Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Bobcats and Knicks have the same record

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What you missed while watching West Virginia score more first half points than 15 the NBA teams playing last night (seriously)….

Bobcats 118, Knicks 110: Boris Diaw outplayed Amare Stoudemire. Gerald Henderson took it to Landry Fields at every turn. The Charlotte Bobcats outworked a Knicks team that has a lot of talent but looks rudderless on offense and still doesn’t play much defense (Charlotte shot 55 percent as a team and basically did whatever it wanted on offense).

Frankly I mocked the Baron Davis signing — and I’m still not president of his fan club  — but the Knicks need him. New York needs a point guard in the worst way. Iman Shumpert returned from injury with 18 points, but he is not the answer right now. Despite the chants of MSG faithful.

Diaw had 27 points on 15 shots and Henderson had 24 on 13 shots. When the Knicks tried to make a charge in the fourth — behind Carmelo Anthony’s 20 fourth-quarter points — it was Henderson who knocked down the key threes to keep the game out of reach for NYC. The Knicks closeouts on jump shooters are lazy and it killed them in this game. Their lack of defense in general killed them.

Just for the record, both Charlotte and New York are now 2-4.

Nuggets 110, Kings 83: No Nene and it didn’t matter for Denver as they hit 60.5 percent of their shots and had a balanced attack (Al Harrington’s 15 points led the Nuggets). Looking for a bright spot, Kings fans? That would be DeMarcus Cousins with a game-high 26 for Sacramento.

This game gave us the play of the night.

Bulls 99, Pistons, 83: Richard Hamilton was back in the lineup, back in Detroit, and he ended up being key to this game. Not really the 14 points he had (which were nice) but how he set up the offense early. The Pistons know Rip and they were not going to let him catch-and-shoot coming off picks, they overplayed him. So he had four early assists hitting the open man inside. From there, the Bulls offense flowed. Carlos Boozer led the way with 19.

Raptors 92, Cavaliers 77: Andrea Bargnani had one of those mirage games where he looks like the kind of guy you could build a franchise around, as he knocked down everything on his way to 31 points. It won’t last, we all know it, but on these nights he looks special. Also out of the ordinary, DeMar DeRozan with five threes. Cleveland was on the second game of a back-to-back and they just looked tired, shooting 29.6 percent for the game. Kyrie Irving got smacked around by the reality of the NBA — it’s hard to do this every night.

Magic 103, Wizards 85: Orlando raced out to a 12-0 lead in this one and, well, what else do you really need to know? Dwight Howard had 28 points, 20 rebounds, Ryan Anderson had 23 points and 15 rebounds. The Wizards are bad.

Celtics 89, Nets 70: Boston has an amazing ability to play down to the level of its opponents. New Jersey led at the half 35-34 in a game they were playing without Deron Williams, Kris Humphries or Brook Lopez. Paul Pierce had 11 points in the third quarter (24 for the game) and the Celtics pulled away in the final 24. Brandon Bass had 15 points, 13 rebounds.

Heat 118, Pacers 83: The 4-1 Pacers get their first test against an elite team and… ugh. Miami was up 62-39 at the half, and LeBron James already had 14 of the 33 he would get before he rolled his ankle. This was the Cleveland-era LeBron that did it all and carried his team. Chris Bosh finished the game with 22. Indiana shot just 34.8 percent for the night, and we’ll find in the coming days if that is the pattern against the elite teams or if this was just an off night.

76ers 101, Hornets 93: This game was close through three quarters, then it became the Jrue Holiday show. He had 14 in the fourth quarter to help the Sixers finish the five-game road trip they had to open the season at 3-2. Not bad, not bad at all. Evan Turner had 21 and may be finding his groove. New Orleans has got to find a way to close out games, they just seem to fold late.

Grizzlies 90, Timberwolves 86: Memphis is now 2-0 without Zach Randolph, and that is huge for a team trying to trying to stay in position to make the playoffs. They can thank Tony Allen, who had 20 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting (including four threes) to spark the offense. Kevin Love had 27 and 14, because that is what he does. Ricky Rubio also did his thing.

Spurs 101, Warriors 95: This is the kind of game the Spurs need to win with Manu Ginobili out if they intend to make the playoffs. Golden State had the lead in the fourth until a 15-2 run sparked by Tim Duncan and the bench play of T.J. Ford and Danny Green. Oh, and Monta Ellis who had 38. The Warriors had their chances, but Kwame Brown missed four late free throws.

Mavericks 98, Suns 89: Phoenix focused their defense to take the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki’s hands — he had 20 points anyway — but it was his early passing to set up teammates when the double came that was key. The Mavericks ball movement was fantastic. So was their rebounding — 18 offensive rebound was key here. Lamar Odom had his first good game as a Maverick with 15 points. Marcin Gortat had 22 for the Suns.

Clippers 117, Rockets 89: The Clippers caught the Rockets on the second game of a back-to-back, got Chauncey Billups back and all of it together was too much for Houston. The Clippers pulled away early and never looked back. Blake Griffin had 22, Chris Paul 20 and most of the fourth quarter was garbage time.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey on Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins: ‘It’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work’

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DeMarcus Cousins picking the Warriors sent shockwaves through the NBA. You know they were felt in Houston, where Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is admittedly obsessed with beating Golden State.

Morey on The Dan Patrick Show:

I was really curious. Bob is really good at his job, and he likes to take smart gambles like I do. So, I understood the move. But it’s gonna be interesting. Coach Kerr is one of the best, too. So, it’s a little scary. They’ll probably figure out how to make it work, but it’s a little bit hard on paper to figure out how to make it work. But we do that well and so do they, obviously. They’re gonna be a tough out again, obviously. They’re arguably the best team in NBA history. They’re on their path to maybe be able to make that argument.

Cousins isn’t a seamless fit with the Warriors.

They like to run, and Cousins doesn’t always sprint up court – even before his torn Achilles. Their offense is predicated on quick ball movement, and Cousins likes to survey the floor. They have more efficient scoring options in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and Cousins is used to being a focal point. They like to switch defensively, and Cousins isn’t as comfortable guarding on the perimeter.

But Cousins is so talented, and the Warriors can afford to be patient as he recovers from his injury. They’re elite already.

I also believe Golden State will slow its tempo and play more traditional defense as its core ages. Cousins might fit better with next season’s Warriors than previous iterations of the team.

So, I think Morey is spot on. Golden State general manager Bob Myers was targeting wings for a reason. The Warriors didn’t exactly need another center – especially a slow-paced, ball-dominant, offensive-minded one. But when Cousins fell into their lap, signing him was well worth the relatively low cost.

Rumor: Pelicans will try to trade for wing help, likely around deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans look like a playoff team (or at least a potential one in the deep West). They have the superstar in Anthony Davis, and he’s part of a well-fitting front line with Nikola Mirotic and Julius Randle. The Pelicans also are strong at the point guard spot with Jrue Holiday starting.

Where New Orleans need help is the wing. They had hoped Solomon Hill could be the man there, but he has not stayed healthy or panned out. E’Twaun Moore filled in for him, but was overmatched covering larger players at the three. Darius Miller can give them minutes but is not the answer. Pelicans GM Dell Demps wanted to make a move this summer, but up against the salary cap they didn’t have to room to chase quality free agents.

So look for them to try and pull off an in-season trade, reports Scott Kushner of the New Orleans Advocate.

History (and several league sources) indicates Demps is waiting for a midseason trade to strike. As teams around the league see their postseason prospects dim, and grow eager to exchange a quality player for expiring salaries or the Pelicans’ always-endangered first round pick, there’s opportunity to shore up their most glaring weakness.

It’s exactly what Demps did to acquire Cousins from Sacramento in 2017 and Mirotic a year later from Chicago. Both are impactful veterans who were added without surrendering foundational players.

Various sources and several reports said the Pelicans were active in trade talks this summer, notably with the tanking Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore. But with so few teams eager to dump quality players before opening tip, hoping to make a playoff run of their own, the cost was too steep.

Demps know the Pelicans are on the clock — Davis has this season and one more on his contract (there is a player option for a third season, but he almost certainly will opt out at that point). The Pelicans can offer him the “super max” contract at that point, and Davis has said he wants to stay and win in New Orleans, but if the team struggles and/or he gets a sense that ownership is not all-in on winning, he could choose to look around as a free agent.

Which means Demps and the Pelicans will do what it takes to win now, and a move at the trade deadline is possible. The Hawks still will listen to offers for Bazemore, and other wings will become available. It’s just something to watch as we head into the season.

 

Paul Pierce: ‘There is no loyalty to a franchise anymore … That’s the generation we live in’

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After Kevin Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors, Paul Pierce criticized players for changing teams to win.

Now, Pierce is providing an assessment of players just changing teams generally.

Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal:

To be fair, Pierce doesn’t criticize players for not being loyal to franchises. In fact, he brings up that players are exercising their power.

But it’s still hard not to infer at least some disapproval from Pierce.

Why should players be loyal to franchises, though? Top players are assigned to teams through an anti-labor draft, the least successful teams getting the highest priority of selection. Those players are kept on an artificially low wage for five years can’t unilaterally leave the team for five years. If he plays well enough, his original team has a huge financial advantage in keeping him for up to 14 years. In this system, teams exercise far more control than they earn loyalty.

Players have such short careers. They should chase whatever they want. Money, winning, role, location, even steadiness with a franchise – if they choose.

Pierce spent 15 years with the Celtics, but let’s not forget:

Pierce asked the Mavericks to trade for him in 2005 so he could play with Dirk Nowitzkion a team one star away from contending. In 2007, he reportedly told the Celtics to trade him if they didn’t add a second star. Boston, of course, traded for Ray Allen and then convinced Kevin Garnett to waive his no-trade clause. In 2013, Pierce helped engineer a trade to the Nets. He and Garnett joined Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopezin Brooklyn and Pierce said, “We’re all about winning a championship and Brooklyn, we feel, gives us the best opportunity.” After stints with the Nets and Wizards, Pierce signed with the Clippers, which he described as a super team.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss: ‘I have complete faith in Magic Johnson … I have patience’

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Shortly after she hired Magic Johnson as team president last year, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss said she’d be heartbroken if the Lakers didn’t have an All-Star in 2018, when the game was in Los Angeles. Her urgency was apparent.

Of course, the Lakers didn’t have an All-Star last season. None came close.

But then they signed LeBron James this summer, and Buss has changed her tune.

The Rich Eisen Show:

Buss:

I have complete faith in Magic Johnson in terms of his ability to be a leader, to know how to put together a winner. And I have patience. And I think what he’s done has exceeded my expectations, how quickly they’ve kind of turned around the roster.

Johnson has done a great job running the Lakers. He cleared cap space while maintaining plenty of assets and convinced LeBron to sign.

The degree of difficulty on that is… debatable. Perhaps, LeBron just decided to join the Lakers and didn’t need much convincing.

What’s next for Johnson?

Maybe Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and JaVale McGee will fit well with LeBron. Maybe Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are ready to compete deep into the playoffs.

I’m skeptical, which means Johnson’s next steps will be tricky. He has more than earned Buss’ faith, and her patience gives him even more latitude to build as he sees fit.

Still, it’s a bit odd to see a team acquire a 33-year-old superstar then shift into a more-patient approach. LeBron’s prime won’t last forever.

It’s on Johnson to maximize it.