Kawhi Leonard’s game winner bounces in for Toronto, sends Philadelphia home (VIDEO)

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Is he really going to leave Toronto after the greatest moment in Raptors’ history?

July will be July, but in May Kawhi Leonard is the king of Toronto.

This is why Raptors GM Masai Ujiri bet big on getting Leonard last summer, to make at least one run at a Finals for Toronto with a guy who had done it before on the biggest stages. Toronto had a good team the past few years, but one that kept falling on its face in those big games. Sunday night, in Toronto’s biggest moment this season — tie game, 4.2 seconds left — Leonard did this.

It’s the only walk-off Game 7 winning shot in NBA history.

“I was telling them I work on it every day, driving baseline,” Leonard said on the court of his shot that bounced on the rim four times. “I said I missed the last one short so I just wanted to put it up in the air and got the shooter’s bounce.”

The Raptors advance to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bucks starting Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Game 7 was not pretty — the defense was intense and players on both teams were tight. Toronto won shooting 38.2 percent for the game. Pascal Siakam, who had been brilliant all series, seemed afraid to shoot. Kyle Lowry was 4-of-13. So Toronto turned Leonard loose and got 41 points on 39 shots — the most shots ever taken in regulation in Game 7 (Elgin Baylor took 40 in 1961 in a 1961 Game 7, but that game went to overtime). Leonard had 15 points in the fourth quarter, including those final two.

Toronto also got 17 points off the bench from Serge Ibaka on 6-of-10 shooting, plus he had 8 rebounds.

Joel Embiid had 21 points to lead Philly, but he was gassed at the end having played 45 minutes. Still, Embiid was +10 in his 45:11, the Sixers were -12 in the 2:49 he rested. He meant that much to the 76ers. Embiid was in tears heading back to the locker room, having given all he could.

“It’s going to be a life memory that, as painful as it feels now, it will help shape his career and give him greater clarity of what this time of the year represents,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said of Embiid. “It’s hard to be the last man standing.”

Philadelphia GM Elton Brand traded away a lot of depth to get Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, going all-in to win now, and that lack of depth became an issue in this series.

Butler was everything Brand and Sixers fans could have wanted from the trade in this series and in Game 7. He had 16 points for the game and took over down the stretch, including hitting a transition layup with 4.2 seconds left to tie the game.

It was just one shot short.

The loss sends Philadelphia into a summer where Butler, Harris, and J.J. Redick are all unrestricted free agents. How this playoff run shapes their decisions remains to be seen — it is far too early to tell — but Philly has to look at why they fell short on this run and make changes.

Brown may also be in trouble as the coach, reports have surfaced that he needed to reach the Finals to save his job. Even though Brown was the better coach in this series.

Toronto moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals and a showdown of Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, not to mention two of the top five defenses in the NBA this season. It’s going to be another tight, grinding series.

Toronto has shown it can win those, even when they don’t play their best, thanks to Leonard.

 

Tacko Fall reportedly earns two-way contract with Celtics

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Internet goobers can now rejoice, Tacko Fall will be joining Boston Celtics on a two-way contract this season.

The 7-foot-6 Fall, who played college ball at USF, has quickly become an internet darling based on his sheer size. His lanky frame and ability to shoot the 3-pointer hasn’t hurt Fall’s reputation as a fan favorite, either.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Fall will be signed to a two-way contract but is expected to spend most of his time in the NBA G-League.

Via Twitter:

Who knows if Fall will spend how much time with the Celtics this season. It’s not clear whether he’s actually ready for an NBA role just yet, particularly for a team in Boston that is looking to take over the Eastern Conference in the absence of Kawhi Leonard with the Toronto Raptors.

The Celtics are looking to make an NBA Finals run in 2020, and PFallaul will be an unlikely candidate to play a factor in that goal. Still, it’s a fun story and great to see a fan-favorite make it through and earn a contract.

Jayson Tatum doesn’t think Kobe Bryant taught him any bad habits

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There have been a lot of jokes about how Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum worked with Kobe Bryant two summers ago, and how that may have affected his performance in 2018-19. Tatum increased his shooting in segments between three and 16 feet by a combined 8% last season over his rookie year. Those midrange shots were largely attributed to Bryant’s influence by the social media sphere.

This regression went so far that Tim Bontemps recently wrote a story at ESPN about trying to de-Kobe-ify Tatum this year in Boston. But Tatum has heard those rumors, and he doesn’t believe that Bryant gave him any bad habits. To that end, Tatum said he’s still going to shoot the midrange jumper and he’s not putting Kobe at fault for his lack of progression last year.

Tatum’s comments were… well, just read them below.

Via MassLive:

“I’m still going to shoot the mid-range,” Tatum said after the Boston Celtics blowout of the Orlando Magic. “I seen all the people talking about the de-Kobe-ing. No, Kobe didn’t teach me anything bad. Everything we talked about and he showed me was great.”

“Last year, the jump that I didn’t make that everybody expected was not his fault,” Tatum said. “He’s one of the greatest ever. Everything he taught me was — I’m very grateful and it helped me. I gotta take responsibility for how I played last year and not being that big a jump that people thought. I’m still going to shoot mid-range.”

“I got better last year. Just not what people expected, not what I expected, and I take full responsibility,” Tatum said. “That’s why I’m excited for this year. But Kobe didn’t teach me any bad habits. I didn’t say that.”

Tatum’s problem wasn’t just his shot distribution, it was his shot selection. Not only did he shoot more buckets from three to 16 feet, but Tatum performed significantly worse from 16 feet out to the 3-point line, where he dipped by seven percentage points. He also saw a six percent drop in his 3-point shooting.

Combined with his shot distribution, Tatum’s percentages dropping in key areas made him a much less effective offensive player. Then again, if you watched any of the Celtics the last year — or paid attention to Boston pans online — you would know that they were fed up with some of the forced, Kobe-ish buckets Tatum would take at inopportune moments.

Even if Tatum ends up being a very good midrange shooter, that would cap his potential at DeMar DeRozan. That’s not what Danny Ainge and Boston are looking for, so perhaps someone can talk some sense into Tatum before it’s too late.

Leave it up to a former Laker to ruin the Celtics from within.

Spencer Dinwiddie announces date for investment in his contract

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Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie wanted to create a security out of his next NBA contract. The NBA said no. But then reports surfaced that Dinwiddie was going ahead with the plan anyway. Now it appears that Dinwiddie has made that public, and he is proceeding with his plan to create a digital token and give fans an opportunity to invest in his contract.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Dinwiddie outlined that he would go ahead and use his next contract as planned. Specifically, folks will be able to invest in Dinwiddie’s guaranteed money, giving him cash up front in exchange for a return of their principal plus interest at a later date.

For his part, Dinwiddie said that the plan is legal and does not violate the CBA.

Via Twitter:

In his tweet thread, Dinwiddie also said that the transaction is between himself and fans, and that the NBA does not have any control over a third-party transaction in this fashion.

This could be a very interesting back-and-forth between the Brooklyn star and the league. If he’s ready to go ahead with his plan, it’ll force the NBA to respond.

Jaylen Brown finally hires agent to deal with Celtics extension negotiations

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We’ve been hearing for some time that the chances Jaylen Brown in the Boston Celtics reach an extension is “pretty slim” as we get closer to the regular season. Brown has been operating up until now without an agent, speaking with Celtics management directly.

But according to a new report from the Boston Globe, Brown has now hired an agent to handle the back-and-forth between him and the team. That’s probably a smart move, particularly as he has other things to focus on with the Celtics looking to take over the Eastern Conference.

Via Boston Globe:

Forward Jaylen Brown told the Globe Thursday that he has hired agent Jason Glushon to take the lead on contract-extension negotiations with the Celtics.

“It’s just what’s best for me,” Brown said. “I don’t really want to talk about it. I think [talking] is a distraction. But I made my decision and I move on.”

Glushon also represents former Celtics big man Al Horford, who agreed to a four-year, $109 million deal with the 76ers last summer.

The Celtics are an interesting team in that they don’t really offer the extensions to players coming off of their rookie scales. You would think that would change given a core that Danny Ainge has built in Boston, one that he should want to keep around. But Ainge can be a bit of a wildcard, and doesn’t feel the need to hold onto players unnecessarily if it’s not toward his ultimate goal.

It seems like nobody can agree on what Brown’s reasonable asking price is, but you know how these things play out — the player wants more, and the team wants to get him cheap. This season could be a big one for Brown, both as he proves his worth for extension and as he tries to solidify his place in Boston’s plans.