On the pseudo-campaigning for LeBron James as Defensive Player of the Year

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The media megaphone gives NBA players, coaches, front office officials, and owners a chance to call and respond. We’ve seen players poke at one another both jokingly and pointedly, coaches attempt to jar their players, opponents take shots from across the wall, and almost every conceivable combination of parties make comments of every ilk.

In more than a few of those instances, the relay of comments becomes a typical game of telephone, in which crucial words and qualifiers are often dropped for the sake of a good headline or simplification. It can lead to some hilarious misunderstandings, but more often than not it just has our favorite NBA regulars talking past one another.

Case in point? The absurd “LeBron James for Defensive Player of the Year” quasi-exchange between Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra. From Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse, here is Stan Van Gundy’s response to a comment that was never really made:

“He (James) is the Defensive Player of the Year after five games? Wow. I would say that’s a quick rise to prominence defensively,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said sarcastically after Wednesday morning’s Magic practice. “Nothing surprises me. I just didn’t realize we were going to start the campaign this early. ”

That’s probably a reasonable retort to the claim that LeBron had become the DPoY favorite, but no one ever said such a thing. Here is the instigating quote of this ridiculous conversation, courtesy of Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

“The reality is we added a first-team all-defensive player in LeBron James,” Spoelstra said. “He has already proven himself on that side of the floor. He is capable and hopefully will be considered for Defensive Player of the Year this year if he has the year we anticipate.”
If LeBron has the year that Spoelstra and the Heat anticipate, then he’ll hopefully be considered for Defensive Player of the Year. Could Spoelstra have been more unassuming? Spoelstra simply made the case that LeBron is a very capable defender, and that he was an All-Defense first team selection last season. Both are indeed true. Spoelstra also hopes that LeBron will be considered for Defensive Player of the Year honors, as he was last season, when James ranked fourth in overall DPoY voting and second (by a large margin, mind you) in 1st place votes. Is it so ridiculous to think that LeBron could eventually be in the running for the award if he plays as the Heat expect him to play?

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.