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.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.