NBA players reject Stern’s ultimatum, want more negotiations

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The NBA players have made their position clear — they are not taking your deal, David Stern. They reject your ultimatum. They want to keep negotiating, but need more system changes to make a deal.

And don’t expect that deal before Stern’s deadline of end of business Wednesday. After which he said the owners would pull this offer off the table and put back on it things like salary rollbacks, a smaller revenue share to players and a hard salary cap — all things the union will not accept.

The players are essentially going to ignore Stern’s deadline and threats and keep on negotiating. They did say they would reach out to the league and try to set up another round of negotiations in the next day or so.

There were 43 players in a three-hour meeting in New York and they came out speaking of unity in being opposed to what the owners have offered.

“Our orders are clear right now, the current offer that is on the table from the NBA is not one we are able to accept…” Fisher said in a press conference broadcast on NBA TV Tuesday. “We’re open-minded about potential compromises on our (basketball related income) number, but there are things in the system that we have to have.”

Fisher and Hunter said it is more about system issues, things like the mid-level exception, sign-and-trade for tax payers and the luxury tax itself rather than just the split of revenue. The players feel like they gave up a lot of money in BRI and with that should have bought a system closer to what exists in the league now. The owners want the money and the system changes that would rein in big spending teams. The owners call it “competitive balance” but it is really about controlling salaries.

Hunter and Fisher both said there was little talk of decertification of the union, something agents and some players have pushed for as a way to give the players some leverage (though anti-trust lawsuits against the league). Hunter said decertification is not worthwhile right now.

Players said there was an aggressive tone in the room, that they were not going to back down. And there was talk of Michael Jordan, the owner who has become the poster child of the league hardliners.

“I would give him the advice he gave Abe Pollin,” Hunter said, referring to Jodan’s comment in 1999 that the Wizards owner should sell his team if he couldn’t turn a profit.

If the owners really stick by their guns now on the rollback on the offer you can kiss Christmas Day games goodbye for sure, and maybe the entire season. It looks like things will get uglier before they get better.

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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