Baseline to baseline recaps: Dallas has some issues

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What you missed while out celebrating Boxing Day….

Kings 100, Lakers 91: We covered this one already in our game of the night.

Nuggets 115, Mavericks 93: Mavericks forward Sean Williams threw up when subbed out in the fourth quarter of this game, which got a lot of laughs on the Mavs bench but pretty well summed up the Dallas performance. Ty Lawson dominated Jason Kidd and that was the spark… but the bigger issue was Dallas had no spark whatsoever for the second straight night. Denver controlled this game from the start. Not time to panic yet in Dallas, but it is time to be concerned.

Spurs 95, Grizzlies 83: This is the 11th straight season the Grizzlies have lost their opening game. Neither team looked sharp in this one, nothing like the playoff series last season, but the 24 turnovers by Memphis sealed it.

Nets 90, Wizards 84: The craziest game of the night by far. The Wizards led this 35-15 in the second quarter and were in complete control, until Johan Petro started to lead a comeback that had the Nets in the lead in the third quarter. A 21-5 Nets run in the fourth sealed it. This was a sloppy game where nobody shot well, although Kris Humphries was efficient on his way to 21 points and 16 rebounds (the Nets controlled the glass and had 19 offensive rebounds, which was key). John Wall seemed to spend the game trying to make the more difficult, spectacular pass when a simple one would have led to a good look shot.

Pacers 91, Pistons 79: Indiana had a balanced attack and three double-doubles — Roy Hibbert (16 points14 rebounds), David West (11 and 12) and Tyler Hansbrough (15 and 13). Indiana had control of this one from the start.

Magic 104, Rockets 95: If you have big man who cam match up with Dwight Howard — like the Thunder did on Christmas in Kendrick Perkins — you can slow the Magic down. Jordan Hill and Samuel Dalmbert could not do that for the Rockets, Howard had 21 efficient points and things opened up for Orlando. Hedo Turkoglu had 23 points on just 14 shots and it was bombs away for J.J. Redick with 20.

Bobcats 96, Bucks 95: Kemba Walker has gotten his Rookie of the Year bid off to a fast start, hitting two late free throws to win this game. Walker finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Brandon Jennings had 22 for the Bucks but their offense let them down again (just like last season). Charlotte won this with a dominant third quarter (30-14) where they dominated the glass. Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin sprained his ankle and is listed as day-to-day.

Raptors 104, Cavaliers 96: Not a great game if you enjoy defense, but Toronto brought more balance with seven players scoring in double digits. The Raptors went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter and never gave the lead back.

Trail Blazers 107, Sixers 103: Portland went small in the second half and the 76ers could not make them pay for it. Portland grabbed the lead in the first quarter and despite runs by Philly never gave it back behind 25 from LaMarcus Aldridge and 21 from Gerald Wallace. People who sleep on how good the Sixers are will regret it.

Thunder 104, Timberwolves 100: Young legs will be key for the Thunder this season. Up-tempo game (100 possessions) on the second night of a back-to-back but Oklahoma City gets the win. Kevin Durant had 33, Russell Westbrook 28 for OKC. Michael Beasley led the Wolves with 24 but needed 27 shots to do it. He is a black hole. One key — the Thunder got to the free throw line 31 times and made 29; the Wolves got there 26 times and made just 19.

And by the way, Ricky Rubio looked really good in limited run. More on that later.

Hornets 85, Suns 84: Newly acquired Eric Gordon got the call with the game on the line, squared up Jared Dudley and drained the 20 footer for the win with 4.2 seconds on the clock. The Hornets were able to keep the tempo of the game in check, which was key. Gordon had 20 for Charlotte, Robin Lopez led the Suns with 21. Steve Nash had 14 points and 12 dimes.

Warriors 99, Bulls 91: Stephen Curry can be so, so good — he had 21 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, outplaying Derrick Rose. But the scary part comes with his fragility — he had to leave the game after aggravating his ankle injury. This was really a win for the Warriors bench — the game was 16-16 in the first when subs started coming in and Golden State went on a 30-11 run and made that lead stand up against a Bulls team on a back-to-back. Chicago’s 20 turnovers helped that cause. Monta Ellis had 26 and David Lee 22 in the win. Luol Deng led the Bulls with 22.

Pacers’ Myles Turner fined $15,000 for flipping bird at Sixers fans

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Myles Turner had to know this was coming.

Frustrated after fouling Joel Embiid under the basket and being taken out of the game, the Pacers’ big man flipped off some Sixers fans as he walked to the bench.

Saturday the league announced Turner was fined $15,000 for “making an inappropriate gesture toward the spectator stands.” The league, understandably, is not a fan of its players flipping off fans.

That fine is pretty much the going rate for these kinds of incidences.

Embiid went on to score 40 Friday night in a dominant performance, but the Pacers won the game 113-101.

Why are Lakers saving their young core? Reportedly to chase Anthony Davis.

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Anthony Davis is the target at the top of the Lakers’ wish list.

He’s also at the top of the wish list for the Boston Celtics and about 27 other teams, too. But if Davis is put on the trade block — something that is not likely until this summer, New Orleans is working to keep him — the Lakers and Celtics will be at the front of the line.

Which is why, when reports that the Lakers would not include any of their young core in a trade for Trevor Ariza came out, it fit with the Lakers’ long-term thinking. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN discussed this on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“Here’s the line [the Lakers] have to walk: they’re not going to give away picks and their top young players in some deal that makes them incrementally better this season because they have to save all those assets for Anthony Davis, a big trade this summer either pre or post free agency…

“The absolute dream scenario, people talk about (how) they can trade for Anthony Davis or sign a free agent. The dream scenario is they do both.”

The dream is to sign Kawhi Leonard or Kevin Durant and get Davis, and while that dream may be a long shot the only chance they have is if they still have their core players to throw in a package.

The larger point also is valid — the Lakers are not going to beat the Warriors come the playoffs this season (assuming the Warriors are healthy) and L.A. should keep its powder dry for bigger battles. And Davis will be the biggest of battles.

New Orleans wants to keep Davis, they are actively trying to be buyers at the trade deadline, not sellers. Sources have told me the Pelicans’ plan is to win as much as possible this season and show Davis they are serious, then come July 1 offer Davis a designated veteran contract extension worth $230 million (or a little more, depending upon the cap). It’s roughly $40 million more than any other team can offer guaranteed. If Davis and his agent Rich Paul — the same agent as LeBron James — turn down that contract then the Pelicans will be forced to consider a trade.

If we get to that point, then all bets are off and the Lakers are all in. Until then, the Lakers are wise just to be patient.

Despite fast start in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard reportedly still eyeing return to Los Angeles

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The Toronto Raptors are making their case to Kawhi Leonard this season — Toronto is 23-8, in first place in the East by 2.5 games, and look like a real threat to make the NBA Finals. Leonard, averaging 26.2 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, is a guy who has returned to the MVP conversation.

Still, the Raptors don’t know if he’s staying, or what he’s thinking, because Leonard doesn’t talk about it in a meaningful way.

“It’s been good so far,” Leonard told NBC Sports of the fit in Toronto. “Like I said, we’ve been winning, everyone’s playing well. Can’t complain.”

Nothing he’s done has slowed the speculation and buzz about what Leonard will do as a free agent next summer… which Leonard is working to ignore.

“I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me,” Leonard said before the Raptors faced the Clippers last week. “At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.”

A lot of the speculation around the league has remained that Leonard is headed back to Los Angeles next summer, most likely with the Clippers. Here is what Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said on a special trade season preview broadcast Saturday morning (transcription via Real GM).

“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this,” said Adrian Wojnarowski. “Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”

“Just wear a jacket,” Leonard said about the weather. “We’re in a building. We’re not outside playing in the snow. And it’s good scenery.”

Clippers president Lawrence Frank and other Clippers executives have been a fixture at Raptors games this season, doing their part to recruit him early. They are going to make a strong play for him. So will the Lakers, although I have heard from multiple sources he’s not likely to play with LeBron and in that spotlight.

Nobody knows what Leonard will do next summer, or even what he’s thinking. Leonard doesn’t speak much, and when he does it’s in cautious cliches providing little if any insight. As long as that is the case, the speculation will continue.

Why didn’t Lakers trade for Trevor Ariza? Suns owner reportedly blocked it.

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There were eight teams (that we know of) having some level of contact with Phoenix about getting in on a Trevor Ariza trade. The Lakers were one and — as with all things Lakers — were the most talked about.

But the Lakers were never going to pull off that trade because the Suns’ owner, Robert Sarver, didn’t want it to happen, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic.

Sarver — a very hands-on owner when it comes to basketball decisions — is probably still stung by buying out Tyson Chandler and watching him go to the Lakers and dramatically helping their defense (the Lakers are allowing less than a point per possession when Chandler is on the court). And certainly spiting the Lakers will play well with the Suns’ fan base.

However, the best franchises put aside petty thinking and do what’s best for them. If the Lakers had made the best offer (and we don’t know if it was) then take it. If it makes the Lakers better this season, or even the next few seasons, so what? If you’re the Suns, you’re in a rebuilding process and should be focused on the long term.

That said, the Laker trade was always going to be complicated and hard to pull off, LeBron James wasn’t going to be able to call up Suns GM James Jones and make this one happen. The Lakers wanted to land Ariza but also wanted to send out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and KCP doesn’t fit with what the Suns wanted (a point guard and young players or draft assets). That means a third team was going to have to get involved, maybe Philadelphia, and possibly even a fourth. The Lakers were not going to trade any of their four core young players, making this trade even harder.

What the Suns got in the trade with Washington was what they wanted: A point guard (Austin Rivers, who is not all that good, as evidenced by his 7.1 PER this season, but is better than anyone the Suns have) and a young wing in Kelly Oubre who fits on the timeline of Devin Booker and the other young Suns. Phoenix did reasonably well in this trade.

Could they have done better? Doesn’t matter, if the owner is shooting down an idea then it’s dead. That’s his prerogative.