Report: Kawhi Leonard expected to miss playoffs as Clippers eye trade

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The oddest saga in the NBA continues.

Kawhi Leonard‘s injury woes continue to be the source of much speculation, not just for San Antonio Spurs fans but around the league. The former NBA Finals MVP did not travel with the team to Oakland as the Spurs started their first round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.

Leonard was medically cleared to play by the San Antonio training staff back in February, but has not returned to the floor. In the past months, we’ve seen quotes out of Texas that indicate Leonard’s medical team still isn’t convinced he’s ready to play.

Now, it looks like Leonard will miss the remainder of the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

According to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania, Leonard is still rehabbing his quadriceps but won’t make it back before the end of the season.

The Spurs lost Game 1 to the Warriors on Saturday, 113-92, and reporters continued to pepper San Antonio staff and players with questions about Leonard. Coach Gregg Popovich said that he could not offer more information on Leonard, and that any updates would have to be obtained via Leonard or “his group”.

Meanwhile, Spurs big man Pau Gasol said Leonard is rehabbing at his own pace, “with his own people.”

Via Twitter:

That’s not good news for the Spurs, and not just because they looked completely shorthanded against the Warriors, a team that is still missing Stephen Curry. We’ve seen talk of teams wanting to go after Leonard this summer if San Antonio feels like a split is necessary, but after everything the logical choice still points us toward things settling with the most stable franchise in the NBA.

Now, with Leonard not even traveling with the team to their playoff games, this feels like a rift. The regular season is played — especially in Bexar county — for April, May, and June. That Leonard isn’t with his teammates and is unlikely to play this year creates a permeating tension that has begun to feel insurmountable.

This is especially worrying as we got word of yet another team that might be interested in trading for Leonard. According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Los Angeles Clippers are circling and waiting to make their move for a trade package centered around Leonard.

Leonard is certainly a max-caliber player, but according to San Antonio Express-News’ Jabari Young, there’s some worry that the Spurs won’t offer him the contract he desires this summer.

Via MySanAntonio.com:

Some league executives believe the Spurs will receive plenty of phone calls about Leonard’s status this offseason, with the feeling the team will not offer a five-year, $219 million extension, but yet part ways with Leonard.

“It would be a mistake,” one Western Conference league executive told the Express-News when asked about the possibility of the Spurs trading Leonard.

At this point, any conclusion in either direction between the Spurs and Leonard would feel incredible. The ability to salvage the relationship, at least from the exterior, would be wild (although you could see how $219 million would heal some wounds). Meanwhile, the thought of San Antonio pushing the eject button on Leonard is still so alien I’m not sure I’ll believe it if and when it happens.

What a bummer for everyone in San Antonio.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.