Baseline to Baseline recaps: Are the Hawks and Jazz still playing?

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What you missed while welcoming Don Draper back into your life…

Thunder 103, Heat 87: Kevin Durant outdueled LeBron James (making a nice MVP case), but the bigger concern for Miami should be that Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka combined to drop 35 on them. Matt Moore has a lot more as this was our game of the night.

Hawks 139, Jazz 133 (4OT): You’re reading that right — four overtimes. Twenty free minutes of hoop for the paying customers. First time the league has had a four OT game since 1997.

Let us not confuse a long and entertaining game with one that was well played — the Jazz went 2-18 at the end of the fourth quarter and first OT, the Hawks 2-10. First overtime saw the teams combine for four total points. Four. Joe Johnson took over in the fourth overtime and scored 8 of his 37 to ensure the win. Al Jefferson had 28 and Paul Millsap 25. Great game for fantasy leagues as each team had seven players in double figures.

Grizzlies 102, Lakers 93: Usually it is the length and size of the Lakers front line that bothers other teams, but today the size of the Grizzlies — one of the few teams that can match up with the Lakers — that really bothered Los Angeles. Andrew Bynum had just four rebounds. Pau Gasol shot 4-15. The Lakers as a squad just seemed thrown off their game. Memphis got 18 from Rudy Gay but it was O.J. Mayo (feeling at home back in his old USC neighborhood) who had 12 in the fourth quarter and helped Memphis get a win it needed to snap a three-game losing streak.

Mike Brown sat Kobe Bryant for a key four minute stretch of the fourth quarter. Kobe didn’t like it but wouldn’t talk about it after the game. This story is going to come up again. But for the record, the Lakers were +7 in that time he sat (and -13 the rest of the quarter). Also for the record, the Lakers lost because they couldn’t stop the Grizzlies, not that four minutes Kobe sat.

Spurs 93, Sixers 76: This makes a sweep of a back-to-back-to-back by the Spurs, but maybe the most impressive thing is they were the team playing with more energy in the second half. Great showing by Kawhi Leonard who seemed to control the paint. This game stayed pretty close until a San Antonio 8-0 run near the end of the third quarter, then a 12-2 Spurs run to start the fourth. Tony Parker had 21 for San Antonio, DeJuan Blair had 19. No Tim Duncan for the Spurs — he’s just old — and no Andre Iguodala, who was a late scratch for the Sixers.

Suns, 108, Cavaliers, 83: The Suns pretty much owned this game, being up 21 at the half and cruising in for the win. If the book on Steve Nash is to make him score not pass, well he had 4 points but 13 dimes. Marcin Gortat led the way with 20. The Cavaliers shot 38 percent as a team. Antawn Jamison was 1-for-8. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Timberwolves 117, Nuggets 100: Minnesota was in control from the start and up 25 at the half. Here’s all you need to know about Denver in this one: JaVale McGee was their best player (13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 11 boards). Kevin Love had 30 points, 21 rebounds, while Luke Ridnour added 25.

While they both are fighting to get one of those last playoff spots in the West, you get the feeling both of these teams may be lottery bound.

Celtics 88, Wizards 76: Boston has quietly been playing better offense of late, particularly at the start of games, and they did that in the start of this one with 21 points in the first 8 minutes. Avery Bradley led the way with 15 of his team-best 23 in the first quarter. Yes, You read that right, Avery Bradley. But forget the offense, what really mattered is the Celtics defense — the Wizards scored just 12 points in the first quarter. It was kind of a route from there on out.

Trail Blazers 90, Warriors 87: Two teams trying to tank the season — not officially, but if feels like it — yet someone had to win. Raymond Felton may have been the key here for Portland, scoring 19 points in the second half and draining three from beyond the arc in the final quarter. Charles Jenkins had 27 for Golden State, and if you just had to ask who that is remind yourself these teams are playing for ping pong balls at this point.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

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.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.