Of course, Greg Monroe denies he is going to New York. And he may not.


It’s not hard to connect the dots between Greg Monroe and the New York Knicks. Monroe is a restricted free agent and quality center that a number of teams will go after (and offer the max, we’ll talk about that more in a bit). The Knicks need a presence in the paint at both ends of the court. Monroe’s agent, David Falk, Monroe’s agent, was Michael Jordan’s agent with the Bulls when Phil Jackson coached him, so there’s a relationship.

And there is scuttlebutt around the league that the Knicks may be the front runners to land him, with one report out of NYC saying it was all but a done deal.

As you would expect, Monroe denied this on Sunday, speaking to David Mayo of Mlive.com.

“You write it’s a done deal, there must be another Greg Monroe around here that I don’t know about, because I haven’t agreed to anything,” Monroe said before the Pistons’ home finale today against the Charlotte Hornets….

“This stuff right here, it’s just unfortunate that we have to talk about it,” Monroe said. “I know we have to. But I talk to my agent every day, and I know for sure, I’m 100-percent, 1,000-percent confident, that he hasn’t done anything. If they (the Knicks) have interest, maybe they might have commented on that. But I haven’t even gotten to that place yet.”

Three things.

First, yes Monroe is going to get the max. He might have in any summer, he’s averaging 16.1 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, is shooting nearly 50 percent, and he’s got a little midrange game. He has looked a lot more comfortable in the offense since Josh Smith was sent packing. Bigs get paid in the NBA. That said, this summer he will for sure because he is a “market max” guy — paying him a max contract this season will not look bad when the cap spikes to $90 million or more in 2016 and climbs from there. A lot of guys are going to get bigger deals than you would think this summer based on that premise (Khris Middleton for example).

Second, you can be sure the Knicks and Falk have had some back-channel conversations to express and gauge interest. That’s how this works; it’s how every team does it. If you want a guy, you’re laying the groundwork now, not just waiting until July 1. How in depth those conversations are is up for debate, but they happened.

Finally, Monroe may well end up a Knick, he might even lean that way now, but no decisions will be made until all the cards are on the table. A lot of teams will reach out to Monroe, he will have options. And he’s played at a steep discount this season for the right to explore them, so you can be sure he will.

NBA says Tim Duncan’s game-saving block on James Harden was a ‘correct non-call’


The Spurs won their 10th straight game on Friday, hanging on to beat the Rockets in a contest that came down to the final seconds to be decided.

With San Antonio leading by a single point and only a few seconds remaining, James Harden got all the way to the rim with the basketball only to be rudely greeted by Tim Duncan, who blocked his layup attempt to preserve the Spurs’ victory.

At first glance, it appeared to be a foul on Duncan, for the hack he delivered across Harden’s arm. But as part of the official review process, the league determined Duncan’s play to be a clean block, and one that was legal at the same time.

The explanation, via the league’s Last Two Minute Report:

Duncan jumps vertically on Harden’s layup attempt and cleanly blocks the shot. There is contact after the blocked shot, but because the shot is already blocked, the contact is incidental and deemed to have no impact on the shot attempt.

It’s just so very close.

In real time, it sure looked like Duncan committed the foul. But as has been made all too clear by the publishing of these reports, the referees prefer to let the players decide the games in their closing seconds, and Duncan’s block — clean or not — was close enough to where the officials didn’t find it necessary to blow one of their three available whistles.

Spurs intentionally send Josh Smith to free throw line a career-high 26 times


Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich may have provided teams with a blueprint for slowing down MVP candidate James Harden, though it’s one that’s anything but aesthetically pleasing.

San Antonio used the legal but ugly intentional fouling strategy extensively during Friday night’s win over the Rockets, the team’s 10th straight.

And it sent Josh Smith to the free throw line a career-high 26 times.

From the Associated Press:

Popovich was pleased with the way his Hack-A-Smith routine changed the game.

“Absolutely, I’d trade it any day rather than have James Harden with the basketball,” Popovich said. “That’s kind of scary. …

Harden, who entered the game leading the NBA in scoring, was kept well below his 27.6 average, with San Antonio intentionally fouling Smith 12 times in the second half. Smith went 12 of 26 from the line and led the Rockets with 20 points.

Smith is shooting just 51.2 percent from the free throw line on the season, so Popovich was simply playing the odds, just as he’s done for many years. Though he’s admitted to hating the strategy as recently as last season.

“I hate it,” Popovich said. “I think it’s awful. I hate doing it. Seriously. I think it’s a pain in the neck, fans don’t like it, I don’t like it, nobody likes it. It disrupts the flow of the game. If there’s an equitable way to get rid of it, I’m all for it.

“But it’s part of the game. It’s part of the rules now and if you think somebody can’t shoot a free throw you might as well take advantage of it. If you think somebody can’t shoot you don’t guard him the same way. So [the strategy’s] fair, it’s just kind of ugly I think.”

The loss temporarily dropped the Rockets to sixth place in the Western Conference standings, which, as of today, would mean a first round playoff matchup against these same Spurs — and presumably, plenty more free throw attempts for Josh Smith.

Tim Duncan blocks James Harden at the rim to seal Spurs’ 10th straight win (VIDEO)


Trailing by one with 6.1 seconds left, the Rockets got as good a look at the rim as they could get. James Harden was able to drive for what seemed like an easy layup. But then Tim Duncan happened.

No foul was called, much to the chagrin of the Rockets players, but this replay angle shows a clean block by Duncan:

The Spurs won their 10th straight game and, more importantly, moved into the third seed in the Western Conference.

Blake Griffin says he’d give MVP to James Harden


My sense among media members is that Stephen Curry is going to win the MVP award. It’s close, but talking to people I think that’s where the majority of votes would go.

My sense is that players are leaning toward James Harden. Blake Griffin is the latest in the list of players to back the Rockets’ star, with the theory that he had to do more to carry the Rockets to a top playoff seed. Hat tip to the LA Times for the video.

Which will make it interesting when the players vote for their own awards at the end of the season. There probably aren’t going to be radical differences, but who ends up on top of the MVP ballot may be one of them.