Baseline to Baseline recaps: ‘Melo is back, Knicks cruise

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What you missed while getting arrested for attacking people and police with a toy light saber

Knicks 113, Pistons 86: Carmelo Anthony returned, he had 25 efficient points while playing his best game in weeks, and the Knicks cruise to an easy win. Coincidence? Well, kind of. This win was really about the Knicks defense creating turnovers (20) and turning those into fast break buckets. New York also was nailing it’s threes (9-18) and getting inside (52 points in the paint). The Knicks played well and with a little desperation, but don’t lose sight of the fact the Pistons are terrible.

Grizzlies 100, Nuggets 97 (OT): Denver led virtually the entire game — from the second quarter through being up 10 with six minutes left — except the part where the game ends. A 7-0 run by Memphis in the second half of overtime — sparked by O.J. Mayo’s five OT points including a three to take the lead with 35 seconds remaining — got the win. Rudy Fernandez got a look at a three to send it to a second OT but it clanged off the rim.

Marc Gasol played 50 minutes — you read that right, 50 — and had 20 points, 13 boards, but was not very efficient. For Denver, Danilo Gallinari was 1-10 shooting, Timofey Mozgov was a foul sponge and got five in 10 minutes.

Hawks 100, Raptors 77: Atlanta closed out the first half on a 23-6 run and that was pretty much your ballgame. Joe Johnson turned back the clock and had 30, 24 in the first half, and he got to rest the entire fourth. As did all the Hawks starters.

Atlanta is 9-2 without Al Horford. That is impressive.

Celtics 93, Cavaliers 90: Boston was up 22 in the third quarter, then almost gave it all back. Almost. Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 21 in the fourth quarter, and Anderson Varejao was the best player on the court with a 20-20 night. Boston’s offense — led by 20 points from Paul Pierce — had good ball movement, which led to good looks and the team shooting 50.7 percent on the night. Kevin Garnett, who was pretty average all game, did hit a key shot late that helped seal the win.

Warriors 93, Kings 90: Golden State’s bench won this one — Brandon Rush had 20 (15 in the fourth quarter), Nate Robinson 13 and provided his usual spark, and Ekpe Udoh had 6 points and 4 blocks. The Golden State bench sparked a 16-4 run to start the fourth quarter that got the Warriors the lead, so Mark Jackson rode them the rest of the way. Rookie Isaiah Thomas sparked a late 11-1 Kings run to make it close, but it was not enough.

Pacers 106, Nets, 99: Give the Nets credit, the hung in this one when they probably shouldn’t have. This is a tough match up for New Jersey because they have no interior defense to speak of and the Pacers have Roy Hibbert and good slashers that get into the paint. Deron Williams (34) and Anthony Morrow (28) scored every Net point in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough. Paul George had 24 and the dunk of the night, Danny Granger had 21.

Lakers 106, Bobcats 73: Kobe Bryant had 18 points in the first quarter, the Lakers pulled away early and never really looked back. The Lakers shot 46.2 percent from three for the night — when they knock down the outside shot it makes defending the inside games of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum almost impossible. Teams are mostly throwing doubles at the Lakers big three once they make a move, and that means the rest of the guys are getting clean looks from the outside. When those shots fall the Lakers are very hard to beat — Lakers not named Kobe were 10-15 from beyond the arc. The Bobcats are a team that just settles for the first decent look it sees, they don’t work the ball for a better shot at all. They play with no sense of urgency at all (except Kemba Walker, I like him).

San Antonio Spurs retire Tony Parker’s number

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Tim Duncan went up first. Then Manu Ginobili.

Monday night it was Tony Parker’s turn — all of the Spurs’ big three have now had their jerseys retired.

This is obviously well deserved.

The No. 28 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker went on to win four NBA titles, was named Finals MVP with one of those, plus was a six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA player. He was part of core that turned the Spurs into a dynasty.

Everyone was on hand for the ceremony, with coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan, and Ginobili all speaking before Parker, and all of them talking about their bond.

It was an emotional and touching night.

The next stop for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili? The Hall of Fame.

 

Kings’ point guard De’Aaron Fox out at least 3-4 weeks with ankle sprain

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The Sacramento Kings — everyone’s League Pass favorites — have been snake bitten this season. First it was Marvin Bagley III, who broke his right thumb in the season opener.

Now point guard De'Aaron Fox will be out at least 3-4 weeks (that’s when he’ll be re-evaluated) after suffering a grade three ankle sprain in practice Monday. From the official Sacramento press release:

An MRI conducted this afternoon on Kings guard De’Aaron Fox confirmed that he sustained a left ankle sprain at the end of practice on Monday. He will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks and his status will be updated as appropriate.

After a breakout season a year ago, this season Fox had come back to earth a little in new coach Luke Walton’s system — his turnovers were up and his efficiency had slipped, a 52.8 true shooting percentage that is close to the league average, for example — but he was still putting up 18.2 points and dishing out 7 assists a game. He has been the focal point of the Kings’ offense.

This is a blow to the Kings and their development. Sacramento had won 3-of-4 and seemed to be finding more of a groove.

Sacramento does have depth at the point guard spot, however. It signed Cory Joseph over the summer to a three-year, $37 million contract, plus it picked up a team option on Yogi Ferrell. They have some depth at the spot.

However, those players do not have Fox’s explosiveness. The Kings just will not be the same until he returns.

Greece coach Rick Pitino plans to enter 2020 Olympic qualifying without Giannis Antetokounmpo

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece coach Rick Pitino is planning on trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics without Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pitino officially took over as coach of the Greek national basketball team on Monday. He said he would leave a roster place open for Antetokounmpo in qualifying games but is not sure if he will be able to rely on his best player.

Greece will try to reach the Tokyo Olympics by winning a qualifying tournament. But the dates could clash with the NBA schedule, probably ruling out Antetokounmpo.

“It is a possibility he will not be playing with us in the qualifying round if he goes far (in the playoffs). I understood that coming into this situation, and that’s why it’s such a high mountain to climb,” Pitino said. “But Giannis is something, it’s a bridge we have to cross later on. But we are going to leave a roster spot even if he has to take my place.”

Pitino said he hoped to meet Antetokounmpo and his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, in March when the Bucks travel to Miami.

The 67-year-old Pitino is a veteran of the college game and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville. He has returned to Greece after coaching Athens club Panathinaikos last season and remains popular.

Pitino said he also felt that attachment.

“(Coaching Greece) is the crown jewel for me as a basketball coach,” Pitino said. “This is one of the greatest honors I’ve had as a coach. I consider this so special because it’s a mountain that is so worth climbing.

“And for the next eight months. I’m not American. I’m not Italian. I’m Greek. And that’s the way I’m going to carry myself. You won’t see anybody who will bleed every possession like I will bleed to try and win a game.”

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.