Kurt Helin

SAN ANTONIO,TX - MARCH 12: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with head coach Gregg Popovich at AT&T Center on March 12, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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Kawhi Leonard doesn’t care about trappings of stardom, but does love Wingstop


Kawhi Leonard was the Finals MVP in 2014, but if you wanted to interview him one-on-one during media availabilities on off days, it wasn’t that hard. At the start of the session media members from around the world would crowd around his podium, but after 10 minutes of one word or short answers, and nothing insightful, they’d move on to Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili or even Matt Bonner — someone who would give them good soundbites.

By the end, it was just Leonard and a guy or two, not that he would loosen up and give detailed answers about Xs and Os, himself, or anything else. The most interesting thing I got out of him was he thought the tacos in San Diego (where he went to college) were better than San Antonio.

Leonard doesn’t care about being an NBA star or his brand — he is the perfect Gregg Popovich player that way. The Brilliant Lee Jenkins lays it out perfectly over at Sports Illustrated in a story you should just read all of right now.

And learn Leonard loves Wingstop.

He is the only star still rocking cornrows, an outdated tribute to Carmelo Anthony, and he shrugs when friends claim he’d expand his endorsement portfolio if he shaved the braids. He is happy to sponsor Wingstop, which sends him coupons for free wings, so he can feed his Mango Habanero addiction. This winter, after his $94 million contract kicked in, he panicked when he lost his coupons. Wingstop generously replenished his supply.

“You’d think we were talking about a starving journeyman in the D-League,” says Randy Shelton, San Diego State’s strength and conditioning coach, who trains Leonard every off-season. But the player’s hunger is real. He is the rare professional athlete who distinguishes between greatness and stardom. “He wants the greatness badly,” Popovich says. “He doesn’t give a damn about the stardom.” You won’t find him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You probably won’t catch him in a photo shoot, on a red carpet or at an awards ceremony, even if he is the guest of honor. Check that—especially if he is the guest of honor. “He loves the game,” Popovich continues. “He ignores the rest of it.”

Read the entire story; it ‘s fantastic writing and reporting.

Spurs GM R.C. Buford admits Leonard gave this franchise a second chance, that there would be a chance to send Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili out on a high note, while helping set the table for the time when they are gone. Do you think LaMarcus Aldridge is a Spur without Leonard there?

The Spurs were hesitant to trade George Hill for Leonard on draft night — Popovich liked Hill a lot, and as Indiana has finally discovered if you use him in the right settings Hill is a quality NBA player. But the Spurs saw what Leonard could be before anyone else, and that’s why they’re the Spurs. They take calculated gambles, but in this case it paid off with a Top 5 NBA player.

And another shot at a ring. They need to get by Golden State, of course, but Leonard makes that more possible for them than any of the other 28 teams in the league.

Pistons owner to match up to $1M in Flint telethon donations

AUBURN HILLS, MI - OCTOBER 28:  at the Palace of Auburn Hills on October 28, 2015 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) —  A telethon underway to help Flint residents amid the Michigan city’s crisis with lead-tainted water features a major financial commitment from Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores.

The Flint native says he’ll match up to $1 million in donations made during Tuesday’s telethon hosted by Detroit television station WDIV-TV. More than $40,000 had been raised as of Tuesday morning.

The telethon, called “Flint Water Crisis: 4 Our Families ((hash)FlintKids),” benefits the Community Foundation of Greater Flint and its Flint Child Health and Development Fund. Localized versions are airing on other stations.

If consumed, lead can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities. There are a number of efforts taking place to boost Flint education, health and support programs.

Gores earlier pledged to raise $10 million to help the city.



Kobe Bryant to give away two front-row seats to his final game (for charity)

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant touches his chestt as he walks of the court in Boston after the Lakers' 112-104 win over the Boston Celtics in an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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If you want to see Kobe Bryant‘s final game, at Staples Center April 13 against Utah, it’s going to cost you. As of this writing, the least expensive seat on StubHub is $700 a seat — and that’s way up in the rafters behind a basket. If you want to sit in the lower bowl of the arena the cost is $2,000 a seat and up, and if you want courtside, well, I hope you were able to sell your tech start-up for a lot of money.

Or, you can make a small donation and take your chances.

Kobe is offering two courtside seats to that game up through charity, to raise money for his foundation and some others. Mark Medina has the details at the Los Angeles Daily News.

Bryant partnered with Omaze to give away two front-row tickets at center court that requires fans to make a donation as little as $10 through the charitable fundraising platform. Those fans will also have a chance to high-five Bryant and his teammates….

The proceeds will benefit The Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation, After-School All-Stars of Los Angeles, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.

Just follow this link to the Omaze Kobe site, make a donation of as little as $10 (but more is appreciated, this is for charity), and you are entered in the drawing for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But you have to pay for your own beer. Which at Staples brings us back to selling your tech startup.

Daryl Morey dodges question about re-signing Dwight Howard

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 11: Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets looks on during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on March 11, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The fact Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey was speaking on a panel at the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference is about as surprising as violence at a Trump rally.

But things did get a little interesting when the name of Dwight Howard came up.

Howard is widely expected to exercise his opt-out this summer and become a free agent, which leads to the question “will the Rockets re-sign him?” The better questions are at what price and for how long? Morey tried to dodge all of them when pressed at Sloan, reports Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated.

During the front office panel, ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who was moderating, asked Morey about re-signing Dwight Howard. Morey immediately replied: “Uh oh.” MacMullan pressed the Rockets GM on negotiations. He responded that the NBA’s max salary threshold keeps things simple. MacMullan asked, So you’re re-signing him? To which Morey responded: “I just said they had the concept.”

Howard is going to want a max salary, which will likely start in the $30 million range (depending on the final salary cap number). If your first reaction is “I wouldn’t give him that much” you’re not alone, there are plenty of people in NBA front offices who will say the same thing. But it only takes one to say yes — one who likely struck out on other high-profile targets. Howard will get paid. And Howard still has a lot more value than his detractors give him credit for — 14.8 points per game on 61.7 percent shooting this season, 12.1 rebounds a game, he’s still a strong defender in the paint, and he’s got an All-Star level PER of 20. He shouldn’t want all the post touches he demands, but he still has value.

That said, Howard has a long injury history as well, and the toughest question is how many years do teams want to give Howard because of it? Also, the years is an issue because he may not mesh in their locker room, as has happened with the stars in his last couple stops. The Rockets in theory could offer five years, other teams four. My guess is teams will want a team option or cheap buyout in that final season (or, ideally, two seasons).

We’ll see what kind of offer Morey makes this summer. But he doesn’t sound enthusiastic.

Andrew Bogut with as bad a free throw attempt as you’ll ever see (VIDEO)

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Andrew Bogut isn’t THAT bad a free throw shooter.

But Damn Daniel, that is ugly.

I’m going to give Bogut the benefit of the doubt and say the ball slipped out of his hands, he is a career 55 percent free throw shooter (although below 50 percent this season). This was just ugly.

Later Bogut did show some range draining a three up against the shot clock — his first three of the season.