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.

 

Kobe Bryant dropped from film festival after backlash due to his 2003 rape charge

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Kobe Bryant has become acclaimed for his filmmaking, even winning an Oscar.

But his sustained prominence in basketball retirement, especially considering his new industry, has sparked questions about why he hasn’t been swept up by #MeToo. After all, Bryant admitted in 2004 to having sex with a woman who didn’t view the encounter as consensual the year prior. (That statement part of Bryant moving on and readily accepted by the public, which shows why a reckoning in our handling of sexual misconduct was so necessary.)

Bryant was selected to judge a film festival, but a petition emerged to prevent his participation. Apparently, 159 signatures were enough for the festival to change course.

Evan Real of The Hollywood Reporter:

Kobe Bryant has been removed from the Animation Is Film Festival jury following backlash stemming from a 2003 rape allegation. Though the former L.A. Lakers star was set to serve as a juror at the annual event this weekend in Hollywood, organizers announced on Wednesday that he will no longer participate.

On one hand, it’s not surprising the petition received just 159 signatures. Bryant remains highly popular and is beloved by many.

But this also shows the power of a relatively small number of voices speaking up.

 

Blake Griffin’s dunk attempt stuffed by Jarrett Allen. Again (video)

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Pistons star Blake Griffin learned his lesson after getting his dunk blocked by Nets center Jarrett Allen in the preseason. In the regular-season opener, Griffin went up even harder.

And Allen still stopped him!

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

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Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

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After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.