Baseline to Baseline recaps: Even when sloppy Knicks get win

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while thanking Buddha this guy is not on your team….

Spurs 84, Lakers 82: The Bernie Bickerstaff era in Los Angeles came to an end with a missed Pau Gasol three and a loss. Bickerstaff had a .667 winning percentage as the Lakers coach. Darius Soriano broke the game down for us.

Knicks 99, Magic 89: Say it was because the Knicks didn’t take their opponent very seriously. Or say it is because the Magic are just scrappy. Probably a little of both. Bhis game was close for more than three quarters, which is not what the Knicks or their fans expected.  It took an 18-4 fourth-quarter run to pull away and seasl this for New York, and the Knicks remain the NBA’s lone undefeated team.

Carmelo Antony had 25 points, 16 of them in the first half when he was covered by Arron Afflalo and took the smaller Magic wing to the post. While Afflalo is a good defender, he could not slow ‘Melo on the block. This was close game because ‘Melo and his Knicks teammates took the night off from focused, consistent defense. The Knicks got a big boost from J.R. Smith who had 21 points on 14 shots and had the hottest hand on the floor.

It’s a win, Knicks. Savor it. But play like that this weekend against the Spurs or Grizzlies and they will throttle you.

Bobcats 92, Wizards 76: The Charlotte Bobcats are a .500 team. Read that again and think about it. They are 3-3 on the young season. Last season they won 7 games total. This is impressive. So was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 15 points and looked like the best player on the court early.

Why did the Bobcats win? Washington shot 29.8 percent on night, which dragged down their percentage to a league worst average (39.5) on the season. The Bobcats can try to take some defensive credit for that, but a lot of it was just Washington being bad. Bradley Beal led the bad shooting parade with 1-of-11 from the floor. Meanwhile Ramon Sessions scored 21 points and Kemba Walker added 17 as the Charlotte backcourt owned this game.

Raptors 74, Pacers 72: Ugly wins count just the same, but make no mistake this was ugly like Phyllis Diller’s corpse — Toronto hit just 6-of-33 (18.2 percent), committed seven turnovers, and scored just 28 points in the second half and they still won the game. The only thing that wasn’t ugly was Jose Calderon with a triple-double — 13 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.

Trail Blazers 103, Kings 96: This game was basically even for the first 29 minutes, then Portland woke up with a 24-4 run and that was pretty much all she wrote. Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard was the best player on the court, finishing with 22 points on 10 shots (he was 5-of-6 from three) plus 9 assists. He was key during the Blazers run. If you want one other key, Portland was 14-of-27 from three, the Kings 1-of-11.

Nets 114, Cavaliers 101: This was a game of monster individual performances. Cleveland got 35 points and 18 rebounds from Anderson Varejao and 34 points and 10 assists from Kyrie Irving. Both were just amazing and run the pick-and-roll beautifully together. Brooklyn got 26 points and 10 assists from Deron Williams, plus 25 points from Joe Johnson — those two have not figured out how to play well off each other yet, but they had great individual nights.

As for the game, Brooklyn opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run to take control of the contest, they were up 22 at the half and that’s pretty much the story. The only thing left to watch was the individual players — Cleveland got nothing beyond Varejao and Irving.

Report: Rival teams expect Paul George to consider 1+1 contract with Thunder

AP Photo/Chris Szagola
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Paul George has openly stated the appeal of playing for his hometown Lakers. He has also openly stated the appeal of staying with the Thunder.

That has created significant confusion about his upcoming free agency.

Could George find a compromise outcome?

Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:

More than one rival team has suggested to me that they expect George to strongly consider a two-year deal with the Thunder at $30.3 million next season and $32.7 million in 2019-20 that includes a player option to return to free agency next summer.

This makes sense on paper.

A 1+1 contract would give George more time to determine whether he and Russell Westbrook can win together in Oklahoma City without getting stuck there long-term if they can’t. The Thunder were starting to put it together when Andre Roberson got hurt. Perhaps, Roberson getting healthy would swing Oklahoma City’s fortunes.

George would also be eligible for a higher max salary in two years – 35% of the salary cap, up from 30% if he signs now. So, a short-term contract would allow him to maximize his potential earnings.

But George said he wanted to sign somewhere long-term this summer. He also suffered an extremely gruesome leg injury just a few years ago. He might not want to bypass guaranteed money to gamble for a little more later.

Are these rival teams just looking at the general outlook for a player in George’s position without considering his specific circumstances? Or do they know something? George could have informed teams he might become available in 2019 or 2020 so they should prepare.

I’m skeptical this is more than speculation by opposing teams. But the possibility that they’re basing their expectations on inside information makes this worth monitoring.

Heartbreaking: Watch Mikal Bridges explain joy of joining hometown 76ers while they trade him to Suns (video)

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Mikal Bridges‘ mom jumped up, pumped her fists and screamed “Yes!” through her giant grin.

The 76ers – the organization she works for in human resources – had just drafted her son No. 10 overall. Bridges, a Philadelphia native who played at Villanova, seemed as if he’d stay home for his pro career.

Bridges:

She’s very, very excited. She’s been wanting this. She’s probably more excited than I am. She was about to cry and all that. She said she didn’t want to ruin her makeup, so she’d try to hold it in. But no, she’s very excited. I’m her only son. I’m a little mama’s boy. Her son is right there around the corner again, and it’s just really cool.

Except, as Bridges was talking, the 76ers were trading him to the Suns for No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder.

That extra pick carries major value. Even if you like Bridges much more than Smith – which I did, especially considering their fits in Philadelphia – that’s hard to pass up. The NBA is a business after all.

But it’s lamentable how this played out.

Kings GM Vlade Divac: ‘My team is a super team. Just young’

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Kings drafted Marvin Bagley No. 2 last night (seemingly for bad reasons, which doesn’t at all eliminate him from being the right pick but makes it less likely he is). He’ll join a young core also comprised of Bogdan Bogdanovic, De'Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

That group excite you?

Kings general manager Vlade Divac isn’t reducing expectations.

Lina Washington of ABC 10:

To be fair, in 2012, the Warriors were coming off a 23-43 season with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson already on the roster and had just drafted Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes. Everyone would’ve laughed at calling Golden State a “super team, just young” then. But those four (plus Andre Iguodala) eventually led the Warriors to a championship.

But, really: Nah.

Entering the 2016-17 season, then-Knicks guard Derrick Rose said, “They’re saying us and Golden State are the super teams.” We mocked Rose relentlessly, and of course, the Warriors went 73-9 while New York finished just 32-50.

How long until Divac’s young super team reaches even 32-50?

Spurs GM still optimistic relationship with Kawhi Leonard can be salvaged

Associated Press
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — General manager R.C. Buford acknowledges star forward Kawhi Leonard is unhappy with the Spurs.

He remains optimistic the relationship can be salvaged.

Leonard has requested a trade from San Antonio because he is unhappy after missing most of last season with a right quadriceps injury. Buford would not comment on “speculation” of a trade demand, but agreed there is a fractured relationship between Leonard and the only franchise he has played for.

“Kawhi and his family mean a lot to the organization and to the community and while none of wish we are where we are, we’re going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him,” Buford said Thursday night as the Spurs made two late picks in the NBA Draft. “We’ll explore all of our options, but the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as part of our group.”

Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season but returned to play in nine games. He complained of discomfort and pain in the leg in his final game. Leonard sought an outside opinion after the Spurs cleared him to play, working with his own medical team in New York in an attempt to return to the court. The 6-foot-7 forward reportedly grew upset that the Spurs had questioned his rehabilitation process.

The Spurs listed him as out on their injury reports for much of the year citing “injury management.” While San Antonio was in the playoffs, losing in the first round to eventual repeat champion Golden State, Leonard was rehabbing in New York – which meant that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, when asked for the situation, deferred all comment to “Kawhi and his group.”

“I think all of us would wish that things would have gone differently,” Buford said.

The Spurs held a team meeting late in the season where veterans, led by Tony Parker, implored Leonard to return. Leonard said he was unable to due to the injury.

In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points and was third in the MVP voting. The 2014 NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA defensive player of the year is due just over $20 million next season, and can become a free agent in the summer of 2019. He is eligible to sign a $220 million extension with San Antonio.

He is reportedly willing to walk away from that to play elsewhere, possibly in Los Angeles.

“I don’t know that timing is a factor in this from today … he’s under contract for another year, our goal is to keep him as part of our program for a long time,” Buford said.