Leon Rose joins the decertification rebel alliance

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The barbarians are at the gate. They’re wearing Brooks Brothers and smell like money. And now, to quote a wholly inappropriate flick for the context, “They have a cave troll.”

A faction of NBA agents have been ramping up pressure on Billy Hunter and the union officials to decertify the union, paving the way for antitrust lawsuits galore in an attempt to gain some sort of line in the sand in the ever-receding front for the players with the owners advancing. Hunter and the union have been steadfast in resisting efforts to decertify, wanting to keep the dispute out of the courts. They’re aware that the moment this thing enters the courts it goes from trench warfare to a melee, and everything winds up in the air. The agents feel this is the only way to put the fear of God into the owners and get them off their hard line.

It hasn’t been all the agents though. Specifically, Billy Duffy, Arn Tellem, Mark Bartelstein, Jeff Schwartz, and Dan Fegan have been the ones leading the charge while other agents hang back or resist outright. But a major entity is reportedly set on pushing to detonate the union and strike out with lawsuits galore. It’s LeBron’s agent, Leon Rose.

Rose, who also represents Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and union official Chris Paul, is on the train according to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated. The Paul connection is particularly interesting as it represents a split between agent and player, assuming Paul is sticking with Hunter and Derek Fisher in trying to withstand the rise from within. The reason this could be significant has more to do with numbers than individuals, however. If Rose is in fact siding with the others and can convince the majority of his stable, that puts the contingent firmly beyond the 30% necessary to petition in order to force an involuntary decertification.

Hunter losing control of his membership in an involuntary decertification wouldn’t be tantamount to a vote of no confidence, but it would be pretty freaking close. It would mean that his membership elected directly to override his leadership to go in another direction. It could also cause a fracture in leadership which could set back talks for months, and that’s before the ramifications of entering this conflict into court case after court case.

As always, there’s a storm and LeBron James is at or near the center of it.

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.