Lopez injury limits Orlando’s Dwight Howard trade options

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The foot injury to Nets center Brook Lopez has not left the Dwight Howard trade stuck in the mud.

It was already there.

Orlando has put the breaks on the process — they are not ready to trade Howard. Maybe they think they can convince him to stay, maybe they think the offers improve closer to the deadline. Until the Magic are ready to deal, everyone is just spinning their wheels and kicking up mud.

But when the Magic do decide is time, they will find their options limited.

The Nets were one of the three teams Dwight Howard said he would sign an extension with if traded. (The Lakers and the Mavericks are the others.) The Nets were considered the frontrunner because Howard wanted to be there and because of a package of picks and players — with Lopez at the heart of it.

But is that going to happen now? There are a lot of questions.

Do the Magic still want Lopez as a centerpiece? Foot issues can linger and it sounds like the Nets want to rush Lopez back — they are saying four-to-six weeks for an injury that takes months to heal. Look at Roddy Beaubois in Dallas, he had this same injury, was out more than five months and was not the same player when he returned.

Can the Nets get other teams involved? Check out this tweet from ESPN’s Marc Stein.

In last week’s proposal, Nets offered five first-round picks and recruited Blazers to send Gerald Wallace to Magic. They need more help now

Are the Lakers in the driver’s seat? Maybe. They are offering Andrew Bynum and maybe Pau Gasol too (depends on who you ask). If the Magic decide to deal tomorrow the Lakers have the best package of guys they can ship out ready to play. But this goes back to the first thing we said — until the Magic decide deal, nobody is really in the best position to make a trade.

The Nets have one other concern — Deron Williams. The Nets are going to suck this season. Even with Williams and Lopez (who have them 20 points a game last season, Lopez is a borderline All-Star) the Nets might not have made he playoffs. Now they are certainly headed for the lottery.

What if Williams isn’t coming back, do the Nets need to trade him? Do they need to just give up on trading for a star and rebuild through the draft? Can the sell that to Brooklyn?

If Howard and Williams become free agents next summer, Mark Cuban and the Mavericks will be sitting right there with a lot of cap space.

Lots of questions. The only thing we know is that with Lopez injured the Nets will not like whatever answers the find.

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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