Dion Waiters, Tim Hardaway Jr. duel one-on-one during Rising Stars Challenge (VIDEO)

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NEW ORLEANS — Andre Drummond may have taken home the (admittedly broken) MVP trophy of All-Star weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge, but the most entertaining parts of the exhibition involved Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dion Waiters.

The pair of guards put on a show that began in the first half and carried on throughout the game, and featured the players going head-to-head and draining long three after long three against each other.

“I knew it was going to happen from in the first half,” Waiters said afterward. “We had a little thing going on, and it died down quick. But the second half, he came down and made a shot; I came down and made a shot. He came down and made a shot; I came down and made a shot. And once the crowd got into it, I knew it was on.”

Waiters said his motivation to go at Hardway stemmed from the end of a game between the two teams back on Jan. 30, one which the Knicks won by 31 points and Hardaway launched (and made) a long three with under a minute remaining to beat the shot clock buzzer.

“I told him I owed him from being at the TNT game, and they were beating us pretty bad,” Waiters said. “There was like 15 seconds left, and he came down and chucked up a three and made it. I told him, I’m going to get you back. I’m going to get you back for that. And I was able to get my chance tonight.”

There were actually 51 seconds remaining, but you get the idea.

“Yeah, he talked to me about it before the game and during the game,” Hardaway said. “The only reason why he said that was because on TNT it was a shot clock was running down so I came down and just shot the three.  I just jacked the three, and it went in, and it was towards the end of the game. But we had to take the shot, so I might as well. I said I might as well just shoot it.”

Whatever the reason for it, we’re just glad it took place.

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.