Baseline to Baseline recaps: Spurs, Knicks remain undefeated

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while you were finding out where Superman’s home planet Krypton actually was….

Spurs 101, Pacers 79: Don’t look now, but the Spurs are defending again this year. Which is how they crushed the Pacers. We broke it down.

Knicks 110, 76ers 88: Second night of a back-to-back, home-and-home but it felt a lot like the first game. The Knicks are still defending well and the 76ers are still willing to take bad shots in the face of it. Carmelo Anthony had a few more minutes where he wanted to go to isolation, but he had 21 points on 16 shots and was again playing defense. Raymond Felton destroyed Kwame Brown on the pick and roll on his way to 16 points.

And Rasheed Wallace had 10. When ‘Sheed is hitting shots like the one below you know it is his night.

Heat 124, Suns 99: This one felt over pretty quickly — Miami was up by 14 less than 10 minutes into the game, moving the ball and getting good looks on offense that the Suns couldn’t stop. Miami hit 15-of-26 from three, and when they do that they are basically unbeatable. Michael Beasley tried to fire up the Suns offense and score the only way he knows how — attacking with his athleticism. But that’s not going to work against the Heat. It doesn’t work most nights in the NBA period, but especially not against the Heat. Beasley went 3-for -13 on the night.

Credit the Suns for fighting to keep it in the teens for a while, but this was never in doubt. LeBron had 25 points and 11 boards, Dwyane Wade had 23, Ray Allen had 15 because the Suns stopped closing out on him on corner threes. Not smart. Shannon Brown had 18, Luis Scola had 15.

Timberwolves 107, Nets 96: The Nets had a 22-point lead in the third quarter and gave it all back — that happens when you shoot 4-of-22 to close out the game — in a painful loss at home. Alexey Shved had all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter to lead the comeback along with Dante Cunningham, who finished with 11 points, 11 boards and was +18 on the night.

Brooklyn still had a chance late, this one was 96-96 with less than four minutes to go. But in those final minutes, Shved was the guy making plays, attacking off the pick-and-roll and getting a floater in the lane and setting up Nikola Pekovic for a bucket in the paint. Then a skip pass from J.J. Barea to Chase Budinger for a three had the Timberwolves up 7 with: 38 seconds left and it was over. Brooklyn did not execute a team offense at all, they went to too much isolation late and Minnesota could defend it.

Grizzlies 103, Jazz 94: Utah looked like the better side early with Memphis struggling to score and Gordon Hayward racking up 11 points in the first quarter. But the Jazz never pulled away and Memphis came storming back. Mike Conley was key with a dozen second half points and disruptive defense that kept Mo Williams off balance. Marc Gasol had 22 points, Zach Randolph 16 points and 17 rebounds.

Mavericks 114, Trail Blazers 91: For three quarters Portland fought and scrapped to stay with a Mavericks team that was hot shooting from the time the doors opened — Dallas put up 31 points in the first quarter. Wesley Mathews and LaMarcus Aldridge each had 20 for Portland. But Dallas got even hotter in the fourth and hit 78 percent of their shots in the final 12 minutes to pull away. O.J. Mayo had 32 on the night and was hot from the start (12 in the first quarter) then it was rookie Jae Crowder with 9 in the fourth quarter to help seal it.

Cavaliers 108, Clippers 101: Cleveland’s three best players just flat out were better than anyone the Clippers had to stop them. Kyrie Irving came out on fire and had 16 first quarter points mostly matched up on Chris Paul. Then Irving had the dagger three late (when the Clips had it at a three-point game) because Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan both laid back and let him take the shot uncontested. Dion Waiters had 28 points, hit 7-of-11 threes (including a couple from north Orange County) and just abused Willie Green. And Anderson Varejao had 15 points, 15 boards and made life hard for Blake Griffin (who still got 20 points on 14 shots). How a team with a front line of Griffin and Jordan gets abused on the boards nightly is beyond me.

Kings 94, Warriors 92: The Kings took control of this game in the third quarter, going up by 16 behind a strong quarter from DeMarcus Cousins (11 of his 23 came in the third). The Kings were still up 11 with just more than 4 minutes left but the Warriors came storming back and had their chances late — Klay Thompson missed a 17-footer and Stephen Curry back ironed a 30-footer for the win as time expired. The Kings get a win at home but their execution isn’t striking fear in anyone’s hearts.

Best part of this game was Keith Smart having to run out and get a black tarp off the court that had been covering an advertisement on the scoreboard but fell off midgame.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.

Stephen Jackson speaks passionately at a rally in remembrance of his “twin” George Floyd

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Stephen Jackson, the former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, knew George Floyd from when he pair grew up near each other in Texas.

Friday, Jackson spoke about the man he called his “twin” at a rally Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda (an event with Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie in attendance. (Video via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic, there is NSFW language involved.)

“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin. A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up their background, to make it seem like the bulls*** that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.

“You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck — taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket — that that smirk on his face didn’t say, ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”

There has been a powerful reaction across the NBA world — and across the nation — in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery (a 25-year-old black man killed while jogging in a Georgia neighborhood) and Floyd. In a sport with many black players, the murders of these men were reminders of the systemic race issues still part of American culture. LeBron James captured the feelings of many players and others when he took to Instagram.

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STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤

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Derek Chauvin, the man pictured kneeling on Floyd’s neck — which he did for more than eight-and-a-half minutes — was fired from his job in the Minneapolis Police Department and was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder.

Vote on NBA restart format expected next Thursday, here are four plans on the table

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The NBA is almost guaranteed to return to action in July, with the games taking place in Orlando.

What format the return takes is undecided, but the owners are expected to vote on that next Thursday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

On Friday’s conference call with owners, Adam Silver reportedly laid out four options for them, something Shams Charania of The Athletic reported.

There was no consensus behind any one option, teams are all lobbying for what they want to see. Come next Thursday, Adam Silver is going to have to make a recommendation and get everyone to line up behind it, something the owners and players will do. This is Silver’s call.

Let’s break those options down.

• 16 teams going directly into playoffs. This is the cleanest, most straightforward option, and it has support from a number of owners. This keeps the number of people in the bubble relatively small, making it easier to maintain the safety of players, coaches, staff, and everyone involved. The league likely would keep the conference format rather than go to 1-16 seeding (many owners from the Eastern Conference and coastal cities reportedly are not fans of 1-16 and fear if they do it once, even in this unique season, it would become a regular thing).

One downside is players have asked for some regular season games — or games with meaning — before the playoffs to get their legs under them, this does not provide any (increasing the risk of injury). The other downside is this takes almost half the NBA’s markets and tells them “you’re done, no games from March until Christmas (the expected date for the tip-off of next season, or maybe a week or two earlier). That’s a long time without games and can hurt momentum for those franchises.

• 20 teams, group play for the first round. This is the World Cup soccer idea, with four groups of five teams each and the top two teams in each group advancing to the playoffs. Some fans and teams backed this idea because it provided a bit of randomness to the mix — soccer sees a lot of upsets in this format. On the flip side, the top teams were not fans of this plan for the same reason.

The buzz around the league is this format is basically dead to the owners.

• 22 teams with regular season games to determine seeding, followed by a play-in tournament to the 16-team playoffs. This idea, in a couple of different forms (one with just 20 teams, some with 24) has some momentum. The idea is the 22 teams — all teams within six games off the last playoff spot in each conference, which is the Wizards in the East and the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns in the West — would play eight regular season games, then standings at the end of those games would set up the play-in tournament for the eighth seed. After that, the playoffs would start. This gets more markets involved, gets some regular season games (helping some regional sports networks), and still has a full playoffs.

There are downsides. It brings more people into the bubble and is that risk worth the reward? There are going to be some meaningless regular season games here, both by teams eliminated and teams locked into their playoff spots (the Lakers and Bucks will treat these games like exhibitions). It also adds a couple of weeks to the season and pushes the end-date back deeper into September and maybe October.

• 30 teams, a regular season to get to 72 games, then a play-in tournament followed by the playoffs. This is the idea to “finish” the regular season. We’re not going to waste time on it because my sources, and those of other reporters, have called this one dead on arrival.

Silver is going to get lobbied all week by different factions backing different plans, but by next Thursday he has to pick a one he can sell to owners and to players. There are no good options, he has to choose the least bad one.

From there, players will get called back to market for workouts and the clock will start.

So long as the league can keep everyone safe.

Bradley Beal: Contract extension gives Wizards opportunity, me flexibility

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Bradley Beal, through word and action, has shown an incredibly strong commitment to the Wizards.

But is there an opening to pry him from Washington?

Beal on his contract extension, via “All The Smoke“:

It was definitely tough. I came down to damn near the deadline on my decision, because I kind of play devil’s advocate. The whole year, I’m weighing pros and cons of staying or leaving, signing and not signing. Do I wait and try to sign this summer? Or do I wait and try to get traded? Or do I wait and play my contract out? So, I had a bunch of options.

I secured two more years. I have two more years here. Well, three. And, so for me, it was like that puts me – to me, I don’t think I’m going to hit my prime until I’m – what? – 29, 28, 29, 30? And so I feel like – at the end of this extension, it puts me right there. And it so kind of puts me in the prime time of my basketball. And so it still gives me the flexibility with also giving my respects and loyalty to the organization that drafted me. So, I’m still giving you all an opportunity here to make it with work with John, to make it work with everybody. So, here we go. We’ve got a couple more years. And granted, I think my extension is the length of John’s contract, as well. So, this is the time we’ve got. We’re going to see what we can do, and we’re going to make it work.

Beal on the Nets being interested in trading for him, via Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

“It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me.

“That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie [Irving] and KD [Kevin Durant] want you, s—, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team.

“But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”

Beal, 26, is locked up two more seasons. Both he and John Wall have player options for 2022-23. Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, declared: “There are no Beal Sweepstakes.”

Everything Beal has said and done about staying in Washington is far more concrete than anything he has indicated about leaving.

But…

It’s interesting how close he came to not signing his extension. It’s interesting he publicly admitted to thinking about trade interest from other teams.

To me, Beal sounds like Anthony Davis – after years of stating loyalty to the Pelicans – subtly hinting he was dissatisfied in New Orleans. The key: Davis requested a trade only after the Pelicans kept struggling to build around him.

Beal is giving the Wizards an opportunity. Maybe they can assemble a winner around him. But even if Wall gets healthy, that’s a tough job.

If Washington becomes successful in the next couple years, great. That’s easy. Beal seems to be looking for reasons to stay.

But if the Wizards keep losing the next couple years, other teams will definitely line up to acquire the star shooting guard. Many players in that situation have greased the wheels of their exit by saying they won’t re-sign or even outright requesting a trade.

We’ll see how Washington does. We’ll see what Beal does at that point.

Considering Beal previously said he’d finish his career with the Wizards if he can control it, these recent interviews leave the door cracked slightly – only slightly – more ajar for Beal to depart.