New Year’s Resolutions for the NBA

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Did you catch the Lakers-Warriors game on Saturday night? It was close to perfect. The crowd in Oakland is always wonderful, but with the hated Lakers in town, they really stepped it up a notch. The on-court play was obviously great. The storylines were there. If you watched, regardless of who you were rooting for, chances are you enjoyed yourself quite a bit.

That doesn’t happen enough. It’s not that the NBA doesn’t provide a quality product, because they do. It could just be better. And that’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for, right? Here’s my list for David Stern and Adam Silver:

Change the overtime timeout rule

For some asinine reason, each team is awarded three timeouts in the five minute overtime period. That just kills any back-and-forth action, making even the best game too drawn out. Basketball thrives on building momentum and constant action, but timeouts just take the wind out of your sails too often.

We’re not even talking about mandatory media timeouts here — just like overtime, these are bonus timeouts. And there are too many of them.

Want to know what really made the Warriors-Lakers game great? There were no stoppages while the action was at its best. Neither the Warriors or the Lakers used a single one of their three timeouts in overtime until there were eight seconds left in the overtime period. It built drama, it built intrigue, and it kept the crowd in it the whole way.

Stop playing music during big moments

This is a thing only a small handful of game operations staff get. Let the game be the show. There is absolutely no reason to be playing a Ke$ha song in a tie game with 15 seconds left while the ball is getting inbounded. Let the applause grow, let the tension build. There are moments where music provides a nice supplement or distraction, but please, let the crowd at least have the chance to get into the game without a Black Eyed Peas song drowning out their thoughts.

Move the photographers back

If I see one more player get hurt because he either tramples a photographer under the baseline or has to try and leap over them, I’m going to lose my mind. These players don’t have pads on. They’re often moving with insane amounts of momentum — can we give them a little more floor area to slow down? I love a good basketball picture, but will it make a huge difference to the photos if we move these guys back, say, five feet? We have the technology! Keep the players safe from getting tripped or faceplanting into a camera and move these guys back, pronto.

Stop counting all shots behind halfcourt as field goal attempts

There’s nothing lamer in basketball. Time is winding a down, a player has a shot at a heave, and he waits to hear the buzzer before he lets the shot go so it won’t hurt his numbers. It happens in just about every game. Don’t blame the players — those long attempts count towards their stats, which is what their salaries are based on.

Let’s change the rule instead. Any shot behind halfcourt is almost certainly a buzzer beating shot, so why count it towards a player’s field goal attempts? If they make it, sure, add it. But if they miss from beyond halfcourt? Just don’t count it. It’s simple — stop punishing players for trying to score in these situations, and we’ll see guys actually try to make shots from unfathomable distances. Isn’t that more fun for everyone?

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.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.