Rajon Rondo reportedly ‘more available now than ever before’

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Rajon Rondo is competing with Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond as the best player on a sub-30-win team.

It’s not exactly an ideal place – for the player or the team.

Rondo surely wants to play for a better team than last year’s Celtics, and the Celtics surely want to put a better team around him. Same with Kobe and the Lakers, Cousins and the Kings, Drummond and the Pistons. But the timing of those rebuilds can be difficult, especially with good players helping to keep their team from landing too high in the lottery.

So, inevitably, trade discussions arise. Kobe, Cousins and Drummond are all – for now at least – entrenched with their current teams on multi-year contracts. So, they’re not on the market the same way.

Rondo, on the other hand, has a contract that expires after next season.

Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald:

But what we’ve been hearing for a while and in more concerted tones here is that Rajon Rondo may be more available now than ever before.

The Celts’ president of basketball operations, as well, dismissed talk of Rondo’s obtainability.

“That’s all speculation,” Ainge said. “Those aren’t facts. People don’t know that, so it’s just people speculating on Rondo’s free agency next summer. That’s all that you’re hearing. You’re not hearing any facts from anybody. Those conversations haven’t even been discussed, so that’s just speculation.”

Danny Ainge also shot down a report by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, which said, the Knicks “snubbed a trade that would’ve brought Rajon Rondo to New York.” Regardless of the report’s accuracy, Ainge would likely scoff anyway to protect Rondo’s feelings.

But that can last only so long.

Ainge can deny any of this all he wants. If he’s not exploring Rondo trades, he’s making a mistake.

Rondo, 28, is young enough to still be very good when the Celtics next get good. They, ideally, should be patient with him and make him a key piece of their next team designed to win (unlike this year’s tank squad).

However, Rondo doesn’t necessarily share that patience. He can bolt in a free agency, and Boston losing him for nothing would be a major setback. Ainge must weigh the odds he can re-sign Rondo against what Rondo would fetch in a trade before next year’s trade deadline.

That’s, as Ainge said, speculation by me. It should also be reality for him.

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.