Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

LaMarcus Aldridge on Kawhi Leonard’s return to San Antonio: ‘If I can just get some popcorn and watch it, I would, but I might have to play’

Leave a comment

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is downplaying the significance of Kawhi Leonard‘s return to San Antonio.

As usual, Leonard isn’t saying much.

But Leonard’s first game in San Antonio since being traded to Toronto along with Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl has more significance than just another regular season game

Popovich once deemed the franchise belonged to the 6-foot-7 MVP candidate with the impending departure of the Big Three – Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. But Leonard’s unhappiness and request for a trade stunned the organization.

“Give me some popcorn, I just want to watch it,” Spurs veteran LaMarcus Aldridge quipped Wednesday. “If I can just get some popcorn and watch it, I would, but I might have to play.”

It’s easier to joke about the pending reunion because there was nothing funny about the breakup.

Leonard sat out all but nine games last season with a right quadriceps injury that first flared up prior to training camp. The diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of the injury created unrepairable tension between Leonard and the Spurs.

Neither side has offered any details on the saga – a stance that continues.

“You move on in life,” Popovich said. “We’re not going to redo what’s happened in the past in any way shape or form. That’s of no consequence at this point and it does no good to go backwards and talk about this, that or the other.”

Leonard still speaks like he plays for the Spurs even though he is no longer in San Antonio. Like Popovich, Leonard views Thursday’s matchup as another game and another chance to improve.

“It’s going to be fun,” Leonard said. “Everybody’s anticipating the game. Things like that only get me better for the long run, so it’s going to be a good game.”

The trade is working out well for both teams – for now.

Leonard is averaging career highs in points (27.3) and rebounds (8.2). DeRozan is having his best season for rebounds (5.9) and assists (6.3) and his 22.9 points per game is within range of his career high of 23.5 points.

Toronto (28-11) has spent most of the season atop the Eastern Conference but is currently second behind Milwaukee (26-10) based on winning percentage.

San Antonio (21-17) has rallied from a poor start to win 10 of its last 13 to close within 4 1/2 games of the top spot in the West.

While the parties involved may have moved on, many Spurs fans have not. Leonard is expected to be booed heavily during the game, but Popovich hopes that is not the case.

“I don’t speak for other people, but I hope that we’ll treat everybody with kindness and respect,” Popovich said. “We always have in the past, so we’ll see.”

Leonard spent his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Spurs after being acquired from Indiana in a draft-day trade. So, his departure is personal to many fans in San Antonio.

“I hope they react just as well and the same that they do with any other ex-teammate that comes back,” Spurs guard Patty Mills said. “He’s been a great teammate, a great friend to me, he deserves that. I’m hoping that it will be a warm welcome back to San Antonio, a place where he has won a championship and grew up here and people have treated him well.”

Healing is an emotion DeRozan can understand.

When the trade was first announced, DeRozan posted on social media that he felt “betrayed” by the Toronto organization. In the subsequent weeks following the trade, DeRozan said he wanted to gain revenge against the Raptors and that he had circled Thursday’s game “twice” on the league schedule.

Five months later, DeRozan said he hadn’t thought much about the matchup against his former team.

“Emotional? I don’t know, I never experienced an emotional game,” DeRozan said. “I couldn’t answer your questions about it right now. I don’t feel like it’s going to be an emotional game, but that’s right now.”

Said Popovich: “A lot of people, because of the trade, will add fuel to it and try to make it this, that and the other, and that’s fine. But for us, it’s about just trying to get better, create better habits on both ends of the floor. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Those are the goals every game.”

Aldridge agrees with his teammate and coach – to a point.

“It’s emotional for sure, I’ve been there,” the Spurs forward said. “I wasn’t on the end kind of how (DeRozan’s trade) went down. I left a team, and it was not good blood there.

“I can’t speak for him, but I know it’s definitely not just another game, for sure.”

Devin Booker tries to meet Gorgui Dieng in locker room after both get ejected (VIDEO)

Twitter
1 Comment

NBA players like to talk a big game about getting into fights with one another. It rarely actually happens, and when things get a little too heated sometimes we get a little extracurricular activity that helps us weave the tapestry that is the story of the NBA.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves took on the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, Gorgui Dieng and Devin Booker decided to have a little chat with one another. The two got into a jawing match after a play in the third quarter when Dieng elbowed Booker in the face.

Booker took exception to that and decided to start flapping his gums at Dieng. Both were ejected after official review, and as they exited to opposite sides of the floor, Booker appeared to make eye contact with Dieng and accept an offer to meet him in the concourse under the stands that lead to the locker rooms.

The Suns guard then had to be restrained from running at full speed to meet Dieng.

Via Twitter:

Devin Booker vs. Gorgui Dieng is the bitter rivalry you didn’t know you needed.

Report: Anthony Davis fears fractured finger, could be out up to a month

Getty
Leave a comment

New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis hurt his hand against the Portland Trail Blazers earlier last week. Initial reports had Davis missing 1-2 weeks with a sprained finger.

Now it appears things could be much worse.

Reports surfaced on Tuesday night that Davis could be facing a potential fracture in his left index finger. If that’s the case, Davis could miss anywhere from 2-4 weeks with a more serious injury.

Via Twitter:

The Pelicans cannot afford to have Davis out for that amount of time. The team has not met expectations this season, and are struggling to stay in playoff contention as we near the All-Star break.

If Davis is going to miss significant time, now is probably the best place in the NBA calendar. The real problem is that the Pelicans won’t be able to stay afloat without him. Even with Davis on the floor, New Orleans has struggled to win recent games against top Western Conference opponents like the Blazers and Golden State Warriors.

It’s probably too much to extrapolate this into what this could mean for Davis staying with the Pelicans, but it’s natural to wonder whether a missed postseason could push Davis to ask for a trade out of Louisiana.

If he’s not on the floor, the Pelicans probably aren’t winning games without Davis. That could spell disaster for their playoff hopes, and in turn, alter the future of the franchise.

Kevin Durant challenged Draymond Green to better control his emotions

AP
Leave a comment

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green has often let his emotions get the better of him. Green famously missed Game 5 of the NBA finals in 2016 after he repeatedly kicked LeBron James in the crotch.

Meanwhile, things have been heated in the Golden State locker room like never before. It’s bubbled over to the public sphere, with Kevin Durant and Green seemingly at odds at different times during this year.

Things seem to have studied in the meantime, particularly after Stephen Curry returned to the lineup At the beginning of December. But Durant and Green are still trying to find a way to work together to win another championship in the Bay Area.

According to a story from The Athletic, that meant a challenge from Durant to Green to maintain his emotions and to keep himself in check.

Via The Athletic:

Durant told Green he wasn’t accepting the emotional excuse. Green’s fire is what makes him great even if it also makes him volatile. But Durant wasn’t buying that it’s uncontrollable. He’s seen Green control it. He’s seen him keep his composure in the crucible of championship stakes. He’s seen him locked in and focused, forcing his emotions to submit to his will.

So Durant challenged him to be better. Green accepted.

Green has had a down year and it’s not clear Why that is. Is he simply aging? Or is this more due to the internal strife in the Warriors locker room?

No matter what, Golden State will need a semblance of the old Draymond Green to win NBA title this year. This agreeent between the two stars should be helpful both in healing their wounds and moving toward their shared goal.

These guys might not ever fully reconcile, but another championship ring could act as a salve.

Paul George joined Knicks fans in cheering for Raymond Felton (VIDEO)

Getty
Leave a comment

There’s not much to cheer about at Madison Square Garden these days. Kristaps Porzingis is still not playing for the New York Knicks, and it’s not clear whether the team will land a big free agent like Kevin Durant this summer or strike out and continue their run of dismal play.

As such, it makes sense that New York fans are trying to keep themselves entertained, and that includes during Knicks games.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to town on Monday night, fans in Manhattan found themselves cheering for a former Knicks player on the Thunder bench. With the game out of reach, it only seemed appropriate.

In the fourth quarter, MSG started a chant for Raymond Felton, who played for the Knicks for three seasons over two stays. As cheers rained down from the stands, even Paul George got involved in the action.

Via Twitter:

George scored 31 points as the Thunder rolled New York, 127-109.