But San Antonio, prioritizing winning now, wanted capable veterans. So, the Spurs sent Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a late first-round pick – a deal that worked for both sides. San Antonio continued its playoff streak. Leonard led Toronto to the NBA Finals.
Boston, on the other hand, was left in the cold. The Celtics endured a rocky season that ended in the second round. Kyrie Irving appears likely to leave.
I do know that there’s some regret from some people within the Celtics organization about not pulling the trigger on a Kawhi Leonard deal last summer.
They could have made a deal for Kawhi Leonard – my understanding, from kind of both sides of this – involving Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. At least Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece of it all.
Smart was a free agent, so he would have had to agree to a sign-and-trade. That gets complicated. But Boston also signed him just after San Antonio the Leonard trade. So, maybe that was actually in play.
With Leonard thriving throughout the playoffs and Brown having an underwhelming year, Boston clearly missed a great opportunity. But hindsight is 20-20.
Leonard was coming off a lost year due to injury, and his health was a major question. He’ll also become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the flight risk was real (and still is for Toronto). The possibility of losing both Leonard and Irving in one summer would have have been daunting.
Brown had just helped lead the Celtics to Game 7 of the conference finals. He appeared to be part of a promising young core with Jayson Tatum.
So, it’s easy to say now that Boston erred. Making the call this summer would have been more difficult.
Emmanuel Mudiay beautifully fakes behind-the-back pass to get open layup (video)
This is where I reminder you Emmanuel Mudiay is just 23. It’s not too late for Mudiay – now with the Jazz after stints with the Nuggets and the Knicks – to implement enough craft into his game to succeed in the NBA. Point guards tend to develop late.
(Relatedly, Jarrett Culver is just a rookie. Falling for this sweet move doesn’t destine him to poor defense. And at least his Timberwolves beat Utah yesterday.)
Carmelo Anthony talks opportunity, playing role as he starts play in Portland
Portland is a team that needs what Anthony can bring to the court, and Anthony needs the Trail Blazers to end his career on his terms.
Saying the whole thing came together in about 48 hours, Anthony talked about joining Portland in a video posted to YouTube called “The Next Chapter.” He said the Blazers have long been on his mind.
“I always kept my eye on Portland. It just didn’t work out at other times, but now it seems like a perfect opportunity. Me and Dame, we’ve been talking for the past couple years, just off and on. CJ has been playing in my Black Ops runs for the past four years. I just look at that opportunity, that team and say, look ‘this is what I can bring to the team, this is where I can help it.’ It will only work if all parties see it the same way.”
One of the things that gave teams pause about welcoming in Anthony was whether he’d accept a role. The Trail Blazers have a pecking order: Damian Lillard is the alpha and CJ McCollum is the No. 2. Anthony is coming off the bench, not being the focal point of the offense. Anthony is saying the right things.
“What happened before is the past, I can’t dwell on that, I learned from that. This happened at a point in time in my life where I do have a lot of clarity and understanding of different situations and just life, and my approach is totally different.”
Anthony could make his debut as soon as tonight when Portland faces the Pelicans. If not, it will be soon.
Then it will not be about words, but actions.
Marcus Smart forced to leave Celtics game with with ugly right ankle sprain
“They’ll check it in the morning,” [Boston coach Brad] Stevens told reporters after the game and added, “it doesn’t look too bad.”
In his postgame comments, Smart said he was okay but he had aggravated the “exact same ankle injury I was coming back from.” He added that he “should be fine to play the rest of the road trip.”
Smart’s a competitor who wants to play. Still, with this being the same ankle he has injured twice now the team might be wise to force him to sit for a few games and let his ankle (among other ailments) heal completely and not become a chronic issue all season (there’s still nearly five months of NBA regular season left).
Look for an update from the team later on Tuesday.
Three Things to Know: Luka Doncic is destroying the NBA, setting records — and he’s still 20
LeBron Jamesis right, Doncic is a “bad m***** f*****.” Doncic is destroying the Association and he’s not yet old enough to legally buy a drink. Monday night against the Spurs he had arguably his best game yet: a career-high 42-points, plus 11 rebounds and 12 assists.
It’s hard to get a grasp on just how historic a start to the season Doncic is having, but to help here’s the full list of players who have had 40+ point triple-doubles at or before age 20:
That’s it. Expand that to age 21 and you can add Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, and Isiah Thomas. That’s some Hall of Fame company Doncic is running with at a young age.
It’s far too early to have a serious MVP conversation, but if you do, Doncic has to be a part of it. He’s been that good this season.
Did I mention he’s only 20?
2) Also making history: James Harden. The Beard put up 36 points in 33:06 minutes on the court against Portland, which is actually slightly below his per game average (39.2) but is still its own bit of history.
The @HoustonRockets James Harden has more points scored than minutes played in each of his last nine games, the longest such streak since the ABA-NBA merger.
“I think that a lot of people like to normalize greatness when you see it over and over again, but it’s not normal because there’s nobody else that can do it. If it was normal, everybody would do it.”
Westbrook, by the way, had his own big night with a triple-double of 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.
The Rockets have won eight in a row and are one of the NBA’s hottest teams right now.
3) Paul George sticks a dagger in his former team, Clippers beat Thunder. It looked like the night former Clippers would get revenge on their team: First Danilo Gallinari hit a three to tie the game at 86-86, then Chris Paul made two free throws for an 88-86 Thunder lead.
Gallinari had a shot at a three to win but it missed, George hit a free throw after being fouled, and the Clippers get out 90-88 with a win. The real Los Angeles star for the night was Montrezl Harrell, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
George saw his minutes jump to 29 in just his third game back from shoulder surgeries (plural, as in both of them) but did not score north of 30 like his first two games as the Thunder defense had more of a focus on him.
Kawhi Leonard missed his third straight game with a bruised knee suffered against the Rockets.