Kawhi Leonard

Clippers Rumors: Mann, Lowry, VanVleet, Hartenstein, Covington, Kawhi

As the Clippers explore the trade market for potential backcourt or frontcourt upgrades, they continue to rebuff inquiries on fourth-year guard Terance Mann, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack story.

Entering the season, the decision on the Clippers’ starting point guard came down to Reggie Jackson vs. John Wall, but with Jackson’s role cut back and Wall injured, it’s Mann who has started the club’s last nine games at point guard.

One team source who spoke to Law Murray of The Athletic suggested that there’s a belief Mann could be the Clippers’ starting point guard beyond this season. However, it’s unclear how enthusiastic head coach Tyronn Lue is about using Mann in that role. As Murray explains, Lue views Mann as more of a small forward and barely used him in some first-half games. The Clippers’ coach also likes having a more traditional point guard in his rotation, Murray adds.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • In an article focused on the Clippers’ need to upgrade their roster, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer identifies Heat point guard Kyle Lowry, Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, and Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein as some of the players L.A. has interest in. Lowry and VanVleet won a championship with Kawhi Leonard, while Hartenstein had the best season of his NBA career a year ago with the Clips.
  • According to Murray, there’s a sense that Lue would like to replace Robert Covington with a more reliable center, while the front office would like the team to find a way to make a “long lineup” (which includes Covington) work. Murray suggests the trade deadline may represent a “demarcation point” between Lue and the front office on Covington’s future in Los Angeles.
  • While this should come as no surprise, a team source confirms to Murray that the Clippers haven’t given any consideration to trading Leonard.
  • Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com explores whether or not the frequent absences of Leonard and Paul George from the Clippers’ lineup has created a sense of frustration within the organization due to the club’s inability to establish any chemistry or consistency.

Pacific Notes: Leonard, Clippers, Schröder, J. Green

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard isn’t surprised to still get a hostile reaction from Spurs fans, even though it’s been nearly five years since he forced his way out of San Antonio. Although he delivered a championship to the city as the Finals MVP in 2014, most Spurs die-hards are bitter about the way his time with the franchise ended.

“The fans are very competitive here,” Leonard said after being booed nearly every time he touched the ball Friday night, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. That 2014 title was the fifth in a 15-year span for San Antonio, but his desire to leave following a dispute with the team over an injury changed the direction of the franchise.

Leonard added that even though San Antonio fans can be tough on him while he’s playing, he gets a much different reception when he’s out in the community.

“When I’m at the games, you might hear boos,” he said, “but if I’m walking on the street or going to restaurants, people come up to me and still tell me how much they love my game and like me as a person. So, I know it’s just a competition once I’m here. I understand.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The uncertain availability of Leonard and Paul George has been cited for the Clippers‘ struggles this season, but the team’s defensive collapse deserves just as much blame, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. L.A.’s half-court defense was second in the league through mid-December, but it has fallen to 27th since then. A major issue is protecting the rim, as the Clippers are allowing opponents to shoot a league-best 70% near the basket over the last month.
  • Lakers guard Dennis Schröder broke into the league with Atlanta when Darvin Ham was an assistant coach there and Ham’s direct approach made Schröder want to play for him again, per Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Schröder not only reunited with Ham in free agency last summer, he returned to a franchise that he was unable to reach an extension with in 2021. “Of course we had a couple of other options (in free agency),” Schröder said. “But for me, to make it right, that’s the spot. It’s like, ‘OK, it’s got to be the Lakers.”
  • JaMychal Green‘s 13-point performance off the bench Friday with four starters sitting out showed why the Warriors wanted to sign him so badly, observes Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. The game marked Green’s return to the court after missing more than a month with health issues, which included spending a week with COVID in a hotel room in New York City and a staph infection in his leg, details Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Powell, Kawhi, Warriors, Metu

Last week, with the Clippers in the midst of a six-game losing streak that dropped their overall record to 21-21, veteran swingman Norman Powell spoke to his teammates to reiterate his confidence in the group and to remind them what they’re capable of, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Powell, along with Kawhi Leonard, was a member of the Raptors team that won a championship in 2019 and believes this year’s Clippers have a similar ceiling.

“I talked to the team. I told them: ‘This team is deeper than the Raptors team I was on. It’s all about identity and who we are and how we’re going to play,'” Powell said. “I feel like every team goes through it. If you look back at championship teams and top teams, there’s always a point in the season where you get here. And we’ve been here a couple times for whatever reason it is, and it’s just gutting up and taking it and coming out of it.”

The 2018/19 Raptors were far more consistent than this year’s Clippers have been, but Powell pointed to a stretch in January 2019 when Toronto lost three of four games (the third at home to Milwaukee on national TV) as a turning point for that club. There’s hope that the Clippers’ recent slide can galvanize this team in the same way and compel them to play with more urgency in the second half.

“The identity of who we are every single night that we’re on the floor is the biggest thing that we have to figure out, and that doesn’t matter who’s suiting up that night,” Powell said. “It’s just, we’re going to be a hard-nosed, tough-playing defense. We’re going to be an offense that moves the ball, attacks you, puts pressure on the rim and generates open shots. And that’s not — PG (Paul George) doesn’t have to play for that, Kawhi doesn’t have to play for that. That’s just an identity and style of basketball we have to start really locking into now.”

The Clippers snapped their losing streak and got back over .500 with a victory over Dallas on Tuesday.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • After leading the Clippers past Luka Doncic and the Mavs on Tuesday by scoring a season-high 33 points in 36 minutes, Kawhi Leonard acknowledged that he’s relieved to no longer be on the minutes limit that he faced earlier in the season. “If you’re basing it on minute restriction, it is frustrating,” Leonard said, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Because I’m not going in there jacking shots, so I’m trying to play team basketball. It was frustrating (with the restriction). We were losing games. From a minute restriction, I’m not the only one either that was on it. Guys have been in and out the lineup all year, getting injured.”
  • The Warriors had their full starting lineup available on Tuesday for the first time since December 3, but lost at home to the shorthanded Suns in a game that showed Stephen Curry and the rest of the rotation still have dust to shake off, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Curry, who scored 16 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, said he “felt like myself again” by the end of the game. “I’m hoping that fourth quarter was the team that I have come to know and love and recognize,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “But we have to show in the first quarter, not in the fourth quarter.”
  • Chimezie Metu rejoined the Kings‘ rotation as the backup center on Monday for the first time since early December and had his best game of the season, with 11 points and nine rebounds in 14 minutes. The performance went a long way toward rebuilding head coach Mike Brown‘s trust in Metu, according to Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. Brown said he thought the big man “relaxed just a little bit” before losing his spot in the rotation last month.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Klay, Kawhi, Clippers, Kings

The Warriors provided updates (via Twitter) on several injured players on Wednesday evening. Star guard Stephen Curry will have his left shoulder reevaluated on Saturday, which is in line with what the team previously announced.

Starting forward Andrew Wiggins has begun practicing and is ramping up his conditioning after missing the past 14 games due to a strained right adductor and then an illness. He will be reevaluated later this week, per the team.

The Warriors also announced that JaMychal Green (right lower leg infection), Jonathan Kuminga (right foot sprain) and James Wiseman (left ankle sprain) will all be out at least one more week — that’s when they’ll be reevaluated.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Klay Thompson missed two-plus seasons after a couple of major injuries, first a torn ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals, followed by a torn Achilles tendon. On Monday, he scored a season-high 54 points in the Warriors‘ double-overtime victory over the Hawks, a performance he doesn’t take for granted. “It’s a huge accomplishment for me,” Thompson said, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “There were some hard days for me when I didn’t know that this would be possible in real time. I am just going to embrace the heck out of it.”
  • After missing Monday’s loss to Miami with a non-COVID illness, Kawhi Leonard is no longer on the Clippers‘ injury report for Thursday’s contest in Denver, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Paul George, who tweaked his hamstring on Monday, is listed as questionable, while Nicolas Batum is out with a left ankle sprain.
  • Can Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue find lineups that work whether or not Leonard and/or George are in the lineup? Law Murray of The Athletic explores that topic, writing that if Lue is unable to optimize the current group, trades could be in order for a team that hopes to compete for a championship.
  • The Kings have three players — Matthew Dellavedova, Chima Moneke and KZ Okpala — on partially guaranteed deals, and none are locks to have their salaries guaranteed for the rest of the season, writes James Ham of TheKingsBeat.com. It’s possible one or more might be released in the next few days (the deadline to waive partially and non-guaranteed deals before they become fully guaranteed is January 7) in order to create roster flexibility ahead of the trade deadline, according to Ham, who says the Kings figure to be aggressive in their push to break their lengthy playoff drought.

Paul George’s Status TBD After Hamstring Tweak

Clippers forward Paul George was limited to playing just five minutes in the fourth quarter of Monday’s loss to Miami after tweaking his right hamstring, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

George said after the game that he’ll receive treatment on the injury on Tuesday and see how it responds. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be available for the team’s brief road trip to Denver on Thursday and Minnesota on Friday.

As Youngmisuk observes, George missed seven games in late November and early December after straining that same right hamstring, so it has been a recurring issue this season for the Clippers star.

“Often hamstrings are very, very serious injuries,” George said on Monday, per Youngmisuk. “So, I thought the first approach when I was dealing with my hamstring (during the previous absence) was just good, smart. We waited until it felt better and I didn’t have any issues, once I returned. “We won’t know more until (Tuesday). But my job is to do the best that I can and go from there.”

The Clippers have been relatively cautious this season with health issues, especially those affecting George and Kawhi Leonard, who missed Monday’s game due to a non-COVID illness. The team is taking the long view and its top priority to be at full strength entering the postseason, so we likely won’t see George or Leonard back in action until they’re feeling 100% or very close to it.

Pacific Notes: Vezenkov, Walker, Leonard, Williams

Sasha Vezenkov may not play for the Kings in the near future. The EuroLeague star has signed a contract extension with Olympiacos through the 2024/25 season, Eurohoops.net relays.

The Kings acquired the NBA rights to Vezenkov, 27, from Cleveland in a draft-day trade. However, the contract does include a buyout of over one million euros (approximately $1.1MM in U.S. dollars). He was named to the All-EuroLeague First Team last season and is enjoying another highly productive season.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lonnie Walker IV will miss his second straight game on Monday against the Hornets because of a tailbone contusion, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Walker is averaging 14.7 points in his first season with the Lakers.
  • Kawhi Leonard is listed as questionable for the Clippers’ game against Miami on Monday due to a non-COVID illness, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Leonard has averaged 23.2 points in his last four games.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams believes the adversity the team is going through could be beneficial in the long run, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Williams suggested that when Phoenix cruised to the league’s best record last season, things may have come too easy. “Last year, I felt like we won, but we didn’t learn. I love winning, but I think it’s a benefit to your program to continue to learn, and win. … I think all of this is going to pay dividends for us going forward, if we learn,” Williams said.

Western Notes: Leonard, McCollum, Johnson, Paul

Perhaps the most encouraging news for the Clippers in recent weeks is that their biggest star, Kawhi Leonard, appears to be rounding into form, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times notes. Though his minutes are still somewhat limited, Leonard has averaged 23.2 points and 35.0 minutes in four games during the team’s current road trip.

“As far as explosiveness, I don’t think that’s all the way back yet or as far as trusting it all the way right now. But just his decision-making, his timing of getting to his spots and getting to his shot and I think his timing of making passes when teams are double-teaming, making the right read in the right play, that’s really good,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • CJ McCollum admitted he was literally shooting for the Pelicans’ 3-point record, Andrew Lopez of ESPN writes. McCollum knocked down 11 to set the single-game franchise record as New Orleans defeated Philadelphia on Friday. “I was just trying to shoot as many 3s as possible, to be honest with you,” McCollum said. McCollum, who is ineligible to be traded this season, is under contract with New Orleans through 2026 after signing an extension in September.
  • Veteran forward Stanley Johnson has only been on the Spurs roster for less than three weeks but he feels that being a vocal leader is part of his duty, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. “The thing that is consistent with good teams is that they are very vocal,” said Johnson, who was signed to a one-year deal on Dec. 13. “I’m trying to be vocal as much as I can, and hope it’s contagious.”
  • Suns guard Chris Paul expressed frustration with what he feels is inconsistent officiating around the league, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic relays. Paul was addressing a delay of game call against him in a loss to Toronto. “It’s tough in this league, especially when you play for so long and you get techs,” Paul said. “So much stuff is trivial and it’s so much control over what you can say, interpret the rules. I watch and play every night and I see guys get things called. I watch too much basketball and guys just drop the ball night after night and I don’t see a delay of game.”

Injury Updates: Leonard, C. Johnson, Garland, Brunson

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has been playing under a minutes restriction all season while returning from a partially torn ACL, but that appears to have been lifted, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Leonard logged 35 minutes Saturday afternoon at Indiana after playing 37 and 35 in the team’s past two games, meaning he’s basically back on a regular schedule.

“Still moving up the right track, feeling healthy still and that’s what it’s about,” Leonard said after the game. “Just keep getting better.”

Coach Tyronn Lue didn’t confirm that Leonard’s minutes limit is gone, but he said the increased availability is welcome because it allows him to stagger Leonard and Paul George and keep at least one star on the court throughout the game.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Suns forward Cameron Johnson appears to be getting closer to a return after having meniscus surgery on November 8, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who posted a video of Johnson running before Friday night’s game.
  • Darius Garland, who suffered a sprained right thumb late in Thursday’s game, will miss the Cavaliers‘ contest on Saturday night in Chicago, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Garland has been receiving treatment for the injury since it happened, Fedor adds. Cleveland will also be without big man Evan Mobley, who is missing his first game of the season because of soreness in his right ankle. Lamar Stevens and Kevin Love will start in their place, giving the Cavs their 17th different starting lineup in 37 games.
  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson will miss his third straight game with a hip injury tonight in Houston, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The Rockets will be without starting center Alperen Sengun, who is suffering lower back pain, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston (Twitter link).

Raptors Notes: Achiuwa, Boucher, VanVleet, Koloko

Raptors forward Precious Achiuwa appears to be on the verge of returning from a right ankle injury. He was put through a vigorous on-court workout after the team’s practice today, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter links), who notes that Achiuwa has been upgraded to questionable for Thursday’s game vs. Memphis.

Despite the change in Achiuwa’s status on the injury report, Lewenberg believes the former first-round pick is more likely to return for Friday’s game vs. Phoenix. Achiuwa hasn’t played since November 9.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Raptors big man Chris Boucher has logged just 22 total minutes in the last three games and has scored only two points during that stretch. Asked if Achiuwa’s return could benefit Boucher, head coach Nick Nurse simply stated, Chris needs to play better (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • After leaving Tuesday’s game due to lower back stiffness, Fred VanVleet is listed as questionable for Thursday, tweets Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca. The Raptors’ starting point guard is dealing with back spasms, according to Nurse (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps). If VanVleet has to miss any time, Malachi Flynn has earned the opportunity to play a larger role, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star.
  • Rookie center Christian Koloko, also listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, is getting an MRI on his sore right knee today, tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Both Grange and Lewenberg explored what it meant to have Clippers forwards Kawhi Leonard and Norman Powell – two members of the Raptors’ 2019 championship team – back in the building on Tuesday. Despite Leonard’s reputation for being “notoriously stoic,” even the former Finals MVP was feeling a little nostalgic, according to Grange. With the Clippers still managing his knee, Leonard was given the choice of sitting out Monday’s game in Detroit or Tuesday in Toronto — he opted to face the Raptors. “It’s always great memories coming in this arena,” Kawhi said. “And if I was going to sit a game I’d rather give the fans in Toronto a chance to see me play again.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, LeBron, Booker, Leonard

The Lakers are hoping to remain in the Western Conference playoff race until Anthony Davis returns from a foot injury, but Sunday’s game provided further evidence of how hard that’s going to be, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. L.A. had an 11-point lead at halftime, but gave up 51 points in the third quarter of a 124-115 defeat at Dallas. It’s the Lakers’ fourth straight loss, and they have surrendered at least 124 points in each of them.

“Reality is, without AD, we lose a lot of length, which we don’t have already,” LeBron James said. “So, we have to make up in ways that, without AD, is very difficult, very challenging. So, I think at one point we had a lineup of I think (Austin Reaves, at 6-5) was the tallest guy on the court. So, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out (that Davis is sorely missed).”

Coach Darvin Ham has been trying different lineup combinations to break the slump, but he’s limited by a lack of size throughout the roster. The starting backcourt features two 6’1″ guards in Patrick Beverley and Dennis Schroder, and 6’3″ Russell Westbrook saw some time at center on Sunday.

“You throw everything up against the wall and see what sticks,” Ham said. “It’s one of those types of situations. AD’s not here, not in the lineup. We’re not going to start using that as an excuse. Hell yeah, it’s a big hole in our lineup. But now, we’re pros. We’ve got to step up.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers are in danger of wasting the end of James’ phenomenal career, says Jovan Buha of The Athletic. With his 38th birthday arriving this week, James is putting up unprecedented numbers for someone his age, but it might not matter if Davis doesn’t return soon or if the front office can’t find some way to upgrade the roster. After scoring 38 points Sunday, James was candid about the challenge his team faces. “How many times are you going to try to dig yourselves out until it’s too much dirt on you?” he asked.
  • Suns guard Devin Booker was forced to make an early exit from Sunday’s game after reaggravating a groin injury, according to Zach Harper of The Athletic. Booker was returning after missing the team’s previous three games, but he was only able to play four minutes before being ruled out.
  • With the Clippers playing on back-to-back nights, Kawhi Leonard will be held out Monday at Detroit due to injury management for his right knee, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard is expected to face his old team on Tuesday in Toronto.