Wizards’ brass traveling to Poland convince Marcin Gortat to remain in Washington

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Washington likes what they have on the roster. John Wall has emerged into one of the better point guards in the game. Bradley Beal may be the real star of this team in a few years. When Nene is healthy their defense is Top 10. They just need to make a few tweaks and keep the team together.

That includes big time free agents Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat. Ariza’s importance recently just jumped with word Martell Webster had another back surgery.

How important is keeping Gortat around to back up/play with Nene? The Wizards’ front office is flying to Poland to persuade him to stay in the nation’s capital next season, reports J. Michael at CSNWashington.com.

Now that the NBA draft is over, the full-court press is on to convince Marcin Gortat to remain with the Wizards, who are sending a contingent to Poland before the free-agent negotiation period opens July 1, CSNwashington.com has confirmed with multiple persons with knowledge of the situation.

Coach Randy Wittman and Tommy Sheppard, senior vice president of basketball operations, are leaving Friday to visit Gortat who has been coordinating basketball camps across his homeland.

Washington traded for Gortat when Emeka Okafor went down before last season. Gortat took a while to mesh with Wall, but Nene understood from the start how key Gortat was and was his big supporter. Eventually everyone in the Wizards organization came around.

The question, of course, is money.

Gortat made $7.7 million last season and at age 30 is a good gamble for a three or four-year deal in roughly that same ballpark salary wise. Depending on where the salary cap ultimately falls (likely in the $62 million range) the Wizards will have about $16 million in cap space. That should let them retain Gortat and Ariza plus bring in a little depth.

If they pull all of that off, the Wizards could again find themselves in the top half of the East next season.

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.