Will Guillory: David Griffin on the potential of Zion Williamson not wanting to be in New Orleans: “I’m sure that’s a false narrative.” Said he got to meet with Williamson and his family after the draft lottery
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Shams Charania: Sources: Zion Williamson met in Chicago with the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies, the top two teams in the Draft lottery. Williamson had a positive meeting with New Orleans and prior to lottery, he cited Pelicans as a targeted team to start career.
He’s arguably the most marketable star to enter the NBA since LeBron James in 2003, and his shoe deal has potential to set records for a draftee, according to sources around the league. His presence will help attendance, merchandise sales, and more, something that is important for the team that finished 25th in overall attendance this past season. I would expect the Pelicans to get an awful lot of nationally televised games, because Williamson will be one of the biggest on-court stories worth tracking in his first season in the NBA. That source of discussion will bring a genuine amount of cash flow into the Pelicans organization.
The New Orleans Pelicans are expected to draft Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick after landing the top spot in Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, but the star prospect could force his way to another team. Brian Windhorst of ESPN spoke about the situation Wednesday on ESPN’s The Jump.
“He does have some options. I’m not saying he’s going to pick these options, but he has not signed with an agent and he has not signed a shoe deal yet,” Windhorst explained. “He could threaten to go back to Duke.” He also noted that “it’s a conversation that’s happening in the NBA right now.”
Both Windhorst and Richard Jefferson predicted this would be unlikely, although Rachel Nichols compared it to Eli Manning pushing his way to the New York Giants on draft day after saying he wouldn’t play for the San Diego Chargers.
After the lottery, Griffin acknowledged to reporters that having the no. 1 pick affords the franchise more flexibility in the coming months. There’s less pressure to deal Davis now. The Pelicans can play it slow, going into the season with a core of AD, Zion, and Jrue Holiday, and see how things play out. If February 2020 rolls around and Davis still wants to leave, the team could trade him before the deadline for a haul. If Davis’s true reason for originally wanting out was to compete for a championship, how many teams can he now find with more long-term potential than the Pelicans? “He’s wanted to win this whole time and he felt compelled to try to win elsewhere. I think if you look at the totality of where this organization is and where we’re going, we feel very strongly that we’re going to be the environment he wants to be part of,” Griffin said. “And if we’re not, that’s fine; we can deal with it from there. But I’m looking at this, believing that there’s no reason he wouldn’t want to win with us, because that’s what we do. It’s who we are. And I think culturally we’re about all the same things.”
Ben Golliver: Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry on their thought process with the number one pick: “Well, we’re going to see…. Yeah, right.” Said of New Orleans delegation’s Tuesday night celebration plans: “They’re going to get a big receipt.”
Marc J. Spears: Zion Williamson was QUICKLY whisked out of the room after Pelicans were announced the winner of the draft lottery. Source said the former Duke star was rooting to go to New York, but now is going to New Orleans.
Ben Golliver: Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry on the “What position does Zion play? question: “I’m glad we’ll have that problem. Giannis plays all 5. KD. Golden State has made this a pass, cut and relocate league.”
Ben Golliver: Before drawing, Alvin Gentry wrote on a sheet of paper, “This is our moment.” David Griffin had predicted victory & gave him lucky Zegna tie from Cleveland. Gentry’s reaction to win: “F— yeah!” Later said of Griffin’s luck: “That’s worth the hire. Ms. B knows what she’s doing.”
Shams Charania: The New Orleans Pelicans are now set up to be Zion Williamson’s franchise to lift, and No. 1 pick could ease potential trade of Anthony Davis. His stance on a trade has not changed, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
Will Guillory: Griffin won’t talk about who he will select with the No. 1 pick, but he did say it should help with potentially recutting Anthony Davis: “Elite talent likes to play with elite talent”
Candace Buckner: New Orleans GM David Griffin: “The universe never makes mistakes.”
Andrew Greif: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is absolutely gliding around the draft lottery ballroom, slapping hands and smiling ear to ear.
Kevin O’Connor: Alvin Gentry yelled “fuck yeah” when the Pelicans won the no. 1 pick during the lottery drawing. Then he stood up and stuck his arms out like “are you not entertained?” Then he said sorry. No reason to apologize: Zion Williamson will be with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Adam Zagoria: The Pelicans win the Zion Sweepstakes. Here’s the draft order:
Anthony Davis would certainly consider re-signing with the Knicks if he felt he could be successful in New York, per SNY sources familiar with the matter. And here’s how a Davis to New York trade could work: Since the goal would likely be to pair Davis with two other stars, the Knicks would first sign their two max free agents in early July, using nearly all of their $70-plus million in cap space. They would then have to send out roughly $21.6 million in salary to satisfy NBA trade rules in a swap for Davis, who is making $27 million in 2019.
There are different ways to get to $21.6 million, but the easiest way to get there is to include their 2019 first-round pick. (The No. 1 pick can earn $9.7 in his first season.) It’s worth noting, however, that there is no consensus among the Knicks as to whether they would include the 2019 No. 1 pick in a deal for Davis or any other star.
Knicks GM Scott Perry says the team is prepared for any and all possibilities heading into the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night. “Whatever is in the cards for us (Tuesday), we’ll be more than able and willing to handle that and execute the draft position that we have,” Perry said Monday in an interview on ESPN Radio’s Golic & Wingo Show.
The Knicks, Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns each have a 14 percent chance of landing the top pick on Tuesday night. All three clubs also have a 40 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and a 52 percent chance of landing a top-four pick. The Knicks will pick no lower than fifth since they finished with the league’s worst record (17-65). Perry on Monday said, no matter where the Knicks land, their meetings with individual draft prospects will play a key role in whom they decide to select.
“So much of it will get down to when we get a chance to meet these young players and really get a feel for their personalities,” Perry said on Monday. “Because we’ve been able to evaluate their talent from afar on the floor, we’ve been able to talk to a number of sources about them, but now, that final touch really comes down to your personal interaction with each of these players.”
There’s understandably a lot of buzz heading into the lottery to see which team secures the No. 1 pick and the right to choose Williamson, who is the most heralded draft prospect in years. But nothing compares to the drama of the 2003 lottery, when LeBron James was the ultimate prize and the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the teams in the mix for the Akron, Ohio, native. “It’s not even close, even with social media today,” James’ former agent Aaron Goodwin told The Undefeated. “I can only imagine what it would have been like for James with social media because he was a game-changer.
Stu Jackson, who was NBA executive vice president of basketball operations at the time, remembers watching James during his senior year. “I said to myself that I have never seen anything like that from a player that young to be that dominant both physically and skillwise at that age,” Jackson said. “That is no reflection on my evaluation skills, because the great ones are easy to pick out. But this was a different level.” Joe Dumars, who was the president of the Detroit Pistons and had a particular interest in the lottery (more on that later), marveled at James’ maturity, body and athleticism. Simply put, “I saw a transcendent player,” Dumars said.
Boeheim said the “greatest thing’’ about Williamson is his defensive tenacity. But the coach wondered whether Williamson, who has an average 3-point shot and is a mediocre free-throw shooter, can be dominant in the NBA playoffs. The Knicks, a team Boeheim said he watches regularly, have a 14 percent chance of winning Tuesday’s lottery for the first pick in this year’s draft. Coach David Fizdale said the Knicks already “know’’ which player they will take if they get the No. 1 selection. “Over the course of the regular season, [Williamson will] be a hard guard to defend and handle,’’ said Boeheim, whose program, which has been in the ACC since 2013, faces Duke regularly. “I think when it comes to playoff basketball, he’s going to have to expand his game a little bit. There’s a lot of size in the NBA, people forget there’s a lot of big, strong guys in the NBA. In college, he was by far the strongest, toughest guy to me in college basketball.”
Knicks coach David Fizdale confirmed what we’ve all assumed for months: if New York wins the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, the club will pick Duke sensation Zion Williamson. “If we win the lottery, do we know who we’re taking?” the Knicks coach said in an interview with the “Dan Patrick Show.” “Yes.” Patrick then jokingly said, “OK, let’s bring out Zion Williamson” and Fizdale laughed.
Fizdale was asked by Patrick if Williamson or Murray State point guard Ja Morant — a presumptive top-three pick — would fit New York’s roster. “I think just for us, our roster is so open from that standpoint that we can have a lot of things fit us right now,” Fizdale said. “Obviously, we always want the biggest talent. You want to see electric players. And both of those guys are that.”
Fizdale added that he doesn’t believe you can compare Williamson — a 6-7, 285-pound forward — to any previous or current players. “He’s his own guy, he’s unique,” the coach said.
On Friday at rookie minicamp, Daniel Jones, who was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, admitted he and Williamson have recently discussed that possibility and what it would mean to take over as the faces of New York sports. “We talked a little bit about that this week, actually. That’d be a cool deal,” Jones told reporters. “But we’ll see what happens. He’s a special guy.”
John Gambadoro: Some reports yesterday that the Suns would prefer Ja Morant over Zion Williamson are totally off base. If the Suns did get the #1 pick it would be Zion. If they get #2 it’s Ja and if a team like Atlanta gets #2 they may try and trade with them to get Ja because that team has a PG.
Bobby Marks: Projected salary for the no. 1 pick in the June 20 Draft: 2019/20- $9.74M 2020/21- $10.23M 2021/22- $10.71M (team option) 2022/23- $13.51M (team option) Total $44.2M
Chris Haynes: Duke freshman Zion Williamson announces on Instagram that he is declaring for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Adam Zagoria: Knicks coach David Fizdale tells @RealMichaelKay he is not trying to get his hopes up for Zion. “I’m really prepared for whoever we get. I just know that we’re going to get a young talent who’s going to add to the pot and we’ll keep building from there.”
Alex Kennedy: I asked 10 players what they think of Zion Williamson and how he’ll transition to the NBA: pic.twitter.com/IMZnYB4RGY
Zion Williamson, at the Final Four to receive two player of the year awards, said he will not balk at signing with any NBA team. That definitely includes the Knicks. “If they draft me,” he said, “I would love to play for them.”
Even being named second-team All-American is enough of a slight, and Morant is prepared for negativity anyway. “I still know there’s going to be some who have something negative to say regardless if I go 1, 2, 3 or the last pick,” he said. “It’s just poking the bear and motivating me to keep going. That’s what I’m going to do.”
Zion Williamson sent the hearts of Knicks fans aflutter again on Thursday, the eve of his first March Madness game against North Dakota State. “I would love to play for the Knicks,” he said. Asked what he knows about the Knicks, Williamson said: “It’s an historic franchise.”
But he’s emphatic when asked about Duke freshman sensation Zion Williamson, whose knee injury renewed the heated debate over the NBA’s eligibility rules. “Why would you keep playing?” Drummond said Friday morning. “All the money that they making off this kid, why wouldn’t he just sit out? “He’s selling out arenas. People pay $10,000 to see him and he gets hurt and gets none of that money spent to see him play. You have to think about yourself because you could have a career-ending injury and that’s the rest of the story for him. I’d rather him take care of himself and get himself prepared. We all know he’s going to the draft so start working out and get yourself ready for a tough, grueling league.”
“Whatever he decides to do, he should be supported,” Griffin said following the Pistons’ 125-122 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. “If he didn’t want to play anymore, I get it. But if you do want to play, he plays basketball, he’s a basketball player. I also get that, too. You can’t live or play the game of basketball playing scared of injury or scared of things you can’t control. “It’s an individual decision. I made the decision (to return to OU for his sophomore season) to improve my game. I wanted to get stronger and be more ready for the league when a lot of people were telling me not to, get that guaranteed money. “He’s already made so money for that university, the NCAA, he doesn’t owe anybody anything.”
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he has not had any conversations with Williamson or his family about shutting down the freshman star and projected No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, who missed Saturday’s 75-65 victory over Syracuse with a mild knee sprain. Williamson suffered the injury 36 seconds into Wednesday’s loss to rival North Carolina.
“We would never play a kid who’s not ready,” Krzyzewski said. “We would never play a youngster who didn’t want to play. It’s not about that. He wants to play. He loves being at Duke. He doesn’t like being injured. It’s an injury you can get over in a shorter period of time. There’s just a protocol that we have to go through to make sure he’s completely ready. We’re not rushing anything, so that’s why we said day-to-day because it’s literally day-to-day.”
First Coach: “I think he’s the No. 1 prospect, hands down. He’s a better basketball player than people realize, and I think he’s starting to show people that. There are some people who are still on the fence. Does he shoot it well enough, does he handle it well enough? All that. “When I first saw him, he was playing point guard on an AAU team with Ja Morant and Devontae Shuler. Zion’s athleticism didn’t take off until his junior year of high school. That’s when the viral sensation happened. But my point is, he passes it well because he has some point guard instincts. He doesn’t shoot it well. He needs to lift his shot.
Second coach: “Obviously, you watch him on TV and then you look at him up close, and it’s like, ‘damn.’ I used to see Larry Johnson around, and the only human I’ve seen like (Zion) is Larry. And that’s Larry when he was five or six years older. Zion’s physical appearance is staggering. He’s every bit of Larry Johnson, just eight years younger. Ridiculous fast twitch. Hardest playing guy on the court by far, which is a testament to him. There has to be a ton of guys around him saying he shouldn’t play anymore because he could hurt his status. And here he is, the opposite. Loose, balls, extra plays, rebounding. He’ll make Pete Rose-style dives head first to go after balls when they’re up 16, 18 points. He doesn’t need to do that, but he does. The motor is off the charts. The physical appearance is frightening.
Fifth Coach: “He’s a trend-setter player based off of his athleticism. He’ll have to do something with his game. He’ll have to develop a midrange (game). His shooting ability will have to get better. College is different from the pros, but we felt good with the scout we did. We knew he was going to spin back when he goes right. He loves to go left if he can. But with that being said, he’s going to have to develop a midrange shot, work on the midrange, and become a consistent shooter.
Mike McGraw: Carter says Zion Williamson is “for sure” No. 1 draft pick. #Bulls
Darnell Mayberry: Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. on Zion Williamson: “He’s a for sure No. 1 draft pick. No doubt about it. I don’t understand how anybody can pass up his athleticism and his potential. That’s a freak of nature, a once in a generation type player. I believe he’ll be No. 1.”
Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen said Duke star Zion Williamson has already proved himself enough at the college level and that it’s in the 18-year-old’s best interest to “shut it down” so he doesn’t risk an injury heading into his NBA career. “I think he’s done enough for college basketball, that it’s more about him personally now,” Pippen said Tuesday as an analyst during a segment on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “I think for him as a young player (pauses), I would shut it down. I would stop playing, because I feel that he could risk a major injury that could really hurt his career.”
Pippen, a six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls, said Williamson is “definitely going to be the No. 1 pick.” Mock draft boards either have Williamson or his Duke teammate R.J. Barrett going No. 1. On “The Jump” segment, co-analyst Tracy McGrady said that Barrett might be a better overall player but that Williamson’s unique 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame and highlight-reel capabilities “make him more exciting” and that “he’ll fill the seats” better.
The dunks against Eastern Michigan and Kentucky. The block against Princeton. The effort against Texas Tech. Williamson keeps providing these moments consistently which make it hard for the NBA entities stalking him to let that excitement peter out. Even as they try to keep their cool and remain unemotional about draft prospects like Zion, they find themselves getting lost in the highlights and possibilities. “A lot haven’t had the time to truly dig into the minutiae it takes (with evaluating one-and-done draft prospects),” a Western Conference executive told The Athletic. “But those highlights leave you daydreaming too often.”
All the while we’re left trying to figure out who he reminds us of on a daily basis. Is it Charles Barkley? Is it Larry Johnson? Is it Shawn Kemp? Is it LeBron James? Who is it? “If you’re saying he reminds you of somebody, you’re kind of making it up,” Bilas told me. “He’s 285! And he’s got a 45-inch vertical. There’s never been a suit warn in college basketball that Zion Williamson fits into.” His hype will continue to wear on some and feed others without the shame of gluttony in sight. He will continue to garner retweets and IG posts.
Furthermore, even if the Knicks finish with the league’s fifth-worst record, the revised lottery odds still give them a solid shot to land the No. 1 overall pick, and the chance to draft a Duke prodigy. According to the vast majority of mock drafts, the grand prize in 2019 is Duke’s insanely talented freshman wunderkind, Zion Williamson. If New York ends the season in fifth place in the reverse standings, they’ll have a 10.5% chance to win the lottery and a 42.1% chance at a top-four selection. In addition, the Knicks don’t need to end up with the league’s worst record to give themselves the best possible odds at the No. 1 overall pick. In this new format, the three teams that finish the year at the bottom of the standings each have the same exact odds: a 14% chance to win the lottery and a 52.1% of securing a top-four pick.
Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman was one of many watching the Duke-Kentucky game on Tuesday night. Only he did it in person. And what a show he witnessed. If the Cavs needed any kind of incentive to stay near the bottom of the standings and secure their 2019 first-round pick, Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish provided it. Asking around the organization, there is an early split between Williamson and Barrett for the hypothetical first-overall pick. There are many games still left to be played. According to one member of the front office, “it will be a debate all year. But Cam is super talented as well.”
Jeff Goodman: Not that it’s any surprise, but Phoenix Suns will draft Deandre Ayton, per source. It was never much of a decision for GM Ryan McDonough — who has seen the Bahamas native plenty this season down the road in Tucson.
Marc Stein: The Suns are about to make it official and select Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick, according to league sources
Bagley’s counterpart, dynamic Arizona center Deandre Ayton, appears all but a lock to the Suns. Yet Bagley, a Phoenix native, is a competitor by nature—you don’t average 13.1 rebounds per 40 minutes in the ACC by chance—and has yearned to be minted the NBA draft’s top overall selection since his youth. “To be able to play in Phoenix, to have it all come full circle, from where I started playing basketball to be there as a professional, it would be a dream come true,” Bagley says.
Sacramento is only a short flight away. And Bagley genuinely views the Kings at No. 2 as a terrific consolation prize. He smiles wide when being congratulated on his likely No. 2 selection. “Sacramento is a great place,” he says. “When I say I want to go No. 1, it’s not a knock on any other team in the draft. If I end up going two, I’ll love being in Sacramento. Being a part of that team and that franchise, that’s a big plus.” That enthusiasm is a primary reason why teams picking in the top 10 of Thursday’s draft view Bagley as the Kings’ likely selection. He was the only premier prospect to visit Sacramento during the pre-draft process.
Charles Barkley, however, isn’t convinced. The 11-time All-Star doesn’t consider Doncic to be something remotely special since he thinks that the MVP the Slovenian player has won simply show that he was playing “against sh**ty competition” “I don’t trust foreign competition,” Barkley said to Pollard. “I don’t have nothing against foreign players. I just don’t know what kind of a competition it is. They’re like at 18 years old he was the MVP. Well, that tells me he was playing against shi**y competition. Nobody at 18 should be dominating grown men. I don’t care how bad the grown men are. You go back and look at the NBA. I’ve been in the NBA for over 30 years. There’s only one 18 year old that you can go back and say ‘oh he’s the real deal’. That’s LeBron James. People forget, as great as Kobe Bryant was, he struggled for the first few years. Kevin Garnett? Struggled in his first few years. They keep telling Doncic won MVP at 18. He shouldn’t be dominating grown men at 18. For this kid dominating… I wouldn’t take him with the No. 1 or 2 pick in the NBA Draft”
Adam Himmelsbach: Likely No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton on what he would consider a success in the NBA: “Definitely getting to that second contract. That’s my success.”
Jake Fischer: Just sat down with Marvin Bagley. The Duke product still believes he can land No. 1 with his hometown Suns, but enjoyed his visit with the Kings, meeting with Vivek, Vlade, Peja, De’Aaron Fox and Harry Giles talking more about Sacramento’s budding culture than on-court fit.
The potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton commented on Luka Doncic’s picture on Instagram, congratulating him for his latest championship with Real Madrid. The 19-year old center said the following: “I see you champ”
Sagar Trika: When asked if the decision at #1 has been made, McDonough said he’d draw out the suspense for another 72 hours or so. Says they’ve narrowed it down to a tier of five guys (in no order): Marvin Bagley, Luka Dončić, Deandre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Mohamed Bamba.
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla compared Ayton with Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. UA coach Sean Miller doesn’t understand why there’s a debate about the No. 1 pick, saying: “I look at the NBA as trying to figure out who they’re going to pick from No. 2 to 60. I think the No. 1 pick’s in. … There’s nobody like Deandre. Nobody.” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told NBA.com: “He’s a monster. I played (at Kansas) in the ’80s, and he’s the best player since Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s that kind of talent.”
Romar laughs when asked about Ayton’s personality. “Oh my goodness,” he said. “He’s a comedian. When he’s away from the court, just hanging around, oh my goodness, he’ll have you laughing.” But that desire to have a good time, Romar said, shouldn’t be misconstrued as Ayton not taking his craft seriously. It’s almost as if Ayton has, well, split personalities. Romar described his on-court persona as “fiery,” “emotional” and “so competitive.”
Several league sources told me they anticipate Suns general manager Ryan McDonough to probe a Leonard deal using the no. 1 pick. Phoenix explored Irving trades last summer but was reluctant to deal Josh Jackson, whom they selected with the fourth overall pick. Leonard is better than Irving, so perhaps it’s time for the Suns to strike now, when they’re armed with assets and an opportunity to trade for a transcendent player. There’s also a sense from league sources that the Suns presumed selection of Arizona big man Deandre Ayton at no. 1 isn’t a guarantee because of the outside possibility that they’ll get a good enough deal to trade down or out of the draft entirely. Now that Leonard reportedly wants out, anything is possible.
Potential top overall pick Luka Doncic will remain in the NBA draft, according to a report from ESPN.
Scott Bordow: McDonough on trading No.1 pick: “We’ll reach out and see if there are teams that want to blow us away with an offer because I think in this draft we’d be comfortable picking a little lower than that. But I don’t want people overreacting to that comment. I think that’s unlikely.”
Scott Bordow: McDonough on Jackson: “One of the more underrated players in this draft in my opinion. Really shot the ball well in this workout.”
Marvin Bagley III has heard just about enough about how Deandre Ayton is the favorite to become the Phoenix Suns’ choice as the No. 1 pick in this month’s NBA draft. Bagley thinks he, not Ayton, deserves to be at the top of the draft and got a chance to make his case in an individual workout with the Suns on Friday. “I definitely believe I’m the No. 1 pick,” Bagley said, “and if the Suns take me I’ll definitely show them why.”
Bagley, on the other hand, said he will work out for the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, the teams with the No. 2 and No. 3 picks, respectively. “Deandre, he’s going to do what he’s going to do. That’s his plan,” Bagley said. “All I can do is control what I can control and do what I love to do and just show different teams what I’m capable of doing. I can’t really worry about what other people are doing at this point. This is an important time in my life right now, something I’ve been working toward my whole basketball career.”
Bagley hears all the speculation that Ayton will go No. 1 and said he uses it as motivation. “It’s disrespectful and I use it as drive every single day,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is all talk right now. Eventually we’ll have to go on the court and we’ll have to play. That’s where all the talking ends.”
Scott Bordow: Ayton said this [Phoenix] is only workout he’s doing.
Scott Bordow: Ayton: “I know I’m going No. 1″
Scott Bordow: Ayton on playing with Booker: “That’s Shaq and Kobe 2.0”
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May 27, 2019 | 3:33 am EDT Update
This latest edition of “Will Kawhi Leonard Stay In Toronto?” started from a simple, celebratory Instagram Live video from Kawhi’s sister, Miesha Slayton. After the Raptors’ Game 6 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, Slayton took to Instagram for a live session. We could see as she was reading off comments from fans from all over the world. But then, a voice in the background shouted, “They know darn well he ain’t gonna be there next year.”
Slayton would eventually take down the Instagram Live video, which seemingly produced the opposite result she wanted and fueled rumors even more. Without even knowing who the voice belonged to, NBA fans took hold of that anonymous comment as proof that Leonard would leave Toronto after this single season. NBA Twitter seemed to speculate — out of nowhere — that the voice belonged to Leonard’s uncle. But according to Slayton, the voice neither belonged to her uncle nor a member of her family. She posted to Instagram that the voice was just a Raptors hater that she was watching the game with. She told a Raptors Republic contributor that her uncle wasn’t even in California.
“Right away, first day,” Lowry told The Athletic about when he realized how special Leonard was. “People don’t know, he really is an unbelievable dude, really an unbelievable guy. It’s fortunate for us to be on our team and to be around him. He jokes. He really laughs and has fun with everything. He really is a good guy.”
By keeping whatever pain he felt to himself and still putting up monster games that legitimately invoked the game’s legends, Leonard added to his heroic folktale. The fun guy, failing to disappoint. “He’s a warrior. He’s never going to say anything to anyone,” Webster told The Athletic about Leonard playing through injury. “This is when greatness and that championship mettle is shown.”