Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bulls beat Heat even without that Rose guy

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What you missed while waiting for Dwight Howard to change his mind again….

Bulls 106, Heat 102: This just shows the different mentalities of these two teams. No Derrick Rose, no Richard Hamilton and yet the Bulls just brought it with fantastic energy. They defended, guys like John Lucas III (24 points) and Jimmy Butler step in in their roles and the Bulls lead the whole way. Joakim Noah was everywhere.

Miami got good games from LeBron James (35 points on 25 shots) and Dwyane Wade (36 points on 26 shots) but after that nothing. They had two bench points for the entire first half. Chris Bosh had 12 points on 15 shots. Nobody else showed passion or brought it.

I’m not going to take much out of this game and apply it to the future Eastern Conference Finals between these two teams. But it does show a difference of mentality toward the regular season.

Knicks 121, Trail Blazers 79: I don’t want to rain on the Knicks parade, but this game really had nothing to do with Mike Woodson replacing Mike D’Antoni and everything to do with the Trail Blazers being this bad. They may have been the worst team in the NBA over the past two weeks, and they were on the second night of a back-to-back with trade rumors hanging over them. It was ugly. J.R. Smith had 23 to lead the Knicks.

We’ll be able to judge the Knicks better after some time for Woodson to put his stamp on this team. Just remember, when he coached the Hawks his offense was nicknamed “iso Joe” for how often they ran Joe Johnson isolations. Carmelo Anthony has to love that.

Spurs 122, Magic 111: Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense. San Antonio put up 63 points in the second half — Tony Parker had 16 in the fourth quarter alone — and the Spurs come from behind to win. Second night of a back-to-back for Orlando, and they may have been distracted by something.

Lakers 107, Hornets 101 (OT): Two overtime games in two nights — Kobe Bryant has played more than 100 minutes in them. But that didn’t slow him in the overtime when he had seven points then and 33 on the night. Andrew Bynum had 25 points, 18 boards. Gritty effort by the Hornets.

Pacers 111, Sixers 94: Philadelphia is a good defensive team. They were not this night. Indy shot 56.6 percent as a team and hit 7 of 17 from three (41.2 percent). Danny Granger led the way with 20 points on 13 shots.

Nets 98, Raptors 94: Do you really think anybody in the Nets organization is celebrating this win right now?

Bucks 115, Cavaliers 105: The Bucks had 38 assists on 46 baskets, they really had great ball movement and had six players in double figures scoring. We’ll see how that goes when Monta Ellis is in the lineup. The Bucks remain tied for eighth in the East with the Knicks but this win puts the two up on the Cavaliers, who are 10th.

Rockets 107, Bobcats 87: Houston led the whole way and this game went pretty much to form. Wonder what these rosters will look like 24 hours from now.

Pistons 124, Kings 112: In a game between two teams capable of mental nights off, the Pistons seemed more engaged. At least their stars did. Rodney Stuckey had 35 points, Greg Monroe had 32, 11 in the fourth quarter.

Clippers 96, Hawks 81: Atlanta did a pretty good job defensively of taking the ball out of Chris Paul’s hands and slowing Blake Griffin (at least for a half). Dare someone else to beat you. Like Mo Williams, who had 25 points. The Hawks on offense never seem to really go at the mismatches they have, they just take what they can get.

Celtics, 105 Warriors 103: Someone needs to explain to the Warriors about how to tank to improve your lottery odds — they played with great energy all night. Boston played up-tempo on the second night of a back-to-back and won. They got 24 from Kevin Garnett, who had 12 in the fourth quarter.

Suns 119, Jazz 111: Our own Brett Pollakoff was at this game and filed this report: Utah put a 20-3 stretch together early that had them ahead by 13 points two minutes into the second quarter. The Suns then dropped a 34-13 run from the second quarter into the third, pushing Phoenix’s lead to eight.

Phoenix held a lead of seven heading into the fourth, and Utah came back to tie it at 91 before the Suns’ starting unit was able to regain control.

The Suns were able to shoot 56.4 percent from the field for the game, including a combined 9-of-16 from three-point range from Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Steve Nash was ridiculously efficient, finishing with 12 points on just four shots, while dishing out 16 assists. Marcin Gortat bounced back from his dismal effort against Minnesota with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting.

The Suns weren’t pleased with their defense, but were happy to get the win. They’re now tied with Utah in the standings with a record of 20-22, still three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race that’s currently shared by Houston and Dallas.

 

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

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It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

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That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.