Baseline to Baseline recaps: Kobe drops another 40

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What you missed while you tried to shame your kid into behaving….

Clippers 95, Heat 89: The game where the rims were afraid was our game of the night.

Lakers 90, Jazz 87 (OT): The Lakers might not have gotten to the overtime without Kobe Bryant dropping 40 points — but when Kobe went cold late it was Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who bailed him and the Lakers out.

Through three quarters Kobe had 29 points on 18 shots, like the night before he was shooting a lot but was efficient doing it and carrying a Laker offense where nobody else had scored in double digits. But on the second night of a back-to-back with a sore wrist he seemed to wear down and with that came bad shots late. He was 2-of-7 in the fourth quarter, including an off-balance pull-up jumper at the end of regulation that airballed. He was 1-of-5 in overtime.

The Lakers are not just the Kobe show (even though it doesn’t seem like it at times). They have skilled bigs. Gasol knocked down a key corner three in overtime. Then when Kobe missed a game-winning shot late in overtime it was Bynum who snuck in back door for a tip in that gave the Lakers the lead 88-87. Next possession Bynum blocked an Al Jefferson shot in the paint to preserve the win (Kobe free throws with less than a second left gave us the final score).

The Jazz are a tough team. They have a physical front line with Jefferson, Paul Millsap (who had a team-best 29) and Derek Favors is coming along. Raja Bell is a solid veteran in the back court (although he might have wanted to commit referee homicide after some calls in this one). They have some depth with Josh Howard and C.J. Miles. They play very well at home. They are talking playoffs in Utah, and that looks like a legit goal right now.

Mavericks 90, Celtics 85: Boston seemed to be fighting its way uphill all night, coming from behind by double digits twice to tie it 85-85 on a Paul Pierce three with: 25 left. But Dirk Nowitzki beat an aggressive Kevin Garnett off the dribble, got to the rim and drew the and-one foul from Brandon Bass and that was the ballgame. Vintage Dirk, and Dallas just executed better when it mattered most.

Nowitzki had 17, Jason Terry 18 for Dallas. Rajon Rondo led Boston with 24, the problem was the “Big 3” were 9-of-24 shooting on the night. But give credit where it is due, Dallas is winning because of defense — in the last eight games opponents have shot 39.5 percent and the Mavs are 6-2.

Knicks 85, Sixers 79: Hold off on the coronation of the Sixers in the Atlantic, the Knicks sent their own little message Wednesday. The Sixers good, but the schedule is just starting to test them — like having to play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back. The Sixers looked tired. Carmelo Anthony seemed to be in full hero mode (27 points on 24 shots, plus 9 rebounds) and Amare Stoudemire was efficient on offense with 20. The big story here is the Knicks actually played hard on defense and against a weary 76ers team — they shut them down enough to win.

Kings 98, Raptors 91: The Kings got their first win on the road, thanks to DeMarcus Cousins who had 20 points and 19 boards. The Kings pushed the tempo (99 possessions) and got 29 points from Tyrke Evans. Sacramento attacked all night, getting to the free throw line 34 times and that was really the key.

Pacers 96, Hawks 84: Part of this was matchups — Danny Granger returned for the Pacers, while Al Horford had to leave the game early after straining his shoulder trying to block a Roy Hibbert dunk attempt. (It looked bad, he could be out a little while.) The Pacers had one of their best games of the season, the kind of game that makes you think they could be a playoff threat. Granger found his shooting groove (the guy is an admitted slow starter) and had 24, plus they controlled the paint (as the highlights show).

Bulls 78, Wizards 64: Derrick Rose was out with a sprained big toe and the Bulls offense suffered because of it. John Lucas stepped up with 25 points and 8 dimes in Rose’s absence, but that’s not what won it. The Bulls defense was still good and the Wizards offense is still the Wizards offense — they shot just 31 percent for the game. After the game Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said as much — he kept Taj Gibson and Omer Asik in the game late because they were playing lock-down defense and that was going to be enough to win.

Thunder 95, Hornets 85: Young legs matter this season — Oklahoma City was playing its fifth game in six nights and got the win. The Thunder looked flat to start, the Hornets were fired up and it was 19-9 early for the Thunder. But talent wins out and the Hornets don’t have anyone like Kevin Durant — 29 points on 17 shots and in the fourth quarter played good defense on Emeka Okafor (who was 5-of-7 shooting on the night).

Spurs 101, Rockets 95: Tim Duncan and Toy Parker seemed to set the clock back for a night and they led he Spurs to the win. By the way, they have a player in rookie Kawhi Leonard. Kyle Lowry had 22 points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the Rockets.

Nuggets 123, Nets 115: Up and down, fast paced game (97 possessions), which really played into Denver’s hands. The big difference was Denver attacked and had 18 more free throw attempts. The Nets stayed in this because they were 20-of-35 from three (20 makes is a club record). Danilo Gallinari had 22, Arron Afflalo and Corey Brewer each had 19. Jordan Farmar came alive with 26 (yes, it confused us, too, but he did).

Magic 107, Trail Blazers 104: Orlando played a very good game — they had great spacing and crisp ball movement, they got the ball inside to Dwight Howard and when the ball came out it moved fast to the open man. Then they knocked down the shot — the Magic were 16-of-27 from three for the night. When you have the best center in the game and hit 59.3 percent of your threes they are nearly impossible to beat. Orlando had seven guys in double figures, led by J.J. Redick with 17, while Jameer Nelson was 7-of-7 shooting. Jamal Crawford had 24 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 23.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

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Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

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I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

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Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

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As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).

Warriors’ Bob Myers says he would ‘consider’ trading draft pick

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Even if the NBA decides to play a handful more regular season games upon return, the Golden State Warriors are going to finish the season with the worst record in the NBA (they have a 4.5 game “lead” for the worst record). That means they have a 14% chance at the No. 1 pick, a 40.1% chance of a top-three pick, and a 47.9% chance of having the No. 5 pick.

Those same Warriors are returning next season with a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, a team with title aspirations.

That’s led to a lot of speculation the Warriors would try to trade down, something Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob confirmed. Warriors president Bob Myers, speaking to NBC Sports’ Bay Area’s Monte Poole, said as much as any executive in his shoes would: He’d consider trading the pick.

“Yeah, we’re going to consider all that,” the Warriors president of basketball operations told NBC Sports Bay Area over the phone, before pausing for a moment. “Now, I don’t know if the headline is going to be that we’re trading our pick. So, be clear that I said ‘consider.’”

On the ProBasketballTalk podcast, NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster said if he were in Myers’ shoes he would try to trade down, get a veteran, and land in picks four through six. There he can likely land a player such as Obi Toppin, Isaac Okoro, or Deni Avdija — players who should not go No. 1 but are better poised to help immediately. The problem for the Warriors, or whoever lands the top pick, is this is a weak draft at the top, depressing the value. Dauster described it this way: the top three picks in this draft would go 6-10 most years.

The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery and Draft Combine have been postponed, and the draft itself will get the same treatment soon (it has yet to be officially changed, but everyone expects it).

Until there is a lottery and the Warriors know where they land, it’s tough for Myers to do much more than plan. Just like the rest of us.