Baseline to Baseline recaps: Nets beat Celtics with TKO

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching a guy do a backflip on a surfboard….

Thunder 120, Rockets 98: Welcome back to Oklahoma City James Harden. After a warm reception from the crowd Harden was 3-of-16 shooting and struggled to defend Kevin Durant (who doesn’t?). And despite that the Rockets biggest problem was team defense. Brett breaks the game down for you here.

Wizards 84, Trail Blazers 82: The Wizards win! The Wizards win! Theeeeee Wizards win! But man it was ugly. This was our other game of the night and we broke it down as well.

Nets 95, Celtics 83: The Nets with this one on a technical knock out.

Boston lost this game before the fight that sent Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace to the showers just before halftime.

Boston lost this early. Kevin Garnett played the first 5:19 of the game and it was 14-9 Boston when KG went out Doc Rivers subbed him out with Chris Wilcox. The Nets immediately went on a 19-6 run and even when Garnett returned he couldn’t stop it and it grew into a 38-12 run. This game was over before Rondo stepped in to protect KG.

What should worry Celtics fans right now is the 22nd ranked defense in the league. Well, that and the healthy suspension about to come down on Rondo for instigating that fight.

Pistons 117, Suns 77: How can a team lose by 40 to the Pistons? Good question. Brett Pollakoff tried his best to answer it for us.

Knicks 102, Bucks 88: My favorite fans of the night were in Milwaukee, where they chanted “Brooklyn’s better” when Carmelo Anthony was shooting free throws.

Unfortunately the Bucks were not playing anywhere near the Nets level. They had no good answer for stopping Carmelo Anthony, who had 29 points on just 18 shots. And it was a night of key Knicks being efficient shooters with Tyson Chandler getting 17 points on 4-of-4 shooting, and Steve Novak dropped 19 points on 10 shots. The Knicks took control with a 9-0 run right before the half then a 10-0 run early in the third quarter. And Wednesday the Bucks had no amazing comebacks in them.

Bulls 101, Mavericks 78: Tom Thibodeau finally trusted his bench and they rewarded him with 50 points and an easy win over Dallas. Nate Robinson led the way for the bench, getting 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. The Bulls also continued to play good defense, holding the Mavs to 34.6 percent shooting. Dallas really could use that Nowitzki guy back on offense.

Clippers 101, Timberwolves 95: Chauncey Billups was back and played nearly 20 minutes, and that was good to see. But the Clippers won this because they played good defense again in the second half — Minnesota shot just 25.6 percent as a team in the final 24. Kevin Love was off all night against the Clippers 3-of-12 shooting. DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and played well.

Jazz 96, Hornets 84: The Jazz pulled away in the third quarter and got the kind of comfortable win behind 19 points from Al Jefferson that should have the team smiling. But the Jazz may have lost Marvin Williams for a little while after his head hit the floor hard late in the third quarter, which led Utah to talk about a likely concussion after the game.

Grizzlies 103, Raptors 82: In the third quarter Utah shot 72.2 percent as a team with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph combining for 15 points on 6-of7 shooting. Meanwhile Toronto shot 23.5 percent in the third quarter. Memphis won the third quarter by 18 points and made the fourth quarter basically meaningless. By the way, good on Mike Conley for out playing Kyle Lowry for the night — Lowry usually gets up for this matchup (remember it was Conley’s presence that had Memphis moving Lowry). Conley had 16 on the night.

Spurs 110, Magic 89: Manu Ginobili had 12 points in the first quarter, going 4-of-4 from three and sparking a 13-0 San Antonio run where they took a comfortable lead and the game was never really in doubt from there. San Antonio essentially did whatever they wanted, got whatever shots they wanted and met with little resistance. Did you expect otherwise? Ginobili had 20 points, Gary Neal 19.

Hawks 94, Bobcats 90: Ben Gordon almost won the Bobcats this game — he went off for 20 points in the fourth quarter and single handedly made this a game. The Hawks were up by 7 inside of 2:30 in the game but Gordon kept sinking contested threes. The Bobcats had a chance to win it with 5.2 seconds left, getting the ball down 1, and to tie it a few seconds later, but in both cases the Hawks — we’re looking at you Josh Smith — did a good job of denying a clean entry pass to Gordon. And that was enough. Smith, Al Horford and Lou Williams each had 17 for the Hawks.

Report: Before trading Jeremy Lin to Hawks, Nets were concerned about his readiness for season

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Jeremy Lin missed 127 games the last two years, including the last 81 last season. And the Nets – before trading Lin to Atlanta – apparently weren’t convinced he’d be fully healthy next season.

Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

there was internal concern about whether he would have been ready for the start of camp

The Hawks had a right to give Lin a physical before finalizing the trade. Every indication is they did and he passed.

So, maybe Brooklyn was overly worried. Or maybe Atlanta looked past concerns to acquire a name player. We’ll probably never know. Sometimes, players with sound bills of health get hurt. Sometimes, players with medical red flags don’t. The outcome for Lin next season won’t necessarily prove anything.

The prevailing opinion is the Hawks acquired Lin as an attention-grabber. They already have their point guard of the future in Trae Young, and Dennis Schroderwho’s firmly on the trade block – could have easily handled remaining minutes at the position. Atlanta could have used its cap space to gain extra picks in a salary dump with the Nuggets, but instead allowed the Nets to make that trade by taking Lin off their hands.

It isn’t necessarily the “wrong” move. I would have rather gotten the picks, but I’m not the one who makes money on Hawks ticket sales and TV ratings. I get the appeal of Lin.

But that works only if he stays healthy.

At least the other element of making Lin the draw – that he isn’t good enough to undermine tanking – would hold up if he gets hurt.

As Summer League ends, what are teams taking away from Las Vegas?

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LAS VEGAS — Knicks fans were lined up out the door, literally overflowing the Cox Arena on the UNLV campus to get a glimpse of Kevin Knox, who averaged 21.3 points per game at Summer League and suddenly was seen as the newest star on Broadway — the perfect pairing for Kristaps Porzingis.

Top pick Deandre Ayton filled the building and had Suns’ fans dreaming of rings with his star power. Memphis’ fans were saying they saw the future of the franchise with Jaren Jackson’s combination of shooting and shot blocking. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s looked like a steal and his play gave Clippers’ fans hope. Atlanta’s Trae Young went from “bust” to “future franchise cornerstone” over the course of two weeks as his play improved through July.

As Summer League has grown over the years — all 30 NBA teams were represented in Las Vegas, every game was televised nationally — so has the importance of these July exhibitions in the minds of fans.

But what do teams — their coaches, scouts, and GMs — take away from Las Vegas?

A baseline.

“It’s just benchmarks for the guys,” new Hawks’ coach Lloyd Pierce told NBC Sports in Las Vegas. “I got bear cubs right now. I saw Omari (Spellman) at Villanova, but I hadn’t touched him. I saw Trae (Young) at Oklahoma, but I hadn’t touched him. Kevin (Huerter) I still haven’t touched (hand surgery).

“So we have a couple areas with Trae, and we have a couple areas with John Collins and a couple areas with Tyler Dorsey where we say, ‘you know what, I know what we need to work on.’ More will come, but at least I have a starting point, and we can have a conversation now.”

That conversation is about how much more work needs to be done.

Summer League has become big business for the NBA, it’s marketed and put on a bigger stage, and with that it’s natural that Summer League games have grown in importance in the eyes of fans (and media). But for teams, the purpose hasn’t changed since the games were an almost forgotten part of the NBA season at the Pyramid on the Long Beach State campus.

Multiple NBA coaches and executives told NBC Sports is just the first post-draft step in evaluation, and where a player is on the scale right now is not nearly as important as where he goes from here. Those decision makers know that 90 percent of the players in Las Vegas will not even be invited to an NBA training camp, then combine that with limited practices and there is only so much big-picture evaluation that can take place.

“I don’t get wrapped up into the rookies, as far as being discouraged with what you see here,” said Bobby Marks, former assistant general manager with the Brooklyn Nets and current ESPN analyst. “I think I’m more discouraged if I have a second- or third-year player who does not play well here…

“You take gradual steps. You look at where you were when you first get to Vegas, where they were at the end of June or early July, then you see where they are in the middle of July.”

A lot of the evaluation from teams is not in those televised Las Vegas games, but rather on the practice court.

“The first thing is you evaluate how coachable they are, because you don’t have a lot of time, but there’s a few things you emphasize just to see if they do it,” said Utah Jazz Summer League coach Alex Jensen. “Summer League is one of those things where they are always trying to showcase themselves, so sometimes it’s not the easiest thing to do, but we want to see how coachable they are.”

For those first-round and high second-round picks, it’s also a chance to put players in NBA situations. For example, Portland Summer League coach Jim Moran said they run a lot of the same sets in Las Vegas they will run come the fall, with the goal of getting guys like Gary Trent Jr. or Anfernee Simons shots they will see come the games that matter.

“We’re trying to put them in situations they’ll be put in the regular season,” Moran said. “So whether it be defensively having our bigs switch out on smaller guys, or learning how to move and keep smaller guys in front of them, or offensively just getting them a feel for where their shots are going to come from in certain plays, we want to see it.”

For a first-round pick such as Portland’s Simons or the Knicks’ Knox or Atlanta’s Young, Summer League is a showcase. Every first-round pick has a guaranteed NBA contract — they are going to get paid come the fall. That’s not to say they don’t play hard or take it seriously, but no matter what happens in Las Vegas they will be on a roster come October.

The real business of Summer League is second-round picks, undrafted players, and guys coming back from playing overseas trying to get noticed — by NBA teams, ideally, but at least by European scouts who can land them good paying gigs playing basketball. It’s an on-court job application for almost everyone in uniform. NBA staffs are taking notes on these guys, as well.

“Second-rounders, undrafted guys, guys you might sign to two-ways, guys you might need to call up on a two way, because you don’t really know,” ESPN’s Marks said of who he watched closely at Summer League in his executive days. “There could be guys who were playing in Europe last year, or maybe from lower level schools and you didn’t bring them in for a workout, there’s a newness to this. So I think it benefits them more than your first round picks.”

Put in a good showing and guys can find their way onto a roster — Trevon Bluiett out of Xavier averaged 18.3 points per game for the Pelicans, and they signed him to a two-way contract. A handful of other guys did the same, or will get training camp invites out of Las Vegas.

Because of that those guys are hustling — say what you want about the glorified pick-up game nature of Summer League play, guys go hard because paychecks are on the line.

However, for bigger name, higher drafted players, performance in Las Vegas matters more to fans than it does the franchise.

“There are takeaways, it gives you a baseline for the rest of the summer,” Marks said.

And that’s just the first step. By Halloween, all these games will be a distant memory.

Report: LeBron James to skip USA Basketball mini-camp next week

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Next week in Las Vegas, many of the best basketball players walking the face of the earth — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, just to name a few — will get together under the guidance of Gregg Popovich for the USA Basketball mini-camp.

It is the first workout of the pool of 35 players — which will ultimately be narrowed down to a dozen — who will represent the United States at the 2019 World Cup in China and 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. It also will be the first workouts for the team under new coach Gregg Popovich. It’s a who’s who of NBA talent.

Except new Laker LeBron James will not be there, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

LeBron James will not participate in USA Basketball’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week, multiple sources familiar with James’ plans told ESPN.

LeBron, who already has two Olympic golds and has competed in three Olympics, may choose to sit out a World Cup at age 34 and an Olympics at 35. He was not part of the 2016 gold medal team in Rio. LeBron certainly has done his service on the Team USA front, and the USA does not need him to win gold in those tournaments.

All eyes in Las Vegas will be on the dynamic between Popovich and Kawhi Leonard, who is expected to be at the workout. Most likely the dealings between them will be civil if a little cold, but it’s worth watching.

Lakers headed to second straight Summer League title game

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Josh Hart scored 37 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 112-109 double-overtime victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday in the semifinals of the NBA Summer League.

Los Angeles advanced to the championship game for a second straight year after winning the 2017 title behind game MVP Kyle Kuzma and league MVP Lonzo Ball.

The Lakers will play Portland, which knocked off Memphis in the other semi-final.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes made the play of the game when he snatched a loose ball and fed Jeff Ayres with a pretty touch pass under the basket with 45 seconds left in the second overtime. Rathan-Mayes followed Ayres’ lay-in with a slashing lay-up to put the Lakers up 110-106 with 22 seconds left.

Cleveland’s Billy Preston missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Svi Mykhailiuk scored 31 points for the Lakers (6-0), while Ayres added 20.

Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 27 points, while Jamel Artis and John Holland each scored 17.

Trailing 105-102 in the first overtime after Sexton made a short jumper, Rathan-Mayes buried a 3-pointer to tie the score. Hart made it 106-105 by hitting the second of two free throws with 5.7 seconds remaining. Sexton did the same at the other end, splitting two free throws and tying it at 106 with 3.3 seconds left.

The Cavaliers (5-2) erased an early 11-point deficit and tied the score at 95, when Vladimir Brodziansky buried a 3-pointer with 2:00 left in regulation.

After Mykhailiuk made one of two free throws to give the Lakers a 96-95 lead with a little more than a minute left, Hart grabbed a defensive rebound and at the other end dished to Mykhailiuk, who hit a running jumper just above the free throw line to push the lead to 98-95.

But Sexton answered with a 3-pointer to tie the score with 26 seconds left. Hart missed a 3-pointer with 3.0 seconds left, and Sexton missed one from long range at the buzzer.

The Lakers went on an 18-2 run to take a 28-17 lead led by Mykhailiuk, who was 4-for-4 from long-range in the first quarter. Los Angeles shot 50 percent (9 of 18) in the opening period and was 5 for 9 (55 percent) from beyond the 3-point line.

Hart took over in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his 14 first-half points to help the Lakers take a 50-47 lead at halftime.