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Let’s read too much into this: Kawhi Leonard’s shoe deal stalls with Jordan Brand

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The saga of Kawhi Leonard has been up and down since last year. We’ve seen the former NBA Finals MVP play more than 30 minutes only once this season, on January 2. He’s still out with a nagging leg injury, and reports out of San Antonio have had Leonard either not returning at all this season or coming back soon.

Leonard was also reported to have wanted out of San Antonio earlier this year, something that seemed completely at odds with how we’ve understood the Spurs organization is run and with the long-term goals of most NBA players. It seemed like mostly hearsay, but the fact that Leonard was even mentioned in rumors like that at all was a big enough departure to at least add it to our timeline for the long-injured star.

So let’s add something else to the mix you can either take as it is, or blow out of proportion: According to ESPN, Leonard and shoe sponsor Jordan Brand have stalled on a new deal.

Leonard, who will be a super max player in the summer of 2019, has been negotiating with Jordan on an extension. The talks have reportedly stalled, with Leonard’s camp apparently pushing for a bigger cut of the pie given his position and value on the floor.

For their part, Jordan seems to disagree on the extent marketability.

Via ESPN:

Jordan Brand, which is a division of Nike, and Leonard’s representatives came “very close” to completion on a new four-year extension worth more than $20 million. But discussions broke down abruptly because representatives for Leonard didn’t feel that the new deal reflected the forward’s accomplishments and standing within the league, sources said.

A two-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All-NBA first team selection and Finals MVP, Leonard earns less than $500,000 per year in his current endorsement contract with Jordan Brand, which is worth significantly less than the deal currently on the table from the shoe company.

Jordan’s current extension offer does not include a Leonard signature shoe, which would escalate the value of the deal dramatically. Signature deals typically include a 5 percent royalty on all logo footwear and apparel sold, allowing for a handful of the game’s biggest stars to earn well north of eight figures annually from brands.

There’s a few things happening here. First, the question most will be asking is whether the most recent injury woes have had an effect on Leonard’s ability to put together marketing material around him. His quad injury has been a long, winding oddity that it seems not many have a firm grasp on. He might not make it to the floor again this year, but even when he does arrive back on the hardwood he will still be a top two-way player.

The second thing to consider — that much of Twitter is rabbling on about — is Leonard’s general marketability. Leonard has been in commercials both local and national, but being part of the Spurs brand has cut this public persona of the 26-year-old wing as an unsmiling, emotionless robot.

That’s not true (although it is fun to joke about in 280 characters or fewer) but perception is a large part of how companies like Nike and Jordan would value an extension for Leonard. On-floor accomplishments are a part of endorsement value, but national and regional marketability isn’t based on a single factor.

Still, Leonard is perhaps a Top 3 player on the wing in the NBA. The idea that he wouldn’t have a signature shoe, especially when both guys like Kevin Durant and LeBron James do, somehow feels odd. I’m not here to make marketing decisions for Jordan brand, but the idea that talks on Leonard’s shoe deal has stalled and that he might exit the Nike umbrella does sort of tic a box in the weirdest public basketball year of Leonard’s life.

This all could be simple posturing for a new deal — releasing sourced information to the media is often used as much. Perhaps we see Leonard back on the court and signed with Jordan Brand over the summer, the entirety of the 2017-18 season slowly fading over the horizon in our rearview mirror.

PBT Podcast: Lakers? Clippers? Jazz? Rockets? Breaking down race out West

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What are the odds that one of the teams from Los Angeles is in the NBA Finals?

Could the Utah Jazz surprise the Lakers and Clippers, returning to the Finals for the first time since Stockton and Malone?

Or is it Denver’s turn to step up? Maybe James Harden and Russell Westbrook in Houston’s turn? How about Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum?

The NBA’s Western Conference really is the Wild West this season where anything can happen, and Mark Medina of the USA Today joins me to break down the conference, who could come out and make the Finals, and how, in a very deep conference, there will be no easy path forward.

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.

Knicks’ Julius Randle’s goals this season: First All-Stars, then playoffs

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Two seasons ago, Julius Randle broke out as a scorer with the Lakers when he stopped trying to be what everyone else wanted him to be and started just playing bully ball getting to the rim. Last season he took that to another level in New Orleans, while the Pelicans’ team fell apart around him he averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds a game.

Now he’s got a three-year, $63 million contract in New York — and the Knicks are counting on him to be a leading scorer for them. While R.J. Barrett develops, the Knicks are banking on Randle and Dennis Smith Jr. to go get buckets.

Randle wants to get them and more — he wants to be an All-Star (the Knicks’ first since Carmelo Anthony), then lead the Knicks to the playoffs. That’s what he told Stephan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“I just feel like situation and opportunity. Everything I’ve been through in the past, all the work I’ve put in in the past has prepared me for this opportunity now,” Randle said. “So [All-Stars] just a goal of mine. Eventually you feel like you have an opportunity. I feel like I do.”

“(The playoffs are) extremely important. I’m not going to sit here and talk about every day but it’s extremely important,” he said. “That’s what you work hard for. You talk about opportunity, this is my opportunity to be a real leader.

“So I just want to make sure everybody’s connected and we get better every day. I like our team compared to a lot of other teams. We do what we need to do every day to get better, that mental focus, lock in, stay connected, I like our team.”

Making the All-Star team could happen. Randle is going to put up numbers and get plenty of exposure in Madison Square Garden, and there’s space on the roster. Guys such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid are All-Star locks, but the second tier of East frontcourt players — Blake Griffin, Khris Middleton, Nikola Vucevic — is one it feels like Randle could crack.

To do that, the Knicks need to find a way to win enough to make Randle look good compared to other guys trying to get in the All-Star club (Lauri Markkanen, for example).

Will that be enough wins to make the playoffs? Well… maybe just focus on the All-Star part first. To be fair, I wouldn’t want a player on my team who went into the season thinking his team had no shot at the postseason. Reality will hit Randle and the Knicks soon enough.

Before it does, at least Randle has set his goals high.

 

LeBron James says Daryl Morey was “not educated on the situation” with China Tweet

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When Stephen Curry was asked about how the NBA moves forward in its relationship with China, he gave an answer backing Commissioner Adam Silver’s second position and playing it straight down the middle.

LeBron James was a little more aggressive, saying he didn’t have the necessary information to comment, and suggesting Rockets GM Daryl Morey had no idea what he was getting into. Via Marc Spears of ESPN and Ben Golliver of the Washington Post.

LeBron’s comments quickly blew up on Twitter, and soon after he clarified what he meant, saying he was referring to the backlash from the Tweet.

This issue will not die.

Both the NBA and China would like it to, and both are working on relaxing tensions, including NBA preseason games being shown in China again. Both sides want to move on. It’s not good for the NBA’s bottom line, and in China the NBA is incredibly popular with younger generations.

But the questions about relations between the NBA and China are not going away, and issues are going to flare up again.

 

 

Rookie Tyler Herro scored 14 straight points for Heat Monday night (VIDEO)

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Tyler Herro is having himself an impressive preseason.

He already dropped 18 points in a preseason game last week and throughout the preseason has shown he’s ready to knock down shots at the NBA level.

Monday night he went 5-of-5 — 4-of-4 from three — to score 14 straight points for the Heat.

He’s also showing he can do more than just shoot, crowd him at the arc and he can put the ball on the court and make a play.

Herro’s fellow rookies voted him the best shooter in this draft class and he’s looked every bit of that. The No. 13 pick out of Kentucky started to show that in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he scored on catch-and-shoot chances, pull-ups, step-backs, running off screens, and he could get out in transition as well. Doing that in Summer League is one thing, doing in the NBA preseason is a step up from that — but the real test, the NBA season, is a whole different level.

In Miami, they love the production but what fans really like is Herro plays with swagger.

We’ll see how his rookie season goes, but put that shooting and hustle next to Jimmy Butler for stretches and Miami becomes a lot more interesting.