Baseline-to-Baseline recaps: Clippers dust off what’s left of the Knicks

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of yesterday’s NBA games. Or, what you missed while making the case for the 68th team, the one left out of the NCAA Tournament, because they really had a shot to win it all….

Heat 108, Raptors 91: The Heat tied the second longest winning streak in NBA history with this win over Toronto. (Interesting test against Boston on the second night of a back-to-back Monday.) LeBron James (22 points) and Dwyane Wade (24 points) led a business-like win for Miami. Rudy Gay stepped up his game with 27, but it was never really in doubt. Brett Pollakoff broke the game down in more detail.

Clippers 93, Knicks 80: No Carmelo Anthony (knee). No Tyson Chandler (knee). No Amare Stoudemire (knee). No real chance for the Knicks to score enough to keep up with the Clippers on Sunday so long as Chris Paul was focused and aggressive. Which really didn’t happen until the third quarter when the Clippers went on a 16-3 run to pull away. J.R. Smith tried to create some magic for the Knicks but shot 4-of-20 on the night.

It was a win the Clippers needed to keep pace with Memphis and Denver, and they got it, but it wasn’t really dominating or impressive.

Lakers 113, Kings 102: Since Pau Gasol was traded to the Los Angeles in 2008, the Lakers had yet to win a game where both he and Kobe Bryant sat out. That changed Sunday. In part because Steve Nash had 19 points (on 12 shots) plus 12 assists. And it was in part because Dwight Howard had 12 points (on six shots) and 17 rebounds. But for once the Lakers got balance. They got 27 points out of Antawn Jamison off the bench. They got 16 points from Steve Blake including a key play down the stretch when the Kings made a run and made it a two-point game. It was a good team win for the Lakers. Who need wins as they try to hold on to a playoff spot in the West. Isaiah Thomas had 26 for the Kings and Patrick Patterson had 22 on 12 shots.

Warriors 108, Rockets 78: The Rockets had a chance to move into the six seed in the West — you’d like to avoid the Thunder or Spurs in the first round — but their offense took a night off. The Rockets fell behind when they missed 12 consecutive shots in the first quarter (they shot 3-for-23 in the first 12 minutes) and that was pretty much it. Give the Warriors some credit — they played some better defense with Andrew Bogut blocking three shots and grabbing 12 boards. But the Rockets just had one of those nights. Stephen Curry had 29 points and 11 assists; Klay Thompson added 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting. James Harden put up a good line with 21 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Thunder 107, Mavericks 101: Kevin Durant had 19 points in the fourth quarter, while Dirk Nowitzki didn’t have a shot attempt in the fourth. In a back-and-forth final stanza that was enough, the Thunder got big games from their stars For three quarters it was really Russell Westbrook (35 points) and Dirk Nowitzki (23 points) leading their teams. But in the fourth Nowitzki got just four free throws while Durant took charge (although Westbrook had a key late bucket, a pull up jumper with the game tied 101-101; then later Thabo Sefolosha hit a bit shot). Bottom line is teams can take Nowitzki out of the Mavs game plan and Dallas doesn’t have anyone who can step up now.

Hawks 105, Nets 93: In what could be a first round preview, the Nets were close for three quarters, but in the fourth the Hawks shot 14-for-18 as a team and pulled away for the victory. The win puts the Hawks one game back of the Nets for the four seed (but 2.5 games separate the 3 and 7 seeds in the East, we could see a lot of shifting late. The Nets had no answer for the Hawks versatile front line — Al Horford had 22 points and 11 rebounds, Josh Smith had 21 points (eight in the fourth quarter), plus seven rebounds and five assists.

Bucks 115, Magic 109: The Bucks trailed in this one by a dozen with just over six minutes left in the game, but Monta Ellis was on fire with 25 fourth-quarter points and he got the Bucks the win. He was 5-of-5 from three in the quarter. But let’s throw a little credit to Brandon Jennings, who had eight of his 14 assists in the fourth quarter. It was a good comeback win for the Bucks, but the fact they needed one against the Magic speaks to the larger issue.

Timberwolves 97, Hornets 95: Minnesota got Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko back from injury on Sunday and it helped a lot in the final minutes of a close game — Pekovic had a key offensive rebound and knocked down a couple free throws while Kirilenko blocked Eric Gordon’s shot to win it for Minnesota. Derrick Williams had 28 to lead Minny. Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 25 points, but when you need 25 shots to get there it’s not a good night.

Lakers loving LeBron’s leadership in first practice together

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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Although the Lakers’ first official practice of the LeBron James era was focused on defense and learning new terminology, they ended it with a good old-fashioned 3-point shooting contest.

The Lakers’ new superstar was just another teammate during the spirited back-and-forth competition Tuesday. When James wasn’t draining his own 3s, he marveled along with everybody else at the surprising perimeter prowess shown by JaVale McGee, the 7-foot veteran with exactly one 3-pointer during a game in his 10-year NBA career.

The Lakers have many weeks of work ahead to become a cohesive team assembled around James, but he can already sense they’re heading down the right path. They’re planning to have plenty of fun along the way, too.

“I’m not a very patient guy, but I understand that I have to be patient right now,” James said. “I’ve got to be patient with myself, too, because this is a new start for me. It’s my first year in a new system. I know how to play the game of basketball, but this is all new to me, too. So I have to be patient with myself, not only with my teammates.”

James was both upbeat and businesslike after his first workout under coach Luke Walton, who entered the NBA in the same draft class as James in 2003. The Lakers will hold double practices and a scrimmage on the first two days of camp leading toward their preseason debut in San Diego on Sunday night.

James intends to enjoy the process in his new city.

“We’re here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to someday hoist the trophy,” James said. “Obviously that’s the end of the road, but you have to have those types of championship habits every day, not only on the floor, but off the floor as well. … Everyone is excited to get back to work. That’s a good thing. No one is coming in today and wishing it was still summer. It’s the best time of the year. Basketball season is back up, baseball season is on its way to the playoffs, and the NFL is in Week 4. So what could you ask for as a sports fan?”

James naturally becomes the center of attention on any team, and he quickly assumed a leadership role for the Lakers. He’s also eager to see his veteran teammates assert themselves to help the Lakers’ young returning core, whether it’s Rajon Rondo instructing his fellow guards on assignments, or Lance Stephenson vocally calling out defensive instructions in half-court work.

“He’s LeBron. He’s one name,” Rondo said. “It speaks for itself. He’s been a leader and a mentor in this league for a long time, on and off the court. He has a blueprint off the court as well. So he embraces his role. He embraces all the pressure that he’s ever dealt with in his career, and he’s always risen above the occasion.”

Although Walton and James are just getting to know each other, the coach is grateful that his new star is leading by example from the opening practice.

The Lakers have lacked this level of respected on-court leadership in the two seasons since Kobe Bryant’s retirement, but LeBron and his fellow new veterans have strong ideas about how an NBA team must approach its work to be a winner.

“I could see it yesterday,” Walton said. “The way he’s approaching (practice) has changed from the pickup we were playing in the summer. It definitely set the tone. We’re on a journey that started today, and we’re very serious about the business that we got done today.”

More AP NBA: http://www.apnews.com/tag/NBA and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

Dion Waiters looks a little out of shape as training camp starts (PHOTO)

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Each summer in the NBA we have to sit around and watch as players seemingly add pounds of muscle to their body. Over the course of the season, this added muscle typically melts away as players spend less time in the weight room and start running more than ever.

#MuscleWatch is a hilarious and staid part of the summer. But its cousin, Weight Watch, is a bit different.

On the flip side, some players show up in worse shape than they ended the season prior. Boris Diaw used to be the king of the early fall extra poundage. Now it appears that Miami Heat wing Dion Waiters is carrying a little bit of baggage with him as he starts training camp.

When Waiters’ headshot was published this week, Twitter had a bit of a field day with it.

Via Twitter:

This is not to body shame Waiters in anyway of course. As an athlete, his body is up for intense scrutiny with regard to his readiness for the season. And, how Waiters looks heading into training camp is markedly different than how he looked last summer.

No doubt when training camp starts, Waiters will get himself into shape and he will be ready to play by the time games start in October. Still, it’s always shocking to see a professional athlete add some lbs.

Damian Lillard says he started breaking Twitter news to put the ‘shoe on the other foot’

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Damian Lillard surprised us all this summer when he shockingly started tweeting out new destinations for media members as they changed jobs. It was a twist on the typical script, which would normally see journalists break news about athletes.

It was a fun moment on social media, and most people sort of shrugged it off as Lillard reporting information fed to him by members of the media who could be considered his friends.

Left unsaid was the place Lillard’s newsbreaking had with regard to the natural opposition some NBA players feel toward the media. No doubt Lillard getting to break some news instead of having news broken about him gave him some kind of satisfaction. While speaking to The Athletic’s Sam Amick this week, Lillard said as much.

Via The Athletic:

It was just a case of putting the shoe on the other foot. I think there’s a lot of stuff that we go through as players, or a story might come out that might have a little bit of truth, but somebody adds (to it) or put their own spin on it or whatever. We don’t have a chance to say, ‘No, I don’t want that to get out. Yeah, it happened, or yeah that’s accurate but I don’t really want that story to be told at the moment. I don’t want to have to deal with that right now. Our situation is just not considered a lot of times.

I’m just basically showing you how it feels to be vulnerable, I guess, or to be at somebody else’s mercy about something that you might not want out.

… It’s almost like anybody can report anything now. I’m not a journalist, I’ve never done this before, but all of a sudden I can report something and it’s fair game, you know what I’m saying? Why is that even respected? Now if it was CJ, that’s one thing, he went to school for journalism, and he does that. He does podcasts, and he writes articles and things like that. I don’t, so that was part of it. Anybody can drop this information.

Lillard isn’t exactly wrong here. Modern journalism is so skewed from what it once was, it’s hard for those in the industry to even keep track of who is reliable and who is not. The availability of social media and mobile audio and visual capture means that just about every citizen can relay first-hand information quickly. And while it’s a bit of a stretch for Lillard to say that his teammate CJ McCollum is more journalistically reliable than he is, the Blazers star seemingly becoming frustrated with the idea of journalism-as-horsetrading strikes home.

As professional sports across the world have grown in value, and truly become multibillion-dollar businesses, so too has the public relations aspect of professional sports. Beat reporters no longer fly on team planes, and everyone from the athletes to the teams and the agents want to try to control the message. That has driven a wedge between sports journalists and athletes in today’s coverage.

Even Lillard’s description of his reason for dropping his information came, in part, from a stated desire for better public relations management. That is, that stories often are not narrowed to information the athlete wants available, and may come at inconventient time for athletes.

Of course, “I don’t really want that story to be told at the moment” isn’t a good reason not to publish something. That’s what delineates journalists from public relations. But in an era where high-powered media entities wield power with information that is, altruistically, perhaps more trivial than necessary, it seems possible that the pillar on which journalistic ethics once stood has slowly begun to erode. If that’s the case, it’s reasonable to think there are times which you can’t blame players on being upset with writers.

Who knows if Lillard will continue to dip his toes in the news breaking pool? The season is not far away, and he’s probably too busy working out.

Report: Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. talking contract extension

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When the Cavaliers made the trade deadline deal with the Lakers last February, they got Larry Nance Jr. (the son of a Cavs legend) and Jordan Clarkson (surrendering Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a 2018 1st round draft pick that became Moritz Wagner).

Nance is the one the Cavaliers seem intent on keeping, and they may extend him, reports Tom Withers of the Associated Press.

This seems like a good fit for both sides, if they can find a number that works. The Cavaliers are committed to not bottoming out right now — which is why Kevin Love got a new massive contract — and Nance fits with that.

This is not going to be a max contract, but Nance has made it clear he likes playing in Cleveland and wants to stay. After he came over last season he averaged 8.9 points on 55 percent shooting, 7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers could go up with LeBron James no longer in the picture.