Kevin Martin says he's back, if so the Rockets may be as well

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Thumbnail image for martin_rocket.jpgAs preseason predictions start to creep out, the Houston Rockets are becoming a popular dark horse pick in the West. The Lakers are the Lakers, but if anyone has a shot at knocking them off, it may well be Houston if Yao Ming can stay healthy.

In part that prediction is based on Kevin Martin becoming an elite sharpshooter that feeds of Yao inside and the slashing of point guard Aaron Brooks. If things go according to plan, Martin should have to create fewer of his own shots and have a lot of open looks.

And he’s ready to knock them down, he told the Houston Chronicle.

“I’ll be back to my pre-wrist-injury form. I’m feeling better, more like I was before the injury. That was the main goal, to get back there. My goal when I got traded was to fit in with a great group of guys, not try to be that person that came in here thinking he was going to take every shot. That fitting-in phase is definitely over. Now I’m ready to get back to being myself.

“Nobody has seen the real me yet. I’m ready to take off.”

Martin has spent the summer in the gym with friend-of-this-blog David Thorpe, the head honcho at the Pro Training Center in Florida. He said Martin is ready.

“He worked hard, but the biggest thing is he is totally healthy and back to being a really, really athletic player,” Thorpe said. “He looked like a 21-year-old the way he was running and jumping and sprinting. The results were phenomenal. He never shot like this. He never had a better summer shooting the ball than this summer. I’m more hopeful than I ever have been before about him shooting the 3.

Martin also had one of the better lines of the summer. The rumors persist that if Denver gets serious about moving Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets will be in and Martin will be part of the trade bait.

Martin is willing to bargain with GM Daryl Morey.

“If Houston wants Carmelo that bad,” Martin said, “on Halloween, if I’m still here, I’ll dress up as Carmelo.”

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.