Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Celtics’ off night makes Bobcats look good

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while checking out what porn stars look like without makeup

Heat 98, Hawks 81: If Tuesday night was any indication, the Hawks should want to win enough games from here on out to avoid slipping to the eighth seed and getting the Heat in the first round. Miami’s win streak is up to 19 and our own Brett Pollakoff has the details.

Lakers 106, Magic 97: After the fans booed Dwight Howard, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn tried his own trick to trip up Howard — he went to hack-a-Howard and sent him to the line 39 times (tying the NBA record, also owned by Howard). But Dwight knocked down 25 and that fueled the Lakers win. We broke this game down in more detail, just follow this link.

Bobcats 100, Celtics 74: Wow, that was ugly for Boston. Paul Pierce was out for the night and the up and down Jeff Green started — and it was a down day. He was 4-of-11 shooting. Kevin Garnett looked tired and shot 2-for-10. This was the kind of game Boston needs Jason Terry to step up and he was invisible (and 2-of-5 shooting). And so it went, Avery Bradley was 4-of-11 from the field.

But let’s give the Bobcats some credit for snapping their 10-game losing streak. Gerald Henderson scored a career-high 35 points and the Bobcats pulled away with a 12-3 run to open the second half. I swear I even saw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knock down a jumper — when his outside shot is falling you know it’s the Bobcat’s night.

Timberwolves 107, Spurs 83: It was the second night of a back-to-back so the Spurs rested both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard (plus Tony Parker is still out). Even so, San Antonio raced out to 14-4 lead and that grew to 21-10.

Then Ricky Rubio led the comeback — he drove the lane, broke down the Spurs defense, created open shots and Rubio finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. That would be his first career triple-double. Minnesota also played some aggressive defense, with 11 blocked shots and forcing 17 turnovers. It’s a bit of a fluke outcome, but the Timberwolves could use some breaks and good wins.

Grizzlies 102, Trail Blazers 97: Memphis got Zach Randolph back from the sprained ankle that kept him out the past four games, and he responded with 19 points and 10 rebounds. In some ways it was a classic Grizzlies win as Randolph and Marc Gasol combined to shoot 16-of-26, then when they sat Ed Davis came in and added 14 points. Memphis pounded Portland inside all game.

Grizzlies seemed to be in control but in the fourth quarter. Yet Portland run made a couple of runs to keep it close, including within five points inside the final two minutes. But Tayshaun Prince drove the lane and put up a jump hook. Then Mike Conley hit a driving layup (he had 12 points in the fourth quarter, including some key free throws) and it was just too much from Portland. As happens with the Blazers they got a good game from their starters — LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Damian Lillard added 27 points and seven assists — but their bench let them down.

Nets 108, Hornets 98: Brooklyn created a little space for itself in the second quarter with a 15-4 run, one fueled by Deron Williams and four Hornets turnover. Williams is getting healthy and starting to look like the guy thought of as one of the best point guards in the game, and he finished with 21 points and 13 assists. More than the numbers, he seemed to control the flow of the game.

Still, the Hornets fought back, led by Anthony Davis who had 17 points and 11 rebounds. It was a two-point game entering the fourth quarter, but the Nets opened the period on a 12-3 run and pulled away. Brooklyn got a lot of help from its big men — Brook Lopez had 26 points while Andray Blatche added 20 points.

Mavericks 115, Bucks 108: Milwaukee was making its push in the fourth quarter with a 12-3 run, then Vince Carter happened. The Mavericks veteran swingman had 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a trio of three-pointers that killed Milwaukee momentum. Carter finished with 23. Monta Ellis finished with 32, but he didn’t get a lot of help from Brandon Jennings (who was completely outplayed by Mike James).

For the Bucks, they are not in danger of falling out of the playoffs but they need to win games like this to get out of the eight seed (and the Heat in the first round). Dallas has won four in a row and is now within three games of the eight-seed Lakers. Still a huge hill to climb, but that dream is not dead.

Cavaliers 95, Wizards 90: The Wizards got off to a fast start — they raced out to an 11-0 lead and Cavaliers coach Byron Scott benched starters Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee, and Tyler Zeller just two minutes into the game. The message worked

While the Wizards went on to put up 33 points in the first quarter, they scored 57 total in the final three. Washington shot 38.2 percent in the final three quarters of the game, including 2-of-12 from three (Washington really misses Bradley Beal). For Cleveland, Dion Waiters led six guys in double figures with his 20. John Wall led the Wizards with 27 on 15 shots, plus had 14 assists.

J.R. Smith reportedly met with Bucks Thursday to talk about contract

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After five seasons in Cleveland, the Cavaliers waived J.R. Smith. The 34-year-old veteran wing is not part of the Cavaliers future, and by waiving him before the guarantee date they only had to pay him $4.4 million of this $15.7 million salary.

That makes Smith a free agent.

He sat down with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Bucks can only offer minimum contracts at this point.

Smith will turn 34 before next season starts and his skills are in decline, he shot just 30.8 percent from three last season. The Bucks will likely start Khris Middleton and Wesley Matthews on the wing with Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton, and Donte DiVincenzo behind them. They have the roster spot to make the addition. The questions are does Smith fit, does he want the small role that’s really available, and how often will he wear a shirt around the facility?

Mark Cuban says NBA player movement reflects job market across many industries

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It’s a question that came up a lot in the wake of a wild summer where eight of the 24 players in the All-Star Game just last February ended up on new teams:

Is all this player movement good for the NBA?

It got asked everywhere from the league’s headquarters to your local bar, from sports talk radio shows to the NBA’s owners meeting in Las Vegas. There’s no easy answer to that. However, the divide seems to be somewhat generational — older fans miss the stability of knowing their stars would be there next year, young fans like the volatility and fast-changing landscape.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had an interesting perspective on all this: What you see in the NBA is what you see in almost every industry now. From Cuban’s blogmaverick.com:

Some feel that the player movement we have seen, particularly players asking to be traded or leaving teams that have the ability to pay them more money is a problem. I don’t. I think it is exactly what we should expect and it reflects what is happening in the job market across industries in our country.

No longer do college students graduate in search of a career where they expect to spend their entire adult lives working for a single company. Just the thought is crazy. I tell college graduates to look for a job where they get to learn about themselves, the business world, adulting and what they love to do and can be good at it. That their first job is just that, their first job. There will be many more…

Your best of the best will be impactful not only within the company, but via social media and other online platforms, visible as the best in their industry. It is important to give them reasons to want to stay. Great employees are effectively always free agents with the ability to move anywhere.

Why should it be any different for the NBA?

It’s interesting to hear from an owner (guys who traditionally want to control the workers). From a player’s perspective, this makes a lot of sense (and Cuban is as player-friendly an owner as the league has).

In a lot of ways, what bothers fans really applies to only the elite players, the guys with leverage, the guys who change the course of a franchise. If Paul George wants out of his contract, the reaction of Thunder management and fans would be different from if Dennis Schroder tried that kind of power move.

However, does this player movement erode the traditional fan base? Fans in Dallas/Miami/Boston/Los Angeles/everywhere want to identify with players, not just the logo across their chest. If the star players are changing teams more often how does that impact that traditional fandom? Do younger players become fans of players more: A LeBron James fan, a Stephen Curry fan, a James Harden fan, and their loyalties follow the player not the franchise? We seem to have more of that with Lebron and Curry. Cuban worked hard to make sure Dirk Nowitzki never left Dallas. (Going back there was a split between Lakers fans and Kobe fans, it’s just their interests largely always aligned.)

Which leads to the original, key question: Is all this player movement good for NBA business?

For the league and owners, the real question is will the undeniable social media buzz of the NBA offseason lead to increased ticket sales, increased viewership (or at least stopping that decline), more purchasing of League Pass packages (in whatever form), more jersey sales and all the rest of it? Can the league monetize this buzz?

Nobody has the answer to that, in part because how we as a nation (and world) consume media is changing so fast. What will the viewing landscape for the NBA’s television and streaming deals look like in 2024? 2029? Nobody knows.

Which means predicting how this player movement impacts the NBA is an unknown.

All the movement is creating a lot of buzz, which is nice, but buzz will not pay the NBA’s bills.

Damian Lillard on shot to beat Thunder: ‘That was for Seattle’

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Damian Lillard is a legend in Portland. He’s a legend in Oakland.

And now he’ll be a legend in Seattle.

The Trail Blazers star’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer wave goodbye ended the season for the Thunder, who moved to Oklahoma City from Seattle 12 years ago.

Lillard on Sports Business Radio Podcast:

What can I say? That was for Seattle.

Just when I thought Lillard’s shot and celebration were as cold as could be.

Clippers executive Jerry West: ‘I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one’

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Jerry West played 14 years for the Lakers, making the All-Star game every year and winning a championship in a Hall of Fame career. He coached the Lakers to a few playoff seasons. Then, he ran the Lakers’ front office for 18 years, winning five titles and setting the stage for several more by acquiring Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Now, West works for Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

West on The Dan Patrick Show:

Steve Ballmer has really put together an unbelievably terrific organization. He’s spared no expense. It’s a really fun place to be. There’s not ego-driven at all. It’s just a fun place to be, and he’s got an awful lot of basketball people over there.

He’s just a great owner and one of the nicest men I’ve ever been around in my life. I’ve never seen a person like this with his success. It’s just remarkable how even-keeled he is. If people knew how philanthropic he was. He keeps all that stuff quiet. I guess he’ll get mad at me for mentioning it. But he’s just a remarkable man himself.

People always ask me what he’s like. And I say he’s just like you and I, normal. I’ve never seen – he’s willing to spend on players. He’s willing to spend on personnel within the front office. And as I mentioned before, I’ve never been around any organization that is better than this one. That’s for sure.

Maybe West is bitter at the Lakers. Maybe West is just gushing about his current boss, because that’s who pays him now.

But the wider respect held for the Clippers is evident in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George picking them without the team first getting an incumbent star. That says a lot about the organization, one that Ballmer has put his stamp on.

This also feels like a shot at the Lakers, whether or not West intended it. Many consider them to be the NBA’s golden franchise.

But their operations have had no shortage of problems lately.

The Lakers would have a stronger relative case further back, when West worked for them. However, organizations generally run better now. The league is more advanced. Maybe West is considering that.

Biases aside, his endorsement of the Clippers might be accurate.

West also worked for the Grizzlies.