Baseline to Baseline recaps: LeBron beats Cleveland. Yawn.

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What you missed while learning to play a-ha on the accordion….

Heat 107, Cavaliers 91: As has been their pattern, this is another game where the Heat played down to the level of the competition. At least for three quarters — in the fourth the Heat cranked up the defense and that was enough to pull away and get a comfortable win.

The Heat’s offense was clicking all night as both Dwyane Wade (26 points) and LeBron James (24) were attacking and getting in the lane (it seemed like dunking practice for LeBron). But give the Cavaliers some credit — Kyrie Irving was the fourth best player on the court and Anderson Varejao may have been the fifth (Udonis Haslem had a good night as well). Antawn Jamison had 25 for Cleveland.

Timberwolves 86, Kings 84: Minnesota has a winning record. Let that sink in for a moment.

No Kevin Love for the Timberwolves (two game suspension for using Luis Scola as a doormat), but Nikola Pekovic started and filled in pretty well, knocking down 9-of-12 shots for 23 points, 10 rebounds, and a couple blocks. Sacamento kept it close because it was Jimmer time late, Fredette had 13 fourth quarter points. He and Isaiah Thomas pushed the pace and helped make this a game again — so why does Keith Smart take them out and put Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton back in for the final minute?

Tied 82-82 with a minute left, Ricky Rubio drove the lane and four defenders were in the paint watching him, which meant nobody was out with Derrick Williams at the three point line, he got the pass and drained it. But the Kings had their chance at the end. Rubio needs to develop a floater, because late he drove again (a little too early in the clock) with a chance to seal it but missed an awkward pull up. The Kings grabbed the miss and pushed it in transition, and in a scramble the ball came out to Donte Green, who got a good look at the game winning three, but clanked it off the rim. If the Kings ever have a good first quarter (they were down 15) they may win a game.

Pacers 104, Jazz 99: Indiana got this win thanks to a fantastic fourth quarter by Danny Granger, who had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final period and finished the game with 25 points. It took a late 8-0 run for the Pacers to secure the win at all. Credit to the Jazz for even making a game of this — the Pacers had gone on a 14-2 run early in the third quarter and were up 21, but the Jazz would not just roll over. Utah went on a 25-4 run (sparked in part by Josh Howard and C.J. Miles off the Jazz bench), Indy shot 0-for-10 during it, and we had a tie game in the fourth. Paul Millsap was playing like a beast again and had 18. But the Pacers finally responded with nice ball movement and a Darren Collison three and they took the lead for good. Another great game for Roy Hibbert, who finished with 17 and 10. This is four road losses in a row for the Jazz, who are becoming one of those home/road Jekyll/Hyde teams.

Suns 107, Bucks 105: There was a moment early in the second quarter when Michael Redd came in, drained 5-of-6 for a quick 10 points, that must have been like a flashback to the people in Milwaukee. This was not a game with a lot of defense played by either side, the result was six Suns in double figures scoring (Marcin Gortat led the way with 21) and on the other side Drew Gooden had 25 (on 21 shots). But in the end, the best player on the floor — Steve Nash — hit the game winner and dominated Brandon Jennings on the night.

Celtics 94, Bobcats 84: It was Paul Pierce’s night — he passed Larry Bird on Boston’s all-time scoring list, had 15 points (but needed 18 shots to get there), 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Late in the first half the Celtics were forcing the ball to him to get him to the record and against a better team it might have hurt them, but this is the worst team in the league they faced. Charlotte, to their credit, hung pretty close for three quarters but an 11-0 Celtics run early in the fourth put this one away. Kevin Garnett had 22 points, Rajon Rondo had 14 assists and zero turnovers. Derrick Brown was 10-for-10 shooting for Charlotte, but they just lack players who can impact the game.

Thunder 119, Warriors 116: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. The losing team in this game had an offensive rating of 117.2 in what was a fast-paced game with 99 possessions. Monta Ellis put up a blistering 48 points (on 29 shots), while on the other side Kevin Durant had 33 — do you think he meant to bank in the game winner? — and Russell Westbrook 31 (but nine turnovers). This came down to who make the plays at the end — Durant hit his game winner and blocked a Brandon Rush shot, while Ellis just could not knock down his good look. Some nights that’s the difference.

Dwight Howard will join Lakers for restart, donate check to social justice cause

Lakers Dwight Howard
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“Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction… I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA Championship. But the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families? This is a rare opportunity that, I believe, we as a community should be taking full advantage of. When have we ever had this amount of time to sit and be with our families? This is where our unity starts. At home! With Family!!”

Those are the words of Dwight Howard, who was among the players questioning the NBA’s restart in Orlando.  He was grieving the loss of Melissa Rios, the mother of his 6-year-old son, David, and was looking at his family as the biggest priority in his life. As it should be. Howard also is committed to the Black Lives Matter movement and, as he stated, saw the NBA’s return as a distraction.

In the end, he has decided to play in the NBA restart and donate his checks the rest of this season to charity, something Howard announced on CNN (hat tip Dave McMenamin).

That is about a $700,000 donation by Howard to Breathe Again.

Howard played a central role as a big man off the bench on a Lakers’ team that is the odds-on favorite to win it all. A ring would be the cherry on top of his Hall of Fame career.

Howard wants to be a part of that, but it means sacrificing time with family. He said it was not an easy decision, and he is putting his money where his mouth is donating his earnings to charity.

The thoughtfulness behind those decisions shows the kind of maturity Howard has grown into, even if fans never see it.

Jaylen Brown heads to restart with Boston, plans to use voice for social justice

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The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been one of the most active NBA players in the Black Lives Matters movement — even driving from Boston to Atlanta to lead a protest.

That’s not changing because he’s going to Orlando for the NBA restart.

Brown admitted he considered not playing in Orlando due to the pandemic, but the opportunity the NBA’s platform provided to speak on social issues was too great to pass up, Brown said in a conference call with reporters Monday, via the Associated Press.

“Once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I was signed up,” he said. “I plan on using my voice while I’m down there. I plan on spreading light on things that are getting dimmed and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”

Brown is not alone in thinking that. Portland’s CJ McCollum is on the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association as well and said a lot of players see the same opportunity.

“But now [the talk is] more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on?…

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye, so I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

One way players can make a statement is by replacing the name on the back of jerseys with a message pre-approved by the league. Brown, like 76ers forward Mike Scott, is not a fan of how the NBA handled it.

“I think that list is an example of a form of limitations,” Brown said. “I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more…

“The bottom line is there are improvements that need to be made,” Brown said. “The NBA has a great voice, a lot of resources and a lot of influence. We’re appreciative that they’re helping and aiding in a lot of those things that we care about. That’s really important.”

Brown understands the NBA’s voice, and he heads to Orlando planning to use his.

76ers’ Mike Scott on social-justice messages on NBA jerseys: ‘That was terrible. It was a bad list’

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The NBA approved a list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Say Their Names
  • Vote
  • I Can’t Breathe
  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Equality
  • Freedom
  • Enough
  • Power to the People
  • Justice Now
  • Say Her Name
  • Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can)
  • Liberation
  • See Us
  • Hear Us
  • Respect Us
  • Love Us
  • Listen
  • Listen to Us
  • Stand Up
  • Ally
  • Anti-Racist
  • I Am A Man
  • Speak Up
  • How Many More
  • Group Economics
  • Education Reform
  • Mentor

76ers forward Mike Scott, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

They gave us some names and phrases to put on the back of jerseys,” Scott said. “That was terrible. It was a bad list, bad choice. They didn’t give players a chance to voice their opinion on it. They just gave us a list to pick from. That was bad. That’s terrible. Just voice your opinion, how you feel.

“I don’t know how you can use your platform. I don’t know. Vote. Of course, vote. See what laws we can change. But I’m all about just doing, instead of just saying or posting or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know.

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:

“I would like to see — because I think it can still happen — more options available to put on the back of our jerseys,” Brown said Monday in a video conference with reporters. “We understand anything vulgar our league doesn’t necessarily represent, but for histories and causes such as now, I think that that list is an example of a form of limitation. I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more.

” … I was very disappointed in the list that was agreed to. I think things were tried and attempts were made to add to that list, but the NBA agreed that that list was satisfactory. Hopefully we can get some more names on that list.”

“Maybe ‘Break the Cycle,’ ‘Results’ — that’s what everybody is really playing for — ‘Inequality by Design,’ ” Brown said, “things like that I think may have a deeper impact than some of the things that were given to us. I think it was a little bit limiting.”

As far as Scott’s complaint about players not having a voice in the list, the plan was presented as developed in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association. Perhaps, this is another example of union leadership not being on the same page as its members. But to be fair, it’s difficult to satisfy everyone. Scott and Brown don’t necessarily speak for players en masse.

Of course the NBA – a multi-billion-dollar company – was going to allow only sanitized phrases. The middle has shifted, but not enough for mainstream support for a sharp criticism like Brown’s “Inequality by Design.” (He’s right, though.) The NBA doesn’t want too much controversy.

However, simply by operating, the league gives players platforms and resources .

Nobody should have expected these jersey messages to be the primary means of change. They’re fine and can help draw attention.

But players can do more outside the league’s formal structure, including speaking up in interviews – like Scott and Brown did today.

Pelicans sign Sindarius Thornwell as substitute player. For whom?

Sindarius Thornwell vs. Pelicans
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Three Pelicans tested positive for coronavirus. At least.

Is one of them not playing in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World?

Despite having a full roster, New Orleans is signing Sindarius Thornwell.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans today announced that the team has signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Thornwell will wear #12 for the Pelicans.

Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune:

At this stage, only players who can’t play due to coronavirus or choose to it out can be replaced. That’s not Darius Miller, who’s still recovering from an Achilles injury.

With Zion Williamson looking fit, the Pelicans could be dangerous. They’re in a tight race to force play-in games. But they don’t have much margin for error in the playoff race.

So, keep an eye on whom Thornwell is replacing.