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Report: NBA teams plotting Kawhi Leonard trade inquiries

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The Spurs reportedly quickly shot down any attempts to trade for Kawhi Leonard before February’s trade deadline.

But, with San Antonio and Leonard still at an impasse, other teams will try again this summer.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

I have already talked to several general managers. At the end of this season, teams will call the Spurs and inquire about the availability of Kawhi Leonard.

This is just due diligence by other teams. When healthy, Leonard – just 26 – is one of the NBA’s best player. He’s a terrorizing defender, and he has become an elite one-on-one scorer. Every team should want him.

Including San Antonio.

As bad as this situation looks now, the Spurs have a habit of working these things out. It’s far from a given, but Gregg Popovich knows how to communicate with players.

Leonard will be eligible this offseason for a super-max contract extension, which projects to be worth about $219 million over five years. If he waits until 2019 free agency, the most he could get from another team projects to be about $139 million over four years.

The Spurs might not offer the extension. Leonard could still get the super max in free agency if he makes an All-NBA team or wins Defensive Player of the Year or MVP next season. Even without Leonard winning one of those honors, San Antonio will hold a financial advantage, being able to offer him a projected $188 million over five years.

But if the Spurs offer the extension this summer and Leonard rejects it, that’d speak volumes to his intent. At that point, trade talk will shift into overdrive.

For now, these other teams seem like dreamers. Nothing wrong with that, but it means only so much.

Clippers PG Jawun Evans out for rest of season

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Patrick Beverley suffered a season-ending injury in November. Milos Teodosic has been repeatedly hurt, including the last few games.

So, the Clippers have had to rely more than expected on point guard Juwan Evans, a rookie second-rounder.

And now even he’s out.

Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The Clippers are two games and two teams out of playoff position with just five games left. A longshot chance of reaching the postseason looks even less likely.

L.A. is left to lean on two-way-player Tyrone Wallace at point guard. Lou Williams and Austin Rivers can also play lead guard, but the more they’re used at the one, the less depth on the wing.

Doc Rivers has done an incredible job keeping the Clippers humming amid departures, trades and injuries. But the obstacles keep stacking up.

Heat’s Hassan Whiteside backs down: ‘I just trust coach’s decision’

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Heat center Hassan Whiteside sat the final 15 minutes of Miami’s loss to the Nets on Saturday, riding the bench as Brooklyn went small.

Whiteside:

“Man, it’s annoying,” said Whiteside, who was pulled for good with 3:55 to play in the third quarter. “Why we matching up? We got one of the best centers in the league. Why we matching up? A lot of teams don’t have a good center. They’re going to use their strength.

“It’s bull—. It’s really bull—, man,” Whiteside said. “There’s a lot of teams that could use a center. S—. That’s bull—.”

Asked if it has him questioning his future with the team, he said. “I don’t know, maybe.”

The Heat fined and supported him. Now, Whiteside doesn’t sound quite as upset.

Whiteside, via Shandel Richardson of the SunSentinel:

“I was just frustrated, man,” Whiteside said. “I was frustrated that we lost. I really wanted to get that game … I could have handled it different. But I got so caught up in wanting to get that win. I get real competitive. I really want to be out there. But I just trust coach’s decision.”

Whiteside fell from the NBA to the lowest levels of professional basketball then worked his way back. He became the first player to go from a minimum salary one year to a max salary the next. He became the Heat’s franchise player.

Those accomplishments were fueled by Whiteside’s belief in himself. So, it’s understandable that attitude has persisted.

That makes it sometimes tricky for the Heat to handle him, especially as they’ve become more balanced and less reliant on him. But Whiteside has generally eventually stayed grounded enough, and this is another example of that.

Devin Booker sounds less bullish about signing contract extension with Suns

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The Suns have gone 23-59, 24-58 and 19-59 in Devin Booker‘s three seasons. Despite all the high draft picks generated by those lousy records, Phoenix hasn’t added anyone else more likely than not to become a star. (Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss have a chance, but the early returns have ranged from mixed to disappointing.) The Suns have also fired two coaches in this time.

If Phoenix offers Booker a max contract extension – which projects to be worth $146 million over five years – this summer, will he sign it?

Scott Bordow of azcentral in October:

Booker, who recently said one of the reasons he admires Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant is that they played their entire career with one team – with the exception of Jordan’s two-year stint with Washington – said he would love to sign an extension if offered next summer.

“I’ve been treated right from the day I was drafted, even when I was a rookie and didn’t play much,” he said. “The city of Phoenix took me in with open arms and made me a part of their family. I’ve learned the history and traditions of the team. I know how much the city cares about the franchise and that means a lot to me, playing somewhere where people actually care about the franchise.

“I love it here, I bought a house here and I intend to be here for a long time.”

Bordow now:

Asked if anything – or everything – that has happened this season has changed his mind, he chuckled and said: “I mean, that’s a whole other discussion. A lot goes into that. When that time comes I’ll have to make a decision.”

But then he added, “I’ve always said this is the place I want to be so if everything works out, yeah.”

Here’s betting a max extension would be enough to make everything work out. That’s too much money for Booker to pass up, especially because Booker will have earned just $9,985,165 on his four-year rookie-scale contract and unilaterally leaving Phoenix would require him to spend the following year on his qualifying offer ($4,583,767 or, in the more likely event he meets the starter criteria, $4,915,726).

That’s just not enough earnings yet to justify passing on $145 million.

Booker is fed up with losing, but he also said the entire Suns organization is on the same page. He’s looking in the mirror for solutions, too.

That attitude – and his immense talent – are why Phoenix will probably offer him a max contract extension. And he’ll probably sign it.

Report: Bulls shut down Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for rest of season

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Zach LaVine (knee) and Kris Dunn (toe) have missed the Bulls’ last nine games.

Those two aren’t returning this season.

Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago:

LaVine will be restricted free agent this summer. Acquired from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade while still recovering from a torn ACL, LaVine played just 24 games this season. He never reached or even neared peak form. The Bulls didn’t get a chance to learn much more about him or for him to develop. He’s an improved outside shooter and dangerous on fastbreaks, but his athleticism rarely shows on defense and in the halfcourt offense. There are also concerns about that athleticism given these injuries.

Dunn, also acquired in the Butler trade, improved significantly after a dismal rookie year in Minnesota. This is a sour note to end on.

Sitting LaVine and Dunn should help Chicago lose its final five games. Is this tanking? Impossible to say without know more about LaVine’s and Dunn’s medical evaluations. But the Bulls have already pushed the limit this season, so it’s not hard to believe they’d be overly cautious with LaVine and Dunn because doing so would carry the added benefit of improving draft position.