Report: After they strike out with big names Lakers likely to target Lowry, Monroe, Ariza

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It speaks to the mentality of the Lakers and their fans that the first none paragraphs of Ramona Shelburne’s latest on the team at ESPNLosAngeles.com talks about them going after LeBron James and meeting with Carmelo Anthony, and how to help lure those guys they may re-sign Pau Gaol.

The reality is the Lakers lack a win-now infrastructure that Anthony or LeBron would be attracted to — the Lakers have an aging Kobe Bryant and…. not much else right now. Phoenix is in a better spot to add a superstar to their roster and win right now (and they have the cap space to do it).

[MORE: Ranking the Top 50 free agents]

So when the Lakers strike out big game hunting in free agency, where will they turn? Shelburne gets to that.

If they are unable to land Anthony or James, the Lakers are also expected to have a strong interest in Washington free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Detroit center Greg Monroe and Phoenix forward Channing Frye, according to sources.

Let’s rank these for fun:

1) Kyle Lowry. Lowry would be a good piece next to Kobe Bryant and because he is dynamic and can create shots for himself and others, plus he is a tenacious defender. He would take some of the offensive pressure off Bryant and make whoever they get besides that (likely a bunch of one year contract guys) look better. This question however describes how far things have fallen for the Lakers: Is Lowry willing to leave Toronto and a pretty good team for L.A.?

2) Greg Monroe. He has a very versatile offensive game — can play from the pinch post or the traditional post — is a good passer and just is a generally good player. If Mitch Kupchak is one of the GMs around the league that thinks what has held Monroe’s development back is the Pistons and their system this is a good piece for years to come.

3) Trevor Ariza. Ariza had a really nice contract year for the Wizards — he’s done that before, then fallen off after. Buyer beware. If the Lakers think his three point shooting has really turned the corner he’s a nice pick up, but he’s a third option not a primary one.

4) Channing Frye. You fire Mike D’Antoni and now you go get a stretch four?

I think the question many are asking is if the Lakers strike out with their big swings will they really spend much on anyone to fill out the roster, or will they keep their powder dry for the summer of 2015 (and start looking at trade options).

[MORE: Lakers ‘not ruling out’ Pau Gasol returning in free agency]

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

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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