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Report: Spurs worried Kawhi Leonard’s group trying to get him to Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, 76ers

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Those rumors of mutual interest between the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard? Maybe it’s time to take them seriously.

The Spurs apparently are.

Ramona Shelburne and Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

Multiple league sources also told ESPN that the Spurs have grown worried that Leonard’s group has an ulterior motive to fray the relationship and get Leonard traded to a larger market like Los Angeles (Leonard’s hometown) or New York or Philadelphia (Robertson lives in New Jersey).

One source close to general manager R.C. Buford said the longtime executive admitted to him that he’s constantly losing sleep over how and why the relationship with Leonard has disintegrated.

I suggest reading Shelburne’s and Wight’s article in full. It’s the deepest dive yet into the disconnect between Leonard and the Spurs.

A big issue is clearly Leonard’s injury. San Antonio calls it quadriceps tendinopathy, but that’s not the only accepted diagnosis.

Shelburne and Wright:

Leonard’s camp believes his condition is the result of a series of contusions to the quadriceps that began with one very deep bruise in March 2016 that caused him to miss three games. Leonard was again listed with a “quad contusion” on the Feb. 6, 2017, injury report, when he was a late scratch before a game. But it wasn’t until the end of last season when the severity of the injury became apparent.

According to multiple sources, Leonard’s camp has come to believe the issue has more to do with an ossification or hardening in the area where the muscle has been repeatedly bruised and then an atrophying, which in turn affected the tendons connecting the muscle to the knee.

The treatment course for each diagnosis (a muscle issue vs. a tendon issue) is different, which has become another source of tension in the relationship.

That disagreement caused Leonard’s camp – his agent, Mitch Frankel, and uncle, Dennis Robertson – to send Leonard to New York to seek an outside opinion. Dr. Jonathan Glashow has reportedly run Leonard’s rehab since. Glashow is also the 76ers’ chief medical officer – a potential bigger draw for Philadelphia than Leonard’s uncle’s proximity.

The Clippers are already lining up trade offers for Leonard (as are many teams). It was also only a matter of time before the Knicks got mentioned. The New York boogeyman always looms.

And of course, there are the Spurs, who must work out issues big and small with Leonard. But it’s certainly not a forgone conclusion Leonard will leave his current team.

None of this is clear – not Leonard’s intentions, not the financial difficulties of his agency (again read the entire article), not San Antonio’s plans. But everyone is moving toward key decisions, and as that happens, more context is coming to light.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Pending Bucks RFA Jabari Parker ‘ain’t going nowhere’

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How does Jabari Parker fit in Milwaukee?

The Bucks spent half the season trying to answer that difficult question. Now, with Parker headed into restricted free agency, the stakes are even higher.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has a resolution, though.

Antetokounmpo, via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“Jabari ain’t going nowhere,” Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to be here and he’s going to be ready for next season. And we will be all excited and playing in the new arena. And everyone is going to be having fun.”

Is this a message to the Bucks? Parker? Both?

Parker is talented, but multiple tears of his left ACL leave long-term questions. His 3-pointer – while significantly improved – isn’t totally reliable yet, and his defense is usually lacking. That limits how well he complements Antetokounmpo.

Parker clearly is unhappy with a smaller role. Will he ever get a satisfactorily large one in Milwaukee?

The Bucks are also near the luxury-tax line for next season. Getting Mirza Teletovic’s stretched salary excluded could provide breathing room, but that can’t happen until November – after the team must decide on Parker.

So, a split this summer could make sense.

But it’s uncertain Parker will draw a massive offer sheet. Milwaukee also doesn’t want to squander an asset.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bucks want to keep Antetokounmpo happy. Because they hold Parker’s restricted rights, they control this situation. And Antetokounmpo sounds pretty clear in his preference.

Heat president Pat Riley on Hassan Whiteside’s postseason: ‘He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape’

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MIAMI (AP) — In the case of Hassan Whiteside, the enigmatic Heat center who was a nonfactor in the playoffs and complained about how he was being utilized by coach Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the entirety of the situation.

Whiteside dealt with injuries during the season and didn’t want to wear a knee brace that the Heat insisted upon, and Riley said that if Whiteside and Spoelstra need an intervention to solve their relationship issues – if any – he’ll handle it.

Riley also didn’t mince words, saying Whiteside needs to make changes.

“By the time we got to the playoffs I don’t think he was ready,” Riley said. “He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t in great shape. He wasn’t fully conditioned for a playoff battle mentally. He, and we, got our head handed to us. The disconnect between he and Spo, that’s going to take a discussion between them and it’s going to take thought on the part of coach and also Hassan.

“How will Hassan transform his thinking, 99 percent of it to get the kind of improvement that Spo wants so he can be effective? How can Spo transform his thinking when it comes to offense and defense and minutes or whatever?”

That word – transform – was a theme of sorts for Riley’s meeting with reporters. He started with a 15-minute monologue on how change has been a constant throughout his 23 seasons with the Heat, how the team landed transformative superstars like Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal in trades and Dwyane Wade through the draft and LeBron James and Chris Bosh in summertime deals.

Come July 1, the Heat will be active on those fronts again – noting that the fan base is clamoring for more.

“Well, we’ll give them more,” Riley said. “We’ll try to give them more. That’s what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here. That’s what Micky has been doing, trying to give you more if we can. But we’re not going to do anything that isn’t smart. We will never do anything that’s really going to hurt the franchise.”

Here’s what Riley is not going to do this summer: quit.

Everything else is on the table.

The Miami Heat president said Monday in his annual end-of-season assessment that no player on the team’s roster will be considered untouchable this offseason – if the right deal presents itself, that is – but quickly added the caveat that the franchise is not looking for a total revamp after going 44-38 in the regular season and making the playoffs.

“Show me the right name, and I could be all-in on everything,” Riley said. “You know me. But it’s got to be the right name … that doesn’t happen very often. Our core guys, we would like to keep together, there’s no doubt. We would like to keep them together and we’d like to add something to it, but that’s going to be a challenge.”

He also was clear on his own future: The 73-year-old Riley, who has spent a half-century in the NBA as a player, coach and executive, isn’t going anywhere until managing general partner Micky Arison tells him it’s time to vacate the president’s office.

In other words, the Hall of Famer’s competitive fires are still burning.

“There’s always something that brings you back in,” Riley said. “There’s something that sucks you back in. … I’m an active participant, and I’m going to stay that way to the chagrin probably of some of you and probably people in the organization.”

Riley held exit meetings with players Friday, three days after the Heat’s season ended in a five-game first-round ouster at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers. He said he hasn’t yet broached the topic of retirement with Wade, for fear of planting that seed. He reiterated that the team wants to try to keep Wayne Ellington, even with the Heat somewhat handcuffed right now by salary-cap and luxury-tax challenges. Miami has $111 million already committed to the as-of-now seven highest-paid players on its books for next season.

NOTES: Before Riley spoke, the Heat said guard Tyler Johnson had surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Johnson was hurt in the opening seconds of Game 3 of the series against Philadelphia but finished the series. He will be in a cast for six weeks. The Heat expect him to be ready to begin camp in September.

 

Carmelo Anthony: Thunder had ‘no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system’

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Carmelo Anthony said he won’t come off the bench, but the Thunder forward isn’t just looking ahead with indignation.

He’s also looking back with indignation.

Anthony, via Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

“The player that they wanted me to be and needed me to be was for the sake of this season…Everything was just thrown together, and it wasn’t anything that was planned out,” Anthony said. “It wasn’t no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system and what type of player and things like that.

“As far as being effective as that type of player, I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player. I think I was willing to accept that challenge and that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I still can do as a basketball player.”

Hanging over all this: Anthony holds a $27,928,140 early termination option for next season. If he’s that unhappy in Oklahoma City, he could decline it and sign elsewhere. Of course, he won’t get anywhere near that salary ever again.

So, this is probably the Thunder’s problem. Most likely, they’ll have an overpaid and demanding Anthony back.

The fundamental issue: After years of dominating the ball, Anthony is most comfortable playing that style. But he’s no longer good enough to warrant such a large role.

The simplest fix is Anthony coming off the bench. He might be good enough run the offense through when Russell Westbrook and Paul George sit. But Anthony’s pride won’t allow him to do that.

Smaller tweaks are possible. Oklahoma City didn’t acquire Anthony until just before training camp last year. This was a stark change. No rotation regular had a bigger reduction in seconds per touch and dribbles per touch. Perhaps, more time to prepare would pay dividends.

George could leave, though even just an Anthony-Westbrook pairing comes with complications. Anthony never played with such a high-usage teammate in New York.

But unless Anthony is willing to meet his team in the middle – coming off the bench, improving his off-ball game – there’s no quick fix in sight.

Celtics-76ers: Something old, something new

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Players fought on the court. Police intervened. Another player fought the police. The teams combined for 107 fouls. Twelve players committed enough fouls to foul out, but some got to stay on the court anyway so there’d be enough to each side. Two players reached seven fouls. Bob Cousy scored 50 points, shooting 30-of-32 on free throws. The Boston Celtics eliminated the Syracuse Nationals with a 111-105 quadruple-overtime win in Game 2 of the 1953 Eastern Division semifinals.

And thus concluded the first playoff series between the longtime franchises.

The Celtics and 76ers, who moved to Philadelphia from Syracuse and changed their name, will meet again in the postseason tonight. The second-round series will be the record 20th playoff-series matchup between the franchises.

It also could be just the start of a renewed rivalry.

LeBron James has run the Eastern Conference for the better part of a decade with the Heat and Cavaliers, but his control appears to be slipping. Boston and Philadelphia look ready to take the throne, both teams set up to compete with each other for a long time.

The 76ers are led by 24-year-old Joel Embiid and 21-year-old Ben Simmons. They have an impressive and well-fitting supporting cast, and – especially 24-year-old Dario Saric – some of those secondary players are also still young. Philadelphia also has enough cap space to add another impact player this summer – maybe even LeBron.

The Celtics already acquired their stars, signing Gordon Hayward and trading for Kyrie Irving last summer and signing Al Horford the year before. Twenty-year-old Jayson Tatum and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown are so promising. Twenty-four-year-old Terry Rozier has gone from a joke topic to good player. Not that Brett Brown is a slouch, but Boston coach Brad Stevens is one of the NBA’s most-respected coaches.

And both teams have extra draft picks, some very valuable. (The Celtics acquired one from the 76ers, who traded up to draft Markelle Fultz No. 1 last year.)

This arms race started years ago in both Boston and Philadelphia.

Celtics president Danny Ainge traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets while those two were still leading teams to the playoffs and got a boatload of picks. Ainge kept flipping veterans – Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and even Coach Doc Rivers for more draft picks.

Sam Hinkie’s Process gave Philadelphia a wealth of assets. Not only did they tank their way to several high picks (drafting Embiid and Simmons), the 76ers cleverly extracted extra selections from win-now teams looking to shed salary.

Now, Philadelphia is ready to win and still, like Boston, has extra picks still coming (unlike the Raptors, who had the East’s best record this season but also have older stars and are out this year’s first-rounder). The 76ers and Celtics can use those extra picks to infuse their teams with young talent or trade them for immediate upgrades. The luxury is in the choice.

This won’t be the marquee matchup that awaits in years to come. Irving and Hayward (and Daniel Theis) are out for Boston. Philadelphia is the big favorite.

But even in a rivalry more than six decades old, this feels like just the start of something.