Paul George says his uncertainty about whether he wanted Lance Stephenson back was ‘taken way out of context’

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Lance Stephenson was tremendous for the Pacers in the first half of the season, becoming a nightly triple-double threat who played under control and within his team’s system.

The playoffs, however — especially in the series against LeBron James and the Miami Heat — were another story entirely.

Stephenson turned into a wildcard who resorted to non-basketball tactics to try to rattle his opponent. He blew in the ear of LeBron James, and smacked him in the face during a dead ball situation, as well. Pacers president Larry Bird condemned his actions, and head coach Frank Vogel similarly did the same.

Once the series was finished, Paul George was asked directly if he wanted Stephenson back next season, considering he was entering the summer as an unrestricted free agent. George paused, and said “I don’t know” before elaborating a bit further with a more politically correct answer.

Now that a couple of months have passed, George has changed his tune, and says he now would welcome Stephenson back with open arms.

From 1070thefan.com (via HoopsHype):

George also clarified confusion over his infamous “I don’t know” answer when asked after the Game 6 loss to Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals if he’d like to see Lance Stephenson return as a free agent.

“I think that was taken way out of context,” George said. “Obviously, me and Lance have been here four years together. I would love to continue to keep playing with Lance. When I said ‘I don’t know,’ I was speaking on what he’s going to do. I don’t know what he’s going to do, I don’t know what our front office is going to do and at the end of the day that’s my decision. I went through (contract talks), it was tough, but I would love to see No. 1 back here in a Pacers uniform.”

It’s easy for George to say that now, but there was nothing that was taken out of context. His true feelings were evident immediately following his team’s elimination, which were clearly that Stephenson’s clown act had worn thin, and things needed to be sorted out before he absolutely could be certain that he wanted him back next season.

The problem for the Pacers is that they’re maxed out from a salary cap perspective, so there isn’t another direction to go in trying to sign a replacement for what Stephenson will cost. The most likely scenario will be Indiana paying Stephenson in free agency, and then praying he has a normal start to the season which could up his value in trade before the deadline passes.

If they decide to keep him, there’s a real risk that his erratic behavior could re-emerge at the worst possible time.

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.