Did Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups get Maurice Cheeks fired?

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NBA writer/rumormonger Peter Vecsey – currently involved in a public dispute with Kevin Love and Flip Saunders – has a new report about the Pistons. Like everything from Vecsey, it might be true and might not. It’s difficult to discern. But he’s prominent enough – he won the Basketball Hall of Fame’s media award in 2009 – that you must at least acknowledge what he reports.

There’s a Latin phrase “post hoc ergo propter hoc,” which means “after this, therefore because of this.” It acknowledges the fallacy that an event following another event was caused by the first event.

Let’s say Smith and Billups went to Dumars to complain about Cheeks. First of all, I don’t believe it’s uncommon for players to go to their general to complain about the coach. Disagreements arise, and part of the general manager’s job is to resolve those.

Even if Dumars is too quick to side with his players and dismiss the coach, as his frequent firings suggest, that doesn’t mean he did so here. As Adrian Wojnarowski, who has established a much higher degree of reliability, reported:

Eight different coaches have been replaced under Dumars’ run as GM, but league sources told Yahoo Sports he had been an advocate of giving Cheeks more time as coach

So, just because Smith and Billups told Dumars they wanted Cheeks fired – which isn’t unreasonable, considering how Cheeks repeatedly sent his players into games at a disadvantage due to his ineptitude – that doesn’t mean Smith and Billups caused Cheeks’ firing. Every other report indicated this decision was driven by Pistons owner Tom Gores, not Dumars.

Maybe Gores became aware of a Smith-Billups-Dumars meeting and then became motivated to fire Cheeks because of it? That’s the type of nuance Vecsey’s tweet doesn’t cover. It’s not clear where Vecsey’s reporting ends and his speculation begins. Is he reporting facts and then using the word “doom” himself, or did the source say “doom”? The former might be a mistake on Vecsey’s part, and the latter requires great explanation from Vecsey.

And that’s if this source is credible in the first place.

This is a plausible explanation of Cheeks’ firing, but the gaps in the story are wide.

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.