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Celtics let Cavaliers save face to save Kyrie Irving deal

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Now can we get back to focusing on Boston, led by Kyrie Irving, visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers on opening night?

A week ago we thought we had a trade that sent the disgruntled Irving from Cleveland to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, and Cleveland did very well getting Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and — the real steal in the deal — the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick in the 2018 draft. That was a fantastic deal for the Cavaliers, way more than anyone expected them to get.

And it wasn’t enough.

Cleveland got a look at Thomas’ physical and the hip injury he had that ended his playoff run, and thought he could miss more time than they had expected this season. Plus he was more prone to re-injury than they thought. Cleveland wanted to re-open the talks and get more compensation.

Boston wanted nothing to do with it. From the start the Celtics front office said it was up front with everything they knew about IT’s hip and recovery, so even if Cleveland’s doctors saw things differently why should Boston pay more? (The Cavaliers’ would have pushed for surgery after last season, Thomas wouldn’t have wanted that heading into a contract year.)

The Cavaliers treated it like a negotiation — they leaked that they were interested in Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown as the added compensation, knowing full well they would never get those players. But you aim high to work down to what they thought more realistic — another first round pick. Maybe a Celtics pick (so late first), but a first.

Boston would not budge.

However, the Celtics also wanted the deal to go through — Irving is younger and taller than Thomas, and in two or three years Boston (and, frankly, everyone else) would rather have Irving. Boston is playing the long game, the “we got next after LeBron but before the Sixers rise (if it comes)” game. Irving fits with that better than Thomas, who the Celtics were concerned about having to pay a lot of money next summer.

So Boston let the Cavaliers save face and threw them a pick to get the deal done — a 2020 Miami second rounder.

Boston, and a lot of other league executives, didn’t like the precedent of a team re-opening negotiations after a trade was agreed to, but the Celtics wanted it to go forward badly enough to let it happen.

For some fans, there may have been a sense of “we waited all week for that?” Cleveland should feel lucky they got that. Boston was never going to surrender another first round pick.

How valuable is that 2020 Miami second round pick? Depends on how good Miami is in three years, something very difficult to predict. This is a good but older team now, maybe they are crumbling a little by then and this pick is in the 30s, where maybe a guy who could grow into a rotation player sits. Maybe Pat Riley pulls off another big move and this pick is in the 50s, where most guys picked never reach the NBA. Miss Cleo might know the answers, but we don’t know what that pick will be.

Boston didn’t care. In reality, by 2020 they want to be competing for a title, and whoever they draft in the second round is not likely to see the light of day with them (maybe, if it were a high pick). The Celtics don’t need it, they can let the pick go to get closer to competing for a title in the first place.

In the end, this was a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. It barely moves the needle on this deal.

But both sides wanted it to go forward, so they found a way for everyone to save face and make it happen.

Now let’s get back to talking basketball… or the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors.

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.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.