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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.

Anthony Davis’ “old-school, smash-mouth” 50 points leads Lakers past Wolves (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES — It almost seemed effortless.

Anthony Davis simply got wherever he wanted on the court Sunday night. And he wanted to be in the paint, right in front of the rim. Davis shot 11-of-11 at the rim and 17-of-23 in the paint on his way to what his coach described as an “old-school, smash-mouth way of getting 50.”

Yes, 50. Davis had his best offensive game as a Laker going right through the size of Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, leading Los Angeles to a 142-125 win.

LeBron James did plenty — 32 points on 20 shots, plus 13 assists — but he battled foul trouble through the first half, and that’s when Davis put the team on his shoulders and carried them.

He carried then to the rim — Davis had 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half, and only one of those buckets from outside paint. Or, take a look at his shot chart for the game, it’s all about points in the paint.

“I was feeling very good tonight, very well rested, going against another great big man in Karl-Anthony Towns… you get up for those games, they’re a team that’s hungry,” Davis said.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each had 19 to lead a balanced Minnesota attack. The Timberwolves hung around the game because they were getting buckets against the Lakers. It gave them hope.

“I yelled at them for giving up 125, but I don’t think anyone heard me,” Lakers’ coach Frank Vogel joked after the game.

The Laker defense was not great, but the way they got buckets it didn’t have to be.

Gordon Hayward on his return, “Tomorrow’s a possibility”

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Boston’s depth was on display for the past month with Gordon Hayward sidelined following hand surgery — the Celtics went 9-4 with a +5.9 net rating — but the team’s offense slid back to middle-of-the-pack without his scoring and shot creation.

They are not going to be without him much longer, Hayward could return Monday night, he told reports Sunday, via Chris Forsberg at NBC Sports Boston.

“Bone has healed, probably stronger than my right hand. There’s a plate in there with screws. The bone is good,” Hayward said Sunday after going through the team’s off-day practice. Boston did not engage in any live 5-on-5 action but Hayward sounded open to returning Monday.

“Tomorrow’s a possibility,” he said. “See how I feel when I wake up, go through shootaround, see how it goes.”

As one should expect, coach Brad Stevens was more cautious but said Hayward will be back “sooner than later.”

Hayward was having a bounce-back year through his first eight games, averaging 18.9 points per game, shooting 43.3 percent from three, pulling down 7.1 rebounds, and dishing out 4.1 assists per game. He’s been a critical playmaker for the Celtics next to Kemba Walker.

Hayward fractured his hand on a fluke play against the Spurs and required surgery to repair a fracture to his fourth metacarpal bone in his left hand (the bone that connects the wrist to the ring finger), the team announced Monday evening. Hayward has made a speedy recovery from that injury.

Boston hosts Cleveland on Monday then travels to Indiana on Wednesday.

LeBron James blows by Gorgui Dieng then puts him in poster

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LeBron James battled foul trouble in the first half against Minnesota, picking up four and only playing 12 minutes because of it.

When he was on the court, however, he was dominant — 16 points on 10 shots, with a couple of deep threes.

Then LeBron did this to Gorgui Dieng.

That’s just not fair.

In the video, watch the reaction of the Laker bench — that group is having fun.

The Lakers led 73-65 at halftime of this defensive struggle game in Los Angeles. Anthony Davis had 27 on 12-of-15 shooting in the first half.

Watch Heat rookie Tyler Herro drain game-winning three in OT, Miami beats Chicago

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Miami just finds guys. And develops them. Kendrick Nunn is at the top of that list for them this season, playing like someone who will get Rookie of the Year votes so far this season. Don’t leave Duncan Robinson off that list,  he has had some big games for the Heat lately.

Sunday it was Tyler Herro‘s turn. The rookie out of Kentucky scored 16 points through the fourth quarter and overtime against Chicago. That includes draining the game-winning three off an assist from Jimmy Butler.

That bucket held up as the final score, 108-105 Miami.

It also wasn’t Herro’s only big three in OT.

Miami improves to 17-6 on the season, and a part of that is they have rookies stepping up and contributing.