L.A. Notes: Kawhi, George, Hachimura, Lakers

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard met the criteria for postseason award eligibility on Wednesday when he appeared in his 66th game of the season, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Leonard logged just 12 minutes in one of his first 65 contests, which is why he needed a 66th game to meet that benchmark.

The achievement is notable for a couple reasons. For one, Leonard was viewed by many NBA fans as one of the faces of the new 65-game rule due to his history of load management, though he pushed back against that idea last fall.

More importantly, Leonard has built a solid All-NBA case this season, averaging 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game while posting an elite .524/.415/.887 shooting line and playing strong defense. Leonard earned his sixth All-Star nod earlier this season — he has made an All-NBA team in each of his previous five All-Star seasons.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • In a pair of stories about Paul George, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examines the star forward’s contract situation and considers whether a new deal with the Clippers is the likeliest outcome, while Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN explores why George has become the model NBA archetype for young NBA wings — as well as for NBA 2K players.
  • Making Rui Hachimura a full-time starter has been a huge success for the Lakers and has put the fifth-year forward in position to thrive, as Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group details. Since reinserting Hachimura into the starting five on February 3, the Lakers are 16-7, while the 26-year-old has averaged 15.7 PPG on .584/.453/.667 shooting in those 23 games. Head coach Darvin Ham said that playing alongside other offensive threats has given Hachimura more room to operate. “Him coming off the bench, there was times where they treated him like (LeBron James),” Ham said. “They know how he can definitely score at all three levels. He draws a lot of attention without having those guys on the floor.”
  • Zach Kram of The Ringer pushes back on a social media conspiracy theory that the NBA’s referees are favoring the Lakers, explaining that the free throw disparity between Los Angeles and its opponents isn’t out of the ordinary when compared to leaders in that category in previous seasons. Kram points out that the Lakers’ style of play often leads to a free throw advantage because they attempt far fewer three-pointers and more shots at the rim than average on offense, while the opposite is true on defense. The Lakers have taken 435 more free throws than their opponents, but those opponents have attempted 513 more threes than L.A, Kram adds.
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