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David Lee Assumes Star’s Role in Warriors Win at Cleveland

CLEVELAND — He scored a game-high 29 points. He put up 13 points in the fourth quarter, including a shot clock-beating, nail-in-the-coffin 18-footer with 44.8 seconds left.

But the scoring star of the Warriors’ 105-95 victory here Tuesday night wasn’t who you might expect.

“It wasn’t my night,” guard Monta Ellis said. “It was David Lee’s.”

Ellis had one of his worst offensive performances of the season. He made just 2 of 12 from the field and finished with 10 points.

He left the game with 35.2 seconds left after taking an elbow to the nose from Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao. With the game was already decided, Ellis didn’t return. X-rays were negative as he suffered just a cut.

With Ellis having an off night, and point guard Stephen Curry (sprained right ankle) in street clothes for the seventh consecutive game, the Warriors (5-8) still managed enough offense to outscore the Cavaliers.

You can thank Lee, who also had nine rebounds as Golden State won back-to-back games road games for the first time since November 2010.

Tuesday night continued a torrid stretch for Lee. Over his last five games, Lee is averaging 24.6 points on 64.3 percent shooting. He’s also averaging 11.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

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NBA Sunday: Miami is Indeed Better

New to the blog will be a twice-monthly look at the NBA.  We’ll delve into injuries, news, the business side, fantasy hoops and other NBA entertainment. This Sunday, we debut with our first-ever rankings.
Yes, Miami is No. 1.

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What’s that on the ESPN crawl?

Sorry for the long blog silence on my end and thanks to Marcus for keeping things going. I was taking some much-needed R&R, but I guess that’s over…

Since ESPN has been all over this morning’s story, let’s get some things out of the way first:

* I didn’t assert that the Pistons and Warriors are in current negotiations because I don’t have proof to back that up. If I did, that would have been the lead, and Baron’s decision not to opt-out (something that’s been widely expected by pretty much everyone who reads this blog, or has a pulse) would have been buried eight paragraphs down.
* What I do have is someone whose information and motives I trust telling me that the Pistons are interested in Baron and are willing to deal Rasheed and Chauncey (in general, not just for Baron), a stance that matches up with Joe Dumars’ “no sacred cows” speech at the conclusion of the Pistons’ season.

Let’s not go jumping the gun and buying BD a plane ticket out of town, but let’s say this … if these two teams aren’t currently contemplating such a deal, they should be.

When you write a news story about two opposing sides of a debate, you know you’ve done your job well if neither group has a complaint; that means you’ve given equal treatment. A trade with Baron and Al and Chauncey and Rasheed as headliners is kind of the NBA’s version of that theory, something with pluses and minuses on both sides.

FOR THE PISTONS:
They clear the decks for Rodney Stuckey to take over at PG in 2009-10. They don’t have to worry about next summer, when Rasheed will be looking for a new deal that will take him to 37 or 38 years of age. They get the best individual player in the deal in Baron, and can either let the $17.8 million slide off the cap to use as space to chase another free agent, lock Baron up with their own extension (although that seems less likely, given that they love Stuckey), or sign-and-trade him to any one of the teams that are desperate for point guard help (the Lakers, Clippers and Trail Blazers all jump to mind immediately).

BUT:
They get back a forward who may not fit what they want to do (Al’s not going to be able to replace Rasheed’s defensive versatility). And unless they proactively sign Baron to an extension, there’s always the chance that he’ll walk away and they’ll have little to show for their two best players.

FOR THE WARRIORS:
They get arguably the second-best option to plug their power-forward spot (the best option is busy smoking victory cigars and having free drinks bought for him in Boston), especially given Rasheed’s 3-point range. They get rid of one player (Al) who was unhappy with the way he was used last season and another (BD) who was disappointed by the team’s lowball extension offers this summer. They get another big point guard who can defend 2 guards so Monta Ellis can play the same 2-on-offense/1-on-defense hybrid that made him one of the league’s hottest young players.

BUT:
They give up a lot of years in this scenario (BD is 2 1/2 years younger than Chauncey; Al has more than 5 years on Sheed). A LOT. And while that jump-starts a final push under Nellie, it puts them in jeopardy of paying out eight figures three years from now to players on the far side of 35 who have declined.

Any deal with Baron won’t happen until after July 1 (and won’t be finalized until July 9) because there’s no reason for Baron to agree in writing to not use his opt-out provision. We’ll have to wait and see if Thursday changes the dynamic for either team before determining if this possibility remains viable.

– Geoff