Kawhi Leonard

Woj’s Latest: Kawhi, Simmons, Schröder, Kings, Lowry, Nets, More

There’s no indication that Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard wants to leave Los Angeles as a free agent this offseason, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in Sunday’s televised Woj & Lowe special (video link). However, there is a belief that Leonard is at risk of missing the entire 2021/22 season following his ACL surgery earlier this month, says Wojnarowski.

That nugget was one of several that Wojnarowski and fellow ESPN reporter Zach Lowe shared during their half-hour special and the bonus YouTube segments that followed. We’ve already passed along several of their other insights, including some draft-related rumors, the latest updates on Bradley Beal‘s status, and the fact that the Lakers have shopped Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to many teams around the NBA.

However, the ESPN duo dropped several more notes and rumors during their special. We’re using the space below to round up a few of the most interesting ones:

  • The Sixers have engaged in Ben Simmons trade talks and are making and receiving offers, says Wojnarowski (video link). However, Woj thinks Philadelphia will be patient, noting that Simmons is under contract for four more years, which “opens up the landscape” for possible trade partners. The 76ers are looking for the best possible player they could get back in a Simmons deal, Woj adds.
  • Despite the fact that the Lakers have been linked to so many other point guards in advance of free agency, Wojnarowski believes there’s still a deal to be made with Dennis Schröder (video link).
  • The Kings have talked to teams in both the West and East about Buddy Hield, according to Wojnarowski (video link), who says the club has also received plenty of trade interest in Harrison Barnes. Woj would be surprised if Barnes is dealt though.
  • In a discussion of free agent point guards, Wojnarowski (video link) said that he anticipates a “big market” for Raptors star Kyle Lowry, who could receive offers in the neighborhood of $25-30MM per year, and that the Bulls and Lonzo Ball would be an ideal match in a perfect world, but his restricted FA status could complicate matters. Woj also thinks luxury tax concerns will prevent the Jazz from simply re-signing Mike Conley and keeping everyone else on their roster (video link).
  • The Nets hope to lock up Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden to contract extensions and are optimistic that Blake Griffin will want to return, per Wojnarowski (video link). Jeff Green may be trickier to re-sign, however, as he’ll likely seek more than the veteran’s minimum. Woj and Lowe both identify the Bucks as a possible suitor for Green if he leaves Brooklyn.

And-Ones: Rose, Roberts, Thunder’s Arena, Free Agents, Silver

NBA VP of basketball operations Malik Rose is a candidate to succeed Michele Roberts as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Marc Stein of Substack tweets. Roberts recently told Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill she planned to stay at her post for “another six or so months.” Rose was an assistant GM with the Pistons for two seasons prior to accepting his current post last June. 

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • A new name for the Thunder‘s arena will be revealed as soon as next week, Steve Lackmeyer of The Oklahoman writes. Signage for the Chesapeake Energy Arena was removed on Thursday. The team has a naming rights deal in place, pending approval of its application from the Downtown Design Review Committee.
  • Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul and John Collins are the top three potential free agents, according to a ranking system used by The Athletic’s John Hollinger. The top 20 free agents are ranked, with Hollinger projecting potential contracts offers for those players.
  • The challenges over the past two seasons created by the virus have been immense but NBA commissioner Adam Silver hopes it has brought a better understanding between management and players, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “That sense of unity, I hope we can keep up,” Silver said. “I think the players have a better understanding of what we’re up against in trying to run this business, and we have a better understanding of the players — what it’s like to travel the amount they do, the stresses they’re under, the emotional and physical burdens they’re under by competing at this level.”

Stein’s Latest: Paul, Holiday, Leonard, Harrison

The Bucks considered a trade for Chris Paul last offseason before deciding to make a run at Jrue Holiday, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column. Milwaukee wanted to add a veteran guard who could fill a leadership role after a disappointing playoff loss to the Heat, and Paul was an obvious name to consider.

The Bucks opted for a younger alternative in Holiday, who has helped them reach the NBA Finals for the first time in 50 years. Stein believes the addition of Holiday helped convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to commit to the franchise with a five-year, $228MM contract extension.

Holiday finds himself matched up in the Finals against Paul, whom the Thunder promised to trade to a contender last fall as they began rebuilding. Paul wanted to be closer to his son in Los Angeles, so the Bucks would have been at a disadvantage if he’d been their preferred choice.

Stein offers more news from around the league:

  • There were rumors that Paul might be interested in opting out of his $44.2MM salary for next season and leaving Phoenix this summer, but that seems less likely after the Finals run. No matter what he decides on the option, Stein expects Paul to be back with the Suns next season, noting that he fits perfectly alongside Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and coach Monty Williams. Booker said recently that the team’s 8-0 record after the restart motivated management to pursue Paul.
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard has a $36MM option decision to make, and the ACL surgery he had this week will likely influence his thinking. League sources expect him to remain in L.A., according to Stein, but several teams will be interested if he hits the open market. Stein states that the Mavericks are willing to sign Leonard even if the ACL prevents him from playing next season.
  • New Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison said he has received offers from other teams in the past, but he chose to remain with Nike until the opportunity with Dallas arose. League sources tell Stein that the Spurs and Lakers are among the franchises that have shown interest in Harrison.

Assessing The Recovery Timeline For Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard will miss at least part of next season after having surgery Tuesday to fix a partial ACL tear in his right knee, and the length of his recovery process will determine what the future looks like for the Clippers.

Leonard suffered a Grade II tear, which falls between a best-case and worst-case scenario, according to Law Murray of The Athletic. The injury is similar to what Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie had in December, and although Dinwiddie talked about returning before the end of the season, he never made it back.

Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities in June, and Murray notes that a similar timeline would have Leonard ready sometime in January, meaning he would miss roughly half the season. However, it’s more likely that he will need about nine months, which means he would be ready sometime around the start of the playoffs.

It’s very possible that Leonard will sit out the entire season, Murray adds. He has a history of leg injuries, and the Clippers may decide to be cautious with one of their franchise cornerstones.

Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register talked to Dr. Alan Beyer, executive medical director at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, California, who confirms an absence of about nine months is the most likely outcome.

“We don’t have long-term data on some of the bridging partial ACL tear procedures, so I can’t say to you, ‘That’s all he needed, he’ll be fine,’” Beyer said. “The only difference is you haven’t sacrificed any of the athlete’s own tissues – quad, patellar, hamstring – but you have added this scaffolding or bridge, and that goes through a period of time when it might be a little bit weaker because it has to get vascularized. And that might take a year, and I might go slower on rehabilitating a partial ACL construction.”

The surgery comes at a crucial time for Leonard, who has a $36MM player option for next season. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton notes that Leonard could opt out and re-sign with the Clippers, which would add $3.3MM to his salary for next year and give him three more guaranteed seasons after that. He could also pick up the option and become eligible for an extension, which would run through 2025/26, when his salary would be $50.2MM.

The Clippers were able to advance to the Western Conference finals after Leonard’s injury, but they were barely better than a .500 team when he missed games during the regular season. It will be expensive just to keep the current roster together, Pelton notes, as Reggie Jackson will be a free agent and the team only has Early Bird rights to try to re-sign him. Nicolas Batum is also headed to free agency, and L.A. would have to use part of its mid-level exception to make more than an offer worth much more than the minimum.

Kawhi Leonard Undergoes Knee Surgery

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard underwent successful surgery today to repair a partial tear of his right ACL, per a Clippers press release.

There is no timetable for Leonard’s return, according to the team. However, the diagnosis suggests that his recovery could extend into the 2021/22 season.

Leonard only managed to play in four games during the Clippers’ second-round series against the Jazz before being sidelined with the knee injury that kept him on the shelf for the entire Western Finals vs. Phoenix. He had previously dealt with lingering leg injuries, including the mysterious quad injury that effectively ended his time with the Spurs.

The two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Finals MVP has a player option to return to the Clippers next season, or he can decline the option and become an unrestricted free agent. He has long been expected to take the latter route, if only to sign a new contract with Los Angeles, since he’ll be eligible for a higher maximum salary this offseason.

Western Notes: Leonard, George, Mavericks, Jazz, Ainge, Suns

Despite Kawhi Leonard having the ability to decline his $36MM player option and enter free agency this summer, the pairing of Leonard and Paul George is likely to continue with the Clippers, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times opines.

Leonard and George remain one of the league’s most formidable duos on both ends of the floor. This season’s run was cut short due to Leonard’s knee injury in round two, with the Clippers subsequently losing 4-2 to the Suns in the Western Conference Finals.

“We’ve made great connections; I think we’ve both grown, myself and Kawhi, together,” George said after the team’s season-ending loss, as relayed by Greif. “I think we really enjoy being teammates, and we see what we can be and what we can do.

“So, I’m happy. I’m happy to be his teammate. I was very excited. Proud of what we accomplished. … I think we’ve got a good foundation.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall had an extensive conversation with new head coach Jason Kidd about his 2001 domestic abuse charge before he was hired, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. Kidd accepted his position with the Mavericks last month. He won a championship with the team in 2011 and most recently served as an assistant coach with the Lakers.
  • Former Celtics president Danny Ainge said that there’s “nothing going on” between him and the Jazz at this point, despite rumors he could join the team as an advisor, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Ainge recently departed from the Celtics after nearly two decades with the franchise.
  • Mark Faller of The Arizona Republic examines how the Suns went from 19 wins in 2018/19 to the NBA Finals this season, calling it the best turnaround story in sports. Phoenix, led by a star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, will play Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Finals on Tuesday.

Clippers Notes: Beverley, Rondo, Kennard, Batum

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley will face a suspension at the start of next season for shoving Chris Paul from behind in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports. The incident occurred during the fourth quarter of the Suns’ clinching victory. Beverley has since apologized on Twitter, stating, “@CP3 emotions got the best of me last night gang. My bad wasn’t meant for you. Congrats on making it to the Finals. Best of Luck.”

We have more on the Clippers:

  • With Kawhi Leonard dealing with an unknown knee injury and potentially opting out, and Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum headed to unrestricted free agency, the team faces an uncertain future after reaching the conference finals for the first time, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes. The expiring contracts of Beverley and Rajon Rondo could be used as trade chips, and the Clips could also explore trade options for Luke Kennard, whose didn’t play up to expectations after signing a four-year extension, Greif adds.
  • Batum isn’t sure what his future holds but he’s grateful to the organization for reviving his career after it went sour in Charlotte, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “Now look where I am right now, just incredible. It’s amazing to what happened to me this year,” he said. “I can’t thank enough the Clippers’ organization for giving me a chance to be a basketball player again. I wasn’t sure what I could do this year, and they give me a chance to be a player again.”
  • In case you missed it, Paul George believes the team would have made the Finals if Leonard was healthy. He’s also eager to recruit players for next season. Get the details here.

Mavericks, Heat Would Be Top Suitors For Kawhi Leonard In Free Agency

The Mavericks and Heat plan to make a “hard push” to add Clippers star Kawhi Leonard this summer and other teams will be in the mix as well, sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Leonard holds a player option for next season and is expected to bypass a $36MM salary to become a free agent.

Some executives consider Dallas to be in the best position to land Leonard because of the chance to play alongside Luka Doncic and the ability of the front office to create cap room or work out a sign-and-trade arrangement. Leonard has spent several years with Nike and has a strong relationship with longtime executive Nico Harrison, who was recently hired as the Mavericks’ general manager.

O’Connor notes that Leonard tried to talk Jimmy Butler into joining him with the Clippers two years ago before the team traded for Paul George. Butler opted for Miami, and O’Connor suggests that Leonard might have an interest in forming a partnership there. The Heat don’t have a realistic path for creating enough cap space to add Leonard in free agency and would have to rely on a sign-and-trade.

The Knicks do have plenty of cap room and will be in the market for any available star, O’Connor adds, and virtually any team would try to work out the details if Leonard shows an interest in joining them.

Even so, O’Connor states that there are plenty of indications Leonard will re-sign with the Clippers. He’s originally from Los Angeles and purchased a $17.1MM home in the area in March.

O’Connor foresees a lot of roster changes this summer, whether Leonard returns or not. Serge Ibaka has a $9.7MM player option, and Reggie Jackson and Nicolas Batum are both headed for unrestricted free agency. Keeping Jackson has become a priority after his stellar postseason, but the demand for him will be high and he could move beyond the Clippers’ price range.

L.A. is already in luxury tax territory, O’Connor notes, and adding more salary would be expensive. The team’s only path for signing a player will be the $5.9MM taxpayer midlevel exception. The Clippers have the No. 25 pick to offer in trade talks, but don’t own another first-rounder until 2027. They may try to move Luke Kennard, who has a four-year, $64MM extension that starts next season.

Leonard, Zubac Won’t Play In Game 6

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and center Ivica Zubac will sit out Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals tonight, Marc Stein tweets.

Leonard hasn’t played in the series against the Suns due to a right knee injury that he suffered June 14 against Utah. Zubac is also sidelined by a right knee injury, officially described as an MCL sprain. The 24-year-old center played regularly during the first four games of the series, averaging 12.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG.

Marcus Morris is also dealing with a knee injury but he’ll play, according to coach Tyronn Lue, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets.

With Zubac sidelined in Game 5, Lue went with a smaller lineup and his team staved off elimination with a 116-102 win. Guards Terance Mann and Patrick Beverley were inserted into the lineup with Morris and Paul George as the only natural forwards.

Kawhi Leonard Ruled Out For Game 5

JUNE 27: Leonard has officially been ruled out for Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. Leonard will remain in Los Angeles to continue his knee rehabilitation.

JUNE 26: Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played yet in the Western Conference finals and it doesn’t appear he’ll return for Game 5 on Monday. Sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that it’s “highly unlikely” Leonard will make the trip to Phoenix (video link).

Leonard is recovering from a right knee injury that he suffered June 14 against Utah. He didn’t accompany the Clippers for the opening two games of the series with the Suns, and there are concerns that air travel would be harmful to the knee, according to Haynes.

Speaking to reporters today, coach Tyronn Lue said that Leonard, who has been ruled out of tonight’s Game 4, continues to offer advice to his teammates and has been “a lot more vocal” since the injury, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

The news is better for Clippers teammate Marcus Morris, who has been cleared to play tonight, Youngmisuk adds (via Twitter). Morris, who is also dealing with a knee issue, was a game-time decision on Thursday.