Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lin, ‘Melo play together well

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What you missed while stacking 2.5 feet of pancakes

Warriors 106, Suns 104: We have other details, but you really should just click this link to see Monta Ellis’ game winning shot.

Knicks 99, Hawks 82: It was just a second game with everyone healthy on the Knicks, but you could see an improved chemistry. Jeremy Lin had a rough first quarter trying to find the holes in the Hawks defense, but when the Knicks bench came in they led a 15-0 New York run, and from there the Knicks dominated the game (the Hawks made a 19-2 third quarter run, but the Knicks answered quickly with a 9-0 run of their own). Lin had 17 points and 9 assists as he found his groove and made plays. Steve Novak also had 17. Carmelo Anthony had 15 points but took 16 shots to get there. Baron Davis and J.R. Smith are showing some chemistry and that could make the Knicks second unit dangerous.

Thunder 119, Celtics 104: Boston hung tight for half of the first quarter, but a 23-3 run made this a blowout. Without Rajon Rondo (you can’t throw the ball at the ref young man) the Celtics stood no chance and gave up 72 points in the first half. Really, not sure Rondo would have mattered much. Boston did make a 15-4 run behind Ray Allen’s 9 fourth quarter points to cut the lead to six, but the Thunder answered with a 11-2 run of their own and that was the ballgame. Russell Westbrook had 31, Kevin Durant 28 for Oklahoma City. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett led Boston with 23 a piece.

Lakers 96, Mavericks 91: When I think Dallas could be in trouble in the playoffs, it’s games like this that plant that seed in my mind. Pau Gasol had 24 points and nine boards, Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds. And Dallas had no real answer for it. They had Dirk Nowitzki (25 points) and Vince Carter (20) but they miss what Tyson Chandler brings in the paint. The Lakers are playing pretty well of late.

Raptors 103, Pistons 93: Fantastic game from DeMar DeRozan, who had 23 and showed tremendous energy (and following his lead, the Raptors played with great energy). Greg Monroe did drop 30 points in a losing effort.

Hornets 89, Cavaliers 84: Chris Kaman is just a little better at everything than you think he is — he is a good NBA center. Some team is going to trade for him. He had 21 points and 13 boards, and suddenly the Hornets are 4-2 in their last 6.

Timberwolves 100, Jazz 98: When you finish the sentence “The guy I want to take the game winning shot for Minnesota is…” the name Luke Ridnour doesn’t come up all that often. But he had the opening, drove the lane and put up an ugly floater that fell as the red light went on behind the backboard. It capped an 18-point comeback by Minnesota. Paul Millsap had 25 for Utah, Al Jefferson 18 including the sweet face-up jumper over Kevin Love with 7 seconds left to tie it up. J.J. Barea had 22 off the bench for Minnesota.

Pacers 102, Bobcats 88: The Pacers should wear those blue ABA throwbacks every game. Love those. They were the best part of this game.

Kings 115, Wizards 107: Kings had lost the first five games of and East Coast swing but found the energy to have a big fourth quarter — led by Isaiah Thomas who had 10 in the quarter — to get the win. Marcus Thornton also had a big fourth quarter and finished with 22 (as did Tyreke Evans). Jordan Crawford had 32 off the bench for the Wizards, John Wall had 21 (and is still fast end-to-end).

Bulls 110, Bucks 91: There was balance in Chicago — six Bulls were in double figures, led by Carlos Boozer with 20. Joakim Noah had the triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. The Bucks got behind a little and played like a team thinking about having the weekend off.

Magic 108, Nets 91: Orlando dominated this game behind 20 points and 17 assists. This one was over early. The only hope for the Nets would have been to have Dwight Howard on their side… oh, yea.

Rockets 93, Sixers 87: This is now five losses in a row for the Sixers, who could use the All-Star break to right the ship. The Sixers did get a big tame out of Nikola Vucevic, the rookie led Philly with 18 points. This was a close game but down the stretch Kyle Lowry who twice got in the lane (going to his right) and finished. He had 13 and will be great at the All-Star Game… oh yea, he got snubbed. Luis Scola had 19 to lead r

Clippers 103, Nuggets 95: Was this game played on NBA 2K12? NBA Jam? Sure felt like it. Blake Griffin was in in “boom shakalaka” form. Kenneth Faried was catching half-court lobs from Andre Miller. Jordan Hamilton and DeAndre Jordan were throwing down monster slams. This was close the entire was and tied 91-91, but down the stretch the Clippers had Chris Paul (36 points) and Griffin (27) and the Nuggets (without Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Nene) didn’t have someone who could get the buckets they needed.

 

Pistons present themselves as Eastern Conference heavyweights with Dwane Casey

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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DETROIT – Pistons spokesman Mark Barnhill, introducing new coach Dwane Casey, said he tucked his notes for today’s press conference into his jacket pocket. Then, as he pulled them out, he discovered an old Pistons playoff ticket in the same pocket.

“It’s a bit of an omen and a bit of a challenge,” Barnhill said.

The ticket was for the Pistons’ best playoff performance in a decade.

“No pressure,” Casey said.

Actually, really, no pressure.

Detroit lost by only two points in Game 4 of the 2016 first round, getting swept by the Cavaliers in the game Barnhill referred to. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in the last 10 years and reached the postseason only twice in that span. A two-point loss was their best result.

They’re starving for only moderate success. The 59 wins and second-round loss that got Casey fired by the Raptors? That’d be a dream season in Detroit. Even just making the playoffs next year would be welcomed.

“Our time is now,” Casey said. “…The talent level on the roster is there.”

It better be.

The Pistons are too close to the luxury-tax line to use most of the mid-level exception. They surrendered their first-round pick in the Blake Griffin trade. They’re left with only the No. 42 pick in the second round.

“Whatever player we get, that would be great. But we don’t need another one,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “Like, we’re good. That’s why Dwane is here.”

That and $35 million.

The Pistons presented Casey with a favorable contract, a front-office head he knows (more on that later) and a solid roster. Detroit is probably better off trying to win now, because the alternative would be even trickier to pull off. With so many highly paid players stained by losing, the Pistons can’t easily switch paths and rebuild. Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are close enough to their primes that the present should be the priority, even if this team maxes at pretty good.

Yet, Detroit’s brass couldn’t help but raise expectations even further.

“We have three very – we have a great roster – but very special players,” Gores said of Griffin, Drummond and Jackson.

That’s an overstatement. Besides, how much noise can Detroit make with the Celtics and 76ers rising the Raptors still hanging around?

“I feel very comfortable that we’ll have a product that will compete with the teams that you just said,” Gores’ advisor, Ed Stefanski, said. “We have to win games, as Tom said. But you don’t usually get to an organization and have three core guys like we have.”

Again, they’re talking about Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

Griffin hasn’t made an All-Star team in three years, a drought players rarely escape. Drummond is a borderline All-Star in the East (and a tough fit with Griffin). Jackson has only once even sniffed the All-Star discussion.

Casey also praised those three – and Detroit’s last three first-round picks: Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard. Johnson particularly drew attention from Casey, whose Raptors got swept by LeBron James‘ Cavaliers the last two years and lost the most lopsided six-game series in NBA history to Cleveland the previous year.

“Somebody said, ‘Well, what happened to Toronto in the playoffs? ‘Well, I said, ‘It’s about matchups,'” Casey said. “And Stanley Johnson is the best match up for 23 in Cleveland that there is, physically.”

Maybe Casey, with his strong record of player development, will help Johnson eventually compete at those high levels.

“We’re not developing,” Casey said. “We’re not two or three years away. We want to win right now.”

The Pistons are so confident in their current roster, they haven’t even hired a general manager or equivalent. For now, Stefanski – advisor to the owner with the title of “senior executive” – is running the show. It sounds as if that could continue for a while.

“We could make Ed GM tomorrow,” Gores said. “That’s easy. If you guys want a title, that’s kind of easy.

“That’s not the point. The point is we’re building an organization, not around one person, but around what our vision is.”

Stefanski said, no matter how the front office is assembled, Casey will report to him. And Stefanski will report to Gores.

After giving Stan Van Gundy massive control, the Pistons are dispersing power.

Casey is a good coach, and he’ll help. Stefanski has plenty to prove as a front-office head. Gores is still learning as an owner, a failed experiment (keeping Joe Dumars) and unfulfilling tenure (Van Gundy’s) behind him. The roster is solid, though unexciting, when healthy.

They’re now all in it together, awaiting a chance to deliver. Considering how modest external expectations are, maybe they will.

But as the Pistons overstate their standing, it gets harder to take them seriously.

PBT Extra: Dwight Howard traded to Brooklyn, does anybody win?

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Dwight Howard is on the move. Again. Leaving a wake of unhappy teammates behind him. Again.

The trade can’t be consummated until the NBA free agent moratorium ends on July 6, but a deal has been struck where Charlotte sends Howard to Brooklyn for Timofey Mozgov, two second-round picks, and cash.

I don’t love this trade for the Nets — it’s going to get awkward with Howard being asked to come off the bench behind Jarrett Allen (and he should come off the bench). But it frees up an extra $17 million for the Nets in the summer of 2019 as they start to reshape their roster.

The Hornets get away from the luxury tax with this move but tie up their cap space next year with Mozgov still getting paid off the contract former-Laker-now-Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak gave him years ago. It was a short-term move that isn’t great for the long term. Unless Kemba Walker wanted Howard gone and the Hornets want to re-sign their point guard. A lot of unanswered questions still about this team.

Rumor: Kawhi Leonard directly told Gregg Popovich he wanted to leave Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met in San Diego yesterday.

How did the discussion go? Reports have been mixed about even the nature of the meeting, let alone a resolution from either side.

But here’s an update with a reportedly direct conclusion.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

From what my sources told me, Kawhi Leonard met with Gregg Popovich face-to-face, looked him dead in his face and told him “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be in San Antonio any longer.”

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers, last week. There was some hope Popovich could mend the relationship, but that seems to running thin. There is so much bitterness between both sides.

The next question: What do the Spurs do about it?

Do they keep trying to ease tension with the 26-year-old superstar? Do they trade him? If so, when? Before or during the draft?

No matter what Leonard told Popovich yesterday, San Antonio has big decisions to make and soon. Leonard firmly stating a desire to leave would be clarifying, but it’d hardly make this situation easy to handle.

Brendan Haywood: Former Hornets teammates ‘sick and tired’ of Dwight Howard’s act

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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It has become an annual tradition – Dwight Howard getting traded then his former teammates celebrating his exit.

It happened with the Hawks last year. Now, it’s happening with the Hornets, who sent Howard to the Nets.

Brendan Haywood, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Now retired, Haywood played with current Hornets Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist his final season. He also knows many other players throughout the league.

Howard went to Charlotte and declared himself team leader – despite the presence of Walker, the franchise player. Howard’s immaturity and ego have rubbed teammates and coaches the wrong way for years.

But at least this is progress. Howard’s time with the Magic, Lakers and Rockets devolved into interpersonal strife well before he left those teams.