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.

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan finally buried the hatchet

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Deron Williams or Chris Paul? That was the conversation in the NBA just a decade ago, a conversation that now seems practically ridiculous. I never personally thought it was very close between the two, being an adamant Paul supporter. Now, CP3 is with the Houston Rockets and Williams is out of the league, despite Paul being just 200 days younger than the former Utah Jazz star (but having played more games).

Williams was part of a two-man attack, along with Carlos Boozer, that helped fuel the Jazz during the first decade of this century as they churned through the Western Conference. But Williams played just five-and-a-half seasons in Salt Lake City, traded after a blow-up with former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

Things were unsteady between the two during the 2010-11 season, and Sloan famously decided to retire after a game in February of 2011 in which the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls. During halftime of that game, there was a disagreement between Sloan and Williams that apparently pushed the legendary head coach to his tipping point.

Sloan retired and Williams was traded on February 23rd.

Now, it appears that the two have at least made amends. In a story of appearing on UtahJazz.com, Williams recently went to Sloan’s house to talk about the divide between the two and what happened some seven years ago.

Via UtahJazz.com:

“He doesn’t forget a lot of things, instances where I pissed him off, things I did to upset him,” Williams said. “He definitely told me about that—and rightfully so. He was great about some other things. It was kind of typical Coach Sloan, really. If you know him, he’s never been one to shy away from telling you the truth and how he feels.”

“Eventually, I think Jerry came around,” [Jazz CEO Greg] Miller said. “He never really said, ‘Let’s put it behind us’ or anything, but maybe in Sloan speak he did.”

“Two strong men said what they needed to say, shook hands and are now moving forward,” [Jazz president Steve] Starks said.

Sloan, 76, is living with Parkinson’s and reportedly not in the best of health. It’s good to hear that Williams was remorseful about how he acted, and that the two great sportsmen were able to come together and at least see each other’s point of view as a sort of armistice.

Masai Ujiri on Kawhi Leonard: ‘He is happy. There is no maintenance with him’

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No doubt there are big expectations for the Toronto Raptors this year after trading franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. Ever an enigma (and coming off of one of the worst-managed exits from a team in recent memory) Leonard has fans in Ontario biting their nails about whether he will return healthy this season, and happy for the next.

According to Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Leonard is giving them every indication that he is ready to go heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Ujiri said that Leonard is happy.

Via Sportsnet:

“He is happy. From what everybody has told me he is healthy. He spends a lot of time with our coaches,” said Ujiri. “He went to L.A. to meet our guys out there. He will be here shortly.”

“He is just quiet … that’s his nature. We can’t all be the same kind of people. But he is as engaging as he would want to be and he’s very interesting. There is no maintenance with him. There’s nothing. It’s remarkable … His (focus) is on basketball which is what you want. He is a basketball junkie … once you just start to talk about basketball his eyes change.”

We have heard rumors that Leonard has purchased a home in Toronto instead of merely renting. We’ve also seen photos of Leonard happy and working out with players like Kobe Bryant, nearly even smiling. And Ujiri is doing his part here, trying to ease any sentiment around Leonard.

The PR machine is in sixth gear in Toronto, but you can’t really blame them. It’s the first good public relations move we’ve seen from Leonard’s enclave in more than a year, and it helps bolster the team if things go south.

Do I believe anything that is reported about Leonard anymore? No. Not after last season. Unfortunately, the issue with Leonard remains the fact that we will have to simply sit to wait and see what he chooses to do next year.

Raptors fans, who are dedicated and passionate, should be hoping that they finally make a Finals run this year. Just in case.

Report: 76ers rookie Zhaire Smith expected to return around Christmas

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76ers first-rounder Zhaire Smith suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot last month, leaving plenty of uncertainty about when he’d return.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

The 76ers expect injured rookie Zhaire Smith to be available to play in a game around Christmas, league sources say.

A rookie on a team with legitimate aspirations of deep-playoff advancement, Smith was already unlikely to crack Philadelphia’s rotation this season. All this lost developmental time makes it even less likely.

But the sooner Smith returns, the better for him and Philadelphia. The No. 16 pick impresses with his athleticism and motor, but he needs time to develop his perimeter skills.

Kevin Love launches “Love Fund” to bring more focus to mental health issues

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The NBA is not shying away from the issue of the mental health of its players.

In the wake of All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love coming forward about their mental health challenges, the league and the players’ union combined to tell players to speak out on the issue and take advantage of the services offered.

Kevin Love is doing more than just that, he has formed the Kevin Love Fund to help change the stigma around mental health issues. The fund has partners such as Headspace, with the focus being on prioritizing mental health awareness. He went on the Today Show on NBC to talk about it.

Love has become a leader and spokesman around the issue. Love came forward near the end of last season to talk about his battles with anxiety and depression. That opened the door for others around the NBA to step forward as well, such as Kelly Oubre and Paul Pierce.