers players and that turned Griffins’ usual 3 footers into 7 footers, and the result was a lot of misses. A lot of teams have tried to be physical with Griffin but it usually just leads to a lot of fouls. Hayes matched him and it was the key to the win.

Bobcats 114, Suns 107: This was a two point game with four minutes to go, and then Boris Diaw made a couple plays. He hit the 18-foot jumper, he drove the lane and created the open look for Gerald Henderson (who had a couple nice shots late). Meanwhile Channing Frye made a couple bad fouls late (and they were both fouls, sorry Frye). Suddenly the Bobcats were in total control late.

D.J. Augustin is like a new player under Paul Silas, and it changes who the Bobcats are. In a good way.

Hornets 112, Warriors 103: Chris Paul had 17 dimes and his setting people up is part of the reason New Orleans shot 62.2 percent. Teams don’t really lose when they shoot 62.2 percent.

Brad Stevens confirms Joe Mazzulla will return as Celtics coach

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Despite the sting of losing to the No. 8 seed Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, don’t expect sweeping changes in Boston. Not to the Celtics’ coaching staff and not to the roster.

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Steven made that clear in his end-of-season press conference. It starts with bringing back Joe Mazzulla, which was expected after he was given a multi-year contract extension during the season. Stevens was asked if Mazzulla was the right person to lead the Celtics after an uneven season (hat tip NBC Sports Boston).

“Yeah, I think he is,” Stevens said. “I thought he did a really good job with this group. Everybody’s going to overreact to the best players and coaches after every game. That’s always the way it is. We know that going in, so we have to be able to judge things on the whole.

“He’s a terrific leader, he’ll only get better at anything that he can learn from this year, because he’s constantly trying to learn. And he’s accountable. Those leadership qualities are hard to find. I know they’re easy to talk about, but when you can show all those through the expectations and the microscope that he was under, that’s hard to do. Our players, our staff, everybody around him believe(s) in him, and we’ve got to do our best to support him going forward.”

The expectation is that veteran coaches — ideally at least one person with NBA head coaching experience — will be added to Mazzulla’s staff to help with the maturation process of the young coach. But he will be back.

Stevens also was asked about Jaylen Brown, who is eligible for a supermax extension of around $295 million over five years (his making All-NBA made him eligible for 35% of the salary cap). Stevens was limited in what he could say due to (archaic) tampering rules.

“I’ve had nothing but great conversations with Jaylen, but we can’t talk about all that stuff,” Stevens said. “I’m not allowed to talk about the contract details, let alone the extension because it’s not of that time yet right now. His window is between July 1 and October or whatever it is.

“But I can say without a doubt that we want Jaylen to be here. He’s a big part of us. We believe in him. I’m thankful for him. I’m really thankful for when those guys (Jayson Tatum and Brown) have success, they come back to work. And when they get beat, they own it and come back to work. I know that’s what they’re about, and that’s hard to find. Kinda like what I talked about with leadership earlier. Those qualities aren’t for everyone. Jaylen had a great year, All-NBA year and he’s a big part of us moving forward in our eyes.”

Despite Brown’s struggles against the Heat, it’s a no-brainer for the Celtics to retain the 26-year-old All-NBA player entering his prime. They should offer him the full supermax, and his public comments made it sound like that’s what he expects. Mess around in negotiations and try to get Brown to take less than the full max and then the threat of Brown leaving becomes more real. Only one player has ever rejected a supermax extension: Kawhi Leonard when he was trying to force a trade. (If Boston puts the full 35% max on the table and Brown rejects it, then the game changes and they have to trade him this summer, but don’t bet on him walking away from more than a quarter of a billion dollars).

There will be changes on the Celtics roster, but expect Brown and Mazzulla to return.

Purdue’s Zach Edey headlines list of players to withdraw from NBA Draft

Fairleigh Dickinson v Purdue
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The winner of the 2023 John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith College Player of the Year Award is headed back for another year in the college ranks. And it’s the right move.

Zach Edey headlines the list of 181 players who withdrew their names from the NBA Draft, and he is headed back to Purdue for another season. He confirmed it on Twitter in his own way.

Edey averaged 22.3 points a game on 60.7% shooting and 12.9 rebounds a game last season for the Boilermakers, and his measurements at the NBA Draft Combine were hard to ignore — 7-3¼ barefoot, with a 7-10½ wingspan. However, his lack of elite athleticism, questions about his ability to defend in space, and an old-school, near-the-basket game are not natural fits with where the NBA is trending. He was expected to get picked in the back half of the second round (meaning no guaranteed contract), if at all.

With that, he made the right decision to return to college. If the Toronto native can arrange a new student visa that allows him to better capitalize on NIL money, a return to Purdue is likely the right financial decision as well.

Here are some of the biggest names among the 181 who withdrew from the NBA Draft (via Jonathan Givony of ESPN), with all projected to go after No. 40 or later:

Trey Alexander (Creighton)
Reece Beekman (Virginia)
Adem Bona (UCLA)
Jalen Bridges (Baylor)
Tristan da Silva (Colorado)
Zach Edey (Purdue)
Coleman Hawkins (Illinois)
DaRon Holmes (Dayton)
Josiah-Jordan James (Tennessee)
Dillon Jones (Weber State)
Judah Mintz (Syracuse)
Dillon Mitchell (Texas)
Terrence Shannon (Illinois)

The NBA Draft takes place on June 22.

Lakers rumored to prefer sign-and-trade options for D’Angelo Russell, eye Fred VanVleet

2023 Play-In Tournament - Chicago Bulls v Toronto Raptors
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D'Angelo Russell helped the Lakers turn their season around after the All-Star break. He provided needed shot creation at the point, averaged 17.4 points per game while shooting 41.4% from 3, and generally fit nicely on the court. However, his limitations — particularly on the defensive end — were exposed in the playoffs, especially by the Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

Russell is an unrestricted free agent and the Lakers are faced with choices: Re-sign him, let him walk, or maybe find a sign-and-trade that can bring back a player who is a better fit for a Lakers roster with championship aspirations next season. The Lakers would ideally like the sign-and-trade option, suggests Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

My read on the situation is that the Lakers would prefer to use D’Angelo Russell in a sign-and-trade, but I’m not sure the market is there.

Landing Kyrie Irving for Russell is shaping up to be a pipe dream, especially with Dallas unlikely to help Los Angeles out. Fred VanVleet, a Klutch client, looms as a possibility, but adding him would require Toronto to agree to terms with Russell (or take on the Beasley and Bamba contracts).

Forget about a Kyrie Irving sign-and-trade with the Lakers for Russell, that appears off the table (unless the Lakers add so many sweeteners Dallas can’t say no… and didn’t the Lakers just gut their roster for a guard in Russell Westbrook?)

Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times adds this.

Fred VanVleet’s name has been mentioned since even before he joined Klutch Sports, though the Lakers could again be in a position where they’d be forced to part with one or more draft picks in a deal. Russell’s postseason struggles were probably a little overblown after a disastrous Western Conference finals, but expect the Lakers to look at upgrade options. There’s still a chance Russell returns on a good deal and the Lakers actually get the continuity they’ve spoken about building.

VanVleet has a $22.8 million player option he is widely expected to opt out of seeking more money and years. He averaged 19.3 points and 7.2 assists a game last season, is a respectable defender, and is a former All-Star and NBA champion.

The questions start with, what are Toronto’s plans? They have yet to hire a new head coach after firing Nick Nurse, and there isn’t a sense of whether they will try to re-sign VanVleet, extend Pascal Siakam and run it back, break the entire thing up, or travel a middle ground reworking the roster. Dreams of a sign-and-trade only work if the Raptors play along. And, if the Raptors come around to consider a sign-and-trade for VanVleet, do they want Russell in that deal? Plus, the Lakers likely have to throw in the last first-round pick they can trade to get Toronto even to consider it.

All of which is to say, it’s a long shot VanVleet is a Laker. Not impossible, but not likely.

The smart money is on the Lakers re-signing Russell and considering trade options at next February’s deadline or next summer, if they feel it’s time to move on.

Celtics’ Payton Pritchard reportedly wants a trade this summer

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat
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Payton Pritchard saw his role as a reserve guard with the Celtics shrink this season, which may have had less to do with the changeover to Joe Mazzulla as coach and more to do with the addition of Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.

Either way, Pritchard doesn’t like it and wants to be traded this offseason, reports Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic (in a must-read breakdown of the Celtics’ season and where they ultimately fell short.

With the new onerous CBA rules looming after next season, the front office will likely have to decide in the next 12 months whether it can afford its expensive veteran depth. Payton Pritchard has made it clear he hopes to be traded this summer, according to multiple team sources, so will the Celtics move him if they trade one of their core guards?

Pritchard may not get his wish for the financial reasons mentioned by King and Weiss — Boston has some hard decisions to make coming up. For next season, the Celtics are already $4 million into the luxury tax with 12 people on the roster, and that is without re-signing Grant Williams (if they can) or thinking about the super-max contract Jaylen Brown is about to sign that will kick in for the 2024-25 season. With the draconian threat of the second “lead” tax apron looming in a year, the Celtics must trim salary. One way to do that this summer is to trade one of Marcus Smart, Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon, which is what is widely expected to happen around the league.

With one of those three gone, minutes open up for Pritchard, who has a team option for $4 million next season. That’s a great value contract the Celtics likely want to keep.

Meaning Pritchard may not get his wish to be sent out of Boston, but if he ends up staying, he should see more run next season.