NBA finals, Lakers Celtics: Los Angeles incentivitzing players to play intelligently

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The Lakers’ methods of motivating their players to make hustle plays may seem unconventional, but it actually makes a ton of sense. According to Shelley Smith of ESPN Los Angeles, Laker players are compensated for taking charges while they’re also docked money for “illegal defense” (or defensive three-second) violations:

Last series, Phil Jackson called his big men “thin-chested” as a way
of goading them into standing strong and taking a hit, and the team has
been offering financial incentive — $50 per charge…The
money comes out of a pool accumulated by players’ fines, such as being
whistled for an illegal defense, which costs a player $25. It is a
fund, Hamblen says, to which Lamar Odom is the biggest contributor. “I
mean, I just pencil him in every night for illegal defense,” Hamblen
said. “I ask him every night, ‘Lamar, you know the illegal defense
rules don’t you?'”

The charge-taking competition, however, has yet to involve Ron Artest,
who said he learned from growing up on the New York playgrounds, that
when you take a charge, fall and then call an offensive foul, well, bad
things — like serious bodily harm — can happen. “I don’t
even know how to take a charge,” he said. “To get the charge you have
to fall. I’d rather not fall. You call an offensive foul, possibly be a
fight. That’s just how we grew up playing basketball.”

It’s a clever idea that more teams would be smart to employ. Even if $50 may not seem like much to an NBA player with a massive guaranteed contract, everyone can use a little extra spending money.

I will call shenanigans on Artest’s claims, though. The man is many things — a strong defender, a good teammate, a bit loony, a hilarious post-game interviewee — but what he’s not is some basketball purist that’s above drawing an offensive foul. Ron can flop with the best of ’em. Artest ranked third on the Lakers this season in charges drawn at 0.21 per game, behind only Derek Fisher (0.59 per game) and Pau Gasol (0.25 per game).

The tough guy act is cute and it’s sure to convince plenty of folks, but Ron is not a guy that the Lakers need to pay to take a charge. He may not square up under the basket and wait for a defender just outside the restricted area Varejao-style, but he’ll flail a bit when an opponent uses an arm bar to push off or lowers their shoulder on a drive. Maybe he doesn’t consider that flopping, but the $50s in his wallet probably do.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.