Report: Chasing Kawhi Leonard, Lakers engage Spurs yet again

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The San Antonio Spurs reportedly aren’t in a hurry to trade Kawhi Leonard. They especially don’t want to move him to the Los Angeles Lakers, a Western Conference rival who would then also likely be in line to land LeBron James in free agency.

Still, the Lakers continue to pester San Antonio about the former NBA Finals MVP.

It was reported that the Spurs had backed off of talks with Los Angeles recently, but now it appears that the Lakers are yet again trying to get into the ear of San Antonio GM RC Buford to pry Leonard away from the state of Texas.

According to ESPN, the Lakers have re-engaged the Spurs about a trade package centered around Leonard. There is some considerable urgency for LA, who need to try to get a deal done before Friday when LeBron can opt in or out of his deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are using the Paul George and Kyrie Irving trades as proportional models for a Leonard deal, but San Antonio understands that this trade, for intents and purposes, would mean Leonard and James coming to the Lakers, and will likely command a massive package of young players and draft picks for Leonard, a two-time first-team All-NBA and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

The Lakers are in no rush to sign the 25th overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, Michigan forward Mo Wagner, to his rookie scale deal, which would allow the Lakers to include his draft rights into a trade package, league sources said. Wagner couldn’t be traded for 30 days once he signs his rookie deal.

The Lakers are pursuing an additional first-round pick on the trade market too, offering to incur a salary dump of contracts to get a pick, league sources said.

Time is not on the side of Los Angeles, and this is a smart tactic from the San Antonio front office. Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson are not as experienced in these type of deals as Buford and his staff, and this is a clever way to drive up the price on Leonard, who deflated his own trade value after reports he wanted to leave the Spurs leaked.

It will be hard for the Lakers to get a deal done in a one-on-one swap. What makes more sense is for the Lakers and Spurs to bring in a third team looking to take on bad salary in exchange for picks to help facilitate.

Assessing Leonard’s value at this point is fairly difficult, but no doubt San Antonio is doing all they can to make sure they are well-compensated for his services. The consequences of getting a deal done around Leonard are so vast that it seems to make sense that the Lakers would get something done. Whether or not they bet the farm and go in too deep, with nothing to surround Leonard and perhaps LeBron with, is a whole other can of beans.

Free agency starts on Sunday, and the moratorium ends on July 6th.

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.