Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Heat were setting records (but not playing defense)

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What you missed while watching the last days of Spring Training…

The Spurs falling to the Grizzlies (and picking up another injury in the process) plus the Mavericks knocking off (and out?) the Suns are our games of the night.

Heat 125, Rockets 119: We got to see a little bit of history from Miami’s big three — LeBron James had 33 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Bosh had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Dwyane Wade had 30 points and 11 rebounds. According to ESPN, the last team to have three players with 30 and 10 was the Portland Trail Blazers in 1987 with saw Arvydas Sabonis, Isaiah “J.R.” Rider and Brian Grant — and it took them four overtimes. The last time any team did it in regulation was 1961 with the Cincinnati Royals and the trio of Oscar Robertson, Wayne Embry and Jack Twyman.

What the Heat did not do was play much defense — this game was 38-37 Heat after one quarter. Neither side could stop the other. Miami went on to give up 120 points per 100 possessions. That will cost you most games but they got away with it in this one.

Kings 114, Sixers 111 (OT): Don’t look now, but the Kings went 4-1 on their recent road trip. Marcus Thornton led the win getting 29 of his 32 after half time. I’m sure Thornton’s performance will be what Kings fans are talking about tomorrow.

Hawks 99, Cavaliers 83: Atlanta had the lead because the Cavs had no answer for Al Horford, who finished with 20 and had 10 of them in the first quarter. Marvin Williams stepped up with 13 in the final quarter seal it for Atlanta.

Celtics 85, Timberwolves 82: Well, this was a win for Boston. It was ugly, it doesn’t really quell any concerns about the team, but it is a win and keeps them half a game ahead (and one ahead in the loss column) of Miami in the race for the two seed in the East. Rondo was out injured but Boston still was up 19 in the first quarter and 25 in the second on a lowly Wolves team without Kevin Love. But a series of runs — with Darko Milicic leading the charge at times — made this a game again in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce had a dozen in the fourth or this might have been an ugly loss in Boston.

Thunder 99, Trail Blazers 90: Gerald Wallace was a beast for the Blazers and put up 40, but his teammates were not as consistent as the Thunder players in this one. Kind of a veteran win for the Thunder as they withstood the Blazers runs and then took over in the second half of the fourth quarter.

Warriors 114, Wizards 104: The Wizards lost on the road. Stunning. The only bright spot for the Wizards was JaVale McGee had a career high 28. Monta Ellis was the best player on the floor and finished with 37 points and 13 assists. There was also a David Lee sighting as he dropped 33

Lakers 102, Hornets 84: No David West and Carl Landry led the Hornets with 13 first half points and 24 for the game. But he is no David West, and even if he was the Hornets were outmatched from the start here. Kobe Bryant had 19 and Pau Gasol had 15 in the first half and the Lakers were up by as many as 18 before the break and cruised on in for their seventh win in a row.

With the undersized Landry and Emeka Okafor, the Hornets are going to struggle to stop any team with real length in the West in the playoffs

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.