Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s Bizzaro World night in NBA

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What you missed while watching the Australian Open and thinking “I need to go to vacation there”….

Wizards 105, Thunder 102: Yes, you are reading that right. The worst team in the NBA (1-12 entering the game) just beat a title contender (12-2 before this started). It gets weirder — Oklahoma City shot 48.1 percent to Washington’s 38.4 percent. And the Thunder led the majority of the second half and midway through the fourth seemed in complete control as Russell Westbrook was on his way to 36 points and Kevin Durant 33.

What happened? To start with, 21 Thunder turnovers, seven by Kevin Durant. That will always get you in trouble. So will giving up the offensive rebound on 33.9 percent of your opponents missed shot (19 offensive boards) — that is a lot of extra chances for Washington to score. Finally, Washington got to the free throw line 43 times (they attacked for a night). But mostly it was Nick Young (10 fourth quarter points) and John Wall (nine in the final quarter) who just refused to let the Thunder take the game back like everyone expected.

Even Wizards fans expected their team to fold and find a way to lose. They did not. That alone is a sign of growth.

Clippers 91, Mavericks 89: The most dramatic game of the night, on a night filled with dramatic games. This was close the entire fourth quarter but felt like a game the Clippers would win, mostly thanks to Mo Williams hot hand (he finished with 26 points). Then it wasn’t. Then suddenly it was again.

First came Jason Terry’s three to put the Mavericks ahead one with 5.2 seconds left. There are two Mavs players you want to cut off on a last second shot, Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. D’Andre Jordan showed out on Terry off a pick only to slide back over to Ian Mahinmi near the arc. Boom goes the dynamite. Looks like a Mavs win by one.

But the Clippers have 4.8 seconds left, and Chauncey Billups inbounds the ball to Blake Griffin out by the arc. There is at this point one Clipper that should be feared — Billups. Mr. Big Shot. But Jason Kidd retreats toward the hoops and off Billups, who runs behind Griffin and uses him as a screen. Game. Set. Match.

Spurs 85, Magic 83 (OT): The Spurs have their first road win of the season, but only because a J.J. Redick game-winning three left his hands just a fraction of a second too late. Well, he’s not the only reason. Tim Duncan had a good game and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Tony Parker carried the Spurs in the fourth quarter with 14 points — they needed it because late in games is when this team really misses Manu Ginobili’s creativeness. Also, the Spurs held the Magic to 33 percent shooting on the night — take out Dwight Howard (24 points on 9-of-15) and Orlando shot 27.8 percent. And they were 4-21 from three (19.1 percent for a team shooting 41.1 percent coming in).

Nets 107, Warriors 100: The Nets are the last NBA team to pick up a home win — celebrate New Jersey, you guys have a winner. Well, until they leave next season. The Nets took charge of this game on an 18-4 run in the fourth quarter, sparked by Deron Williams (24 points on the night) and Anthony Morrow. MarShon Brooks finished with 22 and Kris Humphries had 18 points and 15 boards. Monta Ellis had 30, but they miss Stephen Curry.

Nuggets 108, Sixers 104 (OT): The Sixers get their first home loss of the season, in large part due to a former Sixer. Andre Miller was clearly motivated and finished with 28 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. Both teams went small for long stretches and this led to an up-tempo game (103 possessions). Denver’s small lineup did a good job defensively, they switched every screen, and that took away a lot of good looks the Sixers got early and helped key the Denver win.

Celtics 96, Raptors 83: This was an unconventional Celtics win. Rajon Rondo had 21 points and 2 assists. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were a combined 5-for-17 shooting. So how did Boston win this after five straight losses? They were playing the Raptors.

Timberwolves 93, Pistons 85: The Pistons seemed in control of this one in the second quarter and early part of the third, then they decided to see if they could still do that turning the ball over a lot. Turns out they couldn’t. For the Wolves, rookie Nikola Pekovic started the third quarter over Darko Milicic, and that trend may continue for a while.

Suns 91, Knicks 88: Man, the Knicks need someone like Steve Nash to organize their offense. Next season they may have him. In the mean time they have Carmelo Anthony going 5-for-22 and Amare Stoudemire going 7-for-22. The Knicks shot 37.3 percent but still were in this late after an Iman Shumpert three. The difference was the Suns point guard was in classic form — and at 37 did not look the least like he was on a back-to-back. Nash had 26 points and 11 assists. Also, he is the perfect guy to exploit all the switching the Knicks do on defense, which creates some ugly mismatches.

Hawks 92, Trail Blazers 89: Credit goes to Josh Smith for playing good defense on LaMarcus Aldridge all night. The Hawks were just the more efficient shooting team all night long, particularly in the fourth quarter when former Hawk Jamal Crawford took over shooting everything for Portland and going 4-of-10, while the Hawks spread the ball around more and got the win.

Grizzlies 93, Hornets 87: Marc Gasol had 22 points on 14 shots. When the Grizzlies work the offense inside-out, they are hard to beat. Memphis was just a little bit better at everything than the Hornets in this one.

Kings 92, Pacers 88: The Pacers were up 16 late in the third and in control of this one, then the Kings went zone and Indiana fell apart — 8 fourth quarter points on 19 percent shooting with 9 turnovers. Francisco Garcia had 10 in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t so much the Kings were good as the Pacers were just terrible for 12 minutes.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey says LeBron is GOAT by a “pretty big margin”

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had it right — the GOAT argument is a comparison of different players with different teammates and different rules, it’s cannot be definitive. To use his Highlander analogy, “there doesn’t need to be only one.”

But if you ask Rockets GM Daryl Morey who is The Greatest, he is going with LeBron James. Something he said on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday.

LeBron is the best of his generation, maybe the greatest athlete the NBA has ever seen, and he entered the league with a basketball IQ off the chart (remember when short-sighted people used to rip him for passing to the open player with the game on the line rather than taking the contested shots?).

Is he the GOAT? Fun discussion while sitting on a barstool with a Steady Brewing Unrefined hazy IPA in front of you, go at it in the comments, but there is no answer.

Unless you’re Morey.

Five free agents still available who can help teams

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The NBA summer is basically over. We are now closer to the start of the new season than we are the end of the NBA Finals and most teams have their rosters set, they are just adding training camp invites. Or, guys who could maybe get the 14th or 15th roster spot.

Still, some name free agents can help teams.

Here are the big five on the market still.

1. Rodney Hood (restricted). At this point, he’s going to remain a Cavalier next season. No team is making an offer the Cavaliers wouldn’t just match (only Sacramento has the cap space to do it, and they are focused on others at the wing), meaning the only question left is if he plays for the $3.4 million qualifying offer or if the two sides work out a different deal.

How his stock has fallen. One year ago he was preparing for a season where he expected to be the go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz. By the end of the season he barely got off the bench in Cleveland (and in one case would not get off the bench).

That said, he can help a Cavaliers team that doesn’t want to just tear it down despite LeBron James leaving (see the Kevin Love contract). Hood is a 6’8” wing who can get buckets, and the Cavaliers could use that. Play well, rehab his image, and he will not be in this situation a year from now.

2. Jamal Crawford. He’s 38 years old (which scares some teams), and his efficiency has slipped, but the man can still get buckets off the bench (10.3 points per game last season) and more than a few teams could use that. Plus he’s seen as good in the locker room. He turned down a $4.5 million player option with the Timberwolves because he wanted a bigger role (he was getting 20 minutes a game last season) but at this point that is apparently off the table. Still, some team is going to pick him up.

3. Dwyane Wade. He’s made it clear, if he comes back it will be with the Miami Heat for one year. While a rumor got going on Twitter Tuesday that he was close to signing a contract with the Heat, I was told by sources that is not the case. Then Wade Tweeted this:

Nobody knows for sure, but I would lean retirement over return at this point. That said, the decision will come when Wade is ready, not before. He’s earned that right.

4. Nick Young. No team could use some Swaggy P? He’s a character, often doesn’t play within the flow in the offense, he doesn’t play great defense, but he just played 17 minutes a game for the NBA champions, hr hit some threes and shot 41 percent from deep, and made some plays. Another guy who is not young (11 years in the league) but some team will likely give a chance (if not at the start of the season, as a mid-season replacement).

5. David West. His role shrank with the Warriors last season — he averaged 6.8 points last season on 13.7 minutes a game — but he was still efficient when he was on the court (a 20.9 PER). Plus, he is excellent in the locker room. A lot of younger teams could use his presence in the locker room, but he may be a mid-season replacement for a team looking for front-line depth.

Honorable Mention: Joe Johnson. He’s 37-years-old and has 17 seasons of miles on his legs, but he still knows how to play the game. He struggled to help Houston or Utah last season, but don’t be shocked if he is a mid-season pickup by a team.

• Added note: Trevor Booker would have been on this list, but he decided to take the cash in China for a season.

Why did Nick Young play for Warriors last season? “I just needed to win”

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Coming off a season where he was part of an NBA champion, Nick Young is a free agent. Still. Which is a bit of a surprise — he’s a gunner, but a lot of teams could use the buckets he brings off the bench. Even if he didn’t always do that within the flow of the Warriors’ offense.

Young had been in the NBA for a decade when he went to the Warriors, and in speaking with Adam Caparell of Complex Magazine (hat tip NBC Sports Bay Area), he said that Lakers’ coach (and former Warriors’ assistant) Luke Walton opened up the door for him with some calls.

“I just needed to win. I had been on a lot of losing teams. Always rebuilding,” says Young. “I feel I needed to experience [winning] and be around guys who are just really good teammates like Draymond, even though he’s crazy.”

It worked. Swaggy P has a ring.

And he wants you to know he earned it — and he earned being in the league for a decade plus. He puts in the time on his body and craft.

“I love basketball. I wish people could see that it’s hard to be in the NBA—not only to get there, but to stay there this long,” he says. “I know players who were drafted higher than me that are gone.”

The big question now is where Young plays next season. He played 17 minutes a night for the NBA champions last season and 41 percent from three, some teams could use that. They may be looking at younger players they think they can develop, but before long some team will turn to Young because they know he can get them buckets.

It just may not be the same winning situation he was in a year ago.

 

C.J. McCollum on stars joining Warriors: “I think that’s disgusting”

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It remains the best “I want to start a passionate and irrational debate” topic around the NBA: Stars jumping to a contending team. Mainly the Warriors. Kevin Durant got a lot of “he took the easy way” flack when he did it (and he could calm a lot of the debate around him by just saying “I’m winning, I’m happy, that’s all that matters” but that’s not KD’s nature, so he pushes back on the narrative).

This summer it was DeMarcus Cousins. It’s not like there was some great demand for his services coming off a torn Achilles, but his signing with the Warriors was the biggest surprise of the summer and led to a lot of “how do we stop them?” comments. (I don’t know, maybe offer Cousins more than an exception contract. Just a thought.)

C.J. McCollum — touring China to promote his shoes — was on China Central Television and said he would never do that.

“I would never do anything of that nature, I think that’s disgusting… I was not built like those guys, I was raised differently… I think some players will take that route, but most guys have too much pride, they want to do well or certain organizations that are not going to jump the bandwagon.”

Plenty of fans and other players agree with McCollum.

I don’t — I like the fact players such as Durant (and LeBron James, and others) are taking control of their own destinies more. They shouldn’t be just puppets of GMs. It’s okay that the Warriors drafted and developed Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the rest because that’s “natural” but the second a star player says “I like the culture and style they built there, I want to be part of that” it’s wrong? I don’t buy the “guys have to do it themselves” line of thinking because guys never won titles on their own — not Bill Russell, not Magic Johnson, not Michael Jordan. They were all on stacked teams. The difference is the players are making more of those choices now rather than leaving it to the white guys in suits.

McCollum is on a 49-win, three-seed team with another elite player in Damian Lillard, a franchise that was looking all summer for a way to add another star or more talent to the roster. But I guess that’s different somehow.