Greg Monroe

Greg Monroe says he ignored rumors about future while in Africa, will focus on getting deal now

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The rumors have been swirling around Pistons’ restricted free agent Greg Monroe: That he doesn’t really want to return to the Pistons, that he wants a max contract, that there were sign-and-trade talks with teams, that he wants Josh Smith traded, that front line partner Andre Drummond thinks Monroe will return anyway, and that the Pistons have upped their offer to him.

Monroe says he hasn’t paid attention to any of it.

Monroe is just getting back from time in Africa with the NBA Cares “Basketball Without Borders” program and told Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated that he has been ignoring the rumors while over there, but now that he’s back with a clear head he wants to focus on getting his status resolved.

“It’s been great to get out here, relax, clear my mind and take this new experience in. I don’t listen to all of the reports and rumors — I’m just enjoying the fresh air….

“I’m heading back Saturday. We’re still trying to sort things out. I’m really not sure what is going to happen, I’ve just enjoyed my time here, and it’s been nice to get away and do something positive with my time.”

While Monroe was trying to inspire youth in Africa his agent was still working to get something done stateside. The wheels never stopped churning, he just was outside the continent and the rumor loop, so he could simply ignore it.

But it doesn’t change the fact he is stuck. He should call up Eric Bledsoe and they can commiserate.

No team made a free agent offer because they knew the Pistons would just match it, they weren’t going to let him go for nothing. There have been talks of sign-and-trades — Phoenix, New Orleans and Portland were among those interested — but everyone has walked away after talking price.

Monroe at this point may need to be thinking about his third contract and not this second one — get more money and fewer years so he can get on the open market sooner. He’s not going to be hurting, mind you, the Pistons reportedly offered to pay him more than Josh Smith’s bloated contract (the offer currently on the table is reportedly four years, $54 million), but if he’s not happy with the situation (and nobody should be happy with the Drummond/Smith/Monroe combo) then looking for a way to move on sooner rather than later (or force Detroit to move Smith sooner) may be the best he can do.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.