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.

Chris Paul says players don’t really talk about money in locker room

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Locker room banter flies all over the conversational map: Clubs/restaurants to first cars to rappers to Fortnite to why Player X never has any lotion and always has to borrow someone else’s.

What doesn’t come up? Money.

That according to Chris Paul, who should know after 14 years in the league and now serving as the players’ union president. He was talking about his campaign to help players become more financially aware and said this to Clevis Murray of The Athletic.

“I think the reason why I’m so passionate about this is because I’m finishing up my 14th year in the NBA, and I’ve been around long enough to realize that guys in our league, we talk about everything in the locker room except for finance, except for money,” he said. “Nobody talks about money, because it’s one of those uncomfortable things.”

It’s a strange dynamic in an NBA locker room because everybody knows what everybody else makes, it’s very public, and that provides a certain measuring stick of worth.

Yet how does one player tell another “man, your entourage is too big, you’re blowing your money.” Players finally making money understandably want to take care of family and close friends, but other people come into their life and things can spiral fast. CP3 says he gets it, and he is working with Joe Smith — who made $60 million in NBA earnings and lost all of it — to help prepare rookies.

The stories of NBA players blowing through their money absolutely happen, but they also are not the majority, and the numbers are shrinking. More and more players are learning to be smarter with their money and set themselves up on some level for life after basketball. Not all, but guys who stick in the league a few years tend to learn. If Paul and the union can come up with ways to reach players at an earlier age and prepare them for what is to come, all the better.

Bobby Portis says watch out for underrated Knicks, they could make playoffs

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You don’t want a player on your team that heads into the season thinking, “we suck, I just hope we can get to 20 wins and not be embarrassed every night.” Even if that might be the reality for that roster.

Enter Bobby Portis of the New York Knicks. The Wizards let him walk to save money and he has ended up on a Knicks team with a lot of guys who see themselves as underrated: Elfrid Payton, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. Plus New York has young players with a lot to prove — especially after Summer League — in Kevin Knox, R.J. Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson.

Portis likes this underdog team, he told Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

I love being underrated, man. I’m an underdog. I say that every day. We’re the team that’s being counted out right now. People are looking past us. They’re talking about stars going to new teams and this and that, and that’s okay. Everybody on this team has a huge chip on their shoulder. We’re the guys who are always picked second. I think that’s going to make us close. Our practices are going to be top-notch; we’re all going to be competing and that’s going to make us better. We have a lot of dogs on this team, which will help us out as well. Collectively, we all have a chip on our shoulder – a log on our shoulder – so we’re going to go out there and play with an edge. I think that’s great for us.

So… playoffs?

Yeah, for sure, for sure. The naysayers, the haters, the people who are doubting us will say that we’re crazy as hell for saying that. But we have a bunch of guys who are coming in each and every day with that log on their shoulder and that’s going to push us to become a great team. We have a lot of pieces who can play. I think we’re loaded at every position; there are two-to-three players who could start at every position. When you have that much talent, that rises the competitiveness and improves the team as a whole.

That is exactly the attitude you want to see heading into the season.

The Knicks are going to struggle this year, talent wins out in the NBA and the Knicks don’t have enough of it. However, if the goal is to build a culture of gritty players who go play all out and are tough to play against — the cultures the Nets and Clippers developed that drew stars to them — the Knicks are on a decent road. New York didn’t pull a classic Knicks this year and overspend on a couple of second-tier stars when they struck out on the big guns, they went out and got decent players on short contracts. Stay flexible, build a culture.

We’ll see if Portis will be part of that going forward, but he has the right attitude.

Report: Lakers claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 24-year-old MVP playing in Milwaukee and heading toward a super-max decision that could have him hit 2021 unrestricted free agency.

Big-market teams are licking their chops.

That probably has something to do with the Lakers adding his brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kostas Antetokounmpo was the last pick in last year’s draft. He spent the season on a two-way contract with the Mavericks, who just waived him. He’ll remain on a two-way deal with the Lakers. The 21-year-old was alright in the NBA’s minor league, but he’s not a tantalizing prospect.

Except for his connection to Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. But maybe he’d change his mind if someone close to him has a positive experience there. That must be the Lakers’ hope, at least.

It’s worth a shot, and the Lakers aren’t the only team trying this angle. The Bucks also signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo this summer.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.