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A very honest Daryl Morey talks Rockets, Lin, 2004 Pistons

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Daryl Morey is a geek. In a good way. And I’m not just saying that because he clearly knows his way around Reddit. Well, that is part of the reason.

But clearly he does. Morey did an IAMA on Reddit Friday — which for the uninitiated is kind of an online Q&A — and in this comfortable setting he was honest. And witty. And worth reading. Check out the entire thing, be a Reddit lurker. But here are what I saw as the highlights.

Starting with: Which is the most intimidating team in the NBA?

Miami. I have consistently said this since the team was assembled

About his push this summer to land an elite player (Dwight Howard, for one) on the Rockets.

You definitely need at least 1 elite player in the top 10-20 of all NBA players (all-star level) to win the championship. There are no counter examples of this. We are not championship contenders right now. All our moves since Yao Ming went down have had the specific goal of acquiring a top level player since that moment. Each change on our team has been designed to acquire players who either have a chance to be an all-star or give us the cap room or trade flexibility to acquire an all-star.

Wait, what about the 2004 Pistons? They didn’t have a superstar/elite player?

(Chauncey) Billups and Ben Wallace clearly were playing at an all-star level in my opinion at that time. Also, 4(!) of them made the all-star team either that year or the next. For those wondering on Ben Wallace, they had the #1 defense in the league and Ben Wallace was for sure the primary reason for it. Omer Asik has the potential to play at an all-star level on defense. We will see if he does.

Well, can Jeremy Lin be that All-Star/elite player?

We were rolling the dice on getting Jeremy Lin but taking smart risks is what we have to do up and down the roster on every move. As only 1 team out of 30 gets to win, you cannot play it safe. A fund manager who beats more than half his peers and beats the S+P 500 is considered pretty good. We have won more games than we lost the past few years (beaten our peers) despite losing our franchise player Yao Ming and it has been appropriately considered disappointing despite the fact that most teams win around one-third of their games after losing their franchise player. We need to keep taking on more smart risk.

What about the trend of small ball? Is there a place for a traditional big man in the NBA?

For sure in the regular season, the general rule of thumb to help you win is put your 5 best players on the floor as much as possible. Because of scarcity, the smalls are generally better than the bigs and also more numerous. This is why “small ball” works.

If you wonder why the media seems to love Morey, it’s not just that we think he makes smart moves, it’s that he is open and honest about what is going on more than most. Honesty is appreciated by all of us (well, until someone runs for political office).

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.