Stojakovic bought out by Raptors, headed to Dallas

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UPDATE #2 (5:31 PM EST): Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that Stojakovic has given the Mavericks a verbal commitment to join the team. No pen to paper yet, but Peja is on his way to Dallas.

UPDATE (4:28 PM EST): The Raptors have announced it is official, they have reached a deal to buy out Stojakovic. Now we’ll see which suitors really step forward (I don’t think the Lakers will be one of them, but they are in the original report).

2: 37 PM EST: Peja Stojakovic is sitting at the end of the Raptors bench, not getting in games and taking up a spot that could go to a young player Toronto could develop.

So it makes sense that the Raptors are looking to buy out Stojakovic and are close to a deal, as reported by Marc Stein at ESPN. Stojakovic, traded from New Orleans to Toronto six games into the season, is slated to make $15 million this year in the final year of his contract, and you can expect the buyout is pretty much for the full amount (why should Stojakovic take less?).

What’s interesting is who might jump in to sign the sharpshooter.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Stojakovic is determined to return to the Western Conference and join a playoff contender once he clears waivers and becomes a free agent, with three teams at the top of his list: Dallas, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavericks, sources say, are considered the favorite to land Stojakovic. They have minutes to offer at small forward and a well-chronicled need for perimeter shooting.

Not sold on the LA part of that rumor. The Lakers need outside shooting, but once Matt Barnes returns from his surgery you can bet that Stojakovic’s minutes would drop to nearly Raptors-like levels.

The Mavericks, however, have lost Caron Butler for the season and they have the minutes at the three to give out. What the Mavs or anyone who goes after him has to realize is this — we are not talking about the Kings-era Stojakovic anymore, we’re talking about a guy who couldn’t crack the lineups in New Orleans and Toronto. His defense is as, um, “good” as it ever was.

That said, Peja can still shoot the long ball — he’s only taken 31 threes this season in limited minutes, but he’s knocked down 48 percent of them. Last season that number was only 38 percent, but that is still better than many on the Lakers and Mavericks rosters.

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.