Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bulls look every bit the contender

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What you missed while realizing that it’s time to turn off the autocorrect on your phone before someone gets hurt….

Bulls 96, Spurs 89: That is why the Chicago Bulls are contenders. They played a fantastic game behind Derrick Rose, who had 29 points and made all the big plays at the end, including a pull up jumper and a pretty floater off the glass. However it was Luol Deng who knocked down the dagger jumper at the end off some pretty ball movement by the Bulls when the Spurs defense focused on Rose. The Bulls also attacked the Spurs up front, where San Antonio is weakest. Tim Duncan had 18 points but needed 21 shots to get there.

San Antonio took an early lead, fell back and mounted a charge at the end as good teams will do. The Bulls were able to hold them off behind Rose. Yes, no Manu Ginobili, but if you beat the Spurs in San Antonio you’ve got a quality win.

Bulls fans had their hearts in their throats when Rose was on the floor clutching his knee at one point — there was a knee-on-knee collision with Tony Parker, but both eventually walked away from it.

Magic 102, Wizards 95: With the Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back it looked like the Magic would run away and hide, getting up 17 in the first quarter. But the Magic took their foot off the gas and credit the Wizards for fighting back and actually leading for a chunk of the third quarter (Washington started the second half on a 10-0 run). Orlando came back because they hit 10-of-15 threes in the second half, led by Ryan Anderson who had 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, plus he had 15 boards. John Wall had 33 to lead the Wizards.

Thunder 92, Sixers 88: Philly looked like they were going to steal this one until the Thunder closed the game on a 12-1 run and took the win. This was the kind of closeout win on the road you see contenders make. The key stat in this one — Oklahoma City grabbed the offensive rebound on 42.2 percent of their missed shots (19 total, seven by guard Russell Westbrook). Kevin Durant had 23.

Celtics 102, Bucks 96: That was a vintage Kevin Garnett performance — 25 points, 10 boards and he was a force on defense. Rajon Rondo had 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, his third triple-double of the year. Boston owned this game after a big third quarter and was up 17 in the fourth — but a late 13-0 run by the Bucks made this one very tight at the end. Ersan Ilyasova continued his strong play of late with 25 points.

Warriors 85, Hawks 82: The Hawks shot 33.7 percent as a team, “led” by Josh Smith who was 5-of-20 and couldn’t hit a jumper to save his life. You think that was because of the Warriors 26th ranked defense? Exactly. Monta Ellis had 24 points but needed 27 shots to get there, David Lee had 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Knicks 120, Cavaliers 103: Cleveland was in control in the first half of this game and led by as many as 17. Rookie Kyrie Irving was looking good controlling play, Antwan Jamison had a dozen in the first quarter and Daniel Gibson had 10 in the second. But in the third quarter the Knicks exploded for 33 points, played fantastic defense (led by Tyson Chandler) and took the lead back. The Knicks bench continued that in the second and they pulled away for the win. Carmelo Anthony had 22 points, Jeremy Lin had 19 and 13 assists.

Grizzlies 96, Mavericks 85: Dirk Nowitzki left the game in the second quarter with a minor back injury and did not return. (He is expected to be available on Friday.) When he is not in to hold it together, the entire Mavericks offense falls apart, and they lose. Marc Gasol had 22 points and 11 boards for Memphis.

Pistons 109, Bobcats 94: In a battle of bad teams, the Bobcats prove they are worse than anyone in the league this year.

Raptors 95, Hornets 84: Toronto can play pretty good defense at times and they held the Hornets to 37.5 percent shooting (39.4 percent eFG%). Do that and you win. DeMar DeRozan and Linas Kleiza each had 21 for the Raptors — good to see from DeRozan after coach Dwane Casey benched him in the fourth last game. DeRozan sparked an 11-1 fourth quarter run that was key for the Raptors in this one.

Nuggets 104, Trail Blazers 95: Ty Lawson was back and had 18 points, but it was great play from Kenneth Faried down the stretch that helped Denver hold on for this win.

Jazz 104, Rockets 83: The night after the looked so good, the Rockets came out and shot 39.1 percent and just were unimpressive. C.J. Miles had a monster game with 27 points and Devin Harris continues to try to up his trade value with 19 points on just 11 shots.

Lakers 104, Timberwolves 85: The Lakers front line is tough to contain as it is, but take Kevin Love out of the equation — he missed this one with the cover-all excuse of “flu like symptoms” — the Timberwolves didn’t really stand much of a chance. Andrew Bynum had 13 and 13, while Pau Gasol owned the third quarter (11 points in that frame) when the Lakers pulled away. Kobe Bryant had 31 and if he shoots like this he should wear a mask every game. Note to Mike Brown: Sit your star starters at the end of blowout games. What exactly are you trying to do?

Report: Marvin Bagley ‘near-lock’ to Kings at No. 2 in draft

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The Suns will almost certainly take DeAndre Ayton No. 1 overall in Thursday’s NBA draft.

The mystery begins with the Kings at No. 2.

They’ve been linked to Luka Doncic, Michael Porter Jr. and now, most strongly, Marvin Bagley.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

I wouldn’t like that pick. Bagley is a high-end prospect, but I’d take Doncic (and prefer a few others to Bagley).

Bagley is a phenomenal finisher and rebounder due to his athleticism and exertion. He runs the floor hard and is quick off his feet, repeatedly.

But he is a huge liability as a rim protector, making him a tough fit as a defensive center. His just lacks the awareness, length and strength to defend the paint well. He can improve his awareness and maybe his strength to acceptable levels, but there is such a long way to go.

I also don’t trust his jump shot or defensive awareness on the perimeter enough for him to play power forward offensively or defensively.

Of all the top prospects, Bagley might be the trickiest to build around. And the Kings don’t have the greatest track record of roster building, even in the rare times they get a lottery pick right.

Report: Wizards willing to trade No. 15 pick if team takes on bad contract with it

Associated Press
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The Washington Wizards had the fourth highest payroll in the NBA last season — a lot to pay for the No. 8 seed and an unceremonious first-round playoff exit.

One way or another expect changes to the Wizards’ roster going into next season. Big names could be on the move. Even before that, the Wizards have signaled they will trade the No. 15 pick in Thursday’s draft if teams will take on one of the Wizards’ oversized expiring contracts, reports our old friend Ben Standig working for thesportscapitol.com.

The Wizards are open to trading down from the 15th overall pick in Thursday’s draft if another team takes on one of Washington’s expiring contracts. That’s the message relayed from the Wizards to other NBA teams, a league source tells The Sports Capitol.

The Wizards have five players with expiring contracts, including starters Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris. Gortat’s $13.56 million salary for the 2018-19 season dwarfs the other expiring deals. The hefty figure counts among the reasons why the 34-year-old center is considered a likely trade piece.

This plan is unlikely to work unless the team in question actually wanted one of those players anyway. It is worth the shot.

That said, expect a lot of trades and movement on draft night — that is the buzz around the league. After DeAndre Ayton going No. 1 there is not really a consensus, and some teams have fallen in love with players and are willing to trade up and get them. Teams starting with Sacramento at No. 2 are fielding serious offers for their picks, and a few may jump at them.

The problem is the guys teams love will be off the board by No. 15, which means the Wizards may be making a pick. Which is not a bad thing, they have traded their picks away for years and they could use the injection of youth. Still, they will look to trade this pick too if it helps lessen the burden on their payroll.

Report: Cavaliers flying blind into draft because LeBron doesn’t know what he’s going to do

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The first day we’re going to get a hint of LeBron James‘ plan this summer is June 29 — that’s the date he has to opt into, or out of, the $35.6 million on his contract for next season.

Opt-in and that means either he’s staying with the Cavaliers or there has been an arrangement made to trade him (likely to Houston). Opt- out and he becomes a free agent on July 1 — he could re-sign with the Cavaliers, or he could sign anywhere else for next season.

What LeBron is doing could impact what the Cavaliers do at the NBA draft, keep the No. 8 pick and draft for the future or try to trade it (probably packaged with Kevin Love or another player) to get LeBron more help now.

But LeBron isn’t going to let the Cavaliers know because he himself doesn’t know, reports Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

According to sources, the Cavs’ front office and James’ camp have been in contact over the phone and in person, though there has been no meeting with James present, nor has there been any real dialogue as far as James’ future is concerned.

Because the superstar himself doesn’t know.

The Cavs have been signaling (strongly, in some cases) that they’re looking to upgrade their team from the group that was swept out of the Finals this month, whether James stays or goes.

If LeBron is staying, then the Cavaliers should consider trading that pick to a team eager to land someone still on the board (if Michael Porter Jr. is still available there likely would be plenty of solid offers). However, if he’s going they should use that pick to start the rebuild (and Porter would be a good step that direction).

In reality, the Cavaliers have to act as if LeBron is gone. That was the sense one got being around the team through the playoffs and Finals, that this relationship had run its course. The Cavaliers should draft the best player they can with that pick, unless some team comes through with a killer offer for the slot (and Love plus the No. 8 is not going to land Kawhi Leonard, who the Spurs are not moving that fast to trade anyway). Then, if and when LeBron leaves, start looking at possible trades for Love, Kyle Korver, and every other veteran on the roster. Start the rebuild.

Still, new GM Koby Altman is flying blind on draft night, and LeBron’s not going to help the team out.

 

Brad Stevens says Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward should be fully cleared by Aug. 1

Associated Press
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Everyone watching the Boston Celtics in the playoffs kept thinking the same thing: Add Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward back into this lineup next summer and — bang — instant contender.

That leads to the question: Just where are Irving and Hayward on their recovery tracks? Glad you asked.

That’s a good sign for the Celtics. And for fans of good basketball.

One word of caution: Progression when adding stars into a system is not necessarily linear. Or, to put it more plainly, throwing superstars who need the ball in their hands into the mix comes with its own set of adjustments and challenges, things do not always go smoothly or as planned. There could be some fits and starts as the Celtics figure things out next season. (And that’s not even getting into the Kawhi Leonard rumors, which are legitimate but also a long way from reality as of today.)

If you were going to trust one coach to figure it out and get guys to buy in, Brad Stevens would be your guy. The Celtics are rightfully going to enter next season as the bar to clear in the East (free agency depending). Just don’t expect things to go smoothly from day one, because that’s just not how basketball or life work.