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.

San Antonio Spurs retire Tony Parker’s number

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Tim Duncan went up first. Then Manu Ginobili.

Monday night it was Tony Parker’s turn — all of the Spurs’ big three have now had their jerseys retired.

This is obviously well deserved.

The No. 28 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker went on to win four NBA titles, was named Finals MVP with one of those, plus was a six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA player. He was part of core that turned the Spurs into a dynasty.

Everyone was on hand for the ceremony, with coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan, and Ginobili all speaking before Parker, and all of them talking about their bond.

It was an emotional and touching night.

The next stop for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili? The Hall of Fame.

 

Kings’ point guard De’Aaron Fox out at least 3-4 weeks with ankle sprain

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The Sacramento Kings — everyone’s League Pass favorites — have been snake bitten this season. First it was Marvin Bagley III, who broke his right thumb in the season opener.

Now point guard De'Aaron Fox will be out at least 3-4 weeks (that’s when he’ll be re-evaluated) after suffering a grade three ankle sprain in practice Monday. From the official Sacramento press release:

An MRI conducted this afternoon on Kings guard De’Aaron Fox confirmed that he sustained a left ankle sprain at the end of practice on Monday. He will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks and his status will be updated as appropriate.

After a breakout season a year ago, this season Fox had come back to earth a little in new coach Luke Walton’s system — his turnovers were up and his efficiency had slipped, a 52.8 true shooting percentage that is close to the league average, for example — but he was still putting up 18.2 points and dishing out 7 assists a game. He has been the focal point of the Kings’ offense.

This is a blow to the Kings and their development. Sacramento had won 3-of-4 and seemed to be finding more of a groove.

Sacramento does have depth at the point guard spot, however. It signed Cory Joseph over the summer to a three-year, $37 million contract, plus it picked up a team option on Yogi Ferrell. They have some depth at the spot.

However, those players do not have Fox’s explosiveness. The Kings just will not be the same until he returns.

Greece coach Rick Pitino plans to enter 2020 Olympic qualifying without Giannis Antetokounmpo

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece coach Rick Pitino is planning on trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics without Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pitino officially took over as coach of the Greek national basketball team on Monday. He said he would leave a roster place open for Antetokounmpo in qualifying games but is not sure if he will be able to rely on his best player.

Greece will try to reach the Tokyo Olympics by winning a qualifying tournament. But the dates could clash with the NBA schedule, probably ruling out Antetokounmpo.

“It is a possibility he will not be playing with us in the qualifying round if he goes far (in the playoffs). I understood that coming into this situation, and that’s why it’s such a high mountain to climb,” Pitino said. “But Giannis is something, it’s a bridge we have to cross later on. But we are going to leave a roster spot even if he has to take my place.”

Pitino said he hoped to meet Antetokounmpo and his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, in March when the Bucks travel to Miami.

The 67-year-old Pitino is a veteran of the college game and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville. He has returned to Greece after coaching Athens club Panathinaikos last season and remains popular.

Pitino said he also felt that attachment.

“(Coaching Greece) is the crown jewel for me as a basketball coach,” Pitino said. “This is one of the greatest honors I’ve had as a coach. I consider this so special because it’s a mountain that is so worth climbing.

“And for the next eight months. I’m not American. I’m not Italian. I’m Greek. And that’s the way I’m going to carry myself. You won’t see anybody who will bleed every possession like I will bleed to try and win a game.”

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.