Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Thunder roll as Bulls need a Rose

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while pointing out to friends the historical inaccuracies of “Argo”

Lakers 103, Mavericks 99: The Lakers are starting to find their identity as a team… of course, some night’s that identity is Kobe Bryant. He dropped 38 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, had 12 rebounds and seven assists. The Lakers are in the playoff hunt and our Brett Pollakoff broke it down.

Thunder 102, Bulls 72: No doubt the Thunder are a very good team, a title contender, a team deep with talent. This game wasn’t about them. This is about how sad and pathetic the Bulls offense can be some nights — they shot 29.1 percent for the game. Or look at it this way, their shot totals by quarter: 6-of-30, 4-of-18, 7-of-20, 8-of-18. It was ugly. These are the games they miss Derrick Rose.

This was a rout from early on, when the Thunder went on a 19-5 run and never looked back. Russell Westbrook had 23, Kevin Durant had 29 and they could have played mahjong on the bench in the fourth quarter as they and all the Thunder starter’s watched as the benches were emptied.

Knicks 99, 76ers 93: So if you want some good news Philadelphia, Thaddeus Young is back and had a double-double (10 and 11). And Jrue Holiday looked every part the All-Star (30 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists). But right now the 76ers are crumbling and the Knicks are a playoff team trying to gear up for a run.

The Knicks needed a win after losing four in a row and got it with 29 from Carmelo Anthony and a season high 22 from Amar’e Stoudemire. The Knicks bench gave New York the lead with a 17-2 run to start the second quarter, and the Knicks never gave it up. They needed a win, now they need to build on it over the final months of the season.

Trail Blazers 92, Celtics 86: Boston is on a tough West Coast road trip and could use a win. And it looked like they could get one after a Kevin Garnett running hook tied the game a 86-86 with 1:46 to go.

But it wasn’t to be. Damian Lillard attacked off the pick-and-roll, the defensive rotation was late and he picked up and and-one. Then after some good defense taking away a Garnett drive and forcing a miss, then Wesley Matthews — who had an impressive 24 points on the night — knocked down the step back three that sealed it. Good win for a struggling Blazers team.

Heat 109, Cavaliers 105: Miami seemed to be in control after a 10-0 run in the first quarter and were cruising, up 18 at the half. The lead got to 22 at one point. But the Cavaliers opened the second half with some intent and opened it 42-21 and with a 15-2 run in the third quarter the Cavaliers took the lead.

Then Dwyane Wade happened. He had 15 points in the fourth quarter on 7-of-10 shooting and you can count a couple of assists in there, too. Dion Waiters tried to answer, the gunner had 8 in the fourth quarter and 26 in the game. But it wasn’t enough.

Grizzlies 76, Nets 72: Seven wins in a row for the Grizzlies. This game shows why Memphis will be a tough out come the playoffs. First, they defend — Brooklyn shot 37.7 percent. Drive the lane and you will pay a price against them as they are physical and will defend the rim. On offense it was five guys in double figures, led by Zach Randolph with 16. They don’t need a lot of points and they get what they need with balance.

Spurs 97, Suns 87: How did you really think this was going to end? The Suns hung around for a quarter but the Spurs opened the second quarter on a 22-4 and that was it. The final score makes it seem closer than it was. The Spurs has six guys scoring in double figures. San Antonio did it without Tony Parker who was out, and they finish the annual rodeo trip 7-2.

Warriors 100, Timberwolves 99: Golden State didn’t play very well, may not have deserved it (22 turnovers), but they got a big game from their All-Star David Lee (22 points, 13 rebounds) and key late shots from Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry and it was enough. Well, that and a late miss by Luke Ridnour, who had a shot at the win but misses. It was really a big game for Carl Landry, too, who had 19 points and 9 rebounds.

There were a couple good performances for the Timberwolves — Derrick Williams had 23 and Ricky Rubio looked more like his old self with 13 points, 9 assists.

Hornets 110, Kings 95: This game was a lot closer than the score shows, the Hornets went on a 22-7 run in the fourth quarter to pull away. They did it with their bench — Ryan Anderson had 13 of his 17 in the fourth quarter, Roger Mason Jr. added 10 in the quarter. The Hornets won the bench battle 45-17.

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.”