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.

Hornets GM Kupchak: Kemba Walker focal point of franchise going forward

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — General manager Mitch Kupchak wants point guard Kemba Walker to end his NBA career right where it started — with the Charlotte Hornets.

Kupchak said Friday that Walker is “revered” in the Charlotte community, and that he and owner Michael Jordan look at the two-time All-Star as “the focal point of this franchise going forward.”

The 28-year-old Walker has been the subject of possible NBA trade talks as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract with the Hornets. That speculation has amped up recently because it is a practical impossibility for Charlotte to sign Walker to an extension before he becomes a free agent in July of 2019 since the Hornets are so tight under the salary cap.

“I think everybody is aware of the situation, if you follow basketball a little bit, it is unique that he is on an extension that may make it a challenge going forward to figure out before he becomes a free agent,” Kupchak said.

At $12 million per year, Walker well underpaid when compared to the other top point guards in the league.

But that doesn’t mean Kupchak is giving up hope the team can keep Walker in Charlotte.

“I don’t think it is anybody’s goal to lose him in free agency,” Kupchak said. “But going forward, in the community, in the franchise, this is a player that we hope is with us – not only for the next couple of years, but ends his career here.”

The Hornets don’t have much experience behind Walker at point guard.

They have last year’s first-round draft pick Malik Monk and drafted Devonte Graham from Kansas in the second round on Thursday night.

Graham said he is excited to pick Walker’s brain when it comes to basketball.

“I have never met him, but I remember watching him play when he was at UConn though,” Graham said. “I’m just excited man to learn from someone like that and just be around someone like that who is winner, and knows how to win and compete. I am looking forward to being able to learn from him.”

 

Another report Spurs will not trade Kawhi Leonard within West

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The people around Kawhi Leonard made it clear (through leaks to the media, not by talking to the Spurs at first): Leonard wants out of San Antonio, and he wants to go to Los Angeles. Specifically, the Lakers.

Almost as quickly, the Spurs leaked that they were not going to trade Leonard to the Lakers or any team in the West.

Sam Amick of the USA Today echoed that sentiment in his discussion of LeBron James‘ offseason options on Saturday.

But in the days that followed, the Spurs wasted no time in sending this message all around the NBA: The only Western Conference team he might be playing for is theirs.

Fellow West teams have been told, in essence, to get lost – none moreso than the Lakers, according to ESPN. As it stands, the Spurs are determined to either fix the situation or trade Leonard to an Eastern Conference team.

Leonard has leverage here: He can tell teams he will not re-sign with them and will leave as a free agent. That will scare off most teams who don’t want to put in

Would it scare off Boston or Philadelphia? The rumor is no. Those teams have real interest in Leonard, and both have the assets to get a deal done and make the bet that a year in their cultures, with their coaches and top players, a year contending, and with their fans and city would win Leonard over. Just like Oklahoma City made that bet with Paul George. Also, whoever trades for Leonard will be able to offer a five-year, $188 million contract, while as a free agent the max will be four years, $137 million. For a guy who just missed almost an entire season with an injury, that guarantee can matter.

Boston could go all in on an offer — Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, the Kings first-round pick next season (top one protected) and the Clippers first round pick next year (lottery protected). Philadelphia could put together an offer of Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, and Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick (the first year high schoolers likely re-enter the NBA draft, making it a deep one).

The question is would those team put in all those assets on a bet they would win Leonard over?

The other big looming question, when the offers start to come in will a rational Spurs front office reconsider and look at a trade from the Lakes of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, a future first, and the contract of Luol Deng to balance out the numbers. Would they consider it superior because they like Ingram? (That trade may require a third team to take on Deng’s contract, and the Lakers might need to throw in Lonzo Ball or some other sweetener to get a team to take on Deng’s $36 million remaining.)

Expect the Spurs to take their time with this, try to win Leonard back over, then consider all their options. They are in no rush, in fact, they’d love to create a bidding war for Leonard. Any offer from Boston and Philadelphia on the table in July will be on the table in September when training camps open. The Lakers, however, may be in a very different space.

It’s going to be a very interesting next few weeks.

After full season in Europe, Luka Doncic not expected to play in Summer League

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Deandre Ayton played 35 games for Arizona last season. Marvin Bagley III played 33 games last season for Duke. Jarnen Jackson Jr. played 35 for Michigan State. None of them played past March.

Luka Doncic played 61 games for Real Madrid — at a higher level than NCAA basketball — and the season ended two days before the NBA Draft. Plus in Europe, the practices are often far more strenuous than the games (many teams keep doing two-a-days through the season).

Not surprisingly after that long a season Dallas is not going to ask Doncic to play in the Las Vegas Summer League, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

This was expected in most quarters no matter who drafted Doncic. Rest and recovery matter more than getting him into the glorified pickup games of Summer League.

Doncic will be ready to go when the season starts, and he will be one of the favorites to win Rookie of the Year.

Former Spur Bruce Bowen rips Kawhi Leonard for asking out after injury

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For years, players have bought into “the Spurs way” not just on the court but off — it was always about what’s best for the team first. That meant Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and others taking discounts from the max salary they could have earned at points to help the team keep the roster to do that. Sacrifice was part of the game.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that former Spurs are closing ranks around Gregg Popovich and the franchise in the wake of Kawhi Leonard pushing his way out the door following missing most of last season with a leg injury.  It was the treatment of that leg injury — Leonard did not trust the Spurs’ doctors and got a second opinion that saw things differently — which started the rift, although the advice from Leonard’s uncle/advisor and agent also play a role in widening the gap.

On SiriusXM NBA Radio this week (h/t ESPN) former Spur Bruce Bowen ripped into Leonard for complaining about his treatment.

“First, it was, ‘Well I was misdiagnosed.’ Look here: You got $18 million this year, and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to guy, you’re the franchise and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me?…

“I think he’s getting bad advice,” Bowen said. “I think what you’re starting to see now is an individual given a certain amount of advice, and it’s not the right advice. Here it is: You were protected in San Antonio. You were able to come up during a time where you still could lean on Tim [Duncan] Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili]…

“As a player, if I’m a leader of a team, my team goes on the road in the playoffs, I’m with my guys,” he said. “Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about camaraderie. It’s about fellowship. It’s a brotherhood. When that didn’t happen, it’s all kinds of sirens and alarm signals that says to me, ‘Is this person fully vested?’ … I don’t want to take on a player who’s not willing to support his guys during the course of their time needing him.”

Bowen added, “there’s nothing but excuses going on.”

The backlash to Leonard is to be expected, particularly from those in San Antonio (not so much from people in Los Angeles, where Leonard is trying to force himself to). The injury treatment started the rift, but Leonard is putting his desires in front of those of the team and franchise — and that’s his right, he’s far from the first player to do that. It’s just not something we have seen from San Antonio. The Spurs have long sought out not only guys who could play on the court but guys who fit a mold personality wise and would put the team first. On the court Leonard had done that, going back to when he won Finals MVP. Now, off it, he has had a change of heart, for whatever reason (or reasons).

Bowen is more outspoken than most, but this will be the sentiment out of San Antonio if Leonard leaves.

That is not going to change the reality on the ground, however.