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.

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.