Rumor: Here’s what it’ll take to pry Kawhi Leonard away from the Spurs

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Is Kawhi Leonard on the trade block, or isn’t he?

That’s the question much of the NBA is asking as we plow through the conference finals and into June. We don’t have an answer yet, and the back-and-forth between Leonard and the San Antonio Spurs has been one of the oddest sagas I can remember between a star player and his team in some time — especially considering the perceived equanimity of both sides.

There’s been rumors that teams like the Philadelphia 76ers are quietly targeting Leonard should he become available and the relationship become unrepairable with the Spurs.

No doubt other teams have started to gather trade offers for Leonard, who has a player option after the 2018-19 NBA season. Any trade package for Leonard would realistically have to be significant, and the apparent bad blood between the Spurs and Leonard won’t decrease the Spurs’ potential asking price.

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, San Antonio, “Won’t settle for anything less than a grand-slam offer.”

That sort of makes you wonder whether a team like the Sixers, who have a core of young talent they’re trying to add to, should be considering giving up big pieces. Signing Leonard outright if he opts out next summer is one thing, but leveraging the chemistry you’ve built is another.

This perhaps makes other teams bigger players for Leonard, ones who might be more willing to sell the farm for a shot at the Spurs star.

O’Connor’s information from several sources isn’t anything we didn’t expect, and we have to take it at what it’s worth. Remember, if someone in the NBA is talking anonymously it’s usually for one of three reasons: to tell their story when they don’t feel heard, to influence the market or public perception, or as quid pro quo.

Is this San Antonio driving up the asking price on Leonard, is it the Spurs responding truthfully to what they need in exchange for their top star, or is it a little of both?

We’ll have to wait until this summer to find out.

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.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.