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.

 

Marcus Morris explains his change of plans from Spurs deal to Knicks

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Marcus Morris‘ move built up some hard feelings around the NBA. Players have verbally agreed to contracts with one team only to change their mind before, but in this case the Spurs had made roster moves — including trading Davis Bertans go to the Wizards — to clear out space for Morris, leaving San Antonio in a tough spot when Morris changed his mind and signed with the Knicks. The Spurs were pissed at the Knicks about this. Executives with other teams did not like the potential precedent the move set.

Morris offered his first explanation of what happened to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

It starts here: Morris’ agent at the time Rich Paul negotiated a three-year, $41 million offer from the Clippers at the start of free agency. Morris turned it down, and he admitted that was against Paul’s advice.

“All this stuff that (Paul) didn’t want me to go to the Clippers and didn’t want me to go against LeBron (James), that’s not true,” Morris said. “He never told me not to take the deal. For as long as I’ve known Rich — and that’s still someone I have love for and that’s still my guy — he has been great in terms of advice. He told me he wanted me to take the Clippers deal. He gave me his advice. It was my decision and I had to make the best decision for me and my family.”

Things moved very fast at the start of free agency (more than 50 contracts were agreed to in the first 24 hours) and that left Morris not wanting the music to stop without him having a chair. That’s when he accepted the two-year, $20 million offer from San Antonio. Morris said he didn’t expect another offer, but when the Knicks came through with one year, $15 million he wanted it and tried to be up front about the situation.

“I have a good relationship with those guys and I have so much respect for (head coach) Pop (Gregg Popovich), (general manager) RC (Buford) and (assistant GM) Brian Wright,” Morris told The Athletic. “The first thing that I did when I knew I would be going another direction, I called and made sure they knew. There was no shade. There’s no disrespect. I had great conversations afterward, and as long as I feel that I’m clear with them and gave them my truth, I feel good about moving forward.

“I was under the impression that I didn’t have anything left. I thought at the time that the Spurs deal was all that I had. The process wasn’t what I expected and it didn’t go the right way.”

Morris has split ways with Paul as an agent, reportedly over this incident.

Morris has now essentially bet on himself. The Knicks are not going to win a lot of games, but Morris is going to have a significant role and should get a lot of touches. Have a strong season and he will enter a much weaker free agent class next summer as one of the better players in it. That could lead to a bigger payday. Plus he makes more per year now.

 

 

Karl-Anthony Towns: “I’m planning to be in Minnesota for a long time”

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A few years back, Minnesota looked like a team on a fast rise in the West, mostly because Karl-Anthony Towns looked like a young dominant force starting to come of age in the league.

It hasn’t worked out that way, even though Minnesota finally made the playoffs back in 2018. Andrew Wiggins has not developed into a No. 2 options (even though he is getting paid like a No. 1 option), Towns has not consistently owned the defensive end, and under Tom Thibodeau there were a lot of chemistry issues highlighted by Jimmy Butler blowing up last training camp and essentially torpedoing the season before it started.

In today’s NBA news cycle, driven by rumors and speculation about player movement — and the player movement itself — all those issues in Minnesota has people looking at Towns. That despite the fact his five-year max extension just kicks in this season.

Towns isn’t looking to move. There’s a new coach (Ryan Saunders) who Towns has a good bond with, there’s a new head of basketball operations (Gersson Rosas) who is aggressive and who Towns likes, and the two-time All-Star center told Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic he is happy right now in Minnesota.

“The biggest thing when you have that conversation [about a star switching teams] is you say, ‘Is he happy here?’” Towns said. “I’m tremendously happy. I love my front office. I love my coaching staff. I think we’ve made great moves and great changes. I love the culture we have here. If you want to leave, you have to be miserable somewhere. I am not there. I’m planning to be in Minnesota for a long time.”

What makes Towns happy is he can see the plan now — and it’s finally to build around him. Towns is the top dog and this summer the Timberwolves made a push to land D'Angelo Russell to be his No. 2 (since it’s not Wiggins). That, however, fell short as Russell is in Golden State. (For now at least, if the fit with Stephen Curry is not right Russell could be on the move, and Minnesota would be interested.) Still, there was an organized plan of attack and a shuffling around of players to give Minnesota more flexibility. Towns says he is comfortable this is a franchise on the right path. Even if it’s going to take some time to get there.

In a deep West, Minnesota looks to be a team on the outside of the playoff chase that needs a lot of things to go right to get in it. They have some good players, but also a lot of youth and questions.

“We all can’t rush in and think we’re going to win 75 games right now,” he said. “We have to take it day by day. We have to be patient with the process and accept the process and go through the cycles. I think we’re going to have a really good team and we have to go out there every single night and try to accomplish it. My job as a leader, I’ve got to get the best out of every single player.”

Marcus Smart, Thaddeus Young reportedly added to USA Basketball training camp roster

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Elite NBA players have not dropped out of playing for Team USA like this since 2004, when nobody wanted to play for Larry Brown and rumors of potential terrorism in Athens had the NBA’s best backing out.

For the 2019 World Cup in China, USA Basketball has watched James Harden, Anthony Davis, Tobias Harris, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon, and CJ McCollum all back out, robbing the American team of a lot of star power. Zion Williamson, who was projected to be part of the “select team” of young stars Team USA goes against also dropped out.

The Americans were down to 14 players heading into training camp (12 will be chosen to travel to China), and they needed more players. Enter Boston’s Marcus Smart and Thaddeus Young, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Don’t be surprised if another veteran name or two is added before training camp opens.

Smart and Young are a couple of smart selections, elite defenders who can shut down the best wing players on other teams (and in FIBA competition only a couple of teams have more than one top-flight wing player to handle).

So who is on the USA roster now? Let’s break it out by position:

GUARDS:
Damian Lillard
Kemba Walker
Kyle Lowry (questionable coming off thumb surgery)
Marcus Smart

WINGS:
Khris Middleton
Donovan Mitchell
Jayson Tatum
Harrison Barnes
Kyle Kuzma
Thaddeus Young

BIGS:
Andre Drummond
Myles Turner
Brook Lopez
Kevin Love
PJ Tucker
Paul Millsap

(We could argue about whether Mitchell is a guard or a wing, or other guys positions, but you get the basic picture.)

After Lillard, that roster does lack star power.

But the USA talent pool is so deep that it will overwhelm all but a couple of teams in the tournament. Serbia — led by Nikola Jokic and Bogan Bogdanovic — is the biggest threat to the USA and has good depth. Spain is impressive as well, but older.

The USA is and should be the World Cup favorite, but an improved rest of the world and a depleted USA roster is going to make things a lot more interesting in China.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

Tim Duncan joins Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff with Spurs

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The Tim Duncan era in San Antonio is over quite yet.

The future Hall of Famer has been added full time to Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff with the Spurs, the team announced Monday.

“It is only fitting, that after I served loyally for 19 years as Tim Duncan’s assistant, that he returns the favor,” Popovich said.

Duncan was around the Spurs practice facility a lot last season, helping out informally. Now it is formal.

Expect more bank shots from the Spurs big men next season.

Duncan was at the heart of the Spurs historic NBA dynasty the past couple of decades. The future Hall of Famer is a five-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP, 15 time All-NBA teams, 15 times NBA All-Defensive teams, 15-time All-Star, and way back when the Rookie of the Year. However, his impact was greater than just that insane resume, he was the guy who set the tone and the work ethic for those Spurs teams. Duncan worked as hard as anyone, won as much as anyone, but did it without trying to draw attention to himself. If fact, he wanted to deflect it.

The Spurs will be competitive for a playoff spot in the deep West this season — they still have LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, plus Dejonte Murray gets healthy and returns — but are poised to start a rebuilding process in the coming years.

We will see if Duncan wants to be part of that, or if he is only around while Popovich remains the coach (somebody has to go to dinner with Pop). But he has earned the right to pretty much any role he wants.

The Spurs also announced that Will Hardy will be added to the bench as an assistant coach.

“Will Hardy is a talented, young basketball mind who has earned a great deal of respect from everyone in the organization thanks to his knowledge, spirit and personality,” Popovich said.