Baseline to Baseline recaps: Denver gets first win, Orlando first loss

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Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while you were watching the election results roll in….

Nuggets 109, Pistons 97: Denver got its first win in its home opener with a balanced attack — Andre Iguodala had 17 points (9 in the fourth quarter and he took charge when Detroit made a late run) plus 10 rebounds, while Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried each had 15. Plus, we had a JaVale McGee sighting, he had 16 points off the bench. Denver also dominated in the paint, winning the rebounding battle 52-35 and they outscored Detroit in the paint by 12.

For a team that a lot of people were high on coming into the season, Denver still looked sluggish. Their pick-and-roll defense is spotty (at best). They need to find a way to drain the three ball consistently — they hit 4 of their first 6 to help take an early lead but were 6-of-24 the rest of the way. Still, it’s a win and they will take it. As for Detroit, the got 17 from Rodney Stuckey who played better, and Greg Monroe had 27. But aside that… it’s shaping up to be a long season in the Motor City.

Thunder 108, Raptors 88: Harden who? The Thunder looked the best they have this season and kept the Raptors winless. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Bulls 99, Magic 93: We need to give new Magic coach Jacque Vaughn credit — he is getting a team not deep with talent to compete night in and night out. The Magic were without Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington for this one, but they came in 2-0 and didn’t make it easy on the Bulls. It took a 12-2 Chicago run at the start of the fourth quarter to give the Bulls a lead that they never gave up.

Late in the game with the game still within 5 at points, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau went with his best defensive lineup and hoped it could get enough offense. Jimmy Butler hit some shots then Taj Gibson stepped up with the huge and-1 dunk to make it six-point lead with :39 seconds left and that was all she wrote. Luol Deng led the way for Chicago with 23 points and 8 rebounds, while Joakim Noah finished with 20, nine boards and five blocks. On the Orlando side, Aaron Afflalo had 28 points and E’Twaun Moore added 17.

Michael Avenatti charged with stealing money Hassan Whiteside intended to pay ex-girlfriend

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Heat center Hassan Whiteside became the first player in NBA history to go from a minimum salary one season to a max salary the next.

Some of that money allegedly got embezzled by Michael Avenatti.

Avenatti – the infamous lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, who claimed she was paid to keep quiet about having an affair with Donald Trump – has been charged with attempted extortion of Nike and stealing from other clients. One of those other clients: Whiteside’s former girlfriend, Alexis Gardner.

Michael Finnegan of the Los Angeles Times:

An actress and barista, she’d hired him just a few weeks before to negotiate a settlement of a potential lawsuit against Whiteside. It’s unclear what she would have alleged. Avenatti quickly struck a $3-million deal, and the $2.75 million was Whiteside’s first payment.

Avenatti, prosecutors say, was entitled to take just over $1 million in legal fees, leaving the rest for Gardner.

Instead, they allege, Avenatti hid Whiteside’s payment from her and immediately took $2.5 million to buy a share of a private jet.

Report: Lakers have no plans to replace Magic Johnson, who’ll still help team recruit FAs

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Magic Johnson’s stunning resignation as Lakers president caused a commotion.

It didn’t create a power vacuum.

Rob Pelinka is clearly in charge. He’s the highest-ranking member of the front office. His title – general manager – is the one many teams give to the leader of their basketball operations. He’s running the Lakers’ coaching search.

Though they’ve been linked to big-name candidates for president, the Lakers could easily keep the status quo with Pelinka running the show. And it sounds as if that’s what Lakers owner Jeanie Buss will do.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

Buss has no plans to hire someone to replace Johnson, who is still expected to be part of the Lakers’ free-agent recruiting this summer.

Allowing Pelinka to hire a head coach – which, again, he’s in the process of doing – then supplanting him would be absurd. At least it seems the Lakers aren’t doing that.

But Pelinka was part of the organization while it made a comedy of errors. The former agent also had front-office experience until getting hired with Johnson a couple years ago. It’s hard to believe he’s the right choice to lead the team as it enters this critical stage.

LeBron James is 34. The Lakers will have max cap space this summer. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart are progressing toward establishing clearer value – one way or the other.

To entrust Pelinka in this situation, Buss ought to have a clear explanation for why Pelinka doesn’t deserve a fair share of blame for all the mistakes that occurred the last couple years. There are plenty of people, inside and outside the Lakers, who question him.

The wildest part about this report: Johnson still helping the Lakers recruit this summer. He’s an all-time great player and charismatic. But he also just said while resigning:

What I didn’t like is the backstabbing, the whispering. I don’t like that. I don’t like a lot of things that went on that didn’t have to go on.

How will he sell that to free agents – especially if Pelinka, suspected to be whom Johnson is referring to, remains in charge?

Russell Westbrook goes from ‘Next question’ to ‘That’s a good question. Not sure’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook can be a pain.

Pain to his opponents. Pain to his teammates. Pain to the media.

Sometimes, it seems Westbrook even takes pride in being a jerk. Which is fine. His cutthroat attitude is part of who he is, and it has gotten him a long way.

Lately, Westbrook has clashed with Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. For months, Westbrook has answered all Tramel’s questions with, “Next question.” Yet, Tramel keeps asking them – as he should. Westbrook has earned control over a lot of things. Tramel shouldn’t cede control of his job to Westbrook.

The back-and-forth has gotten increased prominence during the playoffs, when postgame press conferences are nationally televised. Both sides have found plenty of support. Westbrook’s fans love that his intensity never relents. Many also respect Tramel’s professionalism.

Four years ago, Westbrook infamously told Tramel, “I just don’t like you.” Westbrook got into it with Tramel again two years ago. But Tramel continues to cover the Thunder the best he can.

Likewise, Westbrook is trying to lead Oklahoma City the best he can. That means picking battles, even small ones like this, and pushing himself to win them all.

But after the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Trail Blazers last night, Westbrook finally gave an inch. But just an inch.

Tramel asked how the Thunder’s defense of Damian Lillard changed from the first half to the second half.

“That’s a good question,” Westbrook said. “Not sure.”

Tramel asked about the lessons learned about overcoming a 3-1 deficit to the Grizzlies in the 2014 playoffs. (Oklahoma City trailed 2-1 and 3-2 in that series, but never 3-1).

“Really don’t know,” Westbrook said.

For Westbrook, those answers were a huge breakthrough. They surprised everyone, even Tramel. Just a few days ago, the columnist predicted Westbrook wouldn’t change his two-word answers anytime soon: “He’s not going to give in this playoff series.”

Maybe this means the series is over.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse leaves mouth agape a loooong time after odd call (video)

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The Raptors got called for an extremely quick three-second violation during their Game 4 win over the Magic yesterday.

Toronto coach Nick Nurse couldn’t believe it.

Really couldn’t believe it.

Just couldn’t believe it one bit.