Storyline: Kawhi Leonard to Lakers?

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When asked how a theoretical big three of Leonard, Anthony Davis and LeBron James would compare to other big threes throughout the history of the league Dudley told Adrian Wojnarowski on “The Woj Pod” that it might be the best such triumvirate ever: “It compares to the Heat, but a little bit more on steroids. And the reason why I say that is because you arguably have three of the top five best players. I think that Wade and ‘Bron were considered that, I think Bosh was a little bit (outside of that)… AD, a year ago you could’ve argued him as being a top two or three best player in the league. Kawhi Leonard this year, taking his team to winning a championship. LeBron, his accolades speak for themselves.

“From what I’ve heard, and I know you trust me with this just because I have these weird relationships, especially living out here in Los Angeles now. The Kawhi pitch, whether it is from the Lakers or LeBron, is this: LeBron basically is saying, ‘Hey, this is going to be your team in two years.’ I have heard this for years, but LeBron at one point wants to play with his son (Bronny). And depending on when that happens, that’s going to be LeBron’s priority and that may not be with the Lakers,” Russillo said on the Woj Pod. “So, I don’t know when that is going to be. LeBron is saying for the first time in his basketball life that he is willing to defer the style of play. They are going to tell Kawhi, ‘You can take all the last shots. We can run the offense through you.’ “


Kawhi Leonard: Real traction towards Lakers?

Colin Cowherd: “You’re tied to the Lakers/Clippers stuff, so what are your sources telling you today about how the Lakers feel?” Arash Markazi: “They’re not nervous right now. They are not as nervous as you would think they would be with all these names they could potentially sign if they don’t get Kawhi coming off the board. They are 100% all in on Kawhi. It doesn’t mean that they know they’re going to get him, but they didn’t create this cap space for a hail mary. They were cautiously optimistic and don’t view themselves as a dark horse pick. They think they have a real chance.”

During an appearance on Spectrum Sportsnet, Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times laid out some of the details of that conversation, including that Leonard’s camp has spoken with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, who may or may not be included in the Lakers’ official free agent pitch meeting with Leonard: “The first thing that I’ll start with is that Kawhi and his uncle, Uncle Dennis, they talked to Magic several times. They’ve also talked with Rob Pelinka. They want to meet with Jeanie Buss and Magic. Magic can’t meet with them when Jeanie is in the room, or if Rob Pelinka is also invited… The NBA rules are kind of stipulating that you can bring anyone with that’s a non-employee, but because Magic worked for the Lakers, because they’ve been hit with tampering fines (he can’t be in there with them).”

“There was one interesting question (Leonard) had for Magic: ‘Did you guys try to trade for me when I was in San Antonio?’ And the answer was ‘yes, but because it was Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and our history, they were asking for 2,000 draft picks — well, not 2,000 — like four draft picks, first-round draft picks, and we just couldn’t do that.’ And that was one of his questions. “The uncle’s questions were ‘what’s really going on in the organization between you, Jeanie, Rob Pelinka, everyone? Is it as dysfunctional as we’re reading and hearing?’ And the response was ‘we had some issues, but we’re past that. I’m past that. We’re still a family, such as you fight with your brothers and sisters sometimes, well, I had somewhat of a disagreement with my sister. And Rob Pelinka, yes, I said he was a back-stabber, but that happened then. Now I want the Lakers to be a championship team. Having Kawhi here would do that.

After the disastrous debut season of LeBron in Laker Land, where he missed a career-high 27 games (18 because of a groin strain) and missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2005 after EIGHT consecutive Finals appearances, he has no illusions about the height of the stakes here or the part that he needs and wants to play. And according to a source close to James, it’s this focus on being an incredible teammate that will be at the center of his message to Leonard.

Once the Lakers cleared enough cap space yesterday to get another max or near max player, it was a foregone conclusion that they would set their sights on Kawhi Leonard. But the idea that Kawhi would play for the Lakers has been more farfetched — why would he want to be the second or third wheel behind LeBron James and potentially Anthony Davis when he’s won championships as the focal point of multiple teams? But Stephen A. Smith swooped in on Get Up this morning, and said twice that he has heard that Kawhi is “seriously considering the Lakers”:

While a source with knowledge of the Knicks’ plans said they appear likely to get a meeting with Leonard, the Lakers’ prospects are harder to gauge. This much is safe to say, though: Their ability to not only offer his preferred market, all the business benefits that come with their storied brand and the chance to partner with James and Davis might ultimately play a part here (as our Bill Oram notes here, the Lakers – who are on track to have $23.7 million in cap room if the Davis deal goes down on July 6 as expected – are confident they can make the necessary moves to fit in another max salary).

Lowe: It seems like it’s a two-team race. Is that fair at this point? Woj: Yeah. Toronto, the Clippers, and listen, I think they’ve kept their eye on the Lakers, and what that’s going to look like. The Lakers, financially, what number are they going to get to in free agency in terms of cap space? Is Anthony Davis going to give up that $4 million trade bonus? He still has time to do that before this deal goes through. “But this has been a Raptors/Clippers race. And you gotta give the Raptors and Masai Ujiri, that organization, all the credit in the world, because when they traded for him, he had no intention of ever staying in Toronto, and now it is a serious consideration. “I think he has really given them every opportunity to sell him, and two things that have worked in Toronto: They sold him on health, they proved they could keep him healthy, and they sold him on winning. And those are priorities for Kawhi Leonard. He has shown he is all about winning.”

While the odds-on favorites are the Clippers—fulfilling Leonard’s supposed interest in playing where he grew up—one Eastern Conference vice president says the Raptors still have a “fighting chance” to re-sign him, while a Western Conference VP says the Lakers are operating as if “they think they have a strong shot” at adding Leonard after acquiring New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis to play alongside their incumbent star, LeBron James, in a deal that can’t be officially consummated until next month.

But there are a handful of teams who could secure a meeting with the 2019 NBA Finals MVP, sources said. The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said.


11 months ago via TSN

The Los Angeles Clippers are expected to make the most aggressive push for Leonard, and they’ve made little secret of it. The Clippers have had representatives at many Raptors games this season, home and away, ranging from scouts, to assistant general manager Mark Hughes – who attended Friday’s game against Oklahoma City – to team president Lawrence Frank and billionaire owner Steve Ballmer.The Clippers – like the Lakers, who some league insiders believe to be less of a draw to Leonard – can offer at least a few things Toronto can’t. They can offer a warmer climate and an opportunity for the California native to play closer to home. If those are the factors that end up powering Leonard’s decision, the Raptors don’t stand a chance and likely never did.

Asked to handicap Leonard’s future, one front office executive from another team said, “I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route. You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. “It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”

One name that’s flown under the radar to a large extent — despite a seamless fit and connections to the Lakers organization — is Klay Thompson, and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN says his name has come up with those she’s spoken to in an appearance on “ESPNLA Mornings with Keyshawn, LZ and Travis”: “In terms of who they target next year, it’s whoever wants to come. “My feeling about it, my sense from just talking to people in and around this (is that) one, it’s a little early, but I think they like Mychal’s boy. I think that would be the guy, in terms of skillset and how that would fit. Obviously Kawhi, he’s a great player as well, but we’ll see if he stays in Toronto now. But I think they like Klay (Thompson).”

As has been well-documented, the task for Toronto in the coming year is to persuade Leonard to stay in a place and perform for a team for which he had no desire to play just a few short weeks ago. It’s a tall order, and if the Raptors can do it, the massive gamble they took this month will have paid off. Most around the league still expect that Leonard will look to return home to Southern California, either to join LeBron James with the Lakers or bring his star power to the Clippers.

MARC STEIN: But I did hear enough chatter in various Vegas conversations to believe that the Raptors have given legit consideration to gambling on a trade for Leonard, with three obvious problems to contend with: 1) Leonard can leave in free agency at season’s end, even if the Raptors are fortunate enough to trade for him. 2) Leonard’s camp has given no indication to any interested team that he plans to sign anywhere but Los Angeles (with either the Lakers or the Clippers) in July 2019. 3) Leonard’s readiness for next season, thanks to the quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games last season, has to concern teams in Toronto’s position as much as the idea of trading for him and losing him months later.

Kawhi Leonard not that into Clippers

Adrian Wojnarowski: “I’ve been told that one of the reasons [Kawhi Leonard] looks at going to the Clippers – is a little less motivated [to go to the Clippers] is because initially, the idea of Los Angeles was fine to him – he preferred the Lakers but was all right with the Clippers – but now that LeBron James is there, the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron – to have Kawhi with the Clippers and LeBron with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that – I’m told that’s become far less appealing for him.”

With LeBron officially agreeing to sign with the Lakers, it’ll be fascinating to monitor what type of leverage the Spurs can create for Kawhi Leonard, who still desires to play for the Lakers, according to multiple league sources—all of whom say offers to the Spurs have been underwhelming. One executive said the proposed packages have gotten worse with each round of negotiations, while another said they’re flat-out unacceptable. That might change if the Lakers are determined to add their second star now. Multiple league sources suggest the Lakers could send a package to the Spurs featuring Ingram, multiple first-round picks, a sign-and-trade involving Randle, and possibly Josh Hart.

Peter Vecsey: Now what? “Emotionally, Kawhi has checked out of the Spurs. He wants the Lakers, even though it means forfeiting $80 million. Everyone is shocked he’d give up that much money. But when it’s emotional, there’s no logic,” said the source. “He’s an artist. When artists know they’re getting jerked, they want out no matter what the cost. He feels the organization didn’t even try to wrap its arms around him. You don’t know anyone until you go through something difficult. Kawhi got to see people’s true colors.
2 years ago via ESPN

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Thursday night that the franchise’s desire is to keep disgruntled All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard in the fold but that the club “will explore all of our options.” Among the issues Leonard has had with the Spurs is his frustration with the team’s handling of a quadriceps injury that kept him out of action for all but nine games this past season. Leonard wants to be traded to Los Angeles, preferably to the Lakers, sources have told ESPN.

According to Robinson, Kawhi has to take responsibility and step up as a leader of the franchise if he wants to be viewed on the same level as LeBron James. “If you want to be a top two or three player in the league, you’ve got to be a leader. LeBron doesn’t sit around waiting for people to talk for him. LeBron gets out there and says ‘hey, this is my team, this is what’s happening.’ And I think that’s where Kawhi is. He’s meant so much for our franchise. We love him, we all want him to be there next year. But we want him to be there and take control.”
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Those numbers correlate with the NBA hosting more competitive events while honoring Kobe Bryant, who died three weeks ago along with his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash. Although average viewership across ABC, ESPN and TNT have suffered a 13-percent decrease this season, the NBA experienced other relative improvements in recent months. Average viewership on ESPN and TNT increased by a combined six percent in December. Those viewers then increased by an average of 27 percent on ESPN, TNT and NBA TV in January.
Those numbers have not entirely offset the NBA’s declining television rating stemminged from either cord-cutting, downgraded cable packages and extensive injuries to the league’s star players. But those numbers left the NBA feeling validated on downplaying the league’s early-season bumps. “We may be affected by it a little bit more on properties because we have such a young fanbase,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a press conference during All-Star weekend. “But I am very confident we can work through it.”
Storyline: TV Ratings

February 17, 2020 | 4:36 pm EST Update

Kris Dunn done for the season?

The Bulls haven’t officially updated Dunn’s status since Feb. 4 when they said the guard’s sprained right MCL would be re-examined in two weeks. But sources said there’s growing belief that Dunn will miss the remainder of the season with the injury, which occurred when Thaddeus Young took a charge and inadvertently crashed into Dunn’s knee on the first possession of a Jan. 31 road game against the Nets.
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His most defining characteristic, though, is forever as a blood-thirsty competitor. If you were a screaming teenager wearing a blue Team LeBron T-shirt throughout the game, Paul is the one player you wanted in your corner. He was in his element, licking his lips when he had to switch onto Giannis Antetokounmpo late in the game, drilling several kick-out threes that helped his team mount their comeback. “Chris Paul is a big reason for the win,” Frank Vogel said after the game. “He told me early in the day that he wasn’t one of those vets that just likes to take a rest in a game like this, that he wants to come in and win a game and help our guys win a game. All the young guys throughout the course of the game, every time they made a mistake or didn’t play defense, he was yelling at them. So he got us — not only got us to the finish line but also provided great leadership and some big plays in that fourth quarter down the stretch.”
In case you missed it, Paul is 34. He also crammed home a lob. This isn’t supposed to happen, but a vegan diet and relatively new off-season training regimen has granted sips from the fountain of youth. “I think I’m my hardest critic,” Paul said afterwards. “I push myself more than anybody in here could ever do. So for me, it’s always about the journey. It’s about working hard, and it’s the analytics and the statistics that say at this age you can do this or you can do that. Look at my brother Bron. Every year they say he’s going to slow down, right? And then what?”

Derrick Jones signs deal with Puma

With nearly 6.5 million viewers tuned in to an epic dunk-off between Aaron Gordon and Derrick Jones Jr., the 2020 slam dunk contest helped launch each player not only to new heights on the hardwood, but also in the marketing world. In the aftermath of his narrowly claimed slam dunk contest win, Jones signed a multiyear footwear and apparel endorsement deal with Puma, adding the 6-foot-6 high-flyer to a select group of NBA and WNBA athlete partners with the company.
Jones wore a white and pink Puma Clyde Hardwood sneaker to sync with the Heat’s colorful “Vice Nights” jerseys in the contest, while showcasing a variety of between-the-legs and windmill dunks. The brand offered him the endorsement deal shortly after he carried home the trophy on All-Star Saturday Night, which coincided with his 23rd birthday. “This is a day that I’m going to tell my kids [about],” he said.
February 17, 2020 | 3:43 pm EST Update
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets was elected a Vice President of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) at today’s annual winter meeting of the Board of NBPA Player Representatives. A 9-year veteran of the NBA, 6-time NBA All-Star and 2016 NBA Champion, Irving will replace Pau Gasol who has served on the Executive Committee since February 2017. Irving served as the NBPA Player Representative for the Brooklyn Nets for the 2019-2020 season and his 3-year term as Vice President will begin effective immediately. “This was the right time for me to run for a leadership position in the NBPA,” said Irving. “I have been an observer and a participant in union affairs for a while, but for the most part, I was off on the sidelines, supporting our Executive Committee as they made important decisions. At this point in my career, I wanted to join forces with those guys and take a bigger role outside of the basketball court and within our union. I want to help move the union forward with innovative ideas, not only on social issues but also with business ventures into a new space. I am honored to be elected by my peers and I cannot wait to work with everybody to make an impact.”
8 hours ago via NBPA
Following earning the 2020 All-Star Game MVP award, Leonard shared the best piece of advice Bryant gave him that came in the most Kobe-like fashion. “Just stay in it. Enjoy the challenge. Don’t get done and just compete. I think my first All-Star Game we were talking and he was competitive. He was like ‘how many shots have you shot in a game?’ I was like ‘Whatcha mean?’ He was like “how many shot attempts have you shot?” I was like ‘My highest? I probably shot like 19 times.’ He was like “Guess how many times I shot it? I shot it 47 times.” I was like ‘Alright.’”
Serbia coach Igor Kokoskov talked about Denver Nuggets coach Mike Malone potentially joining the national team’s staff in the future. Kokoskov said that it was Malone who offered to become a part of the team during a congratulatory phone call after he was named the new head coach of the “Orlovi.” “What I can say is that from our side, we did everything to be professional and transparent,” Kokoskov said in the press conference ahead of the EuroBasket Qualifiers games of Serbia vs. Finland and Georgia. “When that idea came up, we were there to welcome him. After my appointment, I got a call with his [Malone’s] congratulations and his proposal to join us. That was one very nice [form of] congratulations to me. If not recognition.”
Malone denied that any official agreement is in place. He later mentioned that there are ongoing conversations and he’s “definitely” interested in becoming a part of the team. “The desire to cooperate still exits,” Kokoskov said. “He’s a prominent NBA coach. If he’s willing to be here, that’s fine. The team won’t be based on Igor or Mike Malone but on the players and, most importantly, on them being here.”
February 17, 2020 | 1:56 pm EST Update
Before his death, Bryant was in serious talks about creating an animation studio. Bruce W. Smith, creator of the Disney animated show “The Proud Family,” said in an interview with Double Toasted that he and the creator of the “Despicable Me” franchise, Sergio Pablos, sat down with Bryant over dinner to go over future animation projects. “[Bryant] was heavily invested in starting an animation studio. So for the past six months or so Kobe and I have been in deep talks about making that happen,” Smith said. “So we’re together finding artists to galvanize his dream and Kobe was, like they were saying, Kobe was beginning his second act and animation was going to play a huge part in that.”
February 17, 2020 | 12:34 pm EST Update
While the extended break was supposed to bring clarity about his immediate future, Beilein hasn’t made a firm decision yet. Numerous members of the Cavaliers’ front office and coaching staff are away from Cleveland, on planned vacations, trying to regroup before the final stretch. The plan, as of now, is to reconvene on Wednesday, but primary decision-makers have been in touch with Beilein and are working through options. If Beilein remains through the 2019-20 season, which is looking unlikely, he is expected to be one-and-done in the NBA, sources say.
Storyline: John Beilein Hot Seat
The Portland Trail Blazers have completed the two-way transfers of center Moses Brown and forward Jaylen Hoard to the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. Brown, 20, has played in nine games for the Trail Blazers this season, averaging 1.2 points (40.0% FG, 37.5% FT) and 1.6 rebounds. In 22 games with the Legends, Brown (7-1, 245) has averaged 14.9 points (63.8% FG, 49.2% FT), 7.6 rebounds and 1.41 blocks.
Despite putting up potent and efficient offensive numbers, Booker was not originally voted in as an All-Star reserve by the NBA’s coaches. But Damian Lillard injured his groin last Wednesday night, hours before Booker was scheduled to go “off the grid” on vacation. He received a wake-up call from commissioner Adam Silver early Thursday that he was the injury-replacement choice and, after briefly going back to sleep, celebrated with his family in his Phoenix home. The family affair continued throughout a weekend during which Booker, by design, did not partake in many public appearances beyond the league-mandated requirements for every All-Star participant.
Storyline: All-Star Selections
Parents Veronica and Melvin and younger sister Mya flew with Devin to Chicago on a private jet. They shared low-key dinners together. Melvin wore a replica All-Star jersey in the hotel room Sunday, marveling that “it’s crazy to see that ‘Booker’ on the back.” When Devin spotted Veronica and Mya in the United Center stands just after halftime Sunday night, Mya expressed her adoration by drawing hearts with fingers. “We all have been together,” Melvin told The Athletic while standing in the tunnel between sections 112 and 113 as Devin went through pregame warmups. “We’ve just been taking it all in as a family, because this is what we worked so hard for. …
Bryant is not the sole source of motivation for NBA players. Consider what happened in the All-Star Game that featured Team LeBron finishing with a 157-155 win over Team Giannis. Though LeBron James admitted “you definitely feel his presence” amid all of the Bryant tributes, it would be inaccurate to say both teams talked externally about winning on Bryant’s behalf. “There was no discussion because we’re all competitors,” James said. “We wouldn’t be All-Stars if we weren’t competitors. We all compete at the highest level, try to put our respective teams in position to win every night. So guys definitely just had their sense of pride, that sense of competitiveness throughout the season and throughout the All-Star Game.”
In their first home game since his passing, the Lakers held countless video tributes before James addressed fans with a passionate impromptu speech. Though the Lakers lost that game to Portland, they played with the kind of passion they have sought to replicate all season. Other NBA stars and young players credited Bryant for playing through a tough stretch, knowing that he consistently excelled even when he faced injuries or personal strife. Before Sunday’s game, Chris Paul recalled talking to Russell Westbrook about how Bryant still maintained his intensity in All-Star Games, which resulted in tying Bob Pettit for a league-record four All-Star MVP awards. “We definitely felt his presence,” Celtics guard Kemba Walker said. “Growing up, watching Kobe in those games, I felt like he was always competitive. He was kind of the one who got the game going. I think we kept that going tonight. I think he definitely would have loved to watch the way we went out there and competed tonight.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you see more small lineups. It’s just the trend now,” Harris told The Post. “Even now I’m setting screens in big actions. I never would’ve thought I’d be a screener either, but that’s just like how it is. I’m like picking and popping all the time.” Irving has sat the past five games with a knee sprain. After a week off for the All-Star break, the Nets resume play Thursday in Philadelphia. While Irving’s status for Thursday is up in the air, he is expected back eventually. And the aforementioned quintet has produced the best Net (plus-16.7) and Offensive (133.3) Ratings of any Irving-led lineups that have logged 15 minutes.
Storyline: Kyrie Irving Injury
Nets owner Joe Tsai spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek, and essentially said that he and Levy, the former president of Turner Broadcasting, had different expectations for the job. Tsai, who closed his record purchase of the Nets in September, also made Levy the president of J Tsai Sports. Through the holding company for his sports portfolio, Tsai owns not only the Nets, but the WNBA’s New York Liberty, a lacrosse team in San Diego, and stakes in MLS side LAFC and in the Premier Lacrosse League. “He was already looking ahead at how to grow the J Tsai sports portfolio, but we also needed someone to do the nuts and bolts,” Tsai told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Maybe he thought that he wanted to do something that’s bigger and he could just bring in other people to do it, and I’m of a view that before you outsource something you should do it yourself.”
Tsai wooed Levy, a 33-year veteran of Turner Sports, with a heavy portfolio. He was named CEO of the Nets, Barclays and J Tsai Sports, Tsai’s holding company that also controls the New York Liberty and his other sports investments in lacrosse, soccer and esports. Levy was also named an “alternate governor” of the Nets and a “venture partner” in Tsai’s family investment vehicle. Still, one team insider told NetsDaily that Levy was surprised to be managing something as small as the Nets after running Turner Media. And in fact, Levy told Bloomberg last month, “It wasn’t the job I signed up for and we agreed to part ways.” Both Tsai and Levy told Boudway they remain friends.
February 17, 2020 | 9:17 am EST Update

Knicks to hire Jay Wright?

League sources say Villanova coach Jay Wright could become the next head coach of the Knicks. “There is a strong possibility that Jay Wright in New York could happen,” one league source said. With his Hall of Fame coaching résumé, charismatic personality and easygoing manner with fans and the press, Wright has always seemed like a potential strong fit for the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.
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So for a player who has redefined load management and would typically ration energy in the All-Star Game — last season Leonard played just 18 minutes in Charlotte, the fewest of any All-Star starter — Sunday was his own way of making a tribute. “I came in, and I made my first two shots. … That’s when I told myself, ‘I’m going to go try to get [MVP],'” Leonard said. “It’s very special. I had a relationship with him. Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. Able to put that trophy in my room, my trophy room, and just be able to see Kobe’s name on there, it just means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life.”
It was one of the more entertaining and competitive All-Star Games in the past decade. Players cared, wanted to win, complained about referees’ calls and no-calls and played a brand of defense usually not observed in this game. “The good thing about our league is we’re always adding things and trying new things and trying to figure out from my fans what they like,” Paul said. “This was an idea I brought to Adam. Thankfully, we tried it out.”