Stan Van Gundy wants to keep Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe together

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Last season when Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond were both on the court for the Detroit Pistons, the team scored at a clip of 103.8 points per 100 possessions, which is nearly 1 point better than the Pistons team average. They looked better when not there with Josh Smith.

Problem was, Detroit gave up a whopping 110.2 per 100 when those two were paired.

A year ago Drummond and Monroe were seen as the front court of the future for Detroit, then now deposed Joe Dumars decided to help everything out by adding Josh Smith to the mix. That worked out about as well as Caddyshack II. The offense had no flow and it was worse on defense where the trio allowed 110.5 per 100 when on the court together.

Stan Van Gundy wants to get back to what works — and he thinks the Drummond/Monroe combo works. He wants to keep Monroe (a restricted free agent) with the Pistons and play him more with Drummond. That’s what he told the Pistons’ official Web site.

“I think it is an ideal pairing,” he said. “If I look at just the film I’ve watched now and looking at the numbers, you would say that Greg and Andre together were great offensively. That was a great combination on the offensive end of the floor, especially when the three guys around them were shooters — more conventional perimeter types. That worked very, very well. Now, it didn’t work very well defensively. I think it puts a lot of responsibility on Greg Monroe to have to guard out on the perimeter.

“But I think there are things we can do in terms of schemes and things that would make it a little easier on Greg to make that unit better defensively and then take advantage of the offensive end of the floor.

“In the things we’ve studied — when you look at our three frontline guys, there’s your strength — but when you study it, when you play two of those three guys together, the Pistons were a very good team, at least last year. When you played all three of them together, they really struggled.”

That presents two challenges for Van Gundy.

First is keeping Monroe — the big man with a good outside touch (he shot 48.9 percent on midrange baseline jumpers last season) plus deft passing skills —  has a lot of fans in front offices around the league. Someone is going to come hard at him this July — like max contract hard. Or close to it. The Pistons have the cap room to match right now, but that could make things tight in a couple years when they start having to pay Andre Drummond max money, also. Basically, three front line guys all on eight digit salaries makes it hard to build a team. Someone eventually has to go and that could be Monroe because of the contract situation.

The other trick is how he gets the Smith/Drummond/Monroe trio to work. The obvious idea here is to not play any of them together, but which one are you going to bring off the bench? Can’t be Drummond, he’s the best of the three. Do you think Smith would handle that well (he’d just come in, dominate the ball and fire up shots indiscriminately more than he already does). That might leave Monroe, the guy you’re about to give a massive contract to.

(If you’re thinking, “just trade Smith” remember he is owed $40.5 million over the next three years, an anchor contract that the Pistons can only trade if they give the other team something of real value just to take it on.)

There are no easy solutions, but that’s why Van Gundy is getting the big bucks.

But clearly Van Gundy wants Monroe to be part of the answer in Detroit.

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.