Kawhi Leonard

Pacific Notes: Leonard, Kings, Lakers, Davis

The Clippers are being cautious with Kawhi Leonard (foot injury recovery) as the playoffs near, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details. Los Angeles has maintained a minutes restriction for Leonard, who logged 36 minutes in a loss against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon. It was the most playing time Leonard had seen in over a month.

“Right now, Kawhi just can’t play a full quarter, so he can’t play the whole 12-minute stint,” coach Tyronn Lue said when asked about Leonard and Paul George occasionally sitting on the bench together for stretches. “Without having him, it kind of messes up our rotations a little bit.

“So that is where we insert Terance Mann or Luke Kennard in that position and just kind of go from there. But once [Leonard] is cleared to be able to play the whole quarter, we will go back to him finishing the first and third and letting PG play with the second unit to start the quarter.”

Despite the Clippers’ plan, Leonard has assured the team that he’s in good health and is ready to play. The 2019 NBA Finals MVP has led L.A. to a 45-23 record through 68 games, good for the third-best in the West.

There’s more from the Southwest Division tonight:

  • The Kings‘ playoff-style game against the Spurs on Friday will help the team in the long run, Jason Jones of The Athletic writes. Sacramento lost the contest 113-104, but the team played meaningful basketball and fought for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. A win would’ve brought the club to 1.5 games behind San Antonio for the No. 10 seed.
  • The Lakers‘ future is now in peril, Mark Whicker of the Orange Country Register writes. Los Angeles is dealing with the uncertain status of LeBron James (ankle) and currently holds the No. 7 seed in the West, trailing the No. 6 seed Blazers by 1.5 games. The team could be forced to compete in the play-in tournament due to an injury-plagued season.
  • Despite seeing his team slip to the No. 7 spot on Friday against Portland, Lakers star Anthony Davis put forth an impressive performance in the loss, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Davis provided the Lakers with some hope in his best game since returning from injury, finishing with 36 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, an encouraging sign for the potential play-in and postseason.

L.A. Notes: Leonard, Clippers, LeBron, Lakers’ Centers

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard revealed that he has been dealing with a sore right foot for several weeks, but said it’s “nothing significant,” writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Saturday marked Leonard’s first game since April 18, but he said the injury occurred before then.

“I’m feeling good,” he said. “We took the proper steps to get me right, to make sure nothing significant is wrong with me … so hopefully we can just keep moving up from here.”

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Clippers are focused on rebuilding chemistry ahead of the playoffs, Youngmisuk adds. In addition to Leonard’s absence, starting center Serge Ibaka has missed the last 25 games with an injured back and Patrick Beverley has only played in two of the last 26 because of hand surgery and other injuries. That’s why Leonard traveled with the team on its most recent road trip, even though he didn’t expect to play.

“Just making sure the team sees my face,” he said. “Just wanted to still be in that motion, be in that rhythm and most importantly letting guys know I’m here and, you know, just let them hear my voice and see my face.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The Clippers face the challenge of building a new narrative in the playoffs, contends Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Until it has a breakthrough, the organization will be haunted by its past failures, including letting a 3-1 lead slip away in the second round last season.
  • LeBron James return on Friday happened earlier than even his Lakers teammates expected, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. James admitted feeling frustrated while being out of action for 41 days with a high-ankle sprain. “That’s the stressful side when you know that if you were on the floor, you could make those plays and you could help your teammates win, but you know you can’t physically be out there to do it,” he said. “It’s both sides of the coin, giving my teammates pointers and things I see on the floor, but also having that stressful point where you know you can’t affect the game because you know you can’t play.”
  • In a separate story, Goon looks at the Lakers‘ situation at center, where there probably won’t be enough postseason minutes to satisfy Andre Drummond, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. Gasol has seen his playing time reduced since Drummond was added, but Goon notes that he could be useful if the Lakers need to spread the floor in a playoff series.

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Paschall, Clippers, Lakers Closers

Suns forward Cameron Johnson has opted to not disclose the origins of the nasal fracture he incurred during an April 16 team practice, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

“It’s over now,” Johnson allowed in speaking about the injury. “Can’t go back in time and change it or anything. It just happened and [you’ve] just got to keep on going.” The Suns recently clinched their first playoff berth since 2010, and Johnson has been a key component of their rotation, averaging 23.9 MPG across 56 contests.

“It’s totally on me,” Suns coach Monty Williams said of the root cause of the injury. “I control the practices. Put him in harm’s way. It happens in practice. It happens when you get together. It’s totally on me.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors have provided a new timeline on the availability of power forward Eric Paschall, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Golden State hopes to have Paschall back on the floor near the end of its current four-game road trip, which concludes against the Pelicans on May 4. Paschall has been sidelined with a hip flexor strain since the beginning of the month.
  • Though ailing Clippers starters Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley were able to take part in L.A.’s shootaround before a 109-101 loss to the Suns on Wednesday, the team does not exactly know when either player will return, per Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register. Leonard is dealing with a sore foot and Beverley is recovering from a hand fracture. Head coach Tyronn Lue allowed that Beverley at least had made “great progress,” but could not provide a definitive window for either player’s return to the court.
  • As the playoffs near, Jovan Buha of The Athletic assesses the best bet for a fully healthy Lakers closing lineup. Within his mailbag, Buha also appraises which players could be the best fit for potential substitutions in that lineup depending on the opponent. The biggest sticking point, despite the Lakers’ complete overhaul at the center position this season, is that Anthony Davis should play at center down the home stretch in any variation.

Kawhi Leonard Out Until At Least Next Week

Clippers All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard will be sidelined until at least next week due to right foot soreness, the team announced.

Leonard will be reevaluated sometime next week. He has missed four of the last five games.

The first absence on April 11 was due to rest, according to the club. He sat out the next three games due to the foot injury before returning on Sunday and posting 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in 23 minutes against Minnesota.

Leonard obviously must have continue to experience discomfort in the foot afterward, prompting the team to shut him down for at least the next three games. The Clippers play Portland on Tuesday, Memphis on Wednesday and Houston on Friday.

That last game against the Rockets kicks off a three-game road trip, so it’s quite possible Leonard will be out five or more games.

The Clippers currently hold the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference. Leonard is averaging 25.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 5.1 APG this season.

Free Agency Notes: Cap Room, Kawhi, DeRozan, Paul

In an early look at the NBA’s 2021 free agent period, Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic write that three NBA teams – the Knicks, Thunder, and Spurs – project to have more than enough cap room for a maximum-salary contract this offseason, even if they were to win the draft lottery.

Besides those clubs, the Mavericks and Hornets should be among the clubs with the most space, according to Amick and Hollinger. The Athletic’s duo projects Dallas to be about $35MM below the cap if Josh Richardson opts out, while Charlotte will have about $26MM of room.

Other teams could create cap room, but that will hinge on one or two major roster decisions. For instance, the Raptors could get up to about $25MM in space, but not if they intend to re-sign Kyle Lowry. The Suns (Chris Paul) are in a similar position, with the Heat, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Hawks, Cavaliers, Bulls, and Pistons among the other teams whose cap space – or lack thereof – will depend on what happens with certain free agents.

Here’s more from Amick and Hollinger on 2021 free agency:

  • Although Kawhi Leonard projects to be the top free agent on the market this summer, team sources and rival executives widely expect him to re-sign with the Clippers, per The Athletic. It’s possible that could change if Los Angeles exits the postseason early, but there’s no indication at this point that Leonard’s free agency will be as dramatic as it was in 2019.
  • A source with knowledge of DeMar DeRozan‘s outlook tells The Athletic he’ll take a “wide open” approach to free agency. That doesn’t necessarily rule out a new deal with the Spurs, though a March report suggested DeRozan has interest in playing elsewhere next season and perhaps returning to the Eastern Conference.
  • Amick and Hollinger believe both DeRozan and Paul will keep Jrue Holiday‘s new four-year deal ($135MM guaranteed, $25MM in incentives) very much in mind when they negotiate their next contracts. However, it’s not a perfect comparable for either player, since Paul is five years older than Holiday and DeRozan isn’t the defender that Holiday is.

Clippers Notes: Rondo, George, Cousins, Zubac, Kennard

Rajon Rondo will try to maximize the production of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George when he’s on the court for the Clippers, Mark Medina of USA Today writes. “I’ll try to get our two main guys the ball in a lot easier spots as far as them not having to work so hard to get the ball against a set defense,” Rondo said. “If we’re able to create the stops and get out on the break, it’s my job to advance the ball and let those guys attack one-on-one before the defense gets set.” Rondo has already noted opponent tendencies that his teammates have found helpful, Medina adds.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • George has no issue with Rondo jumping right in as a team leader and sage voice, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“Rondo’s a leader, you know the point guard, he’s a leader,” George said. “We’re going to listen to him. I look at him as a leader, a leader of this group. He’ll hold a lot of weight. He holds a lot of weight in the locker room. As he gets more comfortable within our system, getting games under his feet, he’ll hold us accountable.”
  • DeMarcus Cousins‘ 10-day contract will pay him $175,668, with $110,998 counting toward the cap, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. Cousins was officially signed on Monday to provide frontcourt depth with Serge Ibaka currently out due to a back injury.
  • A couple of tweaks could help both the starting lineup and second unit. A Western Conference scout told the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike the team should keep Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup, even when Ibaka returns. A executive within the conference believes the coaching staff should unleash Luke Kennard as the primary second-unit point guard.

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Barnes, Tyler, Kawhi, Payton

Kings forward Harrison Barnes has been elected as the new Secretary-Treasurer of the National Basketball Players Association, according to a press release from the website. Barnes will begin his three-year term immediately and replace Anthony Tolliver.

“This is a great opportunity to get more involved in union business and I am very excited to join Chris [Paul], Andre [Iguodala] and the rest of the Executive Committee,” Barnes said. “Our union has an important role representing all 450 players and I am honored that my peers elected me to this position.”

Blazers guard CJ McCollum and Bulls wing Garrett Temple were also re-elected as Vice Presidents of the NBPA’s Executive Committee, the release said.

Here are some other odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Free agent Jeremy Tyler has agreed to a deal in China with the Liaoning Flying Leopards, sources told Hoops Rumors. Tyler has played 104 games in his career, most recently spending time in Puerto Rico. He was the No. 39 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
  • Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard plans to play in the Olympics this year, according to ESPN. Leonard would play for head coach Gregg Popovich, who coached the 29-year-old from 2011-18 — a run that included an NBA title and two Finals appearances. “My plan is to go,” Leonard said. “If I feel up to it and feel ready to go around that time, then I’m going to play.”
  • Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton hinted at potentially coaching in the NBA soon, as relayed by Sean Deveney of Forbes.com. Payton made his intentions of coaching clear to Yahoo last year, confirming that his interests haven’t changed. “It is still the case. I got a surprise coming for a lot of people pretty soon,” he said. “I don’t want to announce it right now, but you’ll see it pretty soon in the next couple of weeks, I hope everybody will be excited about it.”

Pacific Notes: Gasol, Leonard, Poole, Mannion, Lin

Lakers center Marc Gasol was inactive on Tuesday after being placed under the league’s health and safety protocols, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets. Gasol had started all 35 games this season prior to Tuesday, posting modest stats of 4.8 PPG and 4.1 RPG. Gasol was signed to a two-year, $5.25MM contract in November.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers All-Star Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch in the team’s loss to Boston on Tuesday due to back spasms, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Leonard, who felt discomfort during warmups, has missed eight games this season for a variety of reasons.
  • The Warriors have brought back guards Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion from the G League bubble for depth in their last two games prior to the All-Star break, according to a team press release. Poole averaged 22.4 PPG in 11 games for affiliate Santa Cruz and has also appeared in 15 NBA games this season. Mannion, a two-way player, averaged 19.3 PPG for Santa Cruz in nine appearances.
  • Poole’s presence is one reason why the Warriors aren’t interested in signing Jeremy Lin as a backup point guard at this time, according to Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area. Lin has performed well with Santa Cruz but Golden State would have to make room for him on its roster. The Warriors’ preference is for Brad Wanamaker to regain the form he showed with Boston last season or for Poole to take over that role before adding Lin to the mix.

L.A. Notes: George, Leonard, Schröder, LeBron

The Clippers picked up a win over the league-leading Jazz Friday night as L.A.’s starting lineup was together for the first time since January 24, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Nicolas Batum all returned from injuries, with George and Batum playing under minutes restrictions. George scored 15 points in 27 minutes after missing the past seven games with swelling in a toe on his right foot.

“Got to get back to that basketball conditioning and get that wind back to where it was,” George said. “As much as I would’ve loved to play, I probably would’ve hurt the team being on the floor past the minutes I played.”

Leonard, who had been dealing with a contusion in his lower left leg, wore a compression sleeve with padding underneath his knee as he logged 38 minutes. Batum was back on the court after missing two games with a concussion.

“We’re all pros, I think that starting lineup all played 10-plus years so that’s how we can sort of get a rhythm early,” Leonard said. “But it takes time, you haven’t seen those bodies on the floor. Obviously, playing with me and PG is a lot different. We might isolate sometimes or take some tough shots so it’s just all that combined. And that’s why we got to keep playing and staying healthy.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Luke Kennard was replaced in the rotation Friday by Terance Mann, notes Law Murray of The Athletic, who adds that Mann earned more playing time with his performance while George was sidelined.
  • Lakers guard Dennis Schröder, who is in the NBA’s health and safety protocol, tested negative for COVID-19 but will have to quarantine for at least a week, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Coach Frank Vogel offered an update on Schröder before tonight’s game, saying the team hopes to have him back for Friday’s contest against the Trail Blazers. Wesley Matthews started tonight in Schröder’s place.
  • The Lakers face a difficult decision about whether to increase LeBron James‘ playing time while Anthony Davis is injured, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. L.A. is in a tight race for the top spot in the West, but is concerned about not wearing down James before the playoffs. Goon notes that his minutes have already increased from 31.4 per game in December to 37.7 in February.