Baseline to Baseline recaps: The Knicks take night off (except they had a game)

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while you were hacking Donkey Kong to make Pauline the hero

Spurs 105, Thunder 93: The Spurs depth was too much for the Thunder — San Antonio made its big runs when it was bench-on-bench (mostly). Part of that was that the Thunder were playing their fourth game in five days. Par of that is that the Spurs are really, really good. We broke this Spurs win down in more detail.

Warriors 92, Knicks 63: It’s hard to accurately describe how bad the Knicks were in this game, but let me try with this: One week ago Stephen Curry, arguably the best pure shooter in the game today, dropped 54 points on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Monday night the Knicks decided to go under virtually every pick against him, giving him room to knock down jumpers. They’re lucky he only scored 26. David Lee returned and added 21.

The 63 points the Knicks scored were the fewest the Warriors franchise has allowed since 1958. When they were still the Philadelphia Warriors. The Knicks shot 27.4 percent for the game. J.R. Smith got ejected so he didn’t have to watch any more (not really, but nobody would have blamed him).

Carmelo Anthony was back from a knee injury and he looked slow and like he needed more time off, scoring 14 points (but getting 10 boards). Which leads to the stupidest thing the Knicks did all night — why did Mike Woodson play Anthony when the Knicks were getting blown out by more than 20 points in the third? Why did Woodson put him back in the game with nine minutes to go? Did he look fine to you, Woodson? Think he could just run through that knee issue that’s bothered him for weeks? Rest the man. Keep this up and you could actually kill any Knicks playoff hopes, Woodson. Don’t do it.

Nuggets 108, Suns 93: The Nuggets played this game like they knew they could take control and win it whenever they wanted. The team sleepwalked through the first half, yet still led by three at the break. They put it away in the fourth quarter with 10 fast break points in the final period, while not committing a single turnover in the final 12 minutes.

If you need proof that this was Denver’s game to lose, consider that Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala combined to shoot just 3-14 from the field, while Kosta Koufos led the team in scoring with a career-high 22 points on 10-11 shooting.

It’s tough to know what to make of the Suns at this point, considering that there doesn’t seem to be any plan in place other than rotating players in, seemingly at random, under the broad guise of player development. A perfect example: Shannon Brown had been essentially benched in favor of sticking to this mantra about a month ago, and received DNP-CDs in his last 10 games. He made an appearance in the second quarter of this one for some reason, though, and drew the biggest applause of the night from the fans in attendance.

As an aside, Hamed Haddadi of the Suns also had a career-high, and finished with 13 points in 19 minutes. So, yeah. It was a pretty special night in Phoenix.
—Brett Pollakoff

Sixers 106, Nets 97: Philadelphia had lost 12 of their last 13 — including Sunday night against lowly Orlando — but they played a much better and more complete game on Monday night. Out of nowhere. Spencer Hawes had 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, leading six Philly players in double figures. As a team, Philly shot 52.6 percent. As has been the problem much of the year, the Nets could not get a stop when they needed it. Deron Williams tried to take it on himself at times and finished with 27, with Joe Johnson adding 20 and Brook Lopez chipping in 19. But if the Nets can’t hold off the Bulls or Celtics for the four seed, this is the kind of game they will look back on and regret.

Jazz 103, Pistons 90: Utah desperately needed a win, and the Pistons were the doormats they required. This was close for a quarter but the Pistons were on the second night of a back-to-back and they slowed down in the second quarter, Utah went on a 12-0 run and pretty much coasted in from there. You knew it was going to be Utah’s night when that run started with Jeremy Evans knocking down a 19-foot jumper. Mo Williams had 20 points, Al Jefferson had16 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz. On top of everything else that has gone wrong for the Pistons, Brandon Knight sprained his ankle and could be out a while.

NBA owners approve 22-team format for resuming season with only Trail Blazers opposing

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen
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We already knew many key details of the NBA’s plan for resuming the season:

  • Only the top 22 teams will continue.
  • Games will be held at Disney World in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight more games (maybe with this schedule).
  • If the ninth-place team is within four games of the eighth-place team after those eight games, there will be a play-in series between the ninth- and 10th-place teams. To advance, the 10th-place team must win two games before the ninth-place team wins one.

Now, that plan is one step closer to becoming reality.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

It’s shocking the Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the protest vote. Portland – currently outside playoff position – will resume with a real chance to make the playoffs. What more did the Trail Blazers want?

Players must still approve the plan. National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said they wouldn’t necessarily vote on it. Union leadership has worked closely with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, certainly agreeing on the system before having owners vote on it.

However, given the NBPA’s haphazard methods for polling the larger membership, I’m not sure how widespread support is. There is room for significant disagreement on how players – continuing vs. non-continuing – will have their salaries affected.

Still, I expect players approve the plan, maybe tomorrow.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Everything is just too far down the road to turn back now. The financial incentives are too high not to keep trying to play. Silver has successfully rallied nearly everyone toward uniting.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Most of the remaining issues are minor details… like codifying a plan for health and safety.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

Report: Knicks to interview former Knicks coach Mike Woodson

Former Knicks coach Mike Woodson
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The Knicks appear set on both hiring Tom Thibodeau and conducting a coaching search.

Mike Woodson, who coached New York from 2012-2014, will be part of the process.

Ian Begley of SNY:

New York also interviewed Woodson in 2018 before hiring David Fizdale. I understand why the Knicks can’t make up their mind on whether they want him as their coach.

Woodson won 58% of his games with New York, the third-best mark in franchise history (behind Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy). In 2012-13, Woodson did some really creative things with Carmelo Anthony at power forward and two-point guard lineups.

But by the end of that season, Woodson went away from what worked. His views became increasingly suspect the next season. When the Knicks fired him, it appeared to be time to move one.

Will New York return to Woodson? Probably not. The expectation remains Thibodeau will get this job. But Woodson will at least have an opportunity to make his case for a very-strange return.

When Charles Barkley tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to Auburn

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Dirk Nowitzki was not headed to an American college before the NBA. Like most of the best European players — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, even going back to Tony Kukoc and others — he was taking a straight trip from his European team to the NBA.

That didn’t stop Charles Barkley from trying to get him to go to Auburn.

It wasn’t meant to be, but Saad Yousuf at the Athletic tells the story of Barkley trying.

The Auburn alum reflected on his first meeting with Nowitzki, in 1997 at a Nike exhibition game in Germany, in which the Big German put on an offensive clinic against a team featuring Barkley, Pippen, Michael Jordan and other NBA talents…

Barkley called Nike and made a strong push to get to Nowitzki through any channel, legal or not. “Just tell him, anything he wants, we’ll get it done,” Barkley recalled in 2012. “Just give him anything he wants; he’s got to go to Auburn.”

Barkley didn’t stop there, though. Nowitzki left such an impression on Auburn’s greatest hoops export that Barkley even talked to Cliff Ellis, Auburn’s coach at the time, to encourage the program to make a run at this relatively unknown teenager in Europe.

Ellis notes that in 1997 he couldn’t just jump on YouTube and find clips of a player, there wasn’t much film of European players. Still, the coach was willing to go on Barkley’s word and reached out.

Turns out Kentucky, Stanford and other colleges did as well, but to no avail. Nowitzki went straight into the 1988 NBA Draft, where the Bucks took him ninth overall then executed a draft-night trade sending the big German to Dallas for Robert “Tractor” Traylor. The rest is Hall of Fame history.

For Barkley, Ellis, and Auburn fans, it’s quite the “what if.” That was a 29-4 Auburn team in 1997-98 that was an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed led by a couple of future NBA players (Mamadou N’Diaye and Chris Porter). Add Nowitzki into that mix and… we will never know. But it could have been glorius.

 

How will, should player salaries be allocated as only some NBA teams resume?

Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns and Mavericks star Luka Doncic
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The Timberwolves will play 64 games this season. The Mavericks will play 75-77 games before the traditional playoffs.

Should Dallas players get paid a higher percentage of their salaries than Minnesota players?

That’s one of the thorny questions as the NBA resumes its season.

Though players have individual contracts with defined salaries, there’s an overriding factor in determining actual wages. The Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for players and owners to split revenue approximately 50-50. Salaries are adjusted to reach that 50-50 split.

Each year, the salary cap is set to a number designed to get total player salaries to about 50% of league-wide revenue. Obviously, that’s a difficult target to hit precisely. So, there are mechanisms to adjust the distribution of money if necessary. If their total slated salaries are higher than 50% of revenue, players don’t receive their full salaries. If their total salaries are lower than 50% of revenue, players get a shortfall check from owners.

Coronavirus has disrupted that well-oiled system

The league is missing a major chunk of revenue. Players’ slated salaries would call for them to earn WAY more than 50% of revenue. That’s why the NBA has been withholding a portion of players’ salaries. Force majeure allows teams to reduce players salaries for games canceled due to an epidemic.

The NBA’s reported plan reveals the number of lost games. There were 259 regular-season games remaining when the season was suspended. The continued season includes 88 regular-season games (eight each for the 22 continuing teams) plus 0-4 play-in games.* No playoff games are being canceled.

*I’m counting play-in games as regular-season games. It’s a gray area. Perhaps, owners and players will agree to count them as postseason games. It probably doesn’t matter here, anyway. In terms of force majeure, regular-season and playoff games count equally. So, it’s simple enough to count them as regular-season games.

That’s 167-171 canceled games.

Except not every team will have the same number of games canceled.

There’s a four-game spread in the number of games each team has played so far. The Warriors, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Pistons, Hawks, Knicks, Bulls and Hornets are done now. Every other team will play at least eight more games. The Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic, Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns and Wizards could play up to two play-in games.

Based strictly on games played, here’s how much players on each team stand to lose in salary:

  • Timberwolves: 19%
  • Hornets: 18%
  • Bulls: 18%
  • Cavaliers: 18%
  • Warriors: 18%
  • Pistons: 17%
  • Knicks: 17%
  • Hawks: 16%
  • Lakers: 12%
  • Spurs: 10%-12%
  • Celtics: 11%
  • Rockets: 11%
  • Clippers: 11%
  • Thunder: 11%
  • Raptors: 11%
  • Jazz: 11%
  • Nets: 9%-11%
  • Pelicans: 9%-11%
  • Kings: 9%-11%
  • Wizards: 9%-11%
  • Nuggets: 10%
  • Pacers: 10%
  • Heat: 10%
  • Bucks: 10%
  • 76ers: 10%
  • Grizzlies: 8%-10%
  • Magic: 8%-10%
  • Suns: 8%-10%
  • Trail Blazers: 6%-9%
  • Mavericks: 5%-8%

Is that fair to players on the eight done teams? They didn’t ask for their season to end prematurely.

On the other hand, they don’t have to do any more work. Other players must travel to Orlando, live under restrictions, play games with heightened injury concerns and risk contracting coronavirus just so the league can increase its revenue. Should eliminated players reap the rewards while sitting home?

This tension also exists in normal times. Players across 16 playoff teams divvied up just $20 million total for competing in the 2018 playoffs, and the amount was similar last year. Player income is largely earned on the regular season, even though the players playing in the playoffs disproportionately draw the revenue that funds everyone.

But the disparity feels sharper now – with the worst teams not even finishing the regular season and playoff teams facing a far larger burden just to keep playing.

To a certain degree, this is a player problem. Owners are going to pay approximately 50% of league revenue to players. The CBA dictates how players on each team should have their salaries cut through force majeure. If players want to share the losses more evenly among each other, owners should accommodate.

Consider this similar to cap smoothing, which the union infamously rejected. Except in that case, it was more just luck which players were in the favored class. Now, the players who could earn more will actually be the ones putting in the additional work. Then again, there could be a push for everyone to share the losses more equally.

Like many things disrupted by coronavirus, there are no good answers.