Baseline to Baseline recaps: It’s all about the Boston offense

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while being scared by the idea of a Hillary Clinton decorating show….

Jazz 140, Raptors 133 (3OT): Utah got its first road win but the Raptors made them really work for it — they needed the second three of Al Jefferson’s career just to get it to the first overtime. This was easily the best game of the night and our own D.J. Foster broke it down.

Suns 110, Nuggets 100: We have a Markieff Morris sighting — he had a great game (13 points and was +24) and made some key plays at the end to help the Suns hang on for a quality win. Brett Pollakoff broke this one down for us.

Celtics 101, Bulls 95: In case you were worried about the Boston offense, they just dropped 101 points and shot 50.6 percent on the Bulls, the second best defense in the league coming into the game (granted, it’s early).

Rondo was on fire — 20 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds and 5 steals — and he had 8 points in the first quarter as Boston put up 33 and held a lead it would never give up. Boston never really pulled away because their bench still is not the spark many expected. Boston led by 13 in the fourth quarter but the Bulls clawed back into this one and got it down to two at 95-93 with: 49 seconds left. But Rondo’s 10th assist set up Bass for a dunk that ended the threat. Luol Deng had 26 points, Joakim Noah 17 points and 11 boards. All five Celtics starters were in double digits.

Thunder 92, Pistons 90: Ever see a team win a game they didn’t deserve to? That’s how Oklahoma City should feel with this win — Detroit got more out of their talent and led most of this game. But a 17-2 fourth quarter run (because they have more talent and because they started switching picks and using their athleticism on defense) gave the Thunder the lead. The Pistons could taste it and made their own push but the Thunder held on and the Pistons are 0-8. Credit Russell Westbrook for the comeback, he had 14 in the fourth quarter (33 for the game). Kevin Durant had 11 in the fourth and 26 for the game.

Bucks 105, Sixers 96: Did anyone else get the feeling Brandon Jennings looked at Jrue Holiday this game and said “he got a contract extension and I didn’t?” then turned it on as he dropped 33 points and 8 assists (with just one turnover) to carry the Bucks to the win? He had 11 of those in the fourth quarter, this was a close game until a 9-0 Bucks run gave them a lead they would not surrender. Holiday had 25 and played well, except for the 8 turnovers, and Jason Richardson was back from his ankle injury and added 20. But this was Jenning’s show.

Heat 113, Rockets 110: It took a 7-0 run at the end for the Heat to come from behind and beat the Rockets. Which is a surprise because when LeBron James is really on his game — 38 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists — the Heat normally steamroll their opponent. And it looked like that early when the Heat jumped out to a 22-5 lead. Chris Bosh had 10 of his 24 in the first quarter as Omer Asik dared him to hit midrange jumpers — Bosh can do that all night long.

But credit the Rockets for putting up a fight. Chandler Parsons had 25, James Harden an efficient 22 and Ask had a career high 19 points plus 14 boards. But they couldn’t hold off the Heat at the end and a LeBron dunk gave the Heat the lead and the win. Jeremy Lin had a good look at a 3 with 9.9 seconds left but air balled it.

Timberwolves 90, Mavericks 82: If you love small ball, this was your game. Especially after the Wolves lost Nikola Pekovic to a sprained his ankle in the third quarter (because Pekovic outrebounded Vince Carter than landed on him). Credit Rick Adelman, who has the Wolves scrapping and playing smart despite the rash of injuries, they are no 5-2 on the season. Dallas just sloppy all night, shot 36.2 percent and have now lost three straight. The Russians came through for Minnesota with Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved each scoring 16.

Hawks 95, Trailblazers 87: It started with an Al Horford dunk, then a little Horford hook shot in the lane — four points that sparked a 10-0 Hawks run to close out the game and pick up the win on the road. Credit the Blazers for getting back into this after falling back by 13 in the game’s opening minutes. Portland was inconsistent but they had their moments in the second half, plus we had a J.J. Hickson sighting (19 points, 18 rebounds). Josh Smith had 19 points and 10 boards for the Hawks.

Mark Cuban’s plan for a restart, “I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way”

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Wild, fanciful ideas for restarting the NBA that would never fly in a typical year — 1-16 seeding, or maybe a soccer World Cup-style group stage — are getting an airing this season because everything is on the table. As the NBA moves closer to a restart plan, countless ideas are being floated.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has his own plan.

Shocking, I know. But it’s interesting.

“What I proposed is that we extend the playoff format to 10 teams from each conference, and play at least five games prior to going into playoffs,” Cuban said laying out is plan to NBC’s Mike Tirico on “Lunch Talk Live.” And if we do that, every team in the Eastern Conference would have a chance to make the playoffs, and all but two in the Western Conference would do it [Ed. note: Golden State and Minnesota].

“Then, what I would do, once we got 10 and 10, I would reseed them, and 17 would play 20, and 18 would play 19, in a one-game series. The winner then would take on the eighth-place seed in a five-game series, while the No. 1 seed in each conference would get a bye. Then you go ahead normally from there.

“That gives us a chance to have more meaningful games, it gives almost every team a chance when we come back for whatever is left of our regular season. I think we’ve got to change it up some, I don’t think we can go the old tried and true way.”

Cuban later added, speaking to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, that he wants to see all 30 teams come to Orlando for regular season games, building excitement for the NBA’s return in every market. This dream, however, seems a long shot, and Damian Lillard spoke for a lot of players when he said he’s not playing if there is not a path to the playoffs for Portland.

Cuban’s point that this is the year to try something different, not to play it safe, has real validity. This season is already upside down due to the corona

Cuban’s plan is a long shot, but is it any longer a shot than any of the other ones out there?

 

Wizards’ Bradley Beal: Thunder considered trading James Harden for me on draft day 2012

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The first three picks of the 2012 NBA Draft, which was held in June:

1. New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans): Anthony Davis

2. Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal

That August, the Thunder reportedly offered to trade James Harden to Washington for Beal. Washington reportedly rejected the offer due to Harden’s desire for a max contract extension (which Wizards owner Ted Leonsis denied). The Rockets were more than willing to pay Harden, and Oklahoma City dealt him to Houston that October.

Apparently, Washington had a chance to land Harden earlier that offseason.

Beal on “All The Smoke:”

We’re sitting in the draft room. Sure enough, my agent is tapping me. He’s like, “It’s possible you might go to OKC.” I said, “Damn, how am I going to go there? I ain’t even worked out for OKC.” I only worked out for three teams – Washington, Cleveland and Charlotte.

So, the deal was to trade James to Washington, right? OKC gets the third pick. It was either the second or third pick. They were going to trade up to 2 or 3, get me, trade James to Washington.

I would have been in OKC with KD and Russ.

That was a last-minute decision. It was almost done.

I can’t tell whether Beal is also revealing a Harden-to-Charlotte offer or just got mixed up on which teams held the Nos. 2 and 3 picks. Obviously, if Beal was the main prize to the Thunder, they would’ve cared only minimally whether they got him with the No. 2 or No. 3 pick. So, there might have been trade talks with Charlotte, too.

But I’m not convinced Oklahoma City valued Beal that way.

The Thunder were a championship contender. They had just lost in the 2012 NBA Finals to the Heat. Oklahoma City couldn’t have depended on a rookie Beal to contribute on that level.

That’s why – in addition to picks/young player acquired from the Rockets for Harden – the Thunder also got Kevin Martin. The veteran Martin was much better than Beal in 2012-13. (Ironically, the open title window was also a strong argument for just keeping Harden, whatever his contract status).

But the 2012-13 season didn’t go as planned for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook got hurt early in the playoffs, and the Thunder lost to the Grizzlies in the second round. Martin left for a lucrative contract with the Timberwolves the following summer.

Even with the long runway Kevin Durant and Westbrook provided, Oklahoma City never got back to the Finals. Beal could have grown into a third star whose shooting complemented the duo. The Thunder might have won a championship with this trade (or, again, just keeping Harden).

The Wizards almost certainly would have won more. Harden has perennially gotten the Rockets to the playoff. (They’ve gone further in years he has had more help.) Beal hasn’t singlehandedly carried Washington like that.

So, this is an interesting “what if?” – if you take it at face value.

Beal’s agent warning him of a trade possibility means something. But we don’t know which other pieces were involved.

The Thunder didn’t trade Harden until just before the rookie-scale-extension deadline, suggesting they wanted to give themselves time to extend him themselves before taking the drastic step of trading him. Would Beal have been enough of a return to give up in June (or even August) on keeping Harden? Maybe. Harden didn’t fully blossom until reaching Houston. But I’m skeptical. At minimum, Harden had already established himself as young and good. Beal was young, promising and under greater team control. There’s significant value in the certainty of a player being at least a near-star, and Harden – not Beal – had that.

Even in hindsight, we’re still revisiting the situation with only limited information.

Report: NBA games could resume in August, not July

Bucks center Brook Lopez and Raptors center Marc Gasol
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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A week ago, the NBA was looking to resume games in July at Disney World.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In fact, there’s a possibility the first games played in Orlando could be in August, not July, sources said.

It’s good the NBA is being flexible on a start date. The coronavirus presents so much uncertainty.

The league is approaching its most lucrative time – the playoffs. The NBA should make every effort to play the postseason, whenever that can be done safely.

Everyone can figure out next season later, especially because there’s a willingness to delay the start.

Report: Pistons searching for new general manager

Pistons executive Ed Stefanski
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor to owner Tom Gores in 2018. Among Stefanski’s duties: Assist in the ongoing search for a new head of basketball operations. But it quickly became clear Stefanski would just run the front office himself.

Now, two years later, Detroit is finally getting around to that general-manager search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Detroit Pistons are opening a search to hire a general manager to work with senior advisor Ed Stefanski, sources tell ESPN.

Stefanski will be working with Pistons and Palace Sports Vice Chairman Arn Tellem on the process to hire a GM, sources said.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

If Stefanski is still running the front office, a new general manager would be the No. 2 – equivalent to assistant general manager on many teams.

After taking over an inflexible roster left by Stan Van Gundy, Stefanski couldn’t do much. Stefanski’s big move was trading Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers just before the trade deadline. That positioned Detroit to have major cap space next offseason, but it’s unclear how much will actually materialize. The salary cap could drop due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pistons must determine whether they’re still building around Blake Griffin, the 31-year-old due $36,810,996 and $38,957,028 the next two years. Last season, he returned to stardom and carried Detroit into the playoffs. This season, he missed most of the year due to injury.

If they’re trying to win now with Griffin, the Pistons are short on quality complementary players. If Detroit is ready to rebuild, its pool of young talent – Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, impending free agent Christian Wood, its own first-round pick – is hardly assured of success.

After years of being stuck on a path charted under the Van Gundy regime, the Pistons can soon pick a new course. This is the time get the front office up to full staffing.