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

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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.

Frank Vogel earns spot as coach of Team LeBron in All-Star Game

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LeBron James will have a familiar coach on the sideline with him in Chicago for the All-Star Game.

With the Lakers’ win in Brooklyn Thursday night — thanks to LeBron’s triple-double — the Lakers clinched the best record in the West by the Feb. 2 cutoff date, making Frank Vogel the coach for Team LeBron.

Vogel has done this before. Back in 2014, he was the coach of the Indiana Pacers, a team had the best record at the All-Star break. Vogel’s squad won 163-155 behind 31 points from Kyrie Irving (he was named All-Star MVP).

This will LeBron’s 16th All-Star Game as a starter (an NBA record) be and it is his third year as a team captain (he is 2-0 so far). LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo are team captains for the second consecutive year, and in two weeks they will choose their teams playground-style from a list of starters (named Wednesday) and reserves (named next week).

Vogel’s counterpart is not yet known. The Bucks will have the best record in the East but Mike Budenholzer coached the All-Star Game last season and the rule is coaches can’t do it two years in a row (called the “Phil Jackson doesn’t want to be here rule,” unofficially). After him, Erik Spoelstra (Miami), Nick Nurse (Toronto), and Brad Stevens (Boston) are all within a game-and-a-half of each other, any of them could end up coaching Team Giannis.

 

 

Watch LeBron James rack up triple-double, help Lakers pull-away from Nets

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NEW YORK — LeBron James had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in his 10th triple-double of the season and the Los Angeles Lakers made a season-high 19 3-pointers to pull away and beat the Brooklyn Nets 128-113 on Thursday night.

James closed within 17 points of Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list with a flurry in the fourth quarter. He can pass Bryant on Saturday at Philadelphia, where the five-time champion with the Lakers was born.

James has 33,626 points. Bryant finished with 33,643.

A back-and-forth game for nearly three quarters turned into a rout after the Lakers broke the Nets’ spirits with four straight 3-pointers spanning the third and fourth quarters, extending a one-point lead to 107-94, and Los Angeles coasted from there.

Anthony Davis had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Dwight Howard finished with 14 points and 12 boards in his first start of the season.

Kyrie Irving scored 20 points after missing a game with right hamstring tightness, but the Nets lost their fifth straight. Brooklyn has won just two of its last 14 games.

The Nets were without backup centers DeAndre Jordan and Nicolas Claxton, leaving them without many options behind starter Jarrett Allen. But they struggled just as badly guarding the perimeter. Los Angeles was 19 of 38 behind the arc.

The Lakers led 38-35 after one, before both teams made seven 3-pointers in the second. Howard went 4 for 4 for eight points in the period, helping the Lakers take a 75-70 lead to halftime.

Danny Green made three 3s in the first four minutes of the third, pushing the lead to 88-75, but the Nets had it down to 95-94 after a 3-pointer by Irving with 49 seconds remaining. But then Davis and Rajon Rondo hit 3s before Jared Dudley, who played in Brooklyn last season, hit one from near the Nets’ bench to beat the buzzer and make it 104-94.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made it four straight 3s to open the fourth, extending the lead back to 13. James then scored eight in the period before taking a seat for good.

 

Check out Jordan Brand/Nike designed All-Star Game uniforms

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It’s only fitting that Jordan brand has a significant role with the All-Star Game coming to Chicago.

Jordan Brand designed this year’s ASG uniforms and took its inspiration from the Chicago transit line. Here’s the explanation, straight from the press release (because you don’t want me trying to describe fashion, trust me):

Jordan Brand and Nike designers incorporated the color of each track into the uniforms as a base: blue and red for the NBA All-Star Game; purple and orange for NBA Rising Stars; green and pink for the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game presented by Ruffles; and brown and yellow for the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game. The Jordan Brand official NBA All-Star game uniforms add the six-pointed star from the Chicago flag as the symbolic refrain while inviting the attitude of the ‘90s-era alternate uniforms worn by the hometown Bulls.

Take a look at them yourself:

The red and blue will be worn by Team LeBron and Team Giannis during the All-Star Game, with other colors for the Rising Star and Celebrity games.

Of course, they are available for sale at NBAStore.com and Nike.com.

Watch Trae Young’s emotional reaction to being named an All-Star Game starter

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Trae Young is an All-Star Game starter at age 21 in just his second NBA season.

While that was not a total surprise — he had led the fan voting in the East among guards since the start — it still was an emotional moment for Young when it was announced (as filmed by his teammate Brandon Goodwin for IG).

Young and Kemba Walker were named the backcourt starters for the Eastern Conference (although both will go into a pool of players picked playground-style by the captains to form teams).

There are two 21-and-under starters in this All-Star Game, Young and Luka Doncic of Dallas. The last time there were two starters under age 21 was 1998 with Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett.