Storyline: Kawhi Leonard Injury

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He’s injured. He has to be. For two games Kawhi Leonard has dragged around his right leg like there was a nail hammered into it. The Raptors won’t admit there’s a problem. Nick Nurse says he’s fine. Leonard’s face says different. In the third quarter of Toronto’s 120-102 Game 4 win, Leonard elevated for dunk, colliding with Giannis Antetokounmpo in mid-air, that right leg refusing to bend when it hit the floor. He winced, looking down at the leg. For the stoic Leonard, it was the equivalent of a scream.
2 years ago via ESPN

Green suffered the injury Dec. 8 against the Boston Celtics. “I get an MRI the next day,” Green said. “[It says] slight strain, take a couple weeks off. So we do the rehab, do everything we’re supposed to do. After some time, it healed. I tried to play again. Certain days, I’d have bad days. Some days would be good. I’d feel it. My agent [Joe Branch said], ‘Maybe we should get a second opinion.’ I didn’t want to because I have full faith and believe in the Spurs’ staff. They’ve always been great to me. They’ve always done right by me. They’ve always done a hell of a job.”

Asked about the trouble Leonard had experienced getting back on the court, Parker expressed sympathy, noting the ruptured quadriceps tendon he himself had suffered in the playoffs the season before and the difficulty of his own rehab. “I’ve been through it,” said Parker, who has signed to play in Charlotte next season. “It was a rehab for me for eight months. Same kind of injury, but mine was 100 times worse. You just stay positive.” Parker’s quote was mostly innocuous, except for three words. Leonard’s representatives took issue with the phrase “100 times worse.” They were furious, believing the Spurs point guard was questioning Leonard’s commitment to returning.
2 years ago via ESPN

Despite being eligible to receive a five-year super max extension this summer worth $221 million from the Spurs, Leonard wanted out of San Antonio for myriad reasons. He felt betrayed by the team for the handling of the quadriceps injury that kept him out of all but nine games last season — plus, Leonard’s camp believes the Spurs misdiagnosed a 2014 wrist injury as well — and also for the resistance encountered from the franchise when seeking outside opinions. Not to mention what seemed to be public questioning of the situation by members of the organization, with sources saying the forward had been medically cleared to play since December.
2 years ago via ESPN

The franchise harbored some ill will, too, but considered Leonard such an important commodity it was willing to work through the difficult times toward resolution. The Spurs disliked ceding control in August of Leonard’s medical care to outside doctors and were miffed by the handling of the entire situation by the forward’s representation — namely uncle Dennis Robertson — who, like Leonard, didn’t necessarily excel in the communication department, according to sources.
2 years ago via ESPN

Parker elected to utilize the Spurs’ doctors, while Leonard sought treatment outside of the organization. “I have no problem with Kawhi Leonard. We never had an argument,” Parker told The Undefeated. “When the journalist asked me if my injury was worse than Kawhi’s, I said yes because it was true. But that didn’t lessen the significance of his injury. He took over the franchise and I gave up the torch of the franchise willingly. It’s very sad that the media took one quote and made it sound like I didn’t want to play with him. He was the face of the franchise.”

Peter Vecsey: “Kawhi listened to the Spurs doctor. Did everything he was told. But when he went back to play his knee began to hurt from the stress. He was scared about blowing it out. He saw what happened to Isaiah Thomas when he played in pain for Boston in the playoffs. He got reduced to damaged goods. As a free agent this summer, he’ll never recoup the $50M-$100M he lost by deciding to play. “The Spurs knew the quad was only 70 percent,” insists my source. “Kawhi got good advice, advice anybody would give their son in the same situation, see an independent doctor.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Bruce Bowen, who won three NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, took Kawhi Leonard to task for his dealings with the team this year, saying “there’s nothing but excuses going on.” Speaking on Sirius XM NBA Radio Thursday night, Bowen said: “First, it was, ‘Well I was misdiagnosed.’ Look here: You got $18 million this year, and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to guy, you’re the franchise, and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me?”
2 years ago via ESPN

“Not one time has Kawhi come out and said anything to the effect of, ‘You know what, hey, I really enjoy being in San Antonio.’ Or, ‘I can’t stand what’s going on here in San Antonio,’ ” Bowen said. “Not one time has he said anything.”

Peter Vecsey: In a cell conversation yesterday with Kawhi’s fringe friend (see above car quote), my first words were ones I’ve often promoted: “You know, I’m only as good as my source. What can you tell me?” Enough so that I’m thoroughly disinclined to believe Kawhi and Pop can’t patch things up, predominantly because their relationship isn’t in need of a large patch. From what I’m told, they’ve never exchanged harsh words or gone off on each other. A single problem existed last season that would not go away: Kawhi’s caregivers and doctors felt his repaired quad wasn’t entirely healthy when he returned 28 games into the season. After nine, some very effective, minute-monitored games, they insisted he return to rehab.

Peter Vecsey: But there is a reason they’re called ‘team’ doctors, and not players’ doctors … they’re paid by the team. “The media made it seem as if the Spurs and Kawhi’s people weren’t communicating. Like they didn’t know where he was and how things were going,” my source said. “They were in constant touch. I think Pop made Mitch wear a helmet cam. “The Spurs had their opinion regarding what should be done. Kawhi’s people disagreed. I don’t see any reason why both sides can’t move forward together.”

Charania reported that Kawhi Leonard is close to 100 percent and expected to be ready for training camp. The Spurs still intend to “mend fences” with the guard and Charania noted that the two sides are much closer to a resolution than it appears from afar. He insisted that Leonard didn’t “go rogue” by rehabbing in New York away from the team during the season, and said he’s been close to Spurs staffers and Gregg Popovich as he mourned the death of his wife.

Leonard played in just nine regular season games in 2017-18 despite receiving clearance from the Spurs’ medical staff to return from a quadriceps ailment. His decision to continue rehabbing away from the club under the supervision of his own medical team created a rift between him and the Spurs, as well as many of their fans. “It’s a bit of a dark cloud,” [Spurs advertising executive] Aguilar said of the saga, which ranks among the strangest in club history.

Rudy Gay: With that situation, it’s tough being injured. I know it was tough for him. It’s tough when you’re sitting out and knowing what you can do and not being able to contribute. I’ve done it! I’ve been there and had to sit out. Not being able to play basketball is hard. This is all we know. Being healthy is rare in this business. That’s why I’m taking this summer to get myself 100 percent healthy and become the best player I can be. I guess our timing was off, you know?
2 years ago via ESPN

Ramona Shelburne: “I think Pop has a general sense of, ‘My relationship with Kawhi seems to be strong,’ and all that, but as far as specific details, I think that’s where we get into—remember there was a little head fake when [Kawhi] was supposed to come back in March, [multiple people, including Adrian Wojnarowski] reported it and then it was, ‘Nope, he’s not ready yet.’ I remember calling at the time and there was still optimism he’d come back a little later in March but that never happened.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Zach Lowe: “Do you think the Spurs believe [if they were still alive in the playoffs] that Kawhi Leonard [could/should] be playing now?” Ramona Shelburne: “I think [the Spurs] think he can play. I don’t know if they think he should play. Because… they’ll seem him right now in three-on-three and he looks fine. You watch him go hard and he looks fine. But if you make him do certain tests, or isolate the right quad muscle, he still doesn’t have—that test is not quite there yet. And then he’ll still report pain in that area.”
2 years ago via ESPN

Leonard’s camp believes his condition is the result of a series of contusions to the quadriceps that began with one very deep bruise in March 2016 that caused him to miss three games. Leonard was again listed with a “quad contusion” on the Feb. 6, 2017, injury report, when he was a late scratch before a game. But it wasn’t until the end of last season when the severity of the injury became apparent. According to multiple sources, Leonard’s camp has come to believe the issue has more to do with an ossification or hardening in the area where the muscle has been repeatedly bruised and then an atrophying, which in turn affected the tendons connecting the muscle to the kne
2 years ago via ESPN

Initially the Spurs’ doctors were calling the shots, with Leonard following their protocols for most of last summer in his workouts in San Antonio with team staffers and San Diego with his longtime personal trainer. But things began to change in August as Leonard continued to experience discomfort, according to sources. His agent, Mitch Frankel, and uncle, Dennis Robertson, began pressing the Spurs to consult outside opinions. Last fall, Dr. Keith Pyne, the managing partner of SportsLab NYC, who is affiliated with the Washington Nationals and New York Islanders, began consulting on the case.

Yet when it comes to understanding these Spurs, there’s a six-degrees-of-Kawhi component that won’t go away until his situation is resolved. The Spurs can offer him a five-year, $215 million extension this July, but there is increasing hope around the league they might trade him instead. His absence is only mysterious because of the breakdown in communication between the sides, with the Spurs having cleared Leonard to return only to see him stay away because his outside medical group — “his group,” as Popovich has repeatedly called them — has advised otherwise. Along the way, there’s an inevitable ripple effect on his teammates — on and off the floor.

“It’s tough,” Aldridge said of the circumstances of this season. “We’re depending on guys who really aren’t offensive guys, and I think that showed tonight. We have guys who really don’t score, and teams are exposing that and trying to make those guys score. … But every guy in the locker room has grinded, and tried to get better, and you’ve got to consider that.” The ones who were there, anyway. When asked about his view on the Leonard situation, Aldridge made it clear that’s a topic he won’t touch. “I have no comment,” he said as he walked away. “He has to do what’s best for him. That’s it. Nice to see you.”

Me: How have you all sustained this season through all the injuries and Kawhi not being here? LaMarcus Aldridge: Just having the next-man-up kind of mentality, having the system where you can plug in guys and they can understand, or they can help the team in the ways they’re going to be good out there. And not giving in. It would have been easy to say we’ve had all this adversity this year and it’s not our year, but we have a bunch of guys that want to still be here. And we pushed through and guys got better, and the younger guys got some experience, and they’ve gotten better. It’s the whole team coming together.

In collaboration with Spurs officials, Leonard followed through with a plan to travel back East earlier this month in hopes of receiving clearance to return to. But though progress is noticeable, doctors Leonard sought for a second opinion about his quad injury are still not ready to approve his return to play with the feeling he needs additional rehab under their supervision. Though national reports suggest Leonard and his camp decided to leave the team, sources told the Express-News the Spurs also suggested Leonard remain in New York to rehab following his routine checkup from doctors.
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May 29, 2020 | 12:56 pm EDT Update
Even in the middle of a pandemic, when nobody is playing, Bradley Beal’s name still emerged in trade rumors. The New York Daily News last week reported that the Brooklyn Nets have had “internal discussions” about pursuing the 26-year-old Wizards guard, who signed a two-year, $72 million extension in October. “It’s not the first time I’ve heard this kind of talk,” Beal told ESPN. “It’s interesting. To me, I look at it as a sign of respect, that I’ve been doing good things and guys want to play with me.
Storyline: Bradley Beal to Nets?
“That’s an unbelievable feeling. When you hear that Kyrie [Irving] and KD [Kevin Durant] want you, s—, that’s amazing. At the same time, you don’t know how much there is to it, or how easy it would be to do. And I’ve put down roots in D.C. I’ve dedicated myself to this town, this community. I love it here, and it would feel great to know I could grind out winning here instead of jumping to another team. “But I’d be naive to say that I don’t think about it when these stories come up.”
Prior to Leon Rose taking over, other areas of need identified by New York’s front office/scouts included a forward who can stretch the floor. One person in touch with members of the organization at the time said part of the thinking for the club’s offseason was centered around finding players who complement rookie RJ Barrett. “If you want to complement Barrett, that’s where I’d go,” one opposing front office member said. “Adding (a guard and big man who can shoot from the perimeter), you space the floor and make things easier for him. The floor was so crowded for them this year.”
If the Knicks decide to look for a forward via free agency who can shoot, Danilo Gallinari, Carmelo Anthony and Christian Wood are potential options. Some members of the Knicks front office were enamored with Wood over the course of the season. Regarding Anthony, prior to free agency last summer, the Knicks strongly considered signing the ex-Knick if they were able to land two other stars. They missed out on the stars in free agency, which took Anthony out of their plans. Rose, the current team president, was Anthony’s agent. The two remain close. Worth pointing out: the Knicks being open to looking for a big who can shoot doesn’t necessarily reflect a desire to move on from Randle.
Storyline: Carmelo Anthony Free Agency
May 29, 2020 | 11:55 am EDT Update

May 29, 2020 | 11:26 am EDT Update
ON A SUNNY day in mid-April, the sun crested over Los Angeles, but Paul wished to be over a thousand miles away: poring over film in Oklahoma City, preparing for Game 2 or 3 of a first-round series. He wanted to be hooping. Instead of getting up shots in his team’s practice facility, Paul has been having direct conversations with Silver more than once a week as the liaison between the commissioner and the players. Paul has served as a sounding board for those looking for advice, ideas or an outlet for their frustration.
“Hell, I need to vent at times,” Paul said. “I just look at it as guys are actually concerned and they want to know what’s going on. They should have a say in their future.” Between homeschooling his kids and finding time to take online Spanish classes (“I’m trying to get better at something,” he said.), Paul has had calls almost every morning — most often union-related — and more in the afternoon.
As rumblings of restart options and hypothetical scenarios have dotted their social media timelines, players across the league have been peppering Paul with the same questions curious basketball fans might have. “When are we going to play? How are we going to play? Where are we going to play?” said executive committee member Anthony Tolliver, outlining what’s being posed to Paul. “Are we going to try and finish the regular season? Is it worth it? Is it going to be too much? Are we going to bring guys back and possibly be subject to a bunch of injuries because of the circumstances? Just walking through and talking through all that stuff.”
PAUL’S VOICE CARRIES weight in conversations with the players’ union, but he doesn’t look to dominate them. He approaches a conference call much in the same way he approaches the game. “I frequently joke about this, he’s obviously a point guard and his claim to fame in terms of skill set is his ability to read the room, read the floor and pass the ball,” Roberts said. “He does that in meetings too. “If Chris sees a player who has not said much, he’ll ask, ‘John, what do you think about this? Come on, weigh in.’ That’s what he does. It’s a delight.”

May 29, 2020 | 9:29 am EDT Update
But I do cover sports, and the NBA is a huge, global league, that millions of people care about. And I respect that this is important to you. So, I’m going to concentrate on that below. After speaking to a couple dozen folks at all levels, from owners on down, the past few days, here’s the lay of the land, with the league’s Board of Governors set to meet with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Friday, a day after Silver spoke with the league’s GMs: The GM meeting, per a source, focused on the different potential playing formats after the restart, and the impacts of each on the final regular-season standings and other issues. But no definitive dates or decisions were made.
Storyline: Season Resuming?
“I’m fairly certain that Disney is going to work,” a high-ranking official with knowledge of the union’s thoughts said Thursday. “Vegas had some of the logistical things we needed but didn’t have the environment that could enhance our health protocols. Vegas scared me to death. Florida worried me a little bit because of the state opening up so early, but having a venue that can basically be closed off, I do think we can check off the venue issue off our list. I think we’ve got that down.”
There is a lot of support among teams and agents to include as many teams as possible. “I’m pushing for all,” one prominent agent said Wednesday. “I’m hearing the league wants to go to directly to the playoffs and I personally don’t think that’s fair to all the players who missed this season and want to participate. My suggestion for a format has always been 3-4 games for everyone, (a) play-in tournament for the eighth seed and then (a) regular playoff format.”
Problem is, Antetokounmpo has trademarked his “Greek Freak” nickname. Eady, in a series of tweets in March aimed at Antetokounmpo, said he stopped selling the shirts after getting a cease-and-desist letter last October from the player’s lawyers. That led to more legal wrangling, none of which Eady wanted to discuss in specifics other than to say he has taken out a small loan to cover a cash settlement to the lawsuit. The situation is an example that experts say is one the risks that star athletes face: Protect their trademarks using the legal system or face the loss of those protections that allow them to control their image, brand and related monetization – which can be worth millions of dollars.
And therein lies further image peril: The risk of going to court is that it can be seen as a famous rich person being greedy and cruel in trying to squash an entrepreneur. “Making an example of a few unauthorized vendors can ward off others. But trademark overreach can also alienate athletes from their fans — especially if those devoted fans are the ones imagining and creating the apparel,” said Stephen Stanwood of Campbell, Calif.-based Stanwood Law that specialized in such cases. Antetokounmpo has filed 13 trademark infringement lawsuits in federal court since July in the Southern District of New York, of which at least five have been settled, court records show. A lawsuit filed Wednesday was the eighth filed this month, and it’s unknown many cease-and-desist letters halted sales of knockoff merch before they came to become lawsuits.
May 29, 2020 | 7:50 am EDT Update
When the season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, multiple players were approaching eligibility for contract bonuses. With basketball likely to return this summer, the league and the NBPA have to negotiate what will happen to that money. Sources told ESPN that the most likely outcome will be similar to how the league handled bonuses during the lockout-shortened season in 2011-12. Contract incentives initially intended for 82 games were prorated to account for the 66-game season. For example, a player with a $500,000 bonus in his contract for playing in 70 games qualified for the bonus if he played in 56 games. However, performance bonuses based on averages — such as shooting percentages — were not adjusted.
Fournier has $1.1 million in incentives, with $600,000 broken down into four categories: first-round appearance in the playoffs, second-round appearance, conference finals and Finals. Fournier will also need to appear in 75% of the games played per round. Likely outcome: There will be a negotiation when it comes to Fournier’s incentives. The guard has already met the required number of games (60), but the Magic might have to win a play-in game to make the postseason. When the season was postponed, Orlando was 5.5 games ahead of Washington for the final playoff spot in the East. If Orlando loses a play-in, does that mean Fournier doesn’t get his first-round appearance bonus?
Between homeschooling his kids and finding time to take online Spanish classes (“I’m trying to get better at something,” he said.), Paul has had calls almost every morning — most often union-related — and more in the afternoon. “He’s never said, ‘Can I get back to you?’ Never,” Roberts said of Paul, who will often surprise Roberts’ staff by jumping on a conference call to offer encouragement and share ideas. “Being accessible has been a godsend.”
As union president, Paul possesses the rare ability to gather the league’s top stars — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant — on conference calls. That buy-in wasn’t there before, and high-ranking union members view Paul’s long-time superstar status as a big reason for the change. Players are more invested in their futures. They want more say. They want more power. “Our meetings are much more engaged now. That’s because of Chris,” Roberts said. “He won’t allow an issue to be presented and then not discussed.”
Paul’s competitiveness spills over into the role, but any beefs he has across the league don’t carry into meetings with players. “Pretty much everybody that I can imagine would have an on-court beef with him,” Tolliver said. “I’ve never seen any sort of negative confrontation [off the court]. “Most people’s experience with him is he’s so competitive … but that also is good for whenever he’s your president and he’s fighting [for] the things you want.”
Spencer Dinwiddie: … so here we go, I’ll explain this again for hot take Twitter. The question was revolving around what a less athletic KD could possibly look like because of how serious an Achilles injury is, especially for Bball players. Let me also first preface this with I don’t know what stage of rehab he’s at, I don’t have insider information, I don’t know when he’s going to return to play or any of that. This is my personal speculation from a basketball fan perspective. (Yes I appreciate HOFs, which he is) At 80% athleticism or so, which takes away his hyper mobility/dexterity for a 7fter. Who has a game that was built around mid post iso, pick/pop, a unblockable left foot turn around fade and overall extreme revolutionary proficiency in terms of a jumper/touch at that size. Sounds a lot like Dirk to me… and at the end of the day we’re comparing clear cut HOFs. Y’all acting like I said dirk was a bum or something

May 29, 2020 | 2:57 am EDT Update
General managers were surveyed about a “playoffs-plus” format—either a play-in tournament between the bubble teams to determine the final seeds in the playoffs, or a World Cup–style group stage, which would replace the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs with a round-robin format. About 75 percent of teams voted in favor of a play-in tournament, sources said, while 25 percent of teams voted in favor of the group stage.
Even if teams vote in their own best interests, it’s still noteworthy that there is leaguewide support behind more dramatic changes that were balked at in the past—such as playoff reseeding and play-in tournaments. My personal impression from conversations with sources across the league is that Silver is surveying teams to see if there is hunger for a new format the league may be able to use beyond this summer’s restart. Perhaps
Storyline: Season Resuming?
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on The Hoop Collective, the league may dismiss the idea of playing as many as 90 regular season games and go right to group-stage type opening round because it will give Zion Williamson and the Pelicans a better chance of making the 16-team playoffs. “I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in,” Windhorst said. “Look, I’ve just heard… I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario that no matter what happens, the cutoff line will be the Pelicans. They’ll be in. It will be the first time in the history of the NBA that the league kicked the ball into the fairway for New Orleans.”
Storyline: Season Resuming?
Lillard sees longtime teammate CJ McCollum going through his routine with Blazers player development coach Jon Yim, but the backcourt runningmates won’t get a chance to chop it up, at least not face-to-face. There exists a cardinal rule: one guy, one coach, one basket. Then for the first time in what feels like an eternity, Lillard runs through his greatest hits, the barrage of long-range bombs, the floaters, the repertoire that makes him Damian Lillard. “The whole first week was a breath of fresh air,” Lillard says. “On a certain level, it was exciting. You’re finally back on the court and you’re seeing everyone’s faces again.”
Though Lillard’s workout is abbreviated and restricted, he can finally release the pent-up energy accumulated while being locked out of the gym for nearly two months. The return for Lillard and his teammates comes with both anticipation of what he hopes will be more basketball ahead, but also some disorientation. “There’s so much stuff you never realize or appreciate you have access to until you’re without it,” Lillard says. “But it was still good to be back.”
BY MAY 15, one week after the Blazers reopened, the novelty of returning to the facility has worn off for Lillard. While he still values the opportunity to get some portion of his work in, the restrictions are becoming onerous and, truthfully, just strange. “The second week everyone is like, ‘All right, this is kind of weird,'” Lillard says. “The excitement is gone and now it’s, ‘What going on?'”