Jazz can’t get Marcus Smart to work out for them

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Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are the consensus top three prospects in the 2014 NBA draft. Dante Exum, in many circles, is emerging as the fourth best.

That leaves the Utah Jazz, who have the No. 5 pick.

Several players fit in that next tier: Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh. The Jazz – who have intriguing young players at every position but nobody who commands drafting to build around – must do their due diligence to separate that pack.

Smart isn’t making it any easier on them, according to Walter Perrin, Utah’s Vice President of Player Personnel.

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune:

Obviously, the Jazz can still draft Smart without a workout. If he really didn’t want to go to Utah, he’d have two options.

1. Play in another league outside the NBA. If he does this, the Jazz would continue to hold his NBA rights.

2. Sit out and don’t play professionally anywhere. If he does this, he could re-enter the draft next year.

Maybe the threat of either scenario would convince the Jazz to pass on him, but players rarely go to those lengths. If Utah drafts Smart, he’ll almost certainly play for there next season.

The Jazz’s problem is the two teams drafting after them, the Celtics and Lakers, are viewed as much more appealing destinations. It’s easy to justify taking a slight salary dip by getting picked lower if it means going to Boston or Los Angeles.

So what should Utah do?

A Trey Burke-Smart backcourt might be rocky at first, but there’s potential for growth. Smart would defend better guards, and Burke – once he gets his NBA legs under him – should complement Smart’s slashing with outside shooting. Lineups with two point guards have proven effective all over the NBA.

If Smart is the best prospect available, draft him. The Jazz have two years at Oklahoma State to review plus his time with the U.S. National U19 team.

A workout might help, but it’s not necessary to determine Smart’s value.

Kawhi Leonard returns Tuesday on minutes restriction

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The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.

Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.

He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.

Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.

However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.

That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?

 

 

 

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Watch Kawhi Leonard chop boards ‘karate styyyle’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.

He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.

But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.

Except we now know he apparently likes karate.

Leonard:

Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.

If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.

Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Kevin Durant brings fan to tears with autographed shoes (video)

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Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.

Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.