Will Shaq finally lower his asking price?

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Thumbnail image for shaq.jpgThe last contract Shaquille O’Neal signed was a five-year extension worth an even $100 million. He is one of the most dominant players to ever step onto an NBA court, he’s a four-time NBA champion, and he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Of course, none of that mattered when the Cavaliers played the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. O’Neal stopped the ball on offense, couldn’t score on Kendrick Perkins, and the Celtics completely exposed O’Neal defensively. In that series, O’Neal looked like a post-up dinosaur watching a drive-and-kick league pass him by. 
The few post-up threats remaining are players like Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, both of whom are athletic enough to be effective on both offense and defense even if they aren’t being force-fed in the post. Shaq needs his team to adjust its game-plan to his strengths in order for him to be effective, and that puts him at a significant disadvantage in today’s NBA. 
With Shaq’s horrible series against Boston fresh in the minds of NBA executives, nobody wants to pay Shaq his reported asking price: at least $8 million a season, as well as a guaranteed starting spot. The Atlanta Hawks were supposed to be one of the few teams with legitimate interest in the big fella, but after sigining Josh Powell to a discount contract, they might not want Shaq either. 
It’s a shame that Shaq has been so unwilling to be flexible, because there’s a solid case to be made for signing him. Consider the following:
-O’Neal had perhaps the worst season of his career last year, but he’s also only a year removed from putting up 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, with a PER of 22.33
-Before his thumb surgery, Shaq was playing some excellent basketball. He averaged 14 points per game on 64.8% shooting in January, and 13.6 points on 59.6% in February. He never got back into a rhythm after the surgery, but he was playing like a very good NBA center before it. 
-O’Neal was signed to guard Dwight Howard and/or Andrew Bynum in a playoff series, neither of which he got to do. O’Neal will get lost trying to keep up with faster players, but he can still defend the post. The Magic and Lakers are going to make deep playoff runs next year, and there aren’t a lot of guys who can slow down Howard or a healthy Bynum the way Shaq can. 
At this point in his career, Shaq is a very good situational player. There are still some things he can do as well as anybody else in the league can, but his strengths can’t cover up his limitations as easily as they once did. Against some lineups, Shaq can be invaluable. Against others, he should hardly see the floor. If Shaq can come to terms with the player he is now, he’ll be a very good pickup for the team that signs him. If not, his pride may force him into retiring when he can still contribute to an NBA squad. 

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.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.