Suns enter single-affiliation relationship with D-League’s Bakersfield Jam

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In an age where only a select few teams strike it really big in free agency or end up acquiring a future franchise cornerstone through the draft, developing guys on rookie contracts within the organization is crucial to a team’s sustained chances for success.

More and more of them are realizing this, and are taking action by entering into single-affiliation relationships with D-League franchises, thereby giving them complete operational control over a true minor league situation where this development can take place.

The Phoenix Suns became the latest to do so, and will oversee the Bakersfield Jam beginning next season.

From the official release:

The Phoenix Suns, Bakersfield Jam, and NBA Development League today announced that the Suns have entered into a single-affiliation relationship with the Jam beginning with the 2014-15 season. With the partnership, the Suns become the record 15th NBA franchise to have a one-to-one relationship with an NBA D-League team, solidifying half of the NBA’s 30 teams as singly-affiliated.

Through this, relationship, also known as a “hybrid” partnership, the Suns will oversee and fund all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations while the local ownership in Bakersfield, led by Stan Ellis and David Higdon, will continue to manage the team’s business operations and community outreach. Executives and players from both teams will celebrate the partnership with fans in Bakersfield at an event in September.

“This investment by the Suns not only demonstrates how important an exclusive NBA D-League affiliation has become to an NBA team, but is also a strong endorsement of the excellent organization and resources Stan Ellis and David Higdon have put in place in Bakersfield,” said Dan Reed, NBA D-League President. “This partnership also commemorates a very important milestone for the NBA D-League, as half of all NBA teams are now investing in an exclusive ‘one-to-one’ affiliation with an NBA D-League team.”

The cost, believe it or not, is primarily the reason that most teams have traditionally preferred to share a D-League franchise with others, but that’s the least efficient way to go about it. While a younger player could get valuable, real-game action to hone his craft at the D-League level under these conditions, he’s still not being totally prepared for exactly what his team runs offensively or defensively, thus increasing the learning curve unnecessarily.

Phoenix seems to be taking all the right steps to build a culture of winning, and ensuring a single-affiliation relationship with a D-League team is just another important one in the overall process.

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.