Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made it official at shootaround Saturday:
Kawhi Leonard is out for game three against the Warriors.
Leonard had been listed as questionable, and there was a sense he would give it a go if at all possible. Pop shot that down, here is his quote via the San Antonio Express-News.
“In the end, I guess it’s my decision,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said at shootaround Saturday. “He’s not thrilled that he’s not playing, but he’s not ready, so we’re not going to play him.”
Jonathon Simmons will start in Leonard’s place. Even though San Antonio is home for this game, it suddenly seems an uphill struggle as the Spurs have not been able to hang close to Golden State since Leonard re-injured his ankle in Game 1 — since that injury, the Spurs have been outscored by 65 points. The Spurs are already down 0-2 in the series and another loss would all but seal their fate.
Missing Leonard is especially bad for the Spurs because they are without Tony Parker, their second best playmaker, with an injury suffered in the last round.
On the other side of the court, Andre Iguodala is listed as probable for Game 3, while the Warriors will be without starting center Zaza Pachulia.
Jerry West has never understood why people thought he was brilliant for recognizing the talent of a 17-year-old Kobe Bryant coming out of high school. To him it was obvious.
If it had been obvious (and if that era had not frowned on the development that came with drafting high school players), Kobe wouldn’t have been a Laker, and NBA history might be very different.
For West, Kobe was not just another player, he was like a son. West talked about it on the well done TNT special commemorating Kobe Tuesday night.
What those neatly packaged TNT clip does not show is just how difficult and emotional it was for West to talk about Kobe.
West has had a life of incredible highs, but also more lows and pain than many — abused by his father and battling depression his entire life — and this is another emotional tax on the NBA legend.
When you saw the image of Joel Embiid‘s dislocated ring finger facing a direction no finger should face, you knew he was going to miss some time (even though he had it taped up and returned to that game). Embiid had surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament on the ring finger of his left hand. Ultimately he missed nine games while he recovered.
Tuesday night against the Warriors, Embiid will be back.
He will have a soft wrap on his left hand that has been cleared by the league.
Philadelphia went 6-3 while Embiid was out.
Ben Simmons stepped up — in his last five games (before Tuesday) he averaged 24 points a game on 70.6 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds and 8.6 assists a game. Without Embiid in the paint or taking up touches, Simmons took over the offense and looked much more comfortable in his role.
However, the Sixers’ offensive rating in those nine Embiid-less games was 104.9, 29th in the NBA (even in the last five it was 103.2, still 29th in the league). Simmons may have been playing better but the offense was not.
When Simmons and Embiid share the court this season, their offensive rating is 106.7 — not great, but better than without Embiid playing.
Indiana has gone 30-17 this season and sits as the five seed in the Eastern Conference — and Wednesday they get their best player back.
Victor Oladipo — the former Most Improved Player and All-NBA team member who has been out for most of a year with a right quad tendon rupture — practiced with the Pacers on Tuesday and, as expected, will make his return to the court Wednesday night against the Bulls.
Coach Nate McMillan would not say how he planned to use Oladipo but, considering the minutes limit, off the bench seems the most likely move. McMillan said the team would revisit the minutes and role after the All-Star break.
While Milwaukee has separated itself atop the East, the next five teams — Miami, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Indiana — are all within 2.5 games of each other and could end up in any order. If Oladipo can return close to the All-NBA form he was in prior to his injury, the Pacers become a big threat to break out of that group. If nothing else, they become a much tougher out in the postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is on track to repeat as Most Valuable Player.
So, any game he misses is notable.
Expect to see more Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson. With the trade deadline approaching, this could even be a showcase game for Wilson.
Milwaukee is still favored over the Wizards. The Bucks have outscored opponents by 7.8 points per possession without Antetokounmpo this season. They’re deep.
Of course, anything can happen. It’s only one game in a long NBA regular season.
Which might something to do with Antetokounmpo sitting. Even if he plays in Milwaukee’s next game, vs. the Nuggets on Friday, he’ll get six straight days off. That’s a nice break.