Rajon Rondo reportedly ‘more available now than ever before’

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Rajon Rondo is competing with Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond as the best player on a sub-30-win team.

It’s not exactly an ideal place – for the player or the team.

Rondo surely wants to play for a better team than last year’s Celtics, and the Celtics surely want to put a better team around him. Same with Kobe and the Lakers, Cousins and the Kings, Drummond and the Pistons. But the timing of those rebuilds can be difficult, especially with good players helping to keep their team from landing too high in the lottery.

So, inevitably, trade discussions arise. Kobe, Cousins and Drummond are all – for now at least – entrenched with their current teams on multi-year contracts. So, they’re not on the market the same way.

Rondo, on the other hand, has a contract that expires after next season.

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald:

But what we’ve been hearing for a while and in more concerted tones here is that Rajon Rondo may be more available now than ever before.

The Celts’ president of basketball operations, as well, dismissed talk of Rondo’s obtainability.

“That’s all speculation,” Ainge said. “Those aren’t facts. People don’t know that, so it’s just people speculating on Rondo’s free agency next summer. That’s all that you’re hearing. You’re not hearing any facts from anybody. Those conversations haven’t even been discussed, so that’s just speculation.”

Danny Ainge also shot down a report by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, which said, the Knicks “snubbed a trade that would’ve brought Rajon Rondo to New York.” Regardless of the report’s accuracy, Ainge would likely scoff anyway to protect Rondo’s feelings.

But that can last only so long.

Ainge can deny any of this all he wants. If he’s not exploring Rondo trades, he’s making a mistake.

Rondo, 28, is young enough to still be very good when the Celtics next get good. They, ideally, should be patient with him and make him a key piece of their next team designed to win (unlike this year’s tank squad).

However, Rondo doesn’t necessarily share that patience. He can bolt in a free agency, and Boston losing him for nothing would be a major setback. Ainge must weigh the odds he can re-sign Rondo against what Rondo would fetch in a trade before next year’s trade deadline.

That’s, as Ainge said, speculation by me. It should also be reality for him.

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.