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Report: Kawhi Leonard’s “people” actively hid him from Spurs staffers

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The relationship between the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard has evolved over the past year from distrust to dysfunctional, with both sides playing their part to make it worse. It’s not quite “War of the Roses” bad, but this relationship is beyond repair now.

The Spurs exacerbated the problems — Tony Parker‘s comments about his injury being 100 times worse set things way back — but it’s not like Leonard and his advisors (particularly his uncle the manager) acted like adults through this. Look at these comments from ESPN’s Michael C. Wright on the must-listen “Back To Back” podcast:

“There was a point during [Kawhi’s] rehab process in New York that some of the Spurs brass went out to see him in New York,” Wright said. “As soon as those guys arrived to the building, Kawhi’s people grabbed him and sequestered him to another part of the building. And so the Spurs’ people couldn’t even see him.”

Classy.

The Spurs have lost leverage in the trade market, and Leonard is a part of that, too. Before a team such as Philadelphia would fully jump in with their best offer (Markelle Fultz?), they are going to want to both get a detailed look at Leonard’s medical reports, then sit down with his “people” and discuss the possibility of him re-signing. Thing is, the Sixers and other NBA teams have no relationship with Leonard’s uncle or other advisors, so they don’t know if they can trust anything he says. (It should be noted at one point Leonard consulted with the Sixers’ team doctor about his quadriceps tendon issue, so they could have some information there.) Teams are not how to even back-channel information well with Leonard.

Maybe this is Leonard’s master plan to force his way to the Lakers (or the Knicks, or the Clippers, or wherever is rumored this hour he wants to play). There is no solid information out there from the ever-quiet Leonard and his camp, which creates a news vacuum — and the Internet abhors a vacuum. So it gets filled with speculation and rumor. However all these vacillating reports — he doesn’t want to play with LeBron James, oh wait yes he still does — do not help Leonard’s image or marketability. Just forcing his way to a major market and playing well is not enough in-and-of-itself to get the kind of shoe/endorsement deal his people want for him, he’s got to open up, do more social media and more. How much of this is driven by Leonard’s desires and how much by the people in his ear remains a good question?

It’s also moot for the Spurs. They need to find the best trade for him they can, and that is not going to be easy.

76ers play 6-on-5 vs. Bulls (video)

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The 76ers found one way to solve their spacing issues.

Philadelphia showed good ball movement, finding Furkan Korkmaz for an open corner 3-pointer. The catch? Korkmaz got open, because the 76ers had six players on the floor.

I love Kyle O'Quinn trying to slink off the court. He wanted to get away with it. Tobias Harris, who jogged to the bench, was practically begging to get caught.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised how quickly the Bulls noticed the violation. It’s not as if their defense scrambling is anything new.

Thirty days after being called ‘day-to-day,’ Karl-Anthony Towns returns to Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns
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Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders called Karl-Anthony Towns “day-to-day” with a left knee sprain.

That was 30 days ago.

Towns finally returned to Minnesota’s lineup, starting against the Pacers tonight.

While out due to his knee, Towns also battled illness. That undoubtedly complicated matters. But the Timberwolves repeatedly calling him “questionable” raises questions about their commitment to transparency. That’s important in an NBA embracing gambling.

Towns’ 17-game absence is a rare dent in his durability. In his first four seasons, Towns missed only five games – two due to a car crash.

Towns is Minnesota’s best player. He could provide a jolt to a team hanging in the playoff race. But, after a strong start, the Timberwolves began to tumble even before Towns went down. They’re probably won’t make the playoffs, though their odds are definitely better with him. At least he returns in time to make an All-Star case.

Knicks’ Marcus Morris after 23-point loss to Suns: ‘We were a better team’

Knicks forward Marcus Morris
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Marcus Morris loathes the Suns.

Unfortunately for him, his Knicks lost to the Suns, 121-98, yesterday.

Morris, via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News:

“Kudos to Phoenix, but at the end of the day, we were a better team,” Marcus Morris said postgame. “We should have got that win tonight.”

Nahhh.

The Knicks stink. They’ve lost seven of eight. Morris talked about energy, and New York’s could be better. But this is what happens on losing teams. The Knicks’ roster just isn’t good enough. It’s not more complicated than that.

The Suns aren’t great, either. But they’re much better than New York – no matter how much that grinds Morris.

Kyrie Irving on his leadership style: “It’s not like I’m an a****** yelling at everybody”

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“I mean, it’s transparent. It’s out there. It’s glaring, in terms of the pieces that we need in order to be at that next level… we’ll worry about all the other stuff, in terms of moving pieces and everything else, as an organization down the line in the summer… but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces.”

That was Kyrie Irving after the Nets’ recent loss to the 76ers. Was he too harsh? Is that how to inspire and lead a team?

Irving doesn’t care what you think. Here’s what he said Friday when asked about his comments and leadership, via SNYtv.

“It’s a telltale sign of the career that I’ve had. Some of the moves that I’ve made individually, and then as well as coming to different environments and organizations. …It’s not like I’m an a****** yelling at everybody in the freaking locker room all the time and you hear all these stories.

“At the end of the day, my name… is in a lot of people’s mouths all the time and it is what it is. I’ve earned that respect in terms of how great I am as a player and there’s still more goals I want to accomplish in this league, and I can’t do it without improving an organization and winning a championship and that’s what it comes down to. So I’m going to continue to push and continue to demand greatness of myself and demand greatness out of my teammates, and we go from there.”

“If it’s harsh as a leader or it’s too much for anybody, you’re not in our locker room — stay the f*** out. It’s as simple as that.”

Irving is his own cat, and he leads in his own style. Whether that works for his teammates depends on his individual teammates (as it does with LeBron James‘ teammates, or Kobe’s, or Tim Duncan’s or… you get the idea).

Irving’s leadership gets questioned by fans (and media) because of what happened in Boston last season and on the court over the past two seasons — when Irving plays the Nets/Celtics have been 42-39 (51.9%), when he sits they are 25-16 (61%). However, real leadership is much more than wins and losses. We don’t know what the Brooklyn players really think of Irving.

The Nets are an interesting chemistry experiment. General Manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson built a Spursian, selfless team and identity, a lunch-pail group that worked their way into the playoffs last season. Now that they have added Irving and Kevin Durant, world-class talents but also big egos, guys used to winning by doing things their way. How this all shakes out remains to be seen.

Whatever happens, Irving will be Irving. He knows no other way.