Don’t tell anyone, but Andrea Bargnani is playing well

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It’s seems weird to write this but…

Andrea Bargnani is playing really well this year. Raptors blogs are noticing. Everyone watching them is noticing.

He’s shooting better (52.7 percent overall and 37 percent from three), scoring more (22.8 per game) while taking fewer shots, rebounding more, turning the ball over less and has an All-Star level PER of 23.5. Monday night he dropped 31 on the Timberwolves Monday and seemed to do well against every defender Rick Adelman threw at him.

It doesn’t make up for the last five years and it’s a small sample size, but maybe coach Dwane Casey can work miracles. Maybe, just maybe, he has figured it all out.

What seems different is his shots seem less contested — watching a number of his attempts from last season and this (thank you Synergy) he is getting cleaner looks. If that means putting the ball on the floor and turning a three into an 18 footer without a hand in his face, he’s doing it. If he can get all the way to the rim he is, something he did not do in previous years.

Still, it’s not a matter of where the looks are coming from as much as he is hitting a higher percentage of shots. This season Bargnani is getting 22 percent of his shot attempts on spot up and he’s hitting 56.1 percent of those shots. Last season he got about the same percentage of his offense on those looks but shot just 39.2 percent. This season he is getting some in looks in isolation (18.5 percent of his shots, shooting 43 percent on them) and is doing well setting the pick then popping (shooting 47.8 percent on those).

The one difference from last year is Casey hasn’t sent him to the post as often, even although Bargnani was fairly effective there. He shoots more on the perimeter, but he is getting inside to rebound better than he ever has.

The bottom line is he’s getting cleaner looks and making more shots. Small sample size warning, we’re not going to say he has figured it all out yet. Will his focus and effort drift over the course of the season as it has in years past? The book is still out on that one.

But early on, we seem to have the Andrea Bargnani the Raptors have patiently (or not so patiently) waited for.

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.