Baseline to Baseline recaps: Lots of ‘Melo, not much else for Knicks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the games yesterday in NBA action. Or, what you missed while breaking your New Year’s resolutions already….

Nuggets 92, Clippers 78: The Clippers win streak dies at 17on a night they were just ice-cold from the floor — 38.5 percent as a team, with leading scorer Jamal Crawford shooting 2-of-11. Denver played well but it was just one of those nights for Los Angeles. We broke it all down as our game of the night.

Trail Blazers 105, Knicks 100: Carmelo Anthony showed up to play — 45 points on just 24 shots, plus seven rebounds. J.R. Smith was trying to go with him, gunning his way to 28 points. The rest of the Knicks… not so much. They were a step slow on defense and for reasons unknown it took them to the third quarter to figure out that Portland plays J.J. Hickson at center and he can’t stop a Tyson Chandler roll to the bucket.

Portland pulled away with an 11-0 run in the second and held on at the end to get the win. Portland took at advantage of a sloppy Knicks defense to shoot 50.6 percent on the night. Nicolas Batum had 26, LaMarcus Aldridge had 18, J.J. Hickson 19.

And Amar’e Stoudemire was back. Not shockingly he looked rusty. He started 0-4 shooting and is a little ways away from being his old self. Lineups with Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler together were +2 in five minutes of action. That is not indicative of much, just something to watch going forward.

Sixers 103, Lakers 99: And the Lakers fall below .500 again because they couldn’t defend. That sound familiar? It’s been like that all season and the return of Steve Nash and the better play of late didn’t change the Lakers narrative — this looked and felt like a lot of Lakers games this year.

Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner did the damage — both would shake loose of their perimeter defender pretty easily and get a good look then knock down the shot. This wasn’t some brilliant Doug Collins scheme, this was those two exploiting the Lakers defenders in isolation sets all night. Holiday had 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting plus had 10 assists. Turner had 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting, plus had 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol was 2-of-12 and Dwight Howard 1-of-7 shooting. Kobe Bryant was back to being a gunner who scored 36, Metta World Peace had 13 points and needed 17 shots to get them. As a team the Lakers were 3-of-22 from three point range.

Hawks 95, Hornets 86: This was the fourth game in five nights on the road for the Hawks, the kind of game where a lot of teams just roll over. Credit Atlanta, they found the energy for an 11-2 third quarter run to pull away for the win. That run featured a Kyle Kover three but the guy driving it was Josh Smith, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Al Horford pitched in 20 points on the night. Ryan Anderson had 23 for the Hornets. Eric Gordon looked like a guy who just came off knee surgery and is rusty and not in game shape yet — which he is — and was 5-of-17 shooting in 24 minutes.

Dallas 103, Wizards 94: The Wizards controlled the first half of this game and led by as many as 14 at one point, and it looked like Dallas could lose their seventh in a row. But Darren Collison sparked a 22-6 third quarter run for the Mavericks that gave them the lead and Dallas never looked back. Vince Carter led Dallas with 23 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki looked better, shooting 5-of-7 from the field as he plays himself back into shape. If Wizards fans are looking for a bright spot, Bradley Beal had a career-high 22 points.

Pistons 103, Kings 97: Detroit was in control of this game from the second quarter on until a 20-5 run by Sacramento in the fourth — fueled by Jimmer Fredette who had 13 in the quarter — made it close down the stretch. It was Austin Daye who knocked down the game-clinching three for Detroit. Greg Monroe had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Pistons, who now have a three-game winning streak. Brandon Knight added 20. For the Kings DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 14 rebounds, but Sacramento fell to 1-13 on the road this season.

Report: Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard in San Diego

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Don’t count the San Antonio Spurs out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes just yet.

We have been waiting on pins and needles to see whether or not Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would meet with the apparently disgruntled Leonard this week before San Antonio approaches Thursday night’s NBA draft.

According to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard and Popovich met on Tuesday night in San Diego where Leonard has been working out.

Via Twitter:

For what it is worth, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reporterd that Popovich has not yet met with Leonard, but is traveling to Southern California to meet with the Spurs forward. Even further, Leonard has reportedly requested a trade to Los Angeles from the Spurs, specifically to the Lakers.

Via ESPN:

Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said.

Leonard had told confidants that he did not want to sit down with Popovich and has been purposely difficult for the Spurs to reach recently. Among the issues, Leonard is angry over what he believes was the Spurs’ mishandling of a quad injury, and remains irate with public comments out of teammate Tony Parker and Popovich that he felt were not supportive of him, league sources said.

We had to know this was coming. San Antonio wasn’t going to let Leonard dictate the terms of his departure from Texas all by himself. Although Leonard has put the Spurs in a tough situation given his reported open request to play in Los Angeles, no doubt both parties would be better off from a basketball perspective if they were together. San Antonio apparently doesn’t want to make a deal with a Western Conference team, either.

Since the Spurs were trying to get in touch with Leonard before Thursday’s big selection night, it could be a signal that Leonard is on the move. Several teams, including the Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Cleveland Cavaliers are rumored to be interested in Leonard’s services.

Rumor: Cavaliers could have trade interest in Kemba Walker

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to do everything in their power to retain LeBron James. They are also doing everything they can do to prepare themselves for if James decides to leave Cleveland once and for all.

Last week we heard rumors about how the Cavaliers were trying to prepare an offer to snag Kawhi Leonard away from the San Antonio Spurs. That move could be seen either as an intent to entice James to stay, or as a replacement for The King.

Now, we have rumor that the Cavaliers could be interested in acquiring an Eastern Conference point guard, presumably to help LeBron next season.

According to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers have inquired to the Charlotte Hornets about the availability of point guard Kemba Walker.

Walker, 28, just became the Hornets all-time leading scorer this last season. The University of Connecticut product has just one year left on his current deal at $12 million, and could be both a good rental for a season as a means to bolster another James Finals run, or as a focal piece moving forward.

As is the issue with any package for Leonard, a trade to the Cavaliers from Charlotte for Walker really depends on what a third trade partner can bring into the mix. Not many of Cleveland’s young players have performed well enough to be used as trade bait for marquee guys. That necessarily means that Kevin Love will be the main trade bait, and it is tough for many teams to have interest in the sharp-shooting forward given many already have that position filled.

We are just 48 hours away from the 2018 NBA Draft and no doubt rumors like this will continue to heat up as we get closer to 4 p.m. Eastern on Thursday night.

Michael Porter Jr. compares himself to Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo

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It has been rumored that Michael Porter Jr could be the player the Sacramento Kings draft at No. 2 overall on Thursday night in the 2018 NBA Draft. Meanwhile, according to Porter himself, there is good reason for his sudden leap up the draft boards.

Speaking on CBS Sports Radio on Monday, Porter said that he thought the players he most compared to right now were Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Tracy McGrady.

Of course, the context here is that Porter was prompted to give a current NBA comparison, and as a shooter and physical player, he was unlikely to compare himself to a role player. Still, it’s a bold statement from Porter to say that he is akin to the second best player in the league at this moment. Durant has a skill set that hasn’t been replicated or really seen in the NBA, so it’s tough for anyone to really compare themselves to him.

Here is the quote, transcribed thanks to Deadspin:

Right now, I’m a little, I’m a mix of Giannis and KD. You know, I like going to the hole a little more than KD does, I like bumping into people a little more physical than KD. But I also, you know I like to shoot the ball more than Giannis. So that’s what I like to compare myself to. Then also Tracy McGrady. I get compared to him a lot and I like that one a lot too. You know, those are three amazing players. So it doesn’t feel bad to be in the same conversation as them.

In a recent interview with Dime Magazine, Porter said that he thinks Durant is the best player in the league, particularly when he plays against LeBron James. So really, Porder compared himself to the best player in the league.

The Missouri product has a litany of both character and injury questions. Rumors are abound about how well he will fit into an NBA locker room, and he famously decamped to Missouri Lorenzo Romar was fired in Washington.

Porder sat out most of the year with a nagging back injury, and had to call off some of his draft workouts because of a hip issue. Porter has tried to downplay his injury concerns, and has said that former Portland Trail Blazers star Brandon Roy told him to remain patient through injury.

The draft is less than 48 hours away, and most believe that taking Porter at No. 2 is a huge risk for the Kings. We will see just how confident Sacramento is about Porter’s ability to become an NBA teammate and stay healthy here soon enough.

Michael Jordan will still have input on Hornets draft day decisions

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan hired proven general manager Mitch Kupchak this offseason to help turn around a franchise mired in mediocrity since he became the Charlotte Hornets’ majority owner eight years ago.

But that doesn’t mean the highly competitive Jordan won’t have input on personnel decisions, beginning with the NBA draft on Thursday night.

Kupchak said in a pre-draft news conference Tuesday that he’ll have final say in who the Hornets select before quickly adding, “well, with the exception of one person – and obviously that’s ownership.”

Kupchak has won 10 NBA championships, including seven as an executive with the Los Angeles Lakers – so he knows a thing or two about building a winning roster. But he’s quickly learning that Jordan, who many consider the best NBA player ever, is still very much a hands-on owner when it comes to the players he employs.

And Kupchak understands that.

“There is a huge business component to our relationship,” Kupchak said.

Kupchak said he has communicated with Jordan on the phone and via text throughout the draft evaluation process. The 55-year-old Jordan arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina on Monday and the two have been studying tape on potential draft picks since.

The Hornets, who have failed to make the playoffs three of the past four seasons, have the 11th overall pick in the draft.

Kupchak has known Jordan since he was a freshman at the University of North Carolina.

However, Kupchak said that while they both are former Tar Heels, he never had considered Jordan a friend prior to being hired this past offseason to replace Rich Cho as Hornets general manager.

Since then they have had dinner together and gotten to know each other a little more.

He said the relationship has changed for the better.

“Hopefully when all is said and done, our other relationship, which is our friend relationship continues to grow and is not altered in any way,” Kupchak said. “There are no favors being done here. We’re friends and I think we’ll remain friends, but the bottom line in this business is success and winning games.”

Kupchak was rather forthcoming in the team’s pre-draft press conference Tuesday, saying the does not expect to trade the 11th overall pick.

He also said he expects that the handful of top-notch big men will be off the board by the time the Hornets make their selection.

“Right now I think the best player on the board is the player we are going to go after – and I’d expect that player to be a guard or a wing,” Kupchak said. “… I think we expect that we will be looking at guards and wings, but we will see.”