Kevin Durant is still right to pick Luis Scola as the MVP of the World Championships

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I don’t know that there’s a good player response to questions about individual accolades, but typically, a player’s answer to that kind of prompting is used to construct or enhance the public representation of a player’s personality. They can convey arrogance or humility, hunger or passivity, appreciation or entitlement.

Or really, they’re just semi-canned responses to questions that top players know they’ll be asked at some point or another. So unsurprisingly, Kevin Durant’s answer, when asked on Wednesday about the possibility of being the MVP of the tournament, was self-deprecating and in-line with everything we think we know about the Durantula. From Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse:

“I doubt it,” said Durant about getting a spot on the team. “A lot of guys are doing better than I am. I’m just trying to go out there and win.”

Don’t think for a minute Durant believes he has a chance to be the Most Valuable Player even if his Americans win gold Sunday.

“He’s the best,” Durant said of Argentina forward Luis Scola, averaging 30.2 points and 8.0 rebounds in the event. “He’s had a hell of a tournament. MVP by far in this tournament. Win or lose, he has to be MVP because he’s putting on a show. He carried (Argentina on Tuesday with) 37 points. He’s tough to cover for anybody.”

Then again, maybe it isn’t self-deprecation at all. Durant’s 33-point outing today against Russia was one of the best showings in the tournament thus far, but it still doesn’t vault KD over the top of the MVP discussion. As of right now, Scola has just seven points and finds his team down 20 to an underdog Lithuania squad…yet he remains the easy pick for tournament MVP.

Five 30+ point performances in seven games, each with 57% shooting from the field or better. 195 points on 125 shot attempts. Gaudy rebounding totals.

Durant may be the top player on the tournament favorites, but Scola has been in a class of his own throughout. Durant obviously isn’t asked to shoulder quite as much of his team’s production, given Team USA’s superior depth. Yet in assessing which player is more worthy of MVP honors (not that KD isn’t a fine choice, as well), that’s hardly a decision-altering asterisk. Both players have led quality teams, but Scola’s production and performance have been off-the-charts, while Durant’s have been merely remarkable.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

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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