Adrian Wojnarowski: People around NBA feel LeBron James ‘likely’ to join Lakers or Clippers

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LeBron James can’t become a free agent until 2018.

But that LeBron-to-Los Angeles rumor is already gaining steam, and even the LeBron-to-Miami rumor won’t die.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical Podcast with Woj:

Not only is there no guarantee he’s coming back, I’m not sure there’s an expectation he’s re-signing there. I think they feel, I think within Cleveland and around the league, they feel that he’s very much in play to leave again and likely head out West to one of the two L.A. teams. The Lakers could very well be a target.

The possibility of Miami again, based on how they, what that team looks like and where they are. Would Dwyane Wade go back there?

But I think the focus, a lot of LeBron’s – his business interests, his Hollywood aspirations, his media ventures are base out there.

And I wrote this last year and said it and believed it: The minute he won that championship in Cleveland he was liberated to leave again. Now, if he had not won a title in Cleveland and then left again, I think there would be tremendous backlash again. But the fact that he came back and did what he set out to do, which was to bring a title to Cleveland.

I’m not sure what’s less likely – LeBron or Wade returning to the Heat. It seems those breakups exposed and created too much bad blood. Then again, the same could have been said about LeBron with the Cavaliers.

As for the Lakers or Clippers, as I laid out before, there are several reasons LeBron keeps getting tied to those teams:

1. LeBron has hinted at having eyes for another team. He said he’d take a pay cut to play with Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. If it weren’t already difficult to see that happening in Cleveland, Anthony said they’d want to go “someplace warm.” Los Angeles certainly qualifies.

2. LeBron seemingly enjoys the Los Angeles lifestyle. He owns a house there, as does his agent. LeBron has organized offseason workouts there for the Cavs.

3. LeBron wants to keep the Cavaliers on their toes. His return came with terms – a financial commitment from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Don’t spend enough, and LeBron could leave. Whether he actually would follow through, LeBron stands to make his Cleveland experience better by having the threat known.

4. It’s fun. LeBron is the best player in the league, and the Lakers the NBA’s most popular team. The Clippers have newfound relevance and play in a large market. It’s just plain fun to speculate on the possibility and the upheaval it’d cause.

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.