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Rumor: Kawhi Leonard told Spurs teammates, ‘I’ll do anything for all you guys in this room, but not this organization’

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After Kawhi Leonard repeatedly told the Spurs he’d play then didn’t, his teammates held a players-only meeting imploring him to play. Leonard stood his ground and said, despite his desire to return, he wouldn’t guarantee playing again that season.

That, piecing together a few reports, is what happened last March in San Antonio.

In the aftermath, a couple of his teammates shared harsh-sounding comments. Tony Parker, who had already returned to the lineup, said his quad injury was “100 times worse” than Leonard’s and went out of his way to say he never considered getting a second opinion from outside the Spurs. Manu Ginobili, via Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News (hat tip: Zach Lowe of ESPN):

“It’s hard when you don’t practice with the team,” Ginobili said. “The bulk of the camaraderie is pregame postgame and halftimes, when you are going through some adversity or trouble, and he is not with us most of the time. It’s hard, and I have been in that situation. Not (as long as he has), but for a month, month and a half, and it’s hard. Sometimes you feel like an alien to the core group and you have to fight through it. You have to make an effort to still be around and be part of the everyday topics and the good things and the bad things. You have to make an effort.”

Was that players-only meeting a turning point? What was actually said in San Antonio’s locker room?

Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

I had heard this, that Kawhi had said something about like, “I’ll do anything for all you guys in this room, but not this organization.”

Leonard has yet to speak publicly about what went wrong in San Antonio. Maybe he never will. So, we’re left examining clues.

I won’t dismiss the possibility that, if Leonard said this, it was because it’s hard to tell people to their faces that you have a problem with them. That’s likely even more true for the quiet Leonard.

But, at face value, this just points even more toward Spurs higher-ups – how they managed Leonard’s injury, treated him given his star status, handled his contract in 2014 and handled his contract this year. That’s not say San Antonio was wrong on these issues, but this is more evidence those were important to Leonard.

Report: Rockets lure assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement with ‘significant raise’

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After a slow start, the Rockets got assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to come out of retirement.

How?

The usual way employers attract someone to a job.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta was alarmed enough to personally recruit defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik, who retired just before training camp, to return, offering what sources say was a significant raise that pushed his salary to a range that ranks among the NBA’s highest-paid assistant coaches.

Good for Bzdelik using his leverage. He looked like a defensive whiz last season, and Houston slipped without him. Of course, personnel matters, too. There’s no guarantee these Rockets – minus Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute – reach last year’s defensive level.

Bzdelik has been back around the team, but isn’t working full-time yet. It’ll take a while to assess his impact on Houston.

And good for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta paying up. Fertitta is still trying to determine the right amount for him to spend, but the team is better off if he’s willing to pay what’s necessary to attract the most desirable coaches.

Charles Barkley addresses Draymond Green-Kevin Durant dynamic (video)

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Want to hear an entertaining guy address an entertaining topic? Here you go.

Trae Young: I’ll be better than Luka Doncic

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Trae Young and Luka Doncic will be forever linked by their draft-night trade.

The Hawks took Doncic No. 3 then traded down with the Mavericks for No. 5 pick Young and a future first-round pick.

Young, via Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated:

“The thing with Luka,” Young says, “he’s a great player. I don’t understand why it can’t work out for both situations. I hear [Atlanta made a mistake] all the time. Luka’s a great dude, and I think he’s going to be a really good player. But at the same time, I’m going to be a better player. Just because of my ability to stretch the floor, get others involved, I think I’ll be better.”

Of course, Young was never going to say Doncic would be better than him. But Young didn’t have to address this so directly at all. By going out of his way to make such a bold statement, Young puts more pressure on himself.

So far, both Doncic and Young have impressed. I’ll still stick with Doncic, though. Enough to justify Dallas surrendering that extra first-round pick? That’s a far tougher call and the one the Hawks will be judged by.

Young doesn’t want that leniency, though. He’s aiming to be better than Doncic straight up and unafraid to say so publicly.

Markelle Fultz’s new free throw stroke is… different.

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Philadelphia’s Markelle Fultz is in his own head with his free throw stroke now. (And, likely much more than that, but we’ll stick with the free throws for now.)

Earlier this week Fultz double-clutched a free throw attempt and his stroke was a mess.

Each game that stroke seems to change and the latest one is… different. Very different.

As Vecenie notes, this is actually an improvement in terms of the release, but that doesn’t make it good. Fultz was 1-of-2 in his one trip to the stripe (as of this writing).

Still, I have never seen someone pass the ball back-and-forth between their hands as they go into their shooting motion like that. Very, very odd.