Report: Knicks want to trade Pablo Prigioni and Wayne Ellington

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The Knicks have 15 players under contract – a full roster’s worth when the regular season begins – but less than a third of them are definite Phil Jackson picks.

He drafted and signed Cleanthony Early and signed Carmelo Anthony, Cole Aldrich and Jason Smith. It’s possible Jackson also wanted Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington and/or Shane Larkin – players acquired in a trade with Dallas – but it’s also possible Jackson just needed to accept their salaries to facilitate the deal.

Two of Jackson’s other signings – Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom – didn’t stick.

Everyone else is a holdover from the previous regime.

If Jackson wants to continue remaking the team in his image, he could easily waive Jeremy Tyler, whose contract is fully unguaranteed, and sign a replacement. But it seems Jackson wants to go further.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Wayne Ellington has a $2,771,340 expiring contract. Prigioni will make $1,662,961 next season, and his deal his partially guaranteed for 2015-16.

If this were just a case of wanting to dump Ellington – a quality 3-point shooter, at least when he’s open, who doesn’t contribute much else – why not just waive him? Sure, the Knicks would have to eat his salary, but they can afford it and they won’t have cap space regardless. Most importantly, waiving Ellington wouldn’t cut into 2015 cap space.

But it seems New York also views Prigioni as expendable.

Prigioni is an excellent passer who shoots efficiently due both to his stroke and his tight shot selection. He’s a minus defender despite getting a decent number of steals.

In Calderon, the Knicks have a better and younger version of that same player.

Of course, Calderon needs a backup. Even at 37, Prigioni can help next season.

It’s really a matter of how much the Knicks, who have their own 2015 draft pick, want to win now as opposed building to the future. Prigioni is better right now, but the 21-year-old Larkin has more long-term upside remaining.

If the Knicks clear a roster space, look for them to sign No. 51 pick Thanasis Antetokounmpo – another clear Jackson choice.

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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