Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard’s Uncle Dennis talks leaving Spurs, playoff run, but not future plans

5 Comments

If you’re hoping for insight into what Kawhi Leonard will do this summer, you’re going to be disappointed.

When it comes to the future, Dennis Robertson — known by most as “Uncle Dennis,” Leonard’s “business strategist” and career advisor — is just as forthcoming as Leonard himself. Which is to say, not at all. Uncle Dennis has long been rumored to be the guy pushing Leonard toward Los Angeles (for marketing reasons), but pushing Leonard around off the court is about as easy as pushing him around on it. Doesn’t really work. Leonard is going to get to his spot, wherever that is.

However, in a rare interview, Robertson does tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports Leonard’s perspective on why it was time to leave San Antonio and the Spurs. It all ties back to dealing with the quadriceps tendinopathy that sidelined him most of the previous season (and led to a lot of “load management” days this regular season).

“I think it just became a lack of trust,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “They didn’t believe Kawhi couldn’t play and that caused a lack of trust in us and then us not believing in them. Any time a player says he’s not capable of playing, you should believe him. Why would Kawhi just stop playing all of a sudden? He’s a competitor. Sometimes you get these team doctors telling you what you can and cannot do, and Kawhi was just in too much pain to get out there. This was a serious issue. They didn’t believe him, and after that, the relationship couldn’t recover and we decided we had to move on.”

Was the miscommunication that severe? Did Robertson and others around Leonard use this to drive a wedge in there and help get him out of San Antonio? Those answers will always be a matter of perspective.

Robertson said the initial disappointment on their end about being traded to Toronto was not about the city or the team so much as not getting to go home to Los Angeles as he had hoped. However, Robertson spoke highly of Toronto and said that Leonard was trying to live in the moment, enjoy the finals, and show everyone just how great a player he is and how much he has worked on his craft and game to get here. This is the Finals, this is where Leonard wants to be.

Will making the Finals keep Leonard in Toronto? Robertson isn’t touching that one. As for the future, here is the vague, cliche-filled response everyone should have expected from a member of Leonard’s inner circle.

“I can’t get into other free agents and other teams, but for Kawhi, he’s going to take it one day and one game at a time,” Robertson told Yahoo Sports. “We have a championship opportunity in front of us. We’re not thinking about free agency; it’s the Warriors [right now]. Once we get through the season, we’ll turn our attention to free agency. But we’re just having fun right now. This has been a great year.”

We all know there is zero chance that future plans have not been discussed by Leonard and his inner circle, but they are not about to leak anything either way.

Rumors will fly around as rumors do this summer, but we’re not really going to know what Leonard thinks until it is announced. Sources around the league have said this seems to be a two-team race, either he stays with the Raptors or comes to Los Angeles with the Clippers. Other teams will make a run but seem to have little shot at getting in the conversations.

What he decides will have ripple effects across the league. Leave Toronto and the Raptors will likely try to trade Kyle Lowry and other older stars, starting a rebuilding process. Choose Toronto and the Clippers become bigger players in the rest of free agency and could get in on trade talks for names like Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal (if he becomes available).

For now, we should just enjoy watching Leonard play basketball. He is going to make life difficult for the Warriors.

Rockets to add Spurs buyout DeMarre Carroll, free agent Jeff Green

Spurs forward DeMarre Caroll
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeMarre Carroll and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a buyout. Carroll will then sign with the Houston Rockets:

ESPN’s Tim McMahon added in a subsequent report that the Rockets will bring in free agent forward Jeff Green:

Green will first sign a 10-day contract with the Rockets, so he can get used to their system and see if there is a fit, Woj reported.

Carroll signed a three-year, $20.65 million contract as part of a sign and trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Spurs this past summer. That agreement was part of a three-team trade that saw San Antonio send forward Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. The 10-year veteran is owed $7 million for this season, $6.65 million for 2020-21 and $1.35 million guaranteed for 2021-22. San Antonio will incur a cap hit for each of the three seasons as part of the buyout process with Carroll. How much of a cap hit will depend on how much money Carroll gave up as part of the buyout agreement.

Carroll was added via sign and trade after Marcus Morris spurned the Spurs in free agency. Morris had originally agreed to sign with San Antonio, but backed out after the New York Knicks offered him $15 million as a free agent. The Spurs moved on to Carroll as a backup plan, but he was never able to crack the rotation. He’s played only 135 minutes over 15 games with San Antonio.

Green was with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, before being waived to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker. The 11-year veteran Green averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances with Utah. The Rockets will be the ninth different franchise Green has played for.

In Houston, Carroll and Green will join Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball crew as big man depth. Carroll and Green will likely back up P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington up front. Their experience at both forward spots will give the Rockets additional depth for their playoff run. Carroll and Green are also likely be to asked to play some center, as Houston has downsized dramatically at that position, including trading Clint Capela at the trade deadline.

NBA players’ union votes to support formation of G-League union

Kyrie Irving
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.

The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.

The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.

Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.

The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.

In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Chris Paul remains the union president.

Check out Dr. Dre’s Kobe Bryant tribute

Leave a comment

CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.

Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.

Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on team’s All-Star plan: Attack James Harden

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden
Lampson Yip - Clicks Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO – James Harden has griped about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player last year.

After his team lost to Harden’s in the All-Star game Sunday, Antetokounmpo got in a dig at Harden.

“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding,” Antetokounmpo said of his team’s strategy late. “That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.”

Harden is not a good defender. But this is playing right into his hands. He’s at his best in isolation, especially in the post. He faces far more difficulty when run through actions off the ball or trying to keep up in transition.

Down the stretch, Harden defended more effectively than usual. Not great, but above his usual standard. Good enough for LeBron James‘ team to win.

At least, as Giannis previously noted, the MVP trophy is at his house.