Baseline to Baseline recaps: Melo? We don’t need no stinkin’ ‘Melo?

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What you missed while you were getting arrested fighting over Girl Scout cookies

The Lakers beatdown of the Hawks was our game of the night.

Nuggets 120, Grizzlies 107: That, my friends, is what passion can do.

The Melodrama had this team playing like the walking dead for a month. There was no passion — except from Carmelo Anthony trying to fill up the stat sheet — as this team just meandered through games.

‘Melo is gone and the Nugget team that took the floor cared again (all nine of them). They showed real pride again. The rebounding, the screen setting — all the hustle categories Denver dominated. My god, they defended, holding the Grizzlies to 35 percent shooting in the second quarter when the Nuggets pulled away. J.R. Smith was 6-of-11 from three and finished with 26 points and 8 boards, Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo each had 21 points. Nene was a beast inside (until he fouled out).

Memphis had been playing well but they played the wrong team on the wrong night. Denver needed this one and they went out and got it. On one other note, the Grizzlies seemed to be showcasing O.J. Mayo for potential suitors, and he looked pretty good scoring 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

Bobcats 114, Raptors 101: The All-Star break did not change the Raptors —were not playing any defense, giving up 33 points in the first quarter. The Bobcats got to the line 42 times and Toronto helped out with 15 turnovers. Charlotte (not exactly an offensive juggernaut) finished at a 120 points per 100 possessions pace.

Pacers 113, Wizards 96: Indiana’s bench won this one for them — the Pacers were down five and playing sloppy (six first quarter turnovers) when coach Frank Vogel put in five new guys for the second quarter and that sparked an instant 10-1 run and things just took off from there. The Pacers led by 27 at one point and cruised through the fourth quarter.

Rockets 108, Pistons 100: This was a one-point game with four minutes to go, but the Pistons had no answer for Patrick Patterson inside. You read that right, Patrick Patterson. He had 8 points in the final five minutes (20 points overall) by running the floor as a big in transition and cutting without the ball. Then the Pistons do things in crunch time like leave Brad Miller wide open from 16 feet (the one thing Brad Miller has always done well is knock that shot down). Meanwhile the Pistons could not execute — bad decisions by Rodney Stuckey and Ben Gordon, plus misses by Austin Daye.

Heat 117, Kings 97: Miami came out with a bit of fire, Sacramento came out without Tyreke Evans. It was 35-16 after one quarter. Then it got more boring. Credit the Heat for being efficient, but we stopped watching the slaughter early on.

Thunder 111, Clippers 88: It was 47-44 Thunder with four minutes left in the second quarter when Blake Griffin had to go to the bench with his third foul. He was replaced by Brian Cook, and that is never good. The Thunder went on an instant 15-0 run and it was 62-46 at half. That was the ballgame, the Clippers never climbed out of that hole.

Bucks, 94 Timberwolves 88: There was some sloppy execution down the stretch of a tight game. Brandon Jennings pushed on a break when there was nothing there and got blocked. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute ended up with the ball where he had to create off the dribble (that was a turnover). Darko Milicic with a missed 5 footer. Carlos Delfino airballing a corner three. Luke Ridnour taking a contested corner three with Andrew Bogut doing the closout.

Brandon Jennings got to the line and hit 5-of-6 free throws in the final two minutes, and those were the only points by either team. Bucks win. But it wasn’t pretty.

Celtics 115, Warriors 93: Oracle Arena is Boston’s own little house of horrors, they had not won there since 2003. The Celtics played no defense in the first half, giving up 30 points each of the first two quarters. They gave up 33 the entire second half. When the Warriors made a fourth quarter run to try and get back in it Doc Rivers sent the starters back in and squashed it with an 18-2 run. This was actually a good win for Boston. Rondo had 19 points, 15 boards and was in charge of this game.

Watch Jamal Murray, Kawhi Leonard score first buckets in returns

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It’s only preseason. But if you’ve sat out an entire season with an ACL injury,  just getting on the court feels like a milestone.

And getting your first bucket back feels memorable.

That happened for the Nuggets Jamal Murray and the Clippers Kawhi Leonard on Monday night.

For Murray, the bucket came on a corner 3 in transition.

Murray also showed flashes he’s getting his handle and wiggle back, something that made him a great fit with Nikola Jokic.

Leonard wasted no time, scoring the Clippers’ first bucket by lulling his defender to sleep and then shooting the pull-up 3.

I feel we’re going to see a lot more of that this season.

The NBA is just better with these two back on the court.

 

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Nick Falzerano/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.