Baseline to Baseline recaps: Dirk Nowitzki is still good

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What you missed while trying to find something to watch now that Downton Abbey is over…..

Nets 100, Knicks 92: Deron Williams would like you to know he is the best point guard in the greater New York area, and will be next year when the Nets move to Brooklyn (unless he leaves to play in Dallas). Anyway, this is our game of the night.

Mavericks 89, Celtics 73: Dirk Nowitzki re-entered midway through the second quarter, proceeded to score 14 of his 26, with that Dallas pulled away from Boston and never looked back. No real shock as Boston was without Kevin Garnett (personal reasons), Brandon Bass (knee) and Rajon Rondo (suspension). Add in the fact Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox got injured (and are likely out for Oklahoma City) and Boston had little chance. Still, All Hail Dirk!

Bulls 90, Hawks 79: Derrick Rose returned to the lineup and scored 23, but that was not the reason the Bulls won. This was about Chicago’s defense, which had Atlanta second-guessing its every shot and decision. The Hawks hesitated, they faked, and that gets you in a lot of trouble against the aggressive Bulls. Carlos Boozer had 16 points including some key threes in the second quarter to help the Bulls pull away.

Rockets 97, Grizzlies 93: Remember that the Grizzlies traded Kyle Lowry for the draft pick that became Mike Conley. Lowry always gets up for the Grizzlies and he had 24 points (on 17 shots) and 9 assists to lead the Rockets. Kevin Martin added 22 and Patrick Patterson had a good game for Houston.

Magic 93, Bucks 90: It seems odd to criticize Dwight Howard after a 28 point, 16 rebound performance — which included him stealing the ball from Brandon Jennings and scoring on the one-man fast break at one point — but we can’t help ourselves. His defensive effort is inconsistent. He is so talented he puts up numbers, but it’s hard to watch him and think he is fully invested. Ryan Anderson had the go-ahead three for the Magic in what was a close game. Jennings had 22 for the Bucks.

Thunder 101, Hornets 93: Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant only combined for 62 points in this game. Slackers. This game was not as close as the final score would indicate — OKC led 60-38 at the half and by as many as 26 at points, then got bored and let New Orleans make it close late. But the talent gap in this one was HUGE.

Suns 104, Wizards 88: This game was tied early in the third quarter, but Phoenix went to a zone defense that confounded Washington, and the Suns wen on a 31-7 run and that was it. The Wizards can vacillate between good play and moments of horrible decision making so quickly, that was something the Suns happily exploited. Marcin Gortat had 20, Steve Nash had 12 points and 11 assists.

Nuggets 103, Timberwolves 101 (OT): Kenneth Faried had a good game, locked up on Kevin Love he held the All-Star forward to 7-of-22 shooting and 22 points. But Love had key free throws at the end of regulation thanks to an Al Harrington foul — Harrington had 31 and was taking on the scoring load for the Nuggets in the first half and finished with 31. This entire game had that tired-legged lockout feel to it.

Ty Lawson tweaked his ankle again, which could be bad for Denver.

Spurs 106, Jazz 102: The way the Spurs will make the extra pass is a thing of beauty— as they did up two with less than 10 seconds left, the game in the balance, and Gary Neal passed up a good look to get Richard Jefferson a great look at a three that he nailed to seal the win with six seconds left. The Jazz tried to exploit the Spurs in the paint — they outscored San Antonio by 26 in there — but Tony Parker was again the difference with 23 points and 11 assists.

Lakers 103, Trail Blazers 92: The Lakers were in total control of this one from the start, up 22 after the first quarter (29-7, Portland shot 18 percent in the opening frame) and by as much as 30 at times. The Lakers got the ball inside, the Blazers defense collapsed and the Lakers exploited them inside and on the perimeter. The Blazers made a late run to make the final score more respectable, but it was never close. Kobe Bryant had 28 to lead the Lakers.

Warriors 104, Clippers 97: When Monta Ellis is hot like he was in this game, the Warriors have a puncher’s chance against any team on a given night. The Clippers were up 2 with 2:10 left in the game, but a Brandon Rush three-pointer sparked a 9-0 Warrior run to end the game. This is the second poor closeout of a game by the Clippers in a row, and they could use the steady hand of Chauncey Billups late in games. Ellis had 32, Ekpe Udoh had a career high 19.

Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic: Mavericks tap brakes on inevitable comparisons

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic didn’t get compared to Larry Bird when he was introduced a day after the Dallas Mavericks traded up to get the third overall pick in the NBA draft.

For president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, that’s progress based on his last experience of getting a tender-aged European in hopes of lifting the Mavericks out of the doldrums.

Twenty years later, Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in league history. Back then, the big German wasn’t remotely comparable to Larry Legend – and his rough first two years proved it.

So ask Nelson about a player the Mavericks clearly coveted heading into the draft in Doncic, and he’ll choose his words carefully regarding the 19-year-old from Slovenia. Doncic won’t turn 20 until after the All-Star break of his rookie season, which is expected to be Nowitzki’s record 21st with one franchise.

“Dirk and I had a long talk coming in,” Nelson said about the player Dallas drafted days after his 20th birthday in 1998.

“We’re obviously very excited to have (Doncic) but he’s got a very tough road ahead of him. Dirk wasn’t done any favors in his first two years. We are going to steer away from any of those comparisons. Luka is his own guy. He’s got his own challenges.”

Coach Rick Carlisle dropped a few international names in trying to describe the versatility Dallas thinks is offered by the 6-foot-7 Doncic, who won Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP honors while helping Real Madrid win the title just days before the draft.

After offering comparisons to the late Drazen Petrovic, three-time champion Toni Kukoc and longtime San Antonio star Manu Ginobili, Carlisle stopped.

“I really feel it’s important that we shouldn’t try to compare this guy to anybody,” Carlisle said Friday during an introductory news conference that included Doncic and second-round pick Jalen Brunson, who won two NCAA titles in three years at Villanova. “Let him be himself. Let his game takes its own form.”

Doncic figures to shape the future of the Mavericks in some form with Dallas coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the second of Nowitzki’s two difficult years at the start of his career.

Those 1990s-era Mavericks had 10 straight losing seasons. Combine the drafting of Doncic with last year’s ninth overall pick in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a still-young leading scorer in Harrison Barnes, and Carlisle expects the losing to stop soon, if not this coming season.

“Last night was symbolic to me that it was kind of a defining moment in this rebuild,” said Carlisle, who had just one losing season as a coach before the current Dallas slide. “We’re going propel forward with the idea that we’ve got to start winning games.”

Just as he did last year with Smith, Carlisle is declaring Doncic a starter, which means the opening night lineup will have a teenager for the second straight year. Youth partly explains a two-year record of 57-107, including the 24-58 mark last season that landed Dallas the fifth pick before the draft-night trade with Atlanta on Thursday.

Another explanation was an unusually large number of undrafted players, including a young German in Maxi Kleber who grew up watching his countryman become the 2007 MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP.

The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since taking their only title in 2011, and have missed the postseason three of the past six seasons coming off a 12-year playoff streak. Doncic might only get one chance to get Dallas back on track with Nowitzki, the 13-time All-Star who has hinted that 40 is a nice round number as a retirement age.

If this is it for Nowitzki, Nelson sees a trio in Barnes, Smith and Doncic that reminds him of Michael Finley mentoring Nowitzki and point guard Steve Nash and helping the Mavericks end a 10-year playoff drought in 2001.

“Michael Finley was our Harrison Barnes back in the day,” Nelson said. “We feel like we’ve got that here in a different form. There’s just some really cool elements to this that take me back and remind me about what it was like 20 years ago when we were watching these young guys.”

Just don’t remind Nelson about the Nowitzki-Bird comparisons.

 

Clippers’ Milos Teodosic opts into $6.3 million for next season

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It was a lot of fun to watch Milos Teodosic play last season…

When he was healthy. He only played in 45 games for the Clippers last season.

Teodosic will be back in the NBA next season, as he has told the Clippers he will opt into a $6.3 million next season, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Clippers can buy him out by July 15 for $2.1 million, and that likely will happen. The Clippers are deep at the point guard spot (Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jawun Evans) and with a lottery rookie in the fold they will want to get him run.

Expect the Clippers to try to trade him in the next three weeks. He would have value to a team looking for a backup point guard — when he did play he averaged 9.5 points per game, shot 37.9 percent from three. The fans will love his passing and play. The coach will like him too… when healthy.

Report: Suns to renounce rights to Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

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The Suns want to free up some cap space heading into July. They are not going big game hunting, but with $10 million to $15 million they could bring in some solid veterans to provide leadership to their young core — and win a few games along the way.

How they get there starts with not bringing back Alex Len or Elfrid Payton, reports Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic.

Expect them to renounce their rights to center Alex Len and point guard Elfrid Payton, making them both free agents. Ayton’s addition has made Len expendable, and while Phoenix still needs point-guard help, Payton’s inconsistent play last season and, more importantly, his $10 million cap hold figure, likely means he’s played his last game in a Suns uniform.

This was expected. In Len’s case, he was playing on a qualifying offer and didn’t anticipate being back with the team (especially after they drafted Deandre Ayton).

The Suns acquired Payton at the trade deadline for a second-round pick (which was just by Orlando to land Jarred Vanderbilt) and it was a good flier. The Suns need a point guard to go next to Devin Booker, Payton is a former lottery pick that had shown flashes in the past, so Phoenix rolled the dice on him. It didn’t work out, and the Suns can just move on.

Both Len and Payton probably find new homes in the NBA next season. Len is 7’1″ and can use that size to protect the paint, plus he can score around the rim. Teams can use that off the bench. Payton has shown enough in flashes, and he can get buckets, that some team will grab him, just probably as a reserve.

Markelle Fultz’s new trainer describes him as having the “yips”

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It was about this time last year that Markelle Fultz started to change his shot. As Sixers coach Brett Brown said just before the start of training camp: “Markelle has made some personal adjustments to his shot since we last saw him in Vegas, we’ve done stuff with him but really he’s been with his personal trainer over the month of August and since Summer League ended.” What followed was a chicken-and-egg debate about whether the new shooting form caused his shoulder problems or the injury forced the change, either way the combination of the two sidelined for most of his rookie season.

Fultz’s new trainer — the well known and respected Drew Hanlen, who has worked with Bradley Beal, Joel Embiid, and many others — admitted Fultz now has the “yips” and he needs to get the young player back to who he was in college. Hanlen spoke on the Talking Schmidt Podcast (hat tip Bleacher Report and Kyle Neubeck) about Fultz.

“With Markelle, obviously he has one of the most documented cases of kind of the yips of basketball in recent years, where he completely forgot how to shoot and had multiple hitches in his shot. So for me it was, ‘Hey listen, how can I get this kid that was No. 1 in last year’s draft back rolling and get him to the point where he was before, if not better?’…

“We’ve been working hard every day, working on rewiring his body and getting a kind of smooth stroke back into his shot. We’re way ahead of pace where I thought we were going to be, I thought it was going to take me at least six weeks before we had kind of a serviceable jump shot, and we’re already starting to shoot with a jump in week two.

“It’s not perfect yet, but I think by the end of the summer it will be perfect, he’ll be back rolling and he’ll show people why he was the No. 1 pick. Even though I still give him trouble on a daily basis and tell him and remind him I still believe Jayson Tatum was the best player in that draft.”

That should light a fire under Fultz.

It’s far too early to write off Fultz as some want to do, we just do not know yet what kind of player he will be at the NBA level. His rookie year was lost to the yips, and someday there will be a great 30-for-30 (or maybe just a Drunk History segment) about what happened to Fultz’s shot. It will get the full D.B. Cooper treatment.

The Sixers just want the guy they drafted back, not the one who came to camp last fall. With where he is in the process, we may not see Fultz at Summer League (the Sixers have yet to release their Summer League roster). It may be training camp before we get a good look at his reworked form.