Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Spurs remain kings of end game execution

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Carmelo Anthony’s debut as a Knick was our game of the night.

Spurs 109, Thunder 105: Fantastic effort by the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, but it’s the little things in these games. Like Gary Neal stepping back to take a three in transition that was a bad decision but he knocked it down. Or Jeff Green shooting (and airballing) a contested three with 5 seconds left in the game and the chance to tie when the play wasn’t designed for him. The Spurs still are executing better in the clutch than anyone in the West.

Sixers 117, Wizards 94: Philly outscored Washington by 31 in the second and third quarters combined. It was a balanced Sixers attack with seven guys in double figures and nobody scoring more than 20 (Jrue Holiday). Rashard Lewis was terrible, he missed both of the shots he took and had 1 point in 12 minutes.

Pacers 102, Pistons 101: Fun finish to this one. Austin Daye put the Pistons up one with 11 seconds to go when he drove left and hit a 15-footer along the baseline over Danny Granger. Then Granger countered trying to work the right side but finding nothing. Brandon Rush had set up at the three point line on the weak side as an outlet but he dove to the basket, his man lost him but Granger found him and Rush had a dunk to give the Pacers the lead with five seconds left. That was enough time for Rodney Stuckey to get the ball out top, drive hard right, get into the lane, pull up and… try to pass. There were Pistons under the basket but they had turned their back to get the rebound because you shoot in that situation. Stuckey didn’t, he tried to pass. Ball out of bounds, Pacers win.

Rockets 124, Cavaliers 119: Down the stretch of a close game the athleticism inside of Chase Budinger was too much for Cleveland. Budinger dropped 30 and had key buckets late. It’s just one of the challenges for the Cavs, they do not have the athletes to hang with guys like Budinger

Raptors 118, Bulls 113: The Bulls had an off defensive night as a team. Toronto has some guys who can score the rock — they shot 58 percent as a team and DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani each had 24 — but the Bulls defense was bad. On a key late possession where the Bulls needed a stop the Raptors went right at Carlos Boozer with Amir Johnson and Johnson abused him to seal the game (Johnson was 8-of-8 on the night). When the games get serious in the playoffs you’re going to see teams go at him.

Kings 111, Magic 105: The Sacramento Kings out executed the Magic down the stretch. That is the same Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back that got thumped by the Heat Tuesday. The Kings shot 11-of-17 in the fourth quarter and were often getting open looks. They got some bounces, they got some calls, but those things often go to the aggressor. The Magic in the fourth quarter shot 4-of-16 at one point. There are some issues in Orlando. Potentially big issues.

Grizzlies 104, Timberwolves 95: The Grizzlies defense held the Timberwolves to 37 percent shooting on the night and that was the ball game. This one was just not a thing of beauty to watch.

Mavericks 118, Jazz 95: With everything that happened in Utah Wednesday, how did you expect this to turn out?

Suns 105, Hawks 97: A shorthanded Hawks team after the trade got to see first hand how a good point guard can control the game. No, we’re not talking Jeff Teague, either.

Hornets 97, Clipper 88: The Clippers had 23 turnovers, which was 22.8 percent of their possessions. You cannot give Chris Paul extra chances like that, you will pay. CP3 had 19 points, 10 assists.

Lakers 106, Trail Blazers 101 (OT): This is a good win for the Lakers — the Rose Garden is this team’s house of horrors for the. And Portland was up by 8 with four minutes to go. Ron Artest was key for the Lakers with 24 points and he had maybe is best game of the season… actually, no maybe about it. Kobe Bryant took over in overtime. Of course he did.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?

Spurs GM still optimistic relationship with Kawhi Leonard can be salvaged

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs.

He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged.

Leonard has requested a trade from San Antonio because he is unhappy after missing most of last season with a right quadriceps injury. Buford would not comment on “speculation” of a trade demand, but agreed there is a fractured relationship between Leonard and the only franchise he has played for.

“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to the organization and to the community and while none of wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him,” Buford said Thursday night as the Spurs made two late picks in the NBA Draft. “We’ll explore all of our options, but the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season but returned to play in nine games. He complained of discomfort and pain in the leg in his final game. Leonard sought an outside opinion after the Spurs cleared him to play, working with his own medical team in New York in an attempt to return to the court. The 6-foot-7 forward reportedly grew upset that the Spurs had questioned his rehabilitation process.

The Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year citing “injury management.” While San Antonio was in the playoffs, losing in the first round to eventual repeat champion Golden State, Leonard was rehabbing in New York – which meant that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked for the situation, deferred all comment to “Kawhi and his group.”

“I think all of us would wish that things would have gone differently,” Buford said.

The Spurs held a team meeting late in the season where veterans, led by Tony Parker, implored Leonard to return. Leonard said he was unable to due to the injury.

In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA defensive player of the year is due just over $20 million next season, and can become a free agent in the summer of 2019. He is eligible to sign a $220 million extension with San Antonio.

He is reportedly willing to walk away from that to play elsewhere, possibly in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this from today … he’s under contract for another year, our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time,” Buford said.