Baseline to Baseline recaps: What kind of team are the Knicks?

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What you missed while thinking if you are going to have two wives you may want to get off Facebook….

Lakers 97, Celtics 94: This rematch of a couple recent finals — which looked like those finals if you squinted really hard — was our game of the day.

Sixers 106, Knicks 94: How this game would end was forshadowed in the first quarter, when Andre Iguodala and the 76ers had fast break opportunities where Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire never ran back over half court. There is a lack of commitment to doing the right things — playing defense, moving the ball, so many more — and the Knicks are playing individual ball. Jeremy Lin is not playing well and is not able to organize these egos. There is a lack of passion.

Knicks management has a serious question to ask itself — what kind of team are they trying to build? Right now this is not a team built to run Mike D’Antoni’s system. They haven’t ever really tried to build him that team, they have just tried to collect stars. They need to make a commitment to giving him a roster he can play his style with or get a new coach. What they are doing now clearly isn’t working.

On the other side of the court… Remember a week or so ago when we thought Philly could lose their grip on the Atlantic Division. Yea, not so much. With this win the 76ers are clearly in control of the division (and avoiding the Heat or Bulls in the first round of the playoffs). Lou Williams had 28 and Evan Turner 24 for the Sixers.

Warriors 97, Clippers 93: When the Clippers offense is clicking they are a force of nature. But right now it only happens in spurts — like the 15-2 run in the fourth quarter that made you think this would be a comeback win for them. But they couldn’t maintain it and they are never able to play consistently good defense to get the win. That’s what will haunt them in the playoffs. Golden State did play pretty good defense, they were the more aggressive team all night, and while not as explosive on offense they shot the ball very well all night long (51.4 percent overall and 8-of-15 from three). Monta Ellis had 21 for the Warriors. Blake Griffin had a fantastic second half and finished with 27, Chris Paul was the best player on the floor and had 23 even with a mask.

Bucks 105, Raptors 99: Toronto led by 13 in the second quarter and you thought maybe they had something here with Andrea Bargnani back… but if you’ve watched Raptors games this season you know that’s not how it works. Milwaukee closed the gap in the third when Ersan Ilyasova scored 11 of his team-best 31, then late in the fourth the Bucks went on a 13-4 run to close it out. Toronto banked on too much DeMar DeRozan late and while he had 21 points in the game their offense didn’t flow late.

Cavaliers 118, Rockets 107: The Cavaliers bench went on a 12-0 run early in the fourth to give the Cavaliers the lead, then Kyrie Irving — your clear rookie of the year now — came in and scored 16 of his 21 in the second half of the fourth to seal the win. Antawn Jamison had 28 for Cleveland. Luis Scola had 30 for Houston, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers want to trade Pau Gasol for him.

Magic 107, Pacers 94: The score does not do justice to what a blowout this was — the Pacers were never in this game after a few minutes. It was vintage Magic, with Dwight Howard scoring 30 and grabbing 13 boards while the Magic knocked down 37 percent of their three pointers. The Pacers were 1-of-12 from three. Paul George had 22 to lead Indianapolis

Grizzlies 94, Nuggets 91: Memphis, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, just seemed a little bit better at everything. The Grizzlies got much better production out of their role players. And then down three at the end and needing a big shot to tie, George Karl went Phil Jackson and didn’t call a time out, rather he let his team just play it out. The result was a disorganized mess. Next time, advance the ball with a time out and set up a play.

Hawks 106, Kings 99: DeMarcus Cousins and Josh Smith both scored 28 points and really put on a show. But Smith put on a more rounded one and had a lot more help — Joe Johnson had 21 and seven Hawks scored in double digits. When the Hawks cranked up the defensive intensity in the second half it was too much for the Kings.

Report: Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. talking contract extension

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When the Cavaliers made the trade deadline deal with the Lakers last February, they got Larry Nance Jr. (the son of a Cavs legend) and Jordan Clarkson (surrendering Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a 2018 1st round draft pick that became Moritz Wagner).

Nance is the one the Cavaliers seem intent on keeping, and they may extend him, reports Tom Withers of the Associated Press.

This seems like a good fit for both sides, if they can find a number that works. The Cavaliers are committed to not bottoming out right now — which is why Kevin Love got a new massive contract — and Nance fits with that.

This is not going to be a max contract, but Nance has made it clear he likes playing in Cleveland and wants to stay. After he came over last season he averaged 8.9 points on 55 percent shooting, 7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers could go up with LeBron James no longer in the picture.

LeBron James on earning Lakers’ fans loyalty: ‘I signed a four-year deal’

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Living in Los Angeles, with most of my friends Lakers’ fans, I can tell you that the majority of the city is excited and on board with the LeBron James era. They get that he’s right, the Lakers are not yet on the Warriors’ level, but they like the idea of the game’s best player with the Lakers’ young core, and the potential of that with another star player in the next 10 months or so. They are excited.

Most Lakers fans that is. There is a segment, best described as the “Kobe Bryant could walk on water” crowd, who are not sold on LeBron as a Laker. Who see him somehow as a threat to their Kobe worship. They question LeBron as a “real Laker” and his loyalty.

That took all of two days of training camp to come up, and for LeBron to shoot it down. Via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.

LeBron nailed this. He has signed on and trusted Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka more than he had anyone since Pat Riley — LeBron never signed long-term deals in Cleveland and trusted Dan Gilbert. He trusts Magic and Jeanie Buss. That is huge.

LeBron’s Laker era is ultimately going to be judged by winning a title, because all Lakers’ eras are judged that way. Kobe would talk about nothing else. LeBron understands that reality. But the era of being able to buy an NBA title is gone — the Lakers have free agency advantages few other franchises do (thanks to the location and the brand) but that is not enough. The biggest question for the Lakers is not can they land another star before next season, but rather can the core of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and the rest be the guys that stand with LeBron? If at the end of games this season it is LeBron sharing the court with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley, the Lakers have much bigger problems than who is the next star they sign.

LeBron is all in. He can help cement his legacy with a title in Lakers’ Forum Blue and Gold, but he knows he needs help. And he’s willing to wait for them to get it. At age 33, what else can you ask of the man?

Kevin Durant says he is taking free agency ‘year by year’

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Talk to sources around the league about the Warriors and they think Kevin Durant — not Klay Thompson, who is also a free agent next summer, or Draymond Green in the summer of 2020 — will be the first to leave the team. It may not be this summer, especially if they three-peat, but he was last in and will be first out.

Durant, for his part, is not playing the speculation game.

When asked about it, Durant was vague, reports the USA Today’s Erik Garcia Gundersen.

“Just one of those things where you’re confident in your skills and taking it year by year. And keeping my options open was the best thing for me. I could have easily signed a long-term deal but I just wanted to take it season by season and see where it takes me. And I think this year is going to be a fun, exciting year for us all. I’m looking forward to just focusing on that and we’ll see what happens after the year.”

Golden State owner Joseph Lacob admitted he would have given Durant whatever deal he and his agents wanted. They chose the short-term option, keeping a lot of doors open.

The conventional wisdom around the league is that this summer Durant will opt-out this summer then sign a five-year contract. Probably with the Warriors, but the door is open, and there are a lot of teams with max salary slots. Maybe Durant is ready to have his own team again and move on. Maybe he is happy where he is.

Durant doesn’t know the answer to that question, yet. Nobody does. But that has other teams ready to pounce, just in case one of the world’s top two players decides it’s time to move on.

What if the Timberwolves don’t trade Jimmy Butler?

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I expect the Timberwolves to trade Jimmy Butler soon. Most people expect the Timberwolves to trade Jimmy Butler soon.

But they’ve thrown enough uncertainty into the process that nothing should be taken for granted. Tom Thibodeau said he expects Butler to report to training camp if not traded within a week, and as of yesterday, the president-coach was reportedly still trying to convince Butler to stay in Minnesota.

What happens if the Timberwolves don’t trade Butler and he refuses to report?

If he withholds playing services for 30 days after training camp begins, he won’t accrue a year of service and can’t become a free agent next offseason. He couldn’t sign with another professional basketball team unless Minnesota agreed.

That 30-day clock seemingly isn’t ticking, as Butler is excused while recovering from offseason hand surgery. But if the Timberwolves want to get serious about keeping Butler, they could press the issue.

But Butler would have options, too. He could – a la Mo Williams with the Cavaliers – undergo surgery and claim he’s not healthy enough to report. Players, especially ones as damaged as Butler, often have medical issues to clean up. That could mean embellishing the effect of the hand surgery or undergoing a new surgery altogether. An elective surgery could legitimately sideline Butler. Claiming Butler is actually healthy enough to report when he says he isn’t could get quite messy if the team objects.

Again, I don’t expect it to get that far. I doubt the Timberwolves, particularly owner Glen Taylor, desire to hold Butler hostage like that. Even if they do, Butler could just report and play. He can become an unrestricted free agent after the season and leave then.

But these are the extreme options on the table if this situation devolves further.