Baseline to Baseline recaps: Celtics bench gets them a win

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Our nightly roundup of all the action in the NBA. Or, what you missed while thinking at least one drug dealer really cares….

Grizzlies 107, Thunder 97: We told you last week in the power rankings Memphis was for real. Believe us now? Brett Pollakoff broke down this game for us.

Clippers 107, Heat 100: Speaking of teams that are for real, meet the Los Angeles Clippers. They are getting much better play out of D’Andre Jordan and they are defending. Brett Pollakoff also broke this game down, too.

Celtics 98, Jazz 93: Boston’s bench was the key in this one. First, we have had a Jeff Green sighting (just ask Al Jefferson) and he had 16 points. Bigger still was Leandro Barbosa — Rajon Rondo left the game in third quarter with a sprained ankle but Barbosa was part of a Celtics team that made a key 14-2 run where they took control of the game. Boston’s bench accounted for 47 of their points. Paul Pierce added 23, Paul Millsap had 20 points and 12 boards.

Pistons 94, Sixers 76: Pistons win! The Pistons win! They are celebrating the Pistons first win of the season on the streets of Detroit. And if you are a Philadelphia fan you may want to ask — how did you just lose to the Pistons at home? Handily.

They lost because they shot 29.8 percent — they couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean (thanks Chick Hearn). They lost because they got outworked on the boards. They lost because they played like they didn’t care. Detroit played with the desperation of a team that needed a win — Greg Monroe had 19 points and 18 rebounds, while Kyle Singler added 16 points.

Bucks 99, Pacers 85: Wow, the Pacers are playing some bad ball right now. This was a 30-point beat down where Tyler Hansbrough and Sam Young made it look like a 14-point loss with a solid fourth quarter. The Bucks made a push at the start — they were up 7-0 and never trailed after that — and played pretty well the rest of the way. They got 16 points each from Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. But mostly, the Bucks just had to stay out of the way of the self-destruction.

Rockets 100, Hornets 96: In the first half James Harden was slashing to the rim at will, with Al-Farouq Aminu trying but unable to stay in front of him. Harden had 19 points in the first half (30 for the game) and when he re-entered in the second quarter it sparked a 17-4 run that capped a 39 point quarter for the Rockets and they were in total control. Credit New Orleans for chipping away at it and making a game of it — the Rockets didn’t pressure Greivis Vasquez and he put up 24 points, Ryan Anderson added 20 points and 12 rebounds. New Orleans got all the way back within 2 points in the final two minutes, but couldn’t complete the comeback.

Bulls 112, Suns 106 (OT): The Suns keep digging themselves holes then trying to climb themselves out — this time it was 18 points. They almost did climb out against the Bulls — they forced overtime. But a10-2 Bulls run in overtime and Chicago gets a win in the first game of its dreaded annual circus trip. Carlos Boozer scored 28 points and added 14 rebounds, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah each had 21 points. Luis Scola had 24 for the Suns while Michael Beasley and Shannon Brown were each 4-of-15 shooting on the night.

Bobcats 89, Timberwolves 87: The Charlotte Bobcats are on a three-game winning streak. If the playoffs started today, the Bobcats would be the seven seed in the East. Let that marinate for a minute. Charlotte was really in control of this game the entire second half, until a late 16-2 run by the Timberwolves (fueled by some bad Bobcats plays, such as Reggie Williams calling time out when they were out of them) tied it up — and set the stage for Kemba Walkers’ heroics. He had 22 on the night and the game winner. Ramon Sessions came off the bench and added 18 for Charlotte. Andrei Kirilenko led the Wolves with a game-high 26.

Mavericks 107, Wizards 101: Dallas was in control of this one, up 22 in the second half, but Washington opened the fourth quarter on an 18-3 run sparked by Kevin Seraphin. And it was a game. It was within three in the final minute when a Seraphin steal led to a Jannero Pargo open look three to tie it — and he missed. Next possession for Dallas O.J. Mayo fouled, hit the free throws (he had 25 points on the night) and that sealed the game. Chris Kaman had 23 for Dallas, Jordan Crawford 21 for Washington.

Hawks 92, Warriors 88: With Al Horford out and Josh Smith mired in an ugly slump (6-of-16 shooting in this one), the boards belonged to the Warriors in this one and it was key late. Up 3 inside of :30 in the game Stephen Curry missed a three but Harrison Barnes got the offensive board, was fouled, hit is free throws and iced the game. Barnes had his best night as a pro with 19 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Korver scored all of his 14 points in the first half on 5-of-5 shooting. Ivan Johnson added 15 for the Hawks. David Lee had 18 points and 10 boards for Golden State.

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett Hall of Fame induction pushed back to May

Kobe Hall of Fame
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kobe Bryant and the rest of this year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class won’t be inducted in 2020 – or at the birthplace of basketball.

The Hall announced Friday that the enshrinement ceremony will be held May 13-15, 2021, and the entire festivities will be moved to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

This year was to be a highlight for the Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bryant, killed in January in a helicopter crash, headlined a decorated class featuring Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett that would have been enshrined in the recently renovated museum.

But the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans and hit the Hall so hard that it eliminated several full-time positions and cut senior management pay in the 25-40% range.

“These are people who have been a big part of the Hall’s success in recent years; it hurts deeply,” said John Doleva, President and CEO of the Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “The decision to reschedule Enshrinement into May of next year, along with diminished museum guest visitation and a very uncertain future regarding our multiple collegiate and high school basketball events this fall, has forced us to make these very difficult decisions. Our goal now is to conserve resources so that we may stabilize in 2021 and return to our growth trajectory in 2022 and beyond.”

“For this single event, and only because of the pandemic, we will relocate the entire event one time to Mohegan Sun which has been a long-time marketing partner of the Hall. Mohegan Sun has shown they can effectively operate a ‘near-bubble’ for our event which provides a more secure environment for our guests,” Doleva explained. “In making this announcement today, our goal is to provide this date and location change with ample notice for our network broadcast partners, nationally and internationally traveling guests and the many basketball constituents the Hall serves.”

Mohegan Sun is a long-time partner of the Hall. Doleva says it can operate a “near-bubble” to provide a secure environment for guests.

 

Vlade Divac steps down as Kings GM; Joe Dumars takes over in interim

Vlade Divac out
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Days after the Kings’ playoff drought reached 14 seasons — second-longest in league history and only one year behind the Donald Sterling Clippers — the repercussions hit GM Vlade Divac and he is out.

Divac has stepped down as the Kings’ general manager, the team announced Friday. Joe Dumars, the former Pistons GM who had been working as a consultant with the team, will step in during the interim while the search for a new GM takes place.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe it is the best path ahead as we work to build a winning team that our loyal fans deserve,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé said in a statement. “We are thankful for Vlade’s leadership, commitment and hard work both on and off the court. He will always be a part of our Kings’ family.”

While there are legitimate questions about the job Luke Walton did in his first season in Sacramento, his job is safe, something first reported by Sam Amick of The Athletic and since confirmed by James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. The Kings also said there will be no other major roster moves made until a new GM is in place.

“Joe has become a trusted and valued advisor since joining the team last year, and I am grateful to have him take on this role at an important time for the franchise,” said Ranadivé.

Divac was a member of the best Kings’ teams ever (during the Chris Webber era) and is in the Hall of Fame as a player. Playing and being a GM, however, are two very different skill sets. Divac did sign a contract extension with the Kings a year-and-a-half ago.

The NBA restart bubble was not kind to the Kings, and that ultimately doomed Divac.

After a promising finish as the ninth seed a season ago, playing a fast-paced style that suited young star De'Aaron Fox, Divac made a move to switch coaches last off-season and fired Dave Joerger to hire Walton. However, under Walton the Kings played slower and were much easier to defend. The Kings did get healthy and start to find a groove right before the league was shut down, going 7-3 in those last 10, but once in the bubble Sacramento was a mess again with a bottom-10 defense in Orlando, and they finished 3-5 in the seeding games.

The salt in the wound in Orlando — and what really eats at Kings’ fans — was the elite play of Luka Doncic in Orlando, and all season long.

Divac — who had scouted in Europe and has deep connections there — chose to use the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Marvin Bagley out of Duke instead of Doncic. While the Kings had scouted Doncic extensively (Ranadive even went to Europe to watch him play and backed taking Doncic), Divac and the front office staff thought the athleticism of Bagley gave him a higher upside than Doncic. (Scouts were often divided on Doncic: Nobody thought he would be bad, but some questioned his ceiling because he already had so much polish to his game and he’s not an explosive athlete by NBA standards. Divac and the rest of the Kings’ front office fell into this camp.) Plus, Divac liked the idea of a big man to pair with their point guard Fox, rather than bringing in another ball handler in Doncic.

Doncic almost certainly will make an All-Seeding Games team out of the bubble in Orlando, and in his second NBA season is an MVP candidate (he will get bottom of the ballot votes). Bagley did not play in any seeding games due to another injury, this one to his foot.

Moving on from Divac may be the right move for the Kings, but it begs the question: Who are they going to hire to replace him? What is the new GM’s basketball philosophy and what kind of team does he want to build? And, will he have the power to do it, or will Ranadive keep his reputation as an owner who likes to meddle in basketball operations?

The Kings need a change — but they need the right change. That will be the tricky part.

Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. taken off court on stretcher after collision

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It was the kind of play that happens countless times a game: Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. was trying to chase Doug McDermott over an off-ball (and moving) screen when collided with pick-setting 6’11” center Goga Bitadze.

This ended up being no standard collision — Jones’ head and neck whipped back, and he instantly went to the ground.

Jones was grabbing his neck at first and was on the ground for about 10 minutes — in the eerie silence of a fanless bubble arena in Orlando — before being taken off the court on a stretcher.

The good news is Jones has just suffered a neck strain, the team announced. There is no timeline for his return, but this could have been much worse.

The Heat and the Pacers, who already have tension between them thanks to a beef between Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren, will face each other in the first round of the playoffs starting Monday.

Jones, who tested positive for the coronavirus before coming to Orlando (and was quarantined), will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has been making the NBA minimum since coming into the league and was in line for a life-changing payday this summer after playing strong defense while averaging 8.6 points per game — and some spectacular dunks — in nearly 23 minutes a night for Miami. Our thoughts are with him after this incident.

The time Shaq peed in Suns teammate Lou Amundson’s shoes – and worse!

Suns players Lou Amundson and Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq)
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Gilbert Arenas has earned a reputation as the NBA player who relieved himself in a teammate’s shoe (Wizards forward Andray Blatche’s).

But Arenas’ tactic wasn’t unique.

Shaquille O’Neal got into a prank war with Suns teammate Lou Amundson during the 2008-09 season. It got intense as Phoenix, coached by Alvin Gentry, reached the final game of its season.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” local hour, hosted by Mike Ryan:

Shaq is the big prankster, the big joker. But if you do something against him, there’s no tit for tat. There’s tit for nuclear war.

He goes to Lou’s locker, grabs his sneakers, pees in them.

That’s the start, right? He then goes and let’s just say “messes with” some of Lou’s haircare devices, like his brush and his comb and stuff. Messes with them. Let me put it this way: Messes with them in a way that – I was comfortable telling you he peed in the shoes. I’m not comfortable telling you what he did to the hair stuff. And then this part, I will tell you: He tampers with Lou’s mouth guard.

He tampers with it.

He tampers with it.

Lou shows up at like 8 or whenever he usually shows up. And he’s skittish and nervous. And Suns.com is there like, “What do you think Shaq is going to do?” “I don’t know. I think he’s going to do something, though.”

So, I’ll never forget this. He’s sitting at the locker, and he opens – he starts to reach for the sneakers and then looks at them and says, “Nah, something doesn’t feel right.” Opens the door up, pulls out a fresh pair of sneakers for the last game of the year, right? Again, this is irregular behavior. Usually, you have a couple of sneakers. You break them in for the year, and you switch between two or three or three or four, whatever. So to break out a whole brand new pair … was weird.

Most of the time when you’re an NBA player, you don’t put on the mouth guard immediately. You have it in a case, and you give the case to the trainer. Then, you go out to the bench. Then, when you’re about to come into the game, that’s when you grab your mouthpiece.

There’s no funnier image than Alvin drawing up a play, kneeling down, coaches standing around him. Lou is sitting there, because now he’s in the game. The guys who are in the game are usually seated. Sitting there just staring at the clipboard, like, “OK, coach. I got you.” And everyone else is just staring at Lou. No one’s paying attention.

Puts the mouth guard in. One, two [sounds of disgust], takes the mouth guard out and flings it with tremendous accuracy at the bench. Everyone starts dying. I remember going back and watching the broadcast, “Oh, Suns bench seems to be getting a lot of fun.” They had no idea what’s happening.

What did Shaq do to Amundson’s mouth guard? My imagination is running WILD.

Elhassan also explains why Grant Hill took 25 shots – his most in four years – in that game. Hill needed to score 26 points to average 12 points per game for the season, which would trigger a large bonus in his shoe contract. Hill’s gunning got him 27 points.

It’s a good podcast with other fun anecdotes and worth a listen.