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Report: Kawhi Leonard returns to New York to continue quad rehab with specialists

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Kawhi Leonard listening to his own medical team. And himself.

Earlier this season the Spurs medical staff cleared him to play after dealing with a sore quadriceps tendon since before the season. Leonard played in nine games and had pain, so he went and got a second opinion from specialists in New York. Those doctors said “No, there’s something else there” and Leonard has been off the court and back in rehab since. It’s understandable why Leonard trusts his own people, he knows his body.

Leonard is away from the Spurs again working on rehab for his knee, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski and Michael C. Wright of ESPN.

For the second time this season, San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard has traveled to New York to continue rehabilitation for his lingering right quad injury under the supervision of outside medical personnel, league sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been in New York since Monday, and there’s no timetable set on a possible return to San Antonio, sources said.

Spurs staff is with Leonard monitoring his progress and working with him.

Two thoughts come out of this. First, at this point it seems highly unlikely that Leonard is back with the Spurs for the playoffs, and that means their run could be short. The Spurs are currently the four seed in the West at 44-32, but just one game separates them at four and the Pelicans at eighth in the West (teams 5-8 are just one game back in the loss column). Without Leonard as a defender and shot creator, the Spurs could run into real trouble against an athletic team in the first round such as Oklahoma City, or any of the top three (Houston, Golden State, or Portland). Without Leonard the Spurs are good, but they don’t strike fear into the hearts of potential playoff opponents.

Second, and more importantly, does this change the Spurs plans to offer Leonard a designated player max contract this summer? That’s the $200 million-plus deal that most recently James Harden and Russell Westbrook signed to stay in Houston and Oklahoma City, respectively? The Spurs almost certainly still offer it unless they have reason to believe that what is ailing Leonard will continue to linger beyond this season and into future years. Healthy, Leonard is unquestionably worth it, an MVP level player who is already a Finals MVP. However, if the Spurs have questions, would they wait to put to offer on the table until he’s back in training camp and looking healthy? And how would Leonard react to that delay?

Just something to watch, and a little more drama for the usually drama-free Spurs.

Report: Lakers eager to use LeBron James at center flanked by top four young players

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Why did the Lakers, after securing LeBron James, sign Rajon Rondo and Lance Stephenson? Their explanation leaves plenty to be desired.

What will the Lakers do with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma now that none of those four are being traded for Kawhi Leonard? Their plan there is far more intriguing.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report:

“We may not see this on day one, but the coaching staff is eager to see our version of the [Warriors’] Death Lineup with Lonzo [Ball], Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, [Kyle] Kuzma and LeBron,” a second Lakers executive said.

LeBron at center is a dangerous weapon. The Cavaliers showed it more during the 2017 playoffs – to positive effect.

But LeBron isn’t Draymond Green, who makes Golden State’s Death/Hamptons Five Lineup function. Green possesses a unique combination of rim protection and – through his ball-handling and especially passing – ability to get into offense quickly. LeBron isn’t as good at protecting the paint, and though he’s lethal in transition when he wants to be, he’ll be fighting years of slow-down habits.

I also wonder how much LeBron embraces the physical toll of playing center. The Lakers have only JaVale McGee, Ivica Zubac and Mo Wagner at the position. Are they banking on LeBron playing there a significant amount during the regular season?

LeBron would likely accept the role more enthusiastically in the playoffs. But Ball, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma will be tested – at least initially – by the heightened level of play. I’d be wary of overly relying on that lineup.

But this is the best way for the Lakers to get talent on the floor and overcome spacing concerns. I’m absolutely excited to see it in action. Whatever concerns I have about it are only multiplied with other potential Lakers lineups.

Report: Nuggets lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. undergoes another back surgery

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Michael Porter Jr. underwent back surgery in November, missed nearly his entire freshman season at Missouri then slipped to No. 14 in the draft amid injury concerns.

The Nuggets have been noncommittal about their plans for Porter, but they’ve given an eyebrow-raising update.

Nuggets release:

Michael Porter Jr. has undergone surgery of the lumbar spine at The Carrell Clinic in Dallas, Tex. The Procedure was performed by Dr. Andrew Dossett. There is no timetable for his return to basketball participation.

Porter is a talented forward with the length and skill to make a major impact as a scorer.

But, as this latest surgery underscores, drafting him carried terrifying risk. Denver will have to bear that for a while.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to re-sign with Mavericks for $5 million

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Dirk Nowitzki is set to play his 20th season – breaking Kobe Bryant’s record for most seasons with a single franchise and tying Kevin Garnett, Robert Parish and Kevin Willis for most seasons in the NBA.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s $5 million team option, but he was never signing elsewhere. He was either going to retire or play for Dallas.

Once he decided to return, the only question was money.

The Mavericks declined Nowitzki’s option to maximize their flexibility for upgrades, namely signing DeAndre Jordan. Once Yogi Ferrell agreed to an absurdly team-friendly contract, Dallas had enough cap space left to give Nowitzki his team-option amount. If necessary, he would have taken the $4,449,000 room exception.

Nowitzki has had a great career, and this could be his farewell tour. But he also remains a helpful rotation-level player. Though he’s a defensive liability, his outside shooting as a big goes a long way toward floor spacing.

Report: Mavericks re-signing Yogi Ferrell for less than qualifying-offer salary with second year unguaranteed

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The Mavericks expected Yogi Ferrell to accept his qualifying offer.

Turns out, they’ll keep him on an even more team-friendly deal than the one he could have unilaterally signed.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This is an awful deal for Ferrell.

As reported, he’ll earn between $2,548,077 and $2,760,417 next season. That range is less than his qualifying offer – which would have paid him a fully guaranteed $2,919,204 next season.

That reduction is acceptable if Ferrell got something in exchange – but he gave Dallas the concession by adding an unguaranteed second year. If he plays well, the Mavericks will keep him at a cheap salary. If he doesn’t, they’ll waive him for no cost. They have all the control.

The promise of the backup shooting guard job is probably just lip service. Teams don’t stick by that if the player struggles. If he produces, he would have gotten the job anyway.

Dallas has plenty of point guard types – Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic, J.J Barea, Jalen Brunson and Ferrell. Rick Carlisle uses two of them simultaneously often enough that Ferrell should land in the rotation. But it’s far from a lock.

With this deal, Ferrell is taking all the risk and the Mavericks are getting all the upside.