Baseline to Baseline recaps: ‘Melo sparks Knicks win

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while doing the Bernie lean

Lakers 105, Thunder 96: For two consecutive games the Lakers have basically moved Kobe Bryant to the point and put Steve Nash off the ball, and their offense has looked better. We have a lot more detail on this game, our man Brett Pollakoff broke this game down.

Celtics 100, Heat 98 (2OT): It was a dark day for the Celtics, which is too bad because this is the kind of game they could have built on. We broke down the game then we broke down what the Celtics need to do next.

Knicks 106, Hawks 104: Defense? Who wants to see defense? Both teams had offensive ratings of 121 (points per 100 possessions) and the Hawks shot 60 percent for the game. But if you’re going to play a game with just scoring and no defense, you are playing into Carmelo Anthony’s hands — he had 42 points including nine three pointers. Plus, with the game tied late he isolated on Josh Smith, drove around him and got the and-1 layup that won the game for the Knicks.

Josh Smith had his chances to be the hero for Atlanta, but in the games final plays he committed an offensive foul that gave the Knicks the ball back setting up Carmelo’s game winner. Then with time running out he got a good look at a three for the win but missed.

J.R. Smith and Amar’e Stoudemire each added18 points off the bench for New York. Raymond Felton had 12 points and 10 assists. Jeff Teague had 27 points for Atlanta and was aggressive.

Hornets 91, Grizzlies 83: Memphis scored just 15 points in the fourth quarter and that did them in — Memphis is a great defensive team but sometimes that can’t cover for their bad offense. Rudy Gay was 0-of-4 in the fourth (3-of-17 all night), and both Tony Wroten and Jerryd Bayless were 1-of-5 in the final frame. The Hornets got their points from their bench — Ryan Anderson had 22 and Jason Smith 16 leading a bench that scored 55 on the night. Zach Randolph had 20 points and 13 boards for Memphis.

Clippers, 96 Trail Blazers 83: This looked nothing like Saturday’s close Blazers win in the first of this home-and-home, save for the names across the teams’ chests. The Clippers owned the paint in this one, scoring 56 points there and they were led by Blake Griffin, who had 23 points and 9 assists (and didn’t set foot on the court in the fourth quarter). The Clippers pulled away in the third and unlike Saturday (when Los Angeles blew a 9 point lead in the final two minutes) they didn’t let up.

What went wrong for the Blazers? Let us count the ways. Portland scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter. Portland also committed the cardinal sin against the Clippers, turning the ball over 19 times (that fuels L.A.’s fast break). The other big difference from Saturday? Portland couldn’t hit a three to save its life (3-for-15).

Pistons 104, Magic 102: Orlando is now 3-15 with games decided 6 points or less. Some of that is just bad luck, but another reason is what we saw at the end of this game — they don’t have anyone who could create a good shot for himself in crunch time. Detroit did — Will Bynum was slicing into the lane and kicking out to shooters and that was the difference (he had 12 assists on the night.

It was tied 95-95 with three minutes when Bynum drove the lane, kicked out to a wide-open Tayshaun Prince for a three, and he missed it. Jameer Nelson got the rebound and threw a home-run ball lass to E’Twaun Moore for a layup and-1. Next trip down the Pistons missed two more threes but Greg Monroe was grabbing offensive rebounds and eventually found Brandon Knight who knocked down a three, part of his career high 31 points on the night. Next trip down was another three for Knight, this one open from the corner. Moore was getting buckets for the Magic on his way to a career high 18, but the Pistons kept getting better looks late. J.J. Redick, who had 31 on the night, had a shot at a game winner but couldn’t create space for himself and it was contested and never really had a chance.

Mavericks 110, Suns 95: Fourth game in five nights for the Suns and it showed, they looked tired. Credit the Mavs for taking advantage of that — Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion each had 18 points. The Suns made a run and cut the lead to five in the fourth quarter, but that was all the energy they had. Dallas went on a 10-0 run and that was it.

Dwyane Wade signs ‘lifetime’ deal with Li-Ning

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MIAMI (AP) Dwyane Wade has signed a lifetime contract with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning.

Wade made the deal official at an event in Beijing on Wednesday with the company’s CEO and namesake Li Ning, who is revered in China for his gymnastics success.

Wade’s relationship with Li-Ning began in 2012, after he previously was an endorser for Converse and Jordan Brand. In addition to the continued production of basketball and lifestyle apparel, the new deal calls for Wade to take “a greater role” in youth developmental camps and basketball clinics in China and other parts of the world over the coming years.

Wade finished last season with the Miami Heat. He has not decided if he will return to the Heat next season, which would be his 16th in the NBA.

New Bulls forward Jabari Parker: ‘They don’t pay players to play defense’

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Jabari Parker never found his footing with the Bucks. Parker’s injuries and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s ascension left Parker – a top recruit then No. 2 overall pick – trying (and often failing) to to fit into a complementary role he clearly never envisioned for himself.

After signing a contract to become the Bulls’ highest-paid player, Parker is unapologetically embracing a new mission.

Parker, via 670 The Score:

I just stick to my strengths. Look at everybody in the league. They don’t pay players to play defense. There’s only two people historically that play defense. I’m not going to say I won’t, but to say that’s a weakness is like saying that’s everybody’s weakness. Because I’ve scored 30 and 20 on a lot of guys that say they play defense.

If you know the game, you also know that everyone’s a pro, right? And you know that certain guys have an average. No matter what you do, they still get that average. They pay people to score the ball, and I would hope that somebody scores the ball on me if they pay them that much. So, I’m not saying that to cop out or nothing. It’s the NBA. We’re professionals. Everybody scores. It’s just about limiting them as much as you can, trying to contain them.

A better offense wins a championship.

Parker is generally right. Scoring is rewarded far more than defense. If NBA teams don’t want to encourage that attitude, they ought to pay players more for other skills. Until then, players like Parker – who has no salary guarantee beyond this season – will continue to be drawn to scoring.

Parker is also correct that certain players get their points-per-game average no matter what. What he fails to explain: If that player needs too many shots to get it, he hurts his team. Good defenders force inefficiency from their opponents.

But, again, players who get theirs in the points column are often rewarded in salary.

So, expect Parker to hunt his points during his upcoming contract year.

These quotes only reinforce what we’d already seen from Parker. He showed glimpses of strong defense during this year’s playoffs, but that was rare for him. His skill set and approach are offense-first.

And great offense probably beats great defense. But offenses are rarely reliably great. Defense more often can be. The Warriors, as exceptional as they are offensively, are also elite defensively. I’m not sure Parker grasps that.

It’s on Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to convince him, but managing this issue is easier said than done. Not only does Parker bring years of habits to Chicago, he’s playing to prove himself next season. The Bulls have a team option on him for 2019-20.

Parker will most positively affect winning by trying hard on both ends of the floor. He might most positively affect his bank account by saving his energy for offense.

You might not like him saying it, but it’s also reality.

Report: Kawhi Leonard warming to playing for Raptors

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Shortly after the Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors, word leaked he didn’t want to play for Toronto.

That stance is apparently softening.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

They’ve been in communication with Kawhi Leonard’s camp. He’s going to play. He’ll be in training camp. He’s healthy. He may be at USA Basketball’s minicamp next week which Gregg Popovich is coaching. That’s possible.

But the one thing I was told today he’s started to warm to the idea that he’s going to a contender. He’s got a team that could be as good as anybody in the Eastern Conference.

And now it’s on Toronto to try to recruit him, keep him. But in his mind right now, he’s headed to L.A. next year.

Leonard has little choice but to get on board. If he withheld services from the Raptors, they could fine him – eventually all the way up to his entire $20,099,189 salary for next season. Perhaps even more catastrophically, if it was determined he withheld services for more than 30 days of the season, he could be denied free agency entirely.

Maybe he could have finessed using his injury as an excuse rather than explicitly holding out. It has been threatened before. But that’s hard to manage and would have hurt his stock among all teams, including his preferred destination(s).

The best way for Leonard to get everything he wants is going to Toronto, playing well then becoming a free agent next summer.

I’d advise Leonard to keep an open mind until then. It might have made sense to posture against the Raptors to discourage a trade. But the trade has happened. Maybe he’ll join Toronto and like it more than he expects.

Paul George didn’t expect to stay with the Thunder, but he considered them throughout the season and found a long-term home. I don’t expect that to repeat with Leonard and the Raptors, but it could. Why close the option?

If not, Los Angeles will always be waiting.

Report: Spurs wanted to declare Kawhi Leonard out for the season, but he wouldn’t let them

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In February, Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again during the 2017-18 season. Leonard didn’t, but the Spurs never followed Popovich’s doubt with a clear statement on Leonard’s status. Instead, Popovich repeatedly deferred questions of Leonard’s health in the following months to Leonard’s “group.”

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Privately, officials within organization had hoped Leonard would let the Spurs declare him out for the season due to his injury, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Believing he’d eventually return, Leonard declined each time

Did Leonard not realize this made him – not the Spurs – look bad? Especially once it leaked he’d been cleared medically. Especially when he told the team repeatedly and public once he’d return soon but never did.

Perhaps, this was just genuine competitiveness. Maybe Leonard really thought, or at least wanted to believe, a return was around the corner. This could have been him valiantly never giving up.

But there’s a reason teams usually err on the side of caution in long-term injury announcements. It’s to protect the player from looking bad for remaining out if he’s not quite ready as quickly as initially projected.

The Pacers received a disabled-player exception for Paul George in 2014-15, and he still beat the odds to return late in the year. The Celtics called Gordon Hayward out for this season and weren’t going to stray from that public stance until he suited up, even when – for a moment – it appeared he had a chance of returning.

Even if the Spurs publicly declared him out for the rest of the year, nothing would have stopped Leonard from playing. It’s not a binding resolution. Instead, he repeatedly missing targeted return dates and looked soft to many because of it.

And he insisted on the strategy that led to that perception!

This is just more evidence those around Leonard might not know what they’re doing.