Kobe tells Laker management to clarify Pau Gasol plans

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Pau Gasol was almost shipped out to Houston before the season even started in the eventually-killed deal that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers.

Last week there was talk of Gasol to Minnesota (an unlikely deal). Sunday came the report that Derrick Rose wants the Bulls to try and get Gasol (because the Lakers would take back Carlos Boozer?). Every day it seems there is another Gasol trade rumor. Even though GM Mitch Kupchak says the Lakers are not likely to make a trade (keep on reading, we get to that).

Saying it’s tough for a player to be invested and really give his all when he doesn’t know if he’ll be there tomorrow, Kobe Bryant called on Lakers management to decide what is up with Gasol after the Lakers ugly loss to the Suns Sunday night. This is via the best of the Lakers beat writers, Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

“I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ loss in Phoenix on Sunday night.

Bryant said his preference is the Lakers do not trade Gasol, citing the team’s “foundation” is in place with Bryant, Gasol and “the emergence of Andrew (Bynum).”

“Can’t have one of our pillars not knowing if he’s going to be here,” Bryant said.

Kobe said the right thing — it plays well in the locker room — even if it is meaningless.

The natives are getting restless around a Lakers team that is clearly not a contender as currently constructed. They got rid of Lamar Odom for a trade exception, they have three quality players and no real depth after that. They need a point guard.

And frankly, nobody really trusts Jim Buss — son of Jerry and the guy running the show now — to get it done. Lakers fans trusted Phil Jackson (even if the male members of the Buss family didn’t love him) and now all traces of Phil have been wiped from of the organization. The younger Buss does not have the track record fans (or anyone) trusts. He has to earn it.

Which is why it’s impossible to say what will happen with Pau Gasol. The Lakers might trade him, but only if they can get a truly elite player back. They’d move him to get Chris Paul, not Derrick Williams and a couple picks. There’s nobody outside of the one guy the Bulls would not move for anyone (Derrick Rose) the Lakers would trade Gasol for on the Chicago roster.

Which means Kobe can say this and it plays well in the locker room — he sounds like the leader. The guy trying to bring the team together. He has his teammates’ backs. And maybe this helps Gasol’s attitude.

This didn’t weaken the Lakers trade position — Gasol is what Gasol is on the market. The Lakers want to win a ring again in the next couple of years and it’s more likely they do that with Gasol than without, unless he is used in a trade to bring another star at a needed position (read: point guard).

But Kupchak told Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated not to expect a trade.

“Of course we’ll talk to a lot of teams [about trades], like everybody else does, leading up until the trade deadline to see if there is a way to improve the team,” Kupchak said. “But the likelihood is that this is the team that’s going to finish into the playoffs. That’s just the way it normally works, but we’ll see.”

If this is the team the Lakers send to the playoffs, the second round would be the best they could do. But that doesn’t mean Gasol gets moved.

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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