The Boston Celtics are unconscious at the moment, as Brad Stevens’ team has won 12 consecutive games after an 0-2 start. One high-profile figure that happens to be paying attention is Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who had glowing things to say about Boston on Tuesday. “They’re all on a string,” Kerr said. “They play off each other really well. They’re really sound and they’re motivated. It’s a team that’s been on the rise the last couple years, lost in the conference finals. They want to win a championship. And it looks like, even with Gordon Hayward and that awful injury, Boston is just crushing people. So it’s going to be really fun to go against them on Thursday. We know how tough it’s going to be.”
July 18, 2018 | 10:25 pm EDT Update
They didn’t start with much, either. Nobody knows if Leonard is healthy enough to regain status as a top-five player and MVP candidate. (He still has to pass a physical.) Suitors feared his impending free agency, and his reported preference for one of the L.A. teams. His camp made it very clear over the past week, to the Raptors and other teams, that Leonard wanted no part of Toronto, sources say.
DeRozan as a centerpiece is a disappointing return, but also one that reflects market realities. Gregg Popovich does not want to finish his career in a rebuild. The Spurs never showed interest in packages — including Boston’s — heavy on picks and unproven players, sources have said. The Celtics would not swap any of their core guys, including Jaylen Brown, perhaps the most interesting Leonard trade chip in the league, without some assurances about Leonard’s health and future plans, sources have said.
Philadelphia’s potential package of Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and the Heat’s unprotected 2021 pick didn’t move the needle. It’s unclear if the Spurs had interest in Markelle Fultz; the two sides never discussed him seriously, and the Sixers would not have parted with him, sources say. The Spurs made it clear any deal with Philly would require Ben Simmons or Joel Embiid (likely Simmons), and the Sixers weren’t going anywhere near that, league sources say.
Is Kawhi Leonard up to something? After the embattled forward was traded to the Toronto Raptors by the San Antonio Spurs along with Danny Green in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a 2019 first-round pick, a highly intriguing rumor was floated by Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star during a recent appearance on the Back to Back Podcast. According to Arthur, he has heard of a story that Leonard is planning to form a new superteam in the NBA, contacting other stars to convince them to play together on the same team.
Bruce Arthur: “One thing I was told last night is that Kawhi Leonard has already been planning out his free agency for next year and he’s already been in contact with other star players in the league, saying, ‘hey, where might you want to play with me? What are we looking at?’ And it wasn’t just L.A. he was talking about. Brooklyn was maybe somewhere that’ll have a ton of cap space. That’s a possibility.”
Zach Lowe: League’s trade memo on Kawhi has been sent to teams. Includes one final tidbit: the Spurs are sending Toronto $5M in cash (almost the maximum they can send for the year) as part of the deal. Meant to cover tax hit linked to Kawhi’s trade kicker, but still…
Alex Kennedy: Fred VanVleet texted me this quote in response to the Spurs-Raptors trade. I added it to our recent Q&A, which was a wide-ranging conversation covering a ton of topics.
Toronto retains its two most interesting prospects in OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, plus both Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet. Danny Green is more than a throw-in, even if the Spurs dangled him for very little in return over the past year, sources say. With Leonard, Anunoby, and Green, the Raptors can play lineups featuring three switchable wings who shoot 3s.