Nikola Pekovic will miss EuroBasket while waiting on new NBA contract

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Nikola Pekovic will not be competing for Montenegro in next month’s EuroBasket championships. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ center was expected to be an important part of his team’s attempt to qualify for next year’s FIBA Championships and eventually the 2016 Olympics, but his contract situation with the NBA will prevent that from happening this year.

Pekovic is currently a restricted free agent, but his management and the Wolves haven’t been able to come to terms on what will reportedly be a four-year extension worth between $12 and $15 million  per year. Because of the ongoing negotiations, Pekovic’s representatives have apparently recommended he doesn’t participate in the upcoming FIBA tournament in order for him to stay injury-free, according to a report on the official website of the Basketball Federation of Montenegro.

The club apparently put an August 5th deadline on Pekovic reporting for duty in order for him to get into shape and in sync with his teammates prior to the early-September start of the FIBA Europe Championship tournament. That deadline came and went without a new NBA deal for the 27-year-old center, however, so the team’s officially decided to move on with the roster they already have assembled.

The Montenegrin team’s only other NBA player is fellow big man Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic and he’s expected to play, but the squad will definitely feel the absence of Pekovic as he works on figuring out his NBA contract. They’re grouped with Germany, Italy and Croatia in the first round of pool play, meaning they could be facing the Knicks’ Andrea Bargnani and new Detroit Pistons signee Luigi Datome along with possible future NBAers Bojan Bogdanovic, Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric. That isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of European players, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt to have Pekovic available to protect the paint against them.

The fact that Pekovic’s missing the EuroBasket tournament, by the way, likely means that he and the Wolves aren’t as close to getting a deal done as some have reported. Because, if that were the case, it’d seem something could’ve been done to make sure he was available to represent his country in their bid to qualify for the next Olympics.

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.