Kawhi Leonard returns with 31, Spurs top Hawks, tie for No. 1 seed

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 31 points in his return from a concussion and the San Antonio Spurs tied Golden State for the NBA’s best record with a 107-99 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

San Antonio made a season-high 16 3-pointers in its 19th straight home victory over Atlanta. The Spurs and Warriors are 52-14 with 16 games remaining, including the final regular-season matchup between them on March 29.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroder had 22 points and 10 assists, shooting 10 for 22 from the field. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 17 points, but the Hawks had their three-game winning streak snapped.

San Antonio’s Patty Mills had 15 points and Danny Green added 14. The starting guards combined to shoot 7 for 12 on 3-pointers and the team finished 16 for 34 on 3s.

David Lee had 14 points in place of LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his second straight game with a minor heart arrhythmia. Aldridge’s status remains unknown.

The Spurs were also without injured point guards Tony Parker and Dejounte Murray, but Leonard returned from a one-game absence after suffering a concussion in the second half against Oklahoma City last Thursday.

Leonard made five straight shots, including a step-back, fadeway jumper at the close of the first quarter, after missing his first two attempts. The buzzer-beating shot gave San Antonio its first double-digit lead at 28-18.

The lead swelled to 15 but the Hawks were able to rally behind a season-high 23 turnovers by the Spurs.

Atlanta outscored San Antonio 14-8 in the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter, pulling to 89-87 on Hardaway’s baseline drive and dunk.

TIP-INS

Hawks: Atlanta has not won in San Antonio since Feb. 15, 1997. … Mike Dunleavy missed his eighth straight game with an inflamed right ankle. Dunleavy has played in 19 games for Atlanta since being acquired in a trade with Cleveland. . The Hawks are 22-14 since Dec. 28. . The Hawks have 15 games remaining, including seven at home, as they battle for one of the East’s top four seeds. . Atlanta is 33-9 when scoring 100-plus. . Atlanta, which is averaging 23.6 assists per game, had 27.

Spurs: San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Aldridge underwent further tests Monday outside of San Antonio but his status remains unknown. “No, we’re just going to wait until he comes back and assess him,” Popovich said. “I think he’ll be back either tomorrow morning or tonight, I don’t know which.” . Leonard has scored at least 19 points in his last 28 games, including 20-plus in 24 of those outings. . Parker missed his third straight game with back stiffness. The 34-year-old has missed 13 games this season due to injury and sat out two others for rest. . Murray missed his second straight game with a left groin injury. . C Pau Gasol played in his 1,104th career game, moving past former Spurs and Mavericks star Michael Finley for 64th in league history.

 

PBT Podcast: Former Cavs/Suns GM David Griffin; breaking down East playoff chase

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David Griffin is a hot commodity — any time a general manager opening comes up in the NBA, so does his name (most recently New Orleans).

Griffin joins us to talk about what he wants in a job if he returns to an NBA front office. He also discusses what he learned from his experiences at the helm of a LeBron James team, as well as how that applies to what the Lakers went through at the trade deadline.

Also on the agenda — his new show on NBA TV, “GM School,” which debuts on tonight (Feb. 20) at 8pm ET.

After that, we bring in Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports to help break down the Eastern Conference playoff race at the top and the four powerhouse teams. Which one has the best chance of advancing? And who will make it in the final two playoffs spots in the East?

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Joel Embiid says Michael Jordan isn’t the GOAT (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid is a big man like we haven’t seen in some time. He’s both an interior force and a range shooter, and is one of the more talented 7-footers in recent NBA memory.

So it makes sense that the Philadelphia 76ers star leans toward former big men when it comes to discussing the greatest players in league history. While most are obsessed with the back-and-forth between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Embiid told Jason Concepcion of the Ringer this week that he didn’t think either were the best player ever.

To Embiid, Wilt Chamberlain is the true GOAT.

Via Twitter:

“He’s not the GOAT. To me, you got Wilt Chamberlain. I mean he has all the records. They’re never gonna be beaten. I don’t see anybody getting 100 points in a game. That’s it, he’s the GOAT.”

Chamberlain doesn’t seem to be brought up in the GOAT conversation much anymore, but his prowess was legendary and it’s mistaken to say that he only played against smaller, less athletic white players.

It’s sort of cool that Embiid decided to choose a different player as is greatest of all time. Whether or not that’s true — or whether Embiid truly believes in his choice — is another thing altogether.

LeBron James confirmed ‘Space Jam 2’ begins filming this summer (VIDEO)

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I’m not sure how excited I am to watch “Space Jam 2”. I think LeBron James is a slightly better actor than Michael Jordan, and the original “Space Jam” was nothing to shake a stick at. I’m the perfect age for Space Jam to have meant something to me, but having watched the film as an adult I can tell you it’s largely underwhelming.

Still, Space Jam 2 is set to film this summer and we finally have a confirmation of that fact from LeBron himself.

Speaking at All-Star Weekend, James told a crowd in Charlotte that they are indeed going to film once the season is over.

Via Twitter:

I think filmmaking has evolved, particularly animated filmmaking in the wake of things like Toy Story, Shrek, and other big franchises. There is no doubt that Space Jam 2 will be a better movie than the original. The director of the film certainly thinks so.

Kids will love it, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that James want to get involved in when he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.

I’m sure that basketball Twitter will have a steady stream of opinions when it comes out in theaters. Maybe I will catch it when it’s on at Netflix a month later.

Report: Celtics aren’t long-term destination for Anthony Davis

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Anthony Davis recently made mention that all 29 NBA teams other than the New Orleans Pelicans are on his list to land when he becomes trade eligible again this summer. Teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers will vie for his services with the best packages they have the to offer.

But which of these teams will be long-term solutions for Davis, whose current contract runs out in the summer of 2020?

That is likely to be where the conversation around Davis shifts as we move into the spring. In fact, according to Shams Charania, at least one interested team isn’t on Davis’ radar long term.

Via Twitter:

Davis and agent Rich Paul severely overplayed their hand when it came to negotiating a trade request with the Pelicans as they tried to steer Davis to the Lakers before the deadline.

New Orleans remains firmly in control of Davis and any offers for him, although it’s possible the player could retain some additional influence by making it known that he would not re-sign anywhere outside of his preferred destinations. According to Charania, that’s the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Bucks.

Still, a player’s status as a potential risk in free agency is affected by how good he is and how close to a championship the receiving team thinks they are. We saw a Toronto Raptors take a chance with Kawhi Leonard, who could very well leave this summer.

Might a team trade for Davis without the guarantee that he could leave in 2020? That seems possible, and I wouldn’t rule out anything wild happening in trade market come summer.